RPO Plays From The Spread Offense

Written By: Mike Pina
Updated: February 12, 2024

RPOs are run to put the defense in a conflict, and it is up to the quarterback to put the ball where the defense isn’t. It’s a numbers game. Get the ball to your best athletes and let them run in open space.

Variations of the RPO we have written about in this article are pre-snap RPO, triple-option RPO, QB pin and pull RPO, counter RPO, and two-back flat RPO.

Throughout this blog, I will explain different types of RPOs and the reads that quarterbacks must execute to succeed in the play.

Before you get started with different RPOs, we recommend you watch the video below and read this guide.

Pre-snap RPO

Read: It depends on how your team wants to run it. For the example shown above, the reader will be the corner.

A 3×1 set (trips) formation is what we’ll use for our example. The corner covering the single receiver will open the reader. The wide receiver has two options: run a quick fade route or run a 5 yard out.

pre snap RPO

The wide receiver and QB will read depending on how far off the corner is. For example, if the corner is pressed upon the receiver, the receiver will run a quick fade route. The QB will usually want to place the ball between 15-25 yards downfield, giving the receiver the best chance to go and make a play.

However, if the corner is 10 yards off, the receiver will run a 5 yard out. The corner is tight on the receiver in the photo below, which means there must be a fade route run. The QB should have the ball in the end zone since they are close to it.

Triple Option RPO

Read: The first run read is the backside Defensive End. The second run read is the outside linebacker. If the Outside Linebacker (OLB) comes up for the QB, he will make his 3rd read, throwing it to the receiver.

In the play above, Braxton Miller is playing QB for Ohio State. The defensive end crashes down to attack the running back, so Miller pulls the ball to run it himself and immediately gets his eyes toward his 2nd read.

He quickly sees the OLB come up to hit him, so he gets his eyes on his receiver and hits him for a big completion.

Counter RPO

Read: The QB is reading the safety rolled up about 7 yards away from the defensive end. If he comes up for the run, the QB throws the bubble.

Here we have a double option, meaning the QB can either hand the ball to the running back or throw the bubble. The receiver is in a “jet” motion and runs a bubble after the QB snaps the ball.

In the play above, Baker Mayfield sees that safety comes up for the run, which indicates that he must have the bubble. The corner is manned up on the receiver in motion and has a far distance to run. This is a great play to beat man coverage.

QB Pin and Pull RPO

Read: RB runs a “push” motion ( motions to the sideline), and the QB reads the inside linebacker. If the inside LB fly’s out to the motion, the QB will keep the ball and run.

Virginia Tech runs this with the right guard and right tackle blocking down, with the center pulling around to get a “second-level” defender. That is no easy task for a center, and it is pretty impressive to see it executed.

When the QB sends the RB in motion, he sees his read start to cheat out where the RB is going. So pre-snap, he reads that he will be taking the ball and his post-snap read affirms that when the LB fly’s out to the push motion. The QB then follows his center and gets a solid gain on the ground.

Two Back Flat RPO

Read: Run-read is the defensive end. If he crashes down, the QB pulls the ball. If he stays with the QB, he hands it off. The pass read is the front side LB. If he runs to the flat, the QB will keep it. He will throw to the H-back on the flat route if he comes up for the QB.

We have another triple-option RPO. The Defensive End crashes down, the frontside LB plays the run, and the QB makes them pay for it. The QB does a good job of getting the ball out quickly, not giving the D a chance to get involved in the play again.

Do I Need An Athletic QB To Run RPOs?

No, he does not have to be a great athlete to run them. However, the triple option RPOs are where they might struggle if they’re not athletic.

Are RPOs Hard To Teach?

It depends on the QB. If the QB is intelligent and listens to a coach who knows what he is talking about, they will be fine. The QB must be disciplined by following his read keys or bad things during the play.

Can I Run An RPO From Under The Center?

Yes! RPOs are not just for teams that run shotgun formations. RPOs are typically run from shotgun because they give the quarterback a better field of vision. Teams have implemented RPO into their triple-option and power games with pop passes to the tight end.

Uncover your opponent’s offensive and defensive tendencies so you can easily build a game plan.

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  • Strategies to pick apart defenses
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  • How to save time in your weekly breakdowns

Keep Learning

If you liked learning about RPOs, we recommend you check out our Ultimate Football Guide. Inside you will find everything you need to improve your football IQ.

Below are more articles to help you learn more about RPO.

Understanding The RPO

RPO In Football: What It Is & How To Run It

Difference Between Play Action, RPO & Read Option

How Oklahoma Football Uses Split Backs & RPO

RPOs are all about numbers. Put the ball where the defense isn’t. There are so many variations of the RPO, and we just touched on a few of them. They are becoming a huge part of our sport from youth to high school, especially college, and pro.

How do you implement your RPOs? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author 

Mike Pina

Mike Pina is the co-founder of QB Velocity, one of the top football training programs in New England. Mike currently coaches the running backs at Worcester Polytech Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts.