Ack's Virtual Playbook

This week's play is the "Mesh Route" which is derived from the West Coast passing game. It is intended to stretch the defense horizontally, finding gaps inside the zone defense. If a team decides to blitz or play man underneath it can provide a quick throw to a playmaker who is a moving target. With either choice this proves to be a very good play.

Click here for an explanation of key terms and principles and here for diagrams of different defensive coverages.

If you start adding different formations, motions and tags it can make a defense feel "punch drunk" by the end of the game. We once ran variations of this play 47 times in a victory over West Georgia. At Kentucky Hal Mumme ran this play 35 times vs Tennessee in the shootout loss between Peyton Manning and Tim Couch in 1997. Bill Walsh made this play famous in the early 80's relying heavily on the tight end and the F-back.

The Route:
The Mesh route is always run with the Y receiver or Tight end setting the landmark at 5 yards over the ball replacing the Mike linebacker. The crossing receiver (in this case mostly the X) comes straight off the ball as close to Y as possible. Once the two receivers cross they must recognize the defense. This takes a lot of practice time and drills. If they read Zone, they settle in the pockets vacated by the linebackers. If they know it's man and their defender is running with them then they must continue towards the sideline expecting the ball on the run. It is very important that both the receivers and the quarterback understand the coverage. If the quarterback thinks it's man and the receiver settles, he will throw it right to a defender. Z will run a corner and we will change his route by tagging it or calling "switch". This means he and X will change responsibilities on the play. H and F always check their linebackers before releasing on the route. This allows for seven man protection on a blitz. The one exception is if either back is tagged with a wheel route then they must free release and become hot if their guy blitzes.

Coaching Keys: X always needs to cheat his split in a little but not be too noticeable. All receivers who mesh must catch the ball at 5 yards depth and get directly up the field north and south.

Diagram 1A

This is the basic 5 step play in which the quarterback is thinking mesh vs the Zone. His first read will be Z on the corner as he takes his fifth step or third step out of the shotgun. If not he will read the Mesh to the F and dump the ball off. Receivers X and Y must find the zone vs a 4-3 between the Mike and the outside linebackers. Once they settle they show their numbers and expect the ball. F will run a swing to the numbers while H will run a shoot at three yards deep on the numbers.

Diagram 1B

We will motion Z to a twins look on the weakside. This allows the quarterback to see if the defense is playing zone or man underneath. If the defense does not adjust the corner route to Z, they may be vs Cover 2. We run our corners at a 15 yard break. The reads remain the same. Except the quarterback in this formation will think H before F as the third option. Once again we think the motion will widen the will linebacker leaving a void for Y to settle for the catch.

Diagram 2A

Now we get a little wrinkle vs man coverage underneath. We lineup in our twins formation then exchange the routes for X and Z. We will also "Tag" X's route to capitalize on the middle of the field if they play man free. The Y and Z will mesh with Y always over the top. With man coverage they will look to catch the ball on the run immediately after clearing the outside linebacker landmark.

Diagram 2B 

This is almost a guaranteed touchdown vs man coverage after about 10-15 calls of 92 in a game. We line up in trips by moving H up into the slot outside the left tackle. This is our one back formation we call "Ace". Flip tells the Z to come over creating a trips look to one side. Z will create a clearout by running a 7 route or post to hold the safety in the middle of the field. X and Y will mesh vs Man taking the linebackers with them. H will free release at the snap on a wheel route. With the corner running with X and the will trying to jam the Z receiver, look for this to be wide open. We will come back the next time and wheel H and F and look off the backside corner and hit F the next time.

As you can see the Mesh Route is a safe way to get the ball into the hands of playmakers. It creates confusion on the defense and has the capability of going down the field on any certain play. The original play is like the nucleus of the route and from their you can branch out and add all kinds of wrinkles. The beauty of that is your protection vs a 5 man rush never changes and you can always block 7.

Teams that run this route:
Texas Tech

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