A-11 offense

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Typical offensive formation using the A-11 A-11.png
Typical offensive formation using the A-11

The A-11 offense is an offensive scheme that has been used in some levels of amateur American football. In this offense, a loophole in the rules governing kicking formations is used to disguise which offensive players would be eligible to receive a pass for any given play. [1] [2] It was designed by Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School in California.


The scheme was used at the high school level for two seasons before the national governing body of high school football, the National Federation of State High School Associations, closed the scrimmage kick loophole in February 2009, effectively banning important facets of the offense. [3] Due to rules regarding player numbering and eligible receivers, the scheme as originally designed is not usable at most levels of football, including the National Football League and college football.

The A-11 offense was to be the basis of the A-11 Football League (A11FL), a professional football league which was scheduled to play its first season in 2015. However, after announcing franchises names and scheduling "showcase games" in early 2014, the A11FL folded before taking the field.



The A-11 offense was developed in 2007 by head coach Kurt Bryan and offensive coordinator Steve Humphries at Piedmont High School in Piedmont, California. Coming off a 5–6 record in 2006, the coaches were looking for an edge to compete against other teams that fielded more top athletes. Bryan and Humphries found a loophole in the rules concerning allowable punt formations which they used it to design an every-down offense in which all 11 (hence the name "A-11") players were potentially eligible to receive a forward pass. Using the A-11, Piedmont's record improved to 7–4 in 2007 and 8–3 in 2008, with the offense often confusing defenses and scoring more points. [4] [5]

Controversy, banning, and modifications

While some high school coaches noticed Piedmont's success with the A-11 and began incorporating aspects of the offense into their own playbooks, others called the system "an unsporting act" and "outside of the spirit of the rule code". [6] Bryan and Humphries began heavily promoting coaching clinics, instructional DVDs, and other materials soon after completing their first season running the offense, which also drew criticism from other coaches. [7]

High school athletic associations in North Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia banned the use of the A-11 for the 2008 season. [8] In February 2009, the National Federation of State High School Associations rules committee voted 462 to close the loophole allowing the linemen-free formations featured in the A-11. The system's creators petitioned the California Interscholastic Federation to allow use of the offense over the next three seasons on an experimental basis, but the appeal was denied. [9]

The scheme's creators modified the system to comply with the rule changes in 2009. Though the offensive personnel is spread out more than in conventional formations, this version of the A-11 abides by the numbering requirements, making it easier for the defense to determine which players could legally go out for a pass. [10] As such, it is similar to spread schemes from the early days of football such as the Emory & Henry formation. [11] As such, unlike the original A-11, the modified version is legal in most levels of football.

Basic concepts

The most striking characteristic of the A-11 is its use of a formation in which most offensive players except the center are spread out across the line of scrimmage standing upright. In conventional football formations, five or more offensive players are offensive linemen, who set up before each play in a three-point stance and who serve exclusively as blockers. Offensive linemen almost never carry the football and are almost always ineligible to catch a forward pass or even advance beyond the line of scrimmage before a pass is thrown. At most levels of football, (including the National Football League (NFL), college football, and American high school football), offensive linemen must wear jersey numbers from 50 to 79, marking them as ineligible receivers in all but very limited situations.

In the A-11, however, offensive linemen in the traditional sense are not typically employed. Any player with any jersey number may be stationed anywhere across the line of scrimmage, and depending on their position at the snap, any player may serve as an eligible receiver on any given play. This was possible because, when the A-11 offense was introduced in 2007, a loophole existed in the high school rule books that allowed teams in a "scrimmage kick" (i.e., a punt or field goal) formation to be exempted from numbering requirements. Instead of employing five offensive linemen who are obviously ineligible to receive a pass, teams were allowed to station any player wearing any number anywhere on the field, causing confusion for the defense as they try to determine who might go out for a pass. And since there were no restrictions concerning when the "scrimmage kick" exemption could be used, the A-11 offense could be used on every down. [12]

To use the scrimmage kick formation exemption, the player who receives the snap (presumably the kicker or placeholder) must stand at least seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. The A-11 places the quarterback in that position, which becomes a deep shotgun formation. This has the effect of reducing the need for offensive line protection since defensive players have more ground to cover before reaching the passer. The offense also places an additional passing back (similar to the wildcat offense) in the backfield next to the quarterback, creating the potential for either back to receive the snap, pitch to the other back, run or pass the ball, block, or go out for a pass. [12]

The A-11 complies with the rule that caps the number of eligible receivers during any given play at five (maximum six if the quarterback hands the ball off or laterals to an ineligible receiver who then passes the ball). However, because players in the scrimmage kick formation can make themselves an eligible or ineligible receiver by going in motion or by simply stepping on or off the line of scrimmage, the defense does not know which offensive players will be eligible until just before the snap. This has the effect of confusing defensive personnel, as they must quickly figure out which offensive players to cover and adjust their assignments accordingly. The constantly changing offensive roles coupled with the deep position of the quarterback forced most opposing defenses to play a soft zone pass defense against the A-11, making it difficult to play standard run defense or pressure the quarterback. [2]

In the modified version of the A-11 developed after 2009, the center is flanked by ineligible numbered "anchors", basically creating a 3-man offensive line in the center of the formation. Like any ineligible receiver, the anchors can neither receive forward passes nor advance downfield before a forward pass is thrown across the line of scrimmage, but can catch lateral and backward passes, take handoffs, advance downfield prior to a screen pass to an eligible receiver, recover a short punt behind the line of scrimmage, or even throw the ball if it is handed, punted or pitched backwards to them. Two other players spread out along the line of scrimmage must also wear numbers that automatically make them ineligible, resulting in formations similar to the old swinging gate or Emory & Henry formations. [13] In this version of the A-11, the offensive players who cannot legally go out for a pass are clearly identified before the snap by their uniform numbers, making it easier for the opposing team to set their defense accordingly.

Legality at various levels

High school

As mentioned, a loophole in the rules regarding punt formations allowed the A-11 to be used at the high school level until 2009, when the National Federation of State High School Associations rules committee closed the loophole. A modified version that complies with uniform numbering regulations can still be used.

College football

The scrimmage kick formation is allowed on fourth downs under NCAA rules and on conversion attempts, and a few situations which define a scrimmage kick formation with an additional requirement that "it is obvious that a kick may be attempted." It is otherwise not allowed for most normal plays, making the original A-11 impossible to use on an every-down basis. [14]


The A-11 as originally designed is not legal in the National Football League (NFL) due to rules concerning the required jersey numbers of players at different positions. [15] Players who play at positions that are usually ineligible to receive a pass must declare themselves as eligible receivers to the referee if they will be lining up at an eligible position in a formation. The referee then announces their eligibility before the play, negating the surprise factor of not knowing which players may go out for a pass. The league imposed an additional rule to discourage teams from placing players with eligible numbers at an ineligible position (Bill Belichick had used such a strategy during select games in the 2014 season); as of the 2015 season, players with eligible numbers must line up in a position that makes it obvious that they are ineligible. [16] The two-quarterback system is legal under NFL rules but (especially since the decline of the wildcat fad) seldom used, [17] though the New Orleans Saints' success with a two quarterback system involving Taysom Hill and Drew Brees has resulted in a leaguewide increase in two-quarterback formations. [18]


The A-11 was also not legal under Canadian football rules. There is no scrimmage kick exemption in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Persons who wish to change position from an eligible to an ineligible receiver (or vice versa) must physically change their uniform to a number that reflects their eligibility, and must seek permission from the official to do so. [19]

Furthermore, until the end of the 2008 season the CFL rule book dictated that a designated quarterback must take all snaps, which made the two-quarterback system used by the A-11 (as well as offenses such as the Wildcat) illegal in the CFL. This rule was removed in CFL, mainly so that the Wildcat formation could be used. [20] [21] However, the A-11 is still unusable.


The A-11 Football League (A11FL) was a proposed professional spring outdoor football league that was led in part by A-11 creators Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries and planned on utilizing the A-11 offense exclusively. The A11FL was scheduled to debut in May 2014 with two nationally televised "Showcase Games" and then kick off its first regular season with eight teams in March 2015. However, the exhibition games and the 2015 season were cancelled in April 2014. Soon after, the A11FL announced on its Facebook page that it was abandoning the idea of using the A-11 offense but that some of its founders would try to establish a different spring football league, though no further developments were announced. [22] [23] [24] In 2019, Bryan was named head coach of the Oakland Panthers indoor football team.

See also

Related Research Articles

Canadian football Canadian team sport

Canadian football is a sport played in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's scoring area.

In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass: only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass crosses into the neutral zone. If the pass is received by a non-eligible receiver, it is "illegal touching". If an ineligible receiver is beyond the neutral zone when a forward pass crossing the neutral zone is thrown, a foul of "ineligible receiver downfield" is called. Each league has slightly different rules regarding who is considered an eligible receiver.

Quarterback Position in gridiron football

The quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in gridiron football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive platoon and mostly line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offense, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes. When the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack.

Shotgun formation American football offensive formation

The shotgun formation is a formation used by the offensive team in gridiron football mainly for passing plays, although some teams use it as their base formation. Instead of the quarterback receiving the snap from center at the line of scrimmage, in the shotgun he stands farther back, often five to seven yards off the line. Sometimes the quarterback will have a back on one or both sides before the snap, while other times he will be the lone player in the backfield with everyone spread out as receivers.

Lineman (gridiron football) American football player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage

In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling. The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.

Wide receiver Offensive position in American and Canadian football

A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, historically known as a split end (SE), is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense, WR gets its name from the player being split out "wide", farthest away from the rest of the offensive formation.

Tight end Position in American football

The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and Canadian football, on the offense. The tight end is often a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. Like offensive linemen, they are usually lined up on the offensive line and are large enough to be effective blockers. On the other hand, unlike offensive linemen, they are eligible receivers adept enough to warrant a defense's attention when running pass patterns.

Comparison of American and Canadian football

American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar; both have their origins in rugby football, but some key differences exist.

Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.

American football rules

Gameplay in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.

A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a down. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.

Tackle-eligible play

In football, the tackle-eligible play is a forward-pass play in which coaches will attempt to create mismatches against a defense by inserting an offensive tackle, into an offensive formation as an eligible receiver, usually as a tight end or as a fullback. This is done by changing the formation of the offensive line, via positioning two linemen on one side of the center and three linemen on the other.

American football positions Specific roles that players take in American football

In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position". Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions", meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation. This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense, the defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the jobs that the players are doing.

In American football, a play is a close-to-the-ground plan of action or strategy used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly, plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in a playbook.

The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.

Wildcat formation describes a formation for the offense in football in which the ball is snapped not to the quarterback but directly to a player of another position lined up at the quarterback position. The Wildcat features an unbalanced offensive line and looks to the defense like a sweep behind zone blocking. A player moves across the formation prior to the snap. However, once this player crosses the position of the running back who will receive the snap, the play develops unlike the sweep.

In gridiron football, an ineligible receiver downfield, or an ineligible man downfield, is a penalty called against the offensive team when a forward pass is thrown while a player who is ineligible to receive a pass is beyond the line of scrimmage without blocking an opponent at the time of the pass. A player is determined ineligible based on his position at the time of the snap. When the ball is snapped, the offense is required to have no more than eleven players on the field, out of whom only six are eligible. On most plays, the eligible receivers include the quarterback, running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers, while the ineligible receivers are offensive linemen, including the center, offensive guards, and offensive tackles.

Players in the National Football League wear uniform numbers between 1 and 99, with no two players on a team able to wear the same number outside of the offseason. Rules exist which tie a player's number to a specific range of numbers for their primary position. Additionally, rules exist which limit who may handle the ball on offense: generally players who are designated as offensive lineman, who wear numbers 50–79, are not allowed to handle the ball during a play from scrimmage, though they are allowed to do so if they report to the referee as playing out of position for a tackle-eligible play.


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