Football Coaching: Learning the 3 X 1 Formation – Part II

Part II: Football coaching and training tips from Doug H., a high school football coach from Michigan with over fifteen years of coaching experience.  Continue reading to further your knowledge in 3 X 1 offensive formation.   

(Read Part I here.)



When my quarterback breaks the huddle he immediately looks to locate how many safeties there are. If there is one safety in the middle of the field I do not worry about him to the one receiver side. In this case my quarterback would locate the outside linebacker. If the linebacker drops to cover the slant my quarterback hits my running back running on a swing route to the one receiver side. If the outside linebacker runs to the swing route my quarterback will throw to the slant.

If my quarterback notices that the defense has only two defenders covering my three wide receivers, I have my quarterback adjust my running back to the three receiver side by yelling Red. A Red call tells the receivers on the three receiver side to abandoned their routes and block the defenders in front of them. I now have numbers to the three receiver side. The quarterback throws to the running back who is running a swing route to the three receiver side. I now have three receivers to block two defenders for my running back.

In other scenarios of the 3 X 1 I will also try to sneak my running back to the tight end position on the three receiver side. This means my T receiver has to move off of the line of scrimmage ever so slightly to make the running back an eligible receiver. Everything looks the same except there is no running back next to my quarterback. My running back will run straight down the field and look for the ball just past linebacker depth. If the defense is in cover two I tell my running back to split the two safeties. I am hoping the safety nearest the three receiver side will commit to my T receiver who is running the 12 yard corner.


To perfect the quick passing game I feel you need to start throwing in January. This means getting your quarterback, wide receivers and your center together to work on the timing from snap to throw to catch. Your quarterback needs to set aside additional time to perfect his footwork. 

As for the wide receivers, the hardest thing to get into their heads is to explode off of the line of scrimmage. They must, with no exception, be drilled constantly to explode from their stance. Your receivers must run precise routes that will enable them to defeat one-on-one battles with the defensive back they are in competition with. Your center must, without exception, be a part of the off-season passing routine.

The center must understand he is vital to ignite the play and the timing begins with him. The off-season is an excellent time to put forth different scenarios such as two minute offense, blitz reads, sight adjustment routes, and last play of the game routes. This high octane attack is not a scheme that is learned quickly. It takes a great amount of time and patience from the football coaches and players. When run proper it takes a great amount of time and patience from the football coaches and players.

When run properly, the 3 X 1 formations can become a lethal part of your high octane offense.   

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