3 Great Third Level Run Pass Options For Explosive Plays

3rd level RPO

Defenses are getting better and better in how they defend RPO.  Having a mechanism to attack their aggressiveness can provide answers and explosive plays.

One answer to RPO is to cover down and allow the safeties to get down into the box for the run fit.  Of course, aggressive safeties expose the defense to big plays and that’s exactly what these RPOs are designed to attack.

Maryland Popsicle

Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley has established himself as one of the top offensive thinkers in terms of how to attack defenses with RPO. He did it as the OC at Alabama and now is continuing to do it at Maryland.

His “Popsicle” RPO attacks the third-level defender (safety) who is aggressively fitting the box.  In the video example, they do it off of Power with the same side read of the safety.  
Coach Locksley understands the details that make this play successful.  He explains the coaching points on the QB-RB mesh as well as what he calls “100 to 90” for the receiver.

Source: Maryland Terps RPO Game

Western Michigan Double Glance

Head Coach at Western Michigan Tim Lester has made the RPO a big part of the Broncos attack.  He likes to attack level 3 while giving the QB options. An offense, especially the QB, is not always able to know which safety will trigger.  In order to give the QB opportunities on a 3rd level RPO, WMU will utilize double glance which gives the QB the ability to attack either side of the defense based on which safety fits. He explains the concept here.

Source: Tim Lester, Western Michigan – Explosive RPO & QB Reads

Wake Forest Route Behind

The slower mesh is utilized on their RPO with the quarterback spending extra time riding the mesh with the running back to be able to see his key pull and throw the ball for a big play.  It makes the 3rd Level RPO a very viable part of their attack.
The outside zone with a crack route by the receiver makes this a very difficult play to defend.  Head Coach Dave Clawson illustrates the play in this video.

Source: Wake Forest RPO System – Dave Clawson

Bonus Play – Manheim Central HS Play Action off of RPO:

Adding third-level RPO does require time in practice to allow the QB to understand the picture and the read.  One way to maintain a 3rd level attack as part of the RPO offense is to call it for the QB by making it a play action. 

That’s exactly what Manheim Central HC Dave Hahn does with this play-action concept.  Seeing that the safety is aggressively fitting on the run allows this big play opportunity.  
Since it is just a call it does not require the QB to read for Run or Pass.  He can sell a great fake and draw the safety down then hit the skinny post for a big play.

Source: Manheim Central Inside Zone RPO


As the cliche goes, “It’s about who has the chalk last.”  The third level RPO is a logical progression in the RPO attack and whether you create concepts that read the triggering safety or simply add play action to stretch the defense and expose the aggressiveness, attacking level three this fall will provide your offense huge benefits.


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