The spread offense, or at least its core ideals, have been around in football for 50+ years. In today’s game, its most popular iteration is the shotgun spread. But whether it’s being run out of a Singleback formation, the Shotgun, or the new in between variant – the Pistol – it remains an effective offensive philosophy.

Spread Offense Formation

The idea is to spread the defense out horizontally, pulling off extra blockers, like the fullback, and putting in extra receivers. With the defense spread out, it is easier to isolate man coverage, as well as to find and throw to the holes in the zone. The same goes for the running game - with the defense spread out all over the line of scrimmage, it is much more difficult for them to stack the box and prepare for the run.

As far as personnel, you need a deep stable of pass catchers, as unless all the receivers are threats, the defense will have no need to spread out and defend them. You also need a quarterback with a good arm, and a running back who is adept at reading his blocks.

Another popular variation is the spread option. By combining the classic option and the spread principles, we give our quarterback a chance to run the option against a thinned out defense, with fewer defenders to contend with. That’s because when run correctly, the option is in effect blocking a defender for you, giving you an advantage at the point of attack without cluttering it up with extra players.

Spread Offense Plays

If you're interested in learning more about Spread Offense, make sure you check out our Spread Offense Playbook. It's packed with 10 simple, fun and effective plays designed for youth and high school football. All explained with player responsibilities, step by step diagrams, and implementation tips for coaches.

Get The Spread Offense PDF Playbook



Below are some sample plays you can check out.

Running Play: Shotgun Spread - Inside Zone

Play Strategy

A classic play that has been growing in popularity recently, the inside zone run from the shotgun spreads the defense out and forces them to respect the pass, leaving fewer men in the box for you to run against. This is a great play on first and 10, with the threat of the pass leaving your running back in good position to set your team up for second down, or maybe even pick up another first.

Spread Offense Running Plays
The offense will come out in a Spread shotgun formation, with four receivers on the field - two on each side - and one halfback in the backfield.

Positional Assignments

  • Offensive Line - The zone blocking scheme on this play requires all offensive linemen to immediately take a step playside when the ball is snapped, moving downhill and blocking the first defender to come into their assigned zone.
  • Wide Receivers - All four receivers will try to leverage inside of their corners, then block them to the outside, away from the play.
  • Running Backs - The running back will step up, taking the snap from the quarterback and heading for the inside hip of the left guard. He will take his time, watching the play unfold and staying ready to continue flowing left, accelerate downhill, or cutback across to the backside.
  • Quarterback - The quarterback will hand the ball off to the running back, then sell the quarterback keeper fake, running out to the backside of the play to keep the backside end occupied.


Passing Play: Shotgun Trips TE - HB Motion Verticals

Play Strategy

When you need a completion for big yardage, this is a great play to pull out of the playbook. Ideally, you would call it when you can expect your quarterback to have plenty of time in the pocket and you need a big completion. The routes are all slower developing, and neither the halfback nor tight end stay in to block, so it’s important the quarterback has enough time to get the ball downfield for a big time throw and catch.

This is a great play to mix into your 2 minute offense, lulling the defense to sleep with short completions before exposing them on a deep pass for the big play.

Spread Offense Passing Plays
The offense will bring three receivers on the field here, having them bunch up on the weak side, with the tight end lined up on the strong side along with the halfback. The quarterback will stand in the backfield next to the halfback, putting the offense in a Shotgun Trips TE formation.

Positional Assignments

  • Offensive Line - The offensive line will be in pass protection, giving the quarterback as much time in the pocket as possible.
  • Tight End - The tight end will run a curl route here, ready for the quick pass in case of a blitz, as he is the quarterback’s hot read.
  • Wide Receivers - All three bunched receivers will run deep routes. Going from left to right, the receivers will run a fade route, a post, and a wheel route, putting a ton of pressure deep on that side of the field.
  • Running Backs - When the quarterback motions him out, the halfback will step up, and split out wide on the strong side. When the ball is snapped, he’ll run a fade, looking to take advantage of an overmatched linebacker if the defense is in man coverage.
  • Quarterback - The quarterback will motion the halfback out wide, watching to see if a linebacker follows him out. If a linebacker does, and it’s a mismatch in your advantage, the running back should be your number one option on this play. Otherwise, your quarterback’s first option will be the slot receiver running the wheel route on the weak side. His second option is the split end running the post, and the third option is the flanker on the fade route. In the event of a blitz, the quarterback’s hot read is the tight end.

For more plays like this, check our complete  Spread Offense Playbook today!

More Football Offenses

  • I-Formation Offense: great for playing smash mouth football and overpowering the defense at the line
  • Double Wing Offense: uses two wingbacks to set up power runs and misdirection plays
  • Singleback Offense: a versatile passing offense, which also works well for draws and outside runs
  • Pro Set Offense: provides excellent balance, allowing you to get the ball to any area of the field very quickly
  • Wing-T Offense: an all-time favorite at the youth level, which emphasizes counters, reverses, bootlegs and short passing plays

Or, if you need help develop fundamental offensive skills, don't miss our drill collections covering quarterbacks, offensive line, running backs and receivers.