Motions and Shifts

Learning Level: ADVANCED

    To many coaches, motion and especially shifting may seem to be an unnecessary complication to an offense.  Truth be told, time spent on learning various motions and shifts is time not spent on executing plays.  However, when a series of ideas such as motions and shifts have the potential to contribute so heavily to an offensive philosophy, I think it's extremely important to allow the time to learn those ideas.  Keeping in mind our themes of confusion, exploitation and domination, there are a whole host of reasons to include motion and shifting in your overall offensive game plan:

    In addition to the reasons stated above, shifting also gives the offense the capability of changing the strength of the formation.

    Terminology.  Motion and shifting terminology, when combined with the standard lexicon of this offense, has the potential to become a cumbersome process.  The terminology that I've developed for shifting and motion uses, for the most part, the terminology already in place for formationing.  Obviously, a few specific terms are necessary to learn.  But on the whole, it shouldn't be too difficult to learn.

    Shifting.  If shifting is going to occur, it will occur before motion so let's tackle that subject first.  A shift is essentially moving a series of players at the same time in order to change a formation or the look or strength of that formation, for the specific reasons stated above.  The primary shift call for this system will be to move from one formation to another.  Furthermore, this call will be appended to the beginning of the play.  Thus, a shift might be called as such: Pro to Twins Right; wherein, the players would start in the Pro formation and upon the QB's "Move" call, shift to Twins Right:

As you can see, the strength of this formation remains to the right, but a few important changes have occured.  In the Pro Right formation, the pass and run strength was to the right, with the Y and Z on the right and X alone on the weak side.  Now with this shift, the pass strength is more magnified on the right, with both the X and Z on the strong side, while the run strength shifts to the weakside, where the Y is the extra blocker.  The absence of a strength call following Pro signifies the same as the shift, therefore, right (otherwise, the call would be Pro Left to Twins Right).
    The secondary shift is a Trade call which allows the strength of the formation to be changed.  Trade refers to the position of the Y, and simply requires him to change from the side he started on to the opposite side.  All other changes are uncalled, and therefore required of the other players on the field.  However, in practice it is very simple:

    Trade tells the Y to shift from the right side to the left.  Necessarily, the X and Z receivers must make adjustments: the weakside X now becomes the strongside Z and must take a step back off the line of scrimmage, and the strongside Z now becomes the weakside X and must step up onto the line of scrimmage.

    Motion.  Motion sends a single receiver moving to a different position in the formation, and most often still moving as the ball is snapped.  These specific movements do require the knowledge of some specific terms which designates a) which receiver is motioning; and b) to where, or from where.  Just like shifting, there are different types of motioning.  The first is a "motion-to" term, which most often involves the Z receiver.  The "motion-to" term is simply appended to the beginning of the play.  For our example, we'll use Zip to Pro Right - a "motion-to" term for the Z; in other words, the Z should end up in the Pro Right formation.  His starting location is often the opposite side.

    The second type of motion is a method of second a player in motion from a specific formation; in other words, a "motion-from" term.  The available players for this type of motion are the Z, F and H.  The Z has some position-specific terms, which we'll cover first.
    The first Z "motion-from" term is Zoom, which tells the Z to start in the called formation and motion across the formation, ending in the appropriate position on the opposite side of the formation:

The second Z "motion-from" term is Zap, which tells the Z to start in the called formation, motion across the formation to the offside guard, then reverse and return to the original position:

The third type of "motion-from" applies to all three positions: F (the "Fox"), H (the "Hound") and Z.  This motion is called simply by using the appropriate letter followed by the hole location where the player should end up (See Hole Numbering).  Three examples will demonstrate the use of this type of motion, one for each position.  The first example of this type of motion is Pro Right Hound 5:

The second example is Pro Right Fox 8:

The third and fourth examples are a combination of Zoom/Zap terminology and the hole numbering terminology.  Pro Right Zap 6 sends the Z in motion to the offside guard and then back to the 8 hole:

Pro Right Zoom 11 sends the Z in motion across the formation to the "imaginary" 11 hole, which is outside the furthest receiver:

A fifth type of motion takes place in several series of running plays from the single-back sets, where the H motions to block at the point of attack.  This motion will be talked about in those specific series since it requires no specific motion terms that are covered here.

    Motion and Shifts Together.  The final concept in motions and shifts is combining the two together in one play.  As previously mentioned, it can become a cumbersome process, but it doesn't have to be.  It is the coach's responsibility to ensure motions and shifts are used for the appropriate reasons and not just for cosmetic purposes.
    The first combination example is Ace to Doubles Right Zap 6.  The starting formation is Aces Right, shifting to Doubles Right (the X "flex"es out to the split position while the H moves into the weak slot); the motion is Zap 6, which sends the Z in motion across the formation to the offside guard, then reverses and return to the 6 hole:

The second combination example is Pro Right Trade Zoom.  The starting formation is Pro Right, shifting to Pro Left (the Trade call moves the Y to the left side; the X and Z make the necessary adjustments); the motion is zoom, which sends the Z (who started as the X) across the formation.  Since there is no hole target, his end position should be somewhere between the slot and the X:

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