From the Sideline: Vertical Stack

Being on the sideline sucks – everyone knows that. It’s hard to figure out what cuts to make, what throws to try, etc. So, what can we do about it?

When talking about field position on the sideline, it is important that we all know what sideline we are talking about. There are two sides we can be on when the disc is on the sideline: the wide side or the trap side. The wide side is the sideline in which we have a wide open look toward the open side. We can also say that we are on the wide side when the disc is pushed all the way to the break side, but that takes too many words. The trap side is the sideline where the mark is trapping the disc on that sideline. We can also say we are on the trap side when the disc is pushed all the way to the open side but, again, too many words.

Regardless of the offensive formation we are running, it makes sense that being on the wide side would be more favorable, right? A wide open look at the field is much better than being stuck on the trap side between your mark and the sideline. However, the vertical stack sort of complicates both of these situations (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Vertical stack when the disc is on either the trap side (left) or the wide side (right).

When we are on the wide side (right panel of Figure 1), the stack feels like it is cutting off long throws toward the open side and the defense usually recognizes this and shifts their positioning slightly to make even the (normally undefended) break side cuts less viable. When we are on the wide side and the mark goes more or less flat, they cut off our throwing lane so we have to try to squeeze those open side throws into a much smaller window. Throws to the open side of the stack are dangerous because the disc has to travel farther and is any pass is more likely to get blocked. So, dang, what do we do?

When we are on the trap side (left panel), we are in a similar situation, but for different reasons. Our open side throws are difficult because we don’t have as much room to lead our cutters out to space for fear of throwing out of bounds, and they have little room to shake their defenders. The break side throws seem like a good option, right? However, when we are throwing around a mark, trying to place a 30-yard throw out to space over the stack is a difficult task. SO, WHAT CAN WE DO!?!?!?

We have a few different options: we can run a side stack to open up a ton of space in the middle of the field, but that leaves us only one side to cut to, or we can run set plays and hope the defense doesn’t read them well, oooorrrrr we can run a slant!

Figure 2. The slant on the wide side, attacking the endzone to the right of the image.

The beauty of the slant is two-fold: it reorients the field so we have much more space to work it back toward the middle, and it almost always gives us an easy reset. This is because most teams do not practice this play, and when you don’t practice something, it is hard to play perfect defense against it. We will go into the intricacies of the slant in a future post, but recognize that it can be run on either side of the field regardless of the force. When we run a slant, after we get it off the sideline, we should just return to a normal vertical stack offense.

Next post will be concerned with working the disc from the sideline in a horizontal stack. If you have any questions about the vertical stack or the slant, please put them in the comments below.

New terms used in this post:

flat – when the mark is oriented perpendicular to the sideline and forcing all throws toward the backfield.
slant – an angled stack with all six non-thrower players in a line.
trap side – when the disc is pushed all the way to the force side sideline.
wide side – when the disc is pushed all the way to the break side sideline.

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