ITP Glossary: Smash Concept

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Smash Concept

The smash concept consists of two routes, run on the same side of the field, that seeks to stress zone coverage with paired high-low routes. The high route is often a corner route that gets the receiver 12-15 yards downfield. Meanwhile, the low route is usually a quick hitch or curl, settling into an unoccupied zone. The goal of the smash concept is to force a coverage decision by the cornerback or flat defender: converge on the short route, or maintain depth on the high option, conceding the underneath route.

Carson Wentz is in the shotgun with 12 personnel in the game. The offense has an inverted slot formation on the left, with slot formation to the right. Each slot formation has the tight end on the inside. The defense has base personnel in the game, in a 4-3 alignment with the defense showing Cover 6. With the football on the left hashmark, the secondary on the short side of the field shows Cover 2 alignment – to the short side of the field as expected:NDSUMontanaPlay7Still1

The smash concept is run on the left, with the slot receiver running a corner route while the outside receiver runs a short hitch. The idea here is to high-low the press CB, read him and “throw off the corner.”  Here is the play-art with the zone coverages shaded:NDSUMontanaPlay7Still2

Wentz reads the press corner here, shaded in purple. If he squats on the hitch route, then the quarterback throws the corner route to the tight end, attacking that deep outside soft spot of the coverage. Sometimes cornerbacks, recognizing the play, try to split the difference between the corner route and the hitch route, trying to sink underneath the deeper pattern. In this case, the QB needs to simply take the short route and see if his receiver can break a tackle for additional yardage. One of the biggest mistakes a QB can make in this situation is believing he can thread the throw between a CB sitting deep and the closing safety.

Here, the CB squats on the hitch route, and Wentz throws the deeper pattern perfectly:

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Textbook Example

Connor Cook and Michigan State run the smash concept against Western Michigan’s single-high safety coverage. The X receiver runs a quick hitch, while tight end Josiah Price (#82) runs a corner route. Backside, the slot receiver runs a skinny post while the outside WR runs a vertical route:CookOT1Play1Still2

With Western Michigan playing Cover 1, Cook needs to freeze the free safety, so he stares at the deep defender to hold him in the middle of the field. If the QB can hold him in the middle of the field, he has a chance for a big play on the corner route.

The smash concept is designed keep the playside cornerback near the line of scrimmage on the short hitch route, opening up the deep outside for the TE:CookOT1Play1Still3

Cook releases this ball before the tight end has made his break, confident the smash concept has achieved the goal: one-on-one coverage against the tight end, against a help defender leaning the wrong way:

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Cook executes a perfect anticipation throw here, dropping the ball over the tight end’s shoulder toward the deep outside. Since he was able to hold the free safety in the middle of the field for a moment, the defender cannot rotate over to provide help, and Price makes the catch for a big gain.

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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.


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