The first NFL preseason game is this Sunday. But really, who gives a crap? Not me. Though football is on many minds, especially those of web junkies (my dad included) who have found the new California football sensation – called the A-11 Offense – while perusing the online sports pages. The formation is a newly created offense that makes all 11 players on the field eligible to receive a pass. Yep, you heard right. All 11 players on the field are potentially eligible to receive passes.
The offense was created by Piedmont (Calif.) High School coach Kurt Bryan to help his team score against larger rivals. The players that make up the A-11 package are all wearing an eligible receiver number (1-49 or 80-99). Two quarterbacks are in the shotgun formation with a center and a tight end on each side. There are three receivers spread on each side of the center.
This formation meets the criteria for a scrimmage kick formation, meaning the defense must account for every possible receiver on each play. But to follow the rules correctly, only six of those players can actually go downfield to catch a pass. And, so far, this has been deemed legal by high school referees.
“After our first two games, some people thought we were crazy,” Bryan stated on the Piedmont High School website, which in a way tries to sell the offense, “but our players and coaches kept believing in the A-11 and learning about it. Now, we have earned the right to play for the league championship against one of the top five teams in our state bowl division rankings…”
Video of this formation in action during the 2007 Piedmont High season can be seen online, and from what I can gather so far the options in this base package are endless. From sweeps to draws to all-out bombs, the offense really does keep the defense guessing.
Besides a new style of offense, coach Bryan also contends that the formation is safer and more fun for every player on the team because even the fat-boy center has a shot at catching a pass. (The real question is would a number 82 jersey fit the big boys? It certainly wouldn’t have fit me in my O-Line hoggin’ days.)
Don’t get me wrong here, I like the idea and it is exciting. Contrary to what my naysayer roommate believes, the formation is and can be a great tool for an offensive coordinator, but does it really do everything that Bryan says it will do? The formation may be fun to run and fun to watch (hell, it may even put some points on the board), but does it really give smaller schools a better chance at competing against larger schools, as Bryan has stated? No.
The A-11 Offense is only as good as the team’s depth. Smaller schools, if faced with a larger school running the A-11, will ultimately suffer.
Coming from a small high school myself, I, as did most of my team, played both offense and defense. We pretty much had everybody on the field that we had on the team all the time. Really, the A-11 offense wouldn’t have been an option for us because, one – we didn’t have enough players to make up an A-11 package and, two – we didn’t have the mix of talent on the team to put 11 players on the field that could actually catch the ball. (Although I must say as an O-lineman, I was graced with the hands of Steve Largent, but unfortunately for me and the team I had the running acceleration of a fully-loaded coal train.)
For the A-11 to work, a team must have a depth of talent, and that is the reason why smaller schools struggle against larger ones. Smaller schools aside, the A-11 is a great idea, and I thank Bryan for finding what some would call a loophole in the high school rulebooks.
Unfortunately, for those of us who are looking forward to seeing more of the A-11, it probably won’t make it any further than the high school level. The NCAA will not allow the formation because a scrimmage kick formation is only allowed if it is “obvious” that a kick will be attempted. The NFL’s rules on eligibility make the formation useless.
You never know though, the formation could change the way an offense comes onto the field. Why not have everyone be eligible? Defenders would have to make more decisions. And when too many football players are made to think, often times the ship sinks.
The A-11 gets the linemen out of the trenches, though, and into fly patterns, so I say legalize the A-11 for the fun of it … if not for all the fat boys looking for a little touchdown glam!