A-11 Offense

The base offense is one in which a center and two tight ends surround the football, three receivers are split right, three more split left and two quarterbacks stand behind in a shotgun, one of whom has to be at least 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
A description on the offense’s Web site – www.a11offense.com – describes it as “an innovative offense blending aspects of the spread option, West Coast and run and shoot.”

Yes, per the rules of the game, only five players are eligible to catch a pass during a particular play and seven players have to set up on the line of scrimmage. But in the minds of Bryan and Humphries, you can develop an infinite number of plays with an infinite number of formations.

Talk about confusing a defense.

“It presents a different set of challenges for defenses because they have to account for which guys go out or might go out,” Bryan said. “Those guys who are ineligible to go down the field and catch a pass, they can take a reverse pitch or a negative screen or a hitch behind the line of scrimmage.

“We’ve opened up the game to the extreme with the rules already in place.”

First, though, Piedmont coaches had to make sure this offense was actually legal. Bryan and Humphries scoured the rulebook, met with league officials and submitted the concept of the offense to the National Federation of High Schools and the California Interscholastic Federation.

“We had a 99.9 percent feeling that it was legal,” Bryan said. “After it was approved, there was a sense of, ‘OK, now what do we do?’ ”

First, they had to install the offense during spring practice and during the summer. Bryan said it wasn’t pretty. Even into the first two games of the 2007 season, contests in which the Highlanders lost while scoring a combined nine points, the coaching staff continued making adjustments.

Then, something clicked and they went on a seven-game winning streak, using the A-11 offense about 60 percent of the time and a more traditional formation the other 40 percent. This season, Bryan said he wants to use the A-11 offense 85-90 percent of the time.

“There was a lot of learning, and we put in a lot of the preparation,” Humphries said. “We adapted every week. We learned from what the competitors were doing against us. We made changes and adjusted techniques. We saw nine different defenses in 11 games. It was a wealth of information on what things different defenses can do against this. The different techniques are invaluable.”

Now, after a year, Bryan says the interest level from coaches across the country is high, and Bryan has produced five instructional videos.

Though Bryan admits there probably is some resistance to this radically different offense, one of his opponents said he sees nothing wrong with it.

“It’s pretty trailblazing,” said Hayward (Calif.) Moreau Catholic coach Andrew Cotter, whose squad was pummeled by Piedmont 47-7 last season. “The fact they came up with the idea – it takes a lot of work. I don’t think they’re trying to take an easy way out.

“I’m a new coach coming from an old-school philosophy. Football is meant to line up, get your hand in the dirt and figure it out. But playing within the rules and trying to create an advantage is not something I’m against. There is a philosophy that says you need to line up and see who’s the man. However, if you’re not the man, you need to come up with some significant strategies to counter that.”

Now, Bryan looks to the future and ponders what this offense can mean.

“It is limitless,” Bryan said. “Here’s what’s going to happen. If we were sitting down with football coaches and players in 50 years or 100 years, the A-11 would be no big deal because that’s what the game will be.

“People can laugh at it, but that’s reality.”