Since transitioning its veer option to pistol alignments, the University of Southern Virginia improved its yards per carry nearly a half a yard this season and set school records in individual rush yards per game (103.2) and individual rushing yards per season (1,032 yards).
By Danny DuPaix
Southern Virginia University
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When I came to Southern Virginia, a small, liberal arts college competing in NCAA Division 3, they had just finished their 2nd season out of NAIA with a combined 1-19 record. The initial roster of 27 including just 2 seniors. We knew we had work to do! Our offensive staff has had great success running the triple option throughout our careers including multiple FBS and FCS post-season appearances, four High School State Championships, and over a dozen region and conference championships. We are schooled by the traditional rushing powers of Navy, Army, Georgia Tech, and Air Force. However, we enjoy seeing the new wrinkles these past couple seasons that New Mexico, Jacksonville, Davidson, and others run with great success. The triple option is not fading, and different variations can be seen throughout all levels of football today.
What I will convey in this report is how to marry the two to help your staff and players make the change in presentation without changing many rules. This will allow for teams to add RPOs while keeping the core foundation of the triple option.
Triple Option Foundations
The traditional under the center triple option is not a week-in and week-out offense. It requires the defense to be fundamentally sound and play assignment football where one small mistake can lead to huge chunk plays and demoralize a sound game plan. Many teams will invest part of their spring practice AND their fall camp to install their “Option Package” for the one game they face a triple option team. Even then, it is hard to simulate a full speed option attack that will be seen on game day.
Our base play is the Triple Option under center.
I will not be getting into the nuts and bolts of this scheme. However, the foundational keys to our offense are:
- PST does not touch the first read man (dive key). He needs to take the easiest release to his assignment (LB in this case)
- QB footwork is to align his toes parallel with the track of the fullback. His eyes are on the first read man.
- Mesh is critical, but don’t over complicate it. The QB, staying in an athletic position, reaches the ball as far back as reasonably possible and rides the mesh of the fullback from QB’s back hip to front hip while making his decision. Once the ball reaches the QB’s front hip, he needs to pull or release the football. When he pulls the ball, he needs to have a “violent disconnect” which alerts the FB to the not clamp down.
- PS slotback takes care of the primary run support on the perimeter while the BS slotback works into a 5x1 yard pitch relationship with the QB. He doesn’t leave that path unless he gets the ball.
Pistol Zone Triple Option
When teams load the box or we want to throw a curve ball, we go to our Pistol Zone Triple Option. Shown here against an even front.
With our use of a dual-threat QB, putting him in the Pistol is a no-brainer. Because we begin by teaching the traditional triple option under center, the QB is already proficient in reading defenders and making quick decisions for the dive, keep or pitch. By putting him in the pistol, we increase the time and space he has to decide while opening the door for RPOs.
One hurdle that comes with putting the QB in the pistol is how to simplify the mental load. We have done this by making a majority of his reads, techniques, and footwork similar if not the same as the majority of the under center run game. The same goes for our OL and skill positions.
We keep our formations, motions, and play calls similar and this keep the rules as uniform as possible. By keeping our rules uniform, we can implement this in the short time we have for our fall camp (about 20 practices). Additionally, we don’t need to change our personnel because our slotbacks are comfortable in all of our perimeter run and pass game.
In pistol, the alignment only changes for two people: the QB with toes at 4-4.5 yards and the fullback with toes at six. The immediate passing threat will alleviate some pressure from the defense while still allowing us to run our bread and butter.
The base blocking rules are a “Zone Away” scheme for the OL. They are responsible for the five BS defenders and leave the remaining two for the read. They combo the backside gaps from the DL to LB. This is not new to our OL as they already work this technique on many of our base under center run plays.
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- The two adjustments Coach DuPaix will build in for the play side Tackle against 4i technique defenders in the Odd front.
- How the footwork and aiming point of the fullback changes in the Pistol formation.
- The bang post and snag RPO that the University of Southern Virginia will use against loaded defensive boxes.
- The play-action pass concepts used in conjunction with the triple option game.
- How Coach DuPaix teaches the slotback to be aligned backside and still get in pitch phase for the quarterback.
- Plus, raw and narrated game film of all these concepts.
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The Triple Option system will continue to provide a great challenge for defenses. When combined with the RPOs, the offense will stress and stretch a defense to cover every corner of the field. As players are becoming more athletic, offenses need to have ways to make them play sound, fundamental football. The marriage of these two schemes will give programs a player-involved and team-oriented offense to move the ball, score points and keep defenses guessing where the ball will end up next.
Meet Coach DuPaix: Danny DuPaix enters his 16th year of coaching, his third year as the Knights offensive coordinator and 4th season as assistant head coach. Before SVU, he was the head coach of West Jordan High School and an assistant at Herriman High School and Skyline High School in Utah (all 5A).