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With the recent success of Navy Football, the hiring of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech, and the emergence of The Flexbone Association, option football, specifically the Flexbone Offense, has grown in popularity over the last few years. But it's not just under center option that we are seeing regularly. Spread offenses have also installed option concepts including the Midline and Veer plays. With the Triple Option once again growing in popularity I'd like to address the basics of this time honored play and will go into more depth regarding specific techniques, adjustments, and coaching points in later articles. For now, let's just take a look at the basics.

THE QUARTERBACK:

On the snap the Quarterback will open up towards the playside and get his eyes on the  #1 defender or Handoff Key (HOK). For simplicity let's assume the HOK is the last man on the line of scrimmage, or the defensive end. Coaches vary a bit on who the HOK should be and he typically ranges from a 4i alignment to a 5 technique depending on a given coaches philosophy. We prefer to refer to the HOK as the first player head up to outside the Tackle. See our count system for more information on identifying the HOK and PK.

At this point there are a few schools of thought regarding what to do with the football.

  1. Seating the Ball:Coaches who teach their Quarterback to seat the ball will have him pull the ball into his stomach to protect it from hanging out in open space. Some coaches prefer this method because they feel it is less likely the ball will be fumbled due to pressure by the defense or a bad track by the Fullback. Coaches who prefer to not seat the ball often feel that by not seating the ball you can either draw the defense in towards the dive fake faster by using the point method, or ride the Fullback longer using the ride and decide method.
  2. Point Method: Coaches who advocate the use of the point method teach the QB to point the ball towards the HOK and let the FB run over the ball at the mesh point. Many prefer this method because they do not have to teach the QB technique for reaching back with the football to ride the FB while maintaining a solid visual of the HOK. Many coaches also believe this method makes the play faster as the QB is not engaged with the Fullback as long.
  3. Ride and Decide: The QB may also use the Ride and Decide method in which he reaches back with the ball and "rides" the Fullback while making his read. Coaches who prefer this method tend to believe the ball is more secure when it is not out in the open, there is a cleaner transaction between the FB and QB, and the deception of the play is improved with the hidden ball.

I have taught seating, not seating, point method, and riding as each kid is different.  The important thing to me has always been that the QB is comfortable and able to play fast.

Notice the Eyes on the HOK

As the QB reads the HOK he must determine if he is crashing inside or going upfield. A crash read will tell the QB to pull the ball and continue to the pitch phase, while an upfield charge will tell the QB to hand the ball the to FB and continue on his fake. The read for the QB must become second nature and drilled heavily within the option offense. Coaches use different terms and verbage when teaching their QB what to read including the opposite shoulder pad, opposite jersey number, and helmet position. I prefer the Tony De Meo "unless" rules to teach this initially. These rules for us have stated that the QB will hand the ball off to the FB everytime UNLESS, the HOK turns his shoulder. As our kids get more comfortable with this idea we can change "turns his shoulder" to "can tackle the dive"

If the QB gets a pull read he will continue down the line of scrimmage to read the #2 defender or the Pitch Key (PK). At this point the QB has another read to make. We also teach this read with an unless rule that states, "I will keep it and run for a touchdown everytime UNLESS, the PK turns his shoulder." Again this can adjust to "UNLESS, the PK can tackle me" or whatever else happens to work for your QB.

THE BACKFIELD:

Running from a Flexbone set, the dive back will begin behind the QB. On the snap his playside foot should step forward and toward the crack of the Tackle. This is his aiming point. At this point he should continue on this path with his eyes on the developing blocking scheme. He must create a large pocket for the QB to place the ball. He should always assume he is getting the football, so when he feels it during the mesh he will cover it up. It is the QB's job to pull it out. The dive back should then look for his Playside Tackle and work tight to the blocking wall created by the Tackle and Guard. If he does not get the ball he must sell the fake and continue towards contact with the linebackers or safeties.

The pitch back must get into a pitch relationship with the QB. This means he should work to an area generally 5 yards wider and 3 yards deeper than the QB. Some coaches adjust these numbers even going as far as saying the pitch back should be even with the QB. I avoided this coaching point to eliminate the likelihood of getting called for a forward pass on the pitch. But, if you have solid and consistent officiating crews in your area I'd highly suggest working towards the pitch being as close to the line of scrimmage as possible so the play hits faster.

BLOCKING FOR VEER:

Blocking for the Inside Veer is fairly simple:

Backside Guard/Tackle: Utilize a scoop/scramble scheme. Our players are taught to get their heads in front of the first defender on their inside gap and work vertical upfield into pursuit.

Center: Block any man that is covering him up so the defender does not create a problem with the QB/FB mesh point. If the Center is uncovered he will take a playside angle to the near linebacker.

Playside Guard: Typically we will not run Veer to a 3 Technique down lineman. So, the Playside Guard will block down on the 1 Technique.

Playside Tackle: Rip inside the end man on the line to block the first linebacker inside. This is referred to as a Veer Release. The Tackle may release outside the defender vs. a 4 or 4i. This is referred to as a Loop Release.

Playside Slot: Block the #3 defender unless a tag word changes his blocking assignment. He will likely check linebacker to safety on this blocking path.

That is Triple Option 101. However, there is much, much more to the play including technique, tags, using formations, and making adjustments to fronts and stunts which will be addressed in coming articles.

Veer Right from Flexbone Formation

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