How run-dominant teams can still take advantage of 7on7s

By Terry Donovan | Posted 6/16/2017

Photo via Los Angeles Rams

As the offensive coordinator of a team that runs the Flexbone Triple Option, I know the importance of practicing and getting the timing of our run game down. Our success depends on it. During a course of the season, we average about 80 percent run and 20 percent pass. 

In order for us to be successful, we need to practice that way, meaning we have to devote far more time focusing on the run than the pass.  For us to achieve our goals, we have to be able to run the ball and do it well.  But there are times that we need to be able to throw the ball as well. 

So, with that in mind, is 7on7 something we view as valuable?  Yes. 7on7 is something we find vital to our offense and team in general.

RELATED: Why this top HS coach things 7on7s are critical to his team's development

Our run game is very sophisticated and that's evident in how we divide up time in our practices.  The end result can be not being as proficient throwing the ball as we would like to be. That is the value 7 on 7 gives us as an offense. We can get our players in a competitive environment, playing against other teams and running the part of our game that we may have to rely on, even if we don't throw as much. It helps hone a part of our game that needs attention, a part that is crucial for success. 

Here are the top 5 reasons to compete in 7 on 7 events when you are a run heavy team:

Extra time on our passing game.  There is simply not enough time for us to be proficient at throwing the ball while maintaining our identity as a run-heavy team without doing 7on7s. It allows our players to develop a comfort level to execute our play action, sprint out and drop back passing game on Friday nights. Our quarterback gets much-needed live reps against a defense trying to stop him and the timing carries over to real in-game situations. We can set our players at ease by knowing the routes and progressions long before the grind of fall camp.

Defense.  Our defense also gets to play against other teams. Some of them are pretty good at throwing the ball. We get to see what areas that we can improve in and what players will be able to play against other teams' best athletes. We face a few teams that throw the ball more than we're accustomed to seeing.  7on7 gives our guys chances to see some good competition and prepare for our season.  The defenders can gather knowledge on scheme and get a feel for where to be in certain coverages.

Team building.  Every chance players get to compete with each other is a chance to build chemistry. When a touchdown pass is thrown, or an interception is made, the players can celebrate together and keep moving closer to being one. Traveling to an event is another way to build camaraderie.

MORE: How 7on7s can bring a team together

Player Recognition.  7 on 7 events can be set at many different venues.  USA Football has tournaments that can lead to a national championship.  Many colleges have one-day tournaments for local schools as well, and this can provide a chance to get in front of college coaches.  These events can give some valuable extra exposure to your athletes. A receiver in our system can show how well he catches the ball in front of these coaches, which will speak loudly when our receivers aren’t catching 50 balls in a season. 

Skill Development.  What better way to work on skill development?  Athletes get to be athletes. They get to run around, change direction, be explosive and compete.  We even run a youth 7on7 league in the summer to allow these kids to showcase their skills and work together in a fun atmosphere.  Between 7on7 competitions and practices for them, they will develop more skill and passion for the game. 

We believe that 7on7 is an integral part our team, both offensively and defensively.  Even as a run-first (and to be honest, a run second) team, our offense is better because of the 7on7s we participate in. 

Evolving our offense needs to be done outside the parameters of our fall season and this provides the opportunity to do so.  As our younger players are coming up through the system, we also feel this is a great way of developing transferable skills to help our team become more athletic overall.  If you are a ground-and-pound team, do not underestimate the long-term benefits that these passing tournaments can give your program.

Sign up for a USA Football 7on7 event near you.