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Football theory 101 - on the offensive side

As a lifelong football player (four year veteran of the 90 pounds and under league) I had a good grip on the game at an early age and have spent more time in the end zone than on the sidelines.

As a lifelong football player (four year veteran of the 90 pounds and under league) I had a good grip on the game at an early age and have spent more time in the end zone than on the sidelines. Lancaster's health class was a breeze for me and made me think that only the girls and the geeks had anything to gain about learning the various blocking schemes and offensive formations he had scribbled up on the blackboard. To re-cap his semester dedicated to football philosophy I'll try to paraphrase his ideas on the offensive side of the ball without sounding insulting to those of you who already agree with these descriptions.

Linemen - The centre has the toughest job here trying to get a snap off before a nose tackle begins to rip out his nose hair while he quickly readies himself to take on a 300- pound mountain man with mayhem on his mind. All that while the QB tickles his privates with 30,000 witnesses to the harassment.

The two guards are often required to be somewhat more mobile and able to pull out of a standard formation to lead an outside rushing play or to drop back into pass defence mode and suffer the onslaught of well disguised and complicated blitzes. The tackles face the rush ends and the outside linebackers and are often difference makers in the game trying to keep their QB in one piece. Training consists of eating 32oz porterhouse steaks and bench-pressing small vehicles. Anyone under 325 pounds need not apply for NFL jobs.

Inside receivers - Typically hardnosed and fearless slot backs and tight ends that have glue-like fingers and are suckers for punishment. Some slot backs are born for the position like Ben Cahoon of the Montreal Alouettes and other are simply wide outs who have lost that breakaway gear to separate themselves from the speedy cornerbacks. True tight ends are often counted on for run blocking and often a second one will be brought in on short yardage situations when extra beef is required to move the pile of defensive flesh eating monsters. Slot back's blocking responsibilities are often more devious blindside crack back hits to unsuspecting defensive backs in pursuit of the play and provide retribution for the abuse they endured throughout the game. Inside receivers are fodder for hospitals that specialize in rehabilitating the concussed and every game a knockout of a tackle is part of the highlight package. They are the bravest guys on the field and regular visitors to the disabled list.

Outside receivers - In my day they were called flankers who spread the defensive by lining up as far away from the QB as possible enabling a multitude of complicated patterns including post patterns that merely angle them to the goal posts or a double move called a post corner that changes their destination to the back corner of the end zone. Modern playbooks include plays where a wideout will sprint in a fly pattern and at the last second the QB will purposely throw the ball short to cue the receiver to come back to the ball. Generally these fellows have a background in track and are a tad taller than those on the inside crew. Their NFL brethren seem to love the inside of prisons as much as they enjoy the confines of the huddle.

Running backs - Usually the best pure athletes on the field who come in several forms and body types from the Chris Szarka earthmoving fullback to ex-Bomber mini-Mack Heron who couldn't be caught with a fishing net. The more common version is a hybrid halfback with a skill set that includes nabbing the occasional screen pass and the speed to get past the first line of defence and burst into the seams of the secondary. Special blocking schemes allow for a counter or misdirection running play, which rarely fools a well-schooled defensive lineman.

Watch for an article on the games best running backs north and south of the border including retired Chicago Bear great Gayle Sayers, who actually scored six touchdowns in one NFL game.

Quarterbacks - Widely considered the most cerebral players on the field. Today's pivots get their plays sent in from the offensive co-ordinator from up in the booth. QBs, like the rest of the position players, come in all shapes and sizes from smaller and elusive scramblers to prototypical drop back passers who remain in the pocket until they can launch a laser downfield. Reading the innumerable blitz packages is a full-time job and key to executing successful drives, not to mention avoidingthe threat of dismemberment. To my knowledge no quarterback has ever died on the field of play, but if it ever happened the linebacker who carried out the mortal blow would likely have a street named after him.

Some QBs have the arm of a rocket launcher while others like Montreal's Anthony Calvillo relies on pinpoint accuracy and a little touch on his throws. To give you and idea of the difficulty in the progression of a young college QB to the ranks of the pros you can simply read the lengthy depth charts of NFL rosters replete with unproven first round draft choices. Canadian QBs are as rare as sober fans at Mosaic Stadium and their historical futility is based upon a franchise being expected to employ a high priced American that provides an illusion of going for the big prize now instead of building for the future and creating another roster spot for a worthy local talent.

I'll create one or two more of these columns to delve into actual playbooks and help the common man to decipher the mumbo jumbo cadence of the QB before the snap of the ball.

To finish up let me allow myself to indulge my grade in this class back in the late '60s. I finished with a 99 per cent and lost the one point for sneaking out a window of the classroom when I was finished my test 20 minutes before anyone else.

Lancaster was waiting outside when I escaped having a smoke and thankfully refrained from the chokehold I was expecting. God rest his soul and Go Riders Go.