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DPH 5179-1By Paul Murphy, Head Coach, Waubonsie Valley High School (IL)

Option teams know they are going to see a variety of attempts to slow down their concepts, so it is critical that they have "options" in the way that they block the edge. See how Coach Murphy is changing up his edge concepts to dictate who has to make the tackle.


By Paul Murphy
Head Coach
Waubonsie Valley High School (IL)


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DPH 5179-1Defending the option, on its most basic level, is all about identifying who has the dive, who has the QB, and who has the pitch back. Conversely, option offenses want to identify who has each of these assignments in order to create their game plan. There are a few ways the defense can try to defend the option, so it is important that the offense has an answer for each wrinkle the defense presents. Here are a few of the most common concepts that defenses have used against our triple option attack:

  • The CB is assigned to take the pitch, the OLB takes the QB and the DE and ILB have the dive.
  • The two-high safety runs the alley and takes the pitch, the OLB takes the QB, and the DE and ILB take the dive.
  • The DE takes the Dive, the inside linebacker scrapes over the top to take the QB, and the OLB handles the pitch responsibility. The safety is then a bonus player. Most 4 – 4 teams use their free safety to run the alley to the QB or pitch.

In order to combat these varying schemes, we use a few different tags for our perimeter blocking. Each of these concepts reveals how we want them to block our option concept. When teams overload to our two-receiver side to stop the option, we will teach our QB how to change the play the opposite way.

The tags for our perimeter blocking can be used with our other option plays as well. We came up with these tags so we could try to account for the players the defense was assigning to take the QB or Pitch back in the option game. Before we break down those tags, I want to briefly review our rules for our base triple option. They are as follows:

Blocking Responsibilities:

X – The receiver to the single receiver side will run a post route and sell the pass play and work to lull the back side corner to sleep. If done correctly, later we will be able to throw the back side post for a TD.

LT – Zone block to the left. He is working by himself so he cannot let the defender cross his face.

LG – Against an even front, he will combo with the center on a one or two-technique or solo block a three-technique. Against an odd front, he must listen for line call and the block either “Zulu” (zone block left) or “Wizard” (wedge block on NG).

Center – Against an even front, he will combo with the left guard on a one or two-technique or zone step left against a three-technique and climb to second level. Against an odd front, he must make line call, and block a Zulu or Wizard concept.

RG – Against an even front, he will combo with the right tackle on the three-technique or zone block solo left against a one or two-technique. Against an odd front, he will listen for the line call and execute a Zulu or Wizard block.

RT – Against a even front, combo with the right guard on three-technique or zone block solo to the left against a one or two-technique and climb to the second level. Against an odd front, he will listen for the line call and execute a Zulu or Wizard block.

Y – The Y must listen for the specific blocking tag call in the huddle. The tag will tell him who to block. Here are his assignments:

ARC means he is assigned block the deep safety to the inside

BARK means he will block the near outside linebacker.

SEAL means he will block the inside linebacker who is trying to scrape to the outside.

TUNA means he will be blocking the cornerback who is sitting in the flat to take the pitch back.

Z – His blocking assignments also change with the tag as called in the huddle. For the Arc, Bark, and Seal tags, he must stalk block the CB. If the CB is in Cover 1, he can run him off. When Tuna is called, he will have corner sitting in the flat to take the pitch back and he will need to expect a hard force.

Mesh Player Responsibilities:

Dive Back – At the snap of the ball, he will take a lateral step, mesh with the quarterback aiming for the near leg of the center, and soft squeeze the ball until QB presses ball into his stomach. At that point, he will hammer the line of scrimmage and run to daylight. It is critical that he utilize his three-way go by attacking straight ahead, jump cutting to back side B gap, or crossing the center to the far A gap.

QB – The QB will catch the snap and turn and mesh with the dive back. He does this by extending the ball back at a 45 degree angle waist high. He will then ride the back from back leg to front leg while keying the key last down lineman on line of scrimmage for a pull/give read. At the same time, he will shift his weight from inside back foot to inside of front foot at this point and make a decision. Most coaches teach QBs that “when in doubt give the ball.” We have found that coaching QBs in this way results in the give most of the time. Instead, we tell the quarterback that if he can get around the lineman then pull the ball. This allows us to get to the second and third level phase of our option play.

Pitch Back – At the snap, he must sprint to pitch relationship and call “ball, ball, ball.” This tells the QB where the pitch back is while he is attacking the perimeter of the defense. This, of course, doesn’t mean the QB has to pitch the ball. The pitch back must stay with the QB down the field and turn up when he turns up while maintaining a 4 x 1 relationship with him. When the ball is in the air, he must always look the pitch into his hands.


What You’re Missing…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of Coach Murphy’s clinic report. Here’s just a short list of what you’re missing in the full-length report:

  • The blocking adjustment Coach Murphy uses when two-deep teams try to play its near safety on the pitch.
  • The blocking adjustment Coach Murphy uses when defenses try to use their outside linebacker/strong safety to play the pitch against a dominant running back.
  • The blocking adjustment Coach Murphy uses when defenses try to scrape the inside linebacker to play the quarterback.
  • The blocking adjustment Coach Murphy uses against teams that use hard corners in cover two looks to defend the pitch.
  • VIDEO: Watch game film on all these blocking tags.

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I would like to thank X&O Labs for the opportunity to write this report. Hopefully this article gave you a few new ideas that can help you seal the edge for your option and get your playmakers the ball. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.


Meet Coach Murphy: Paul Murphy has served as the Offensive Coordinator at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora (IL) for the past 10 years. During that time, his team has recorded a 72 – 32 record, 3 Conference Championships, and 8 straight play-offs appearances and a Quarterfinal appearance in 2012. Previous to his stint at Waubonsie, Coach Murphy was the Running Back Coach at North Central College (IL). He also was elected to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015 and was named the Ray Elliot Award for the IHSFCA Hall of Fame in 2014.




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