Coaching the Option: By the Experts



Coaching the Option: By the Experts
Coaching the Option:
By the Experts
Featuring the following articles...
Options: Multiple Offensive Formations
Shane Patrick
Mountain Home High School, Arkansas
Play-Action Passes off the Zone Option
Ben Blackmon
Greenville High School, Alabama
Wing-T Option Out of the Spread Offense
Howard Rub
Astoria High School, Oregon
Four Phases of the Option Offense
Tom Bolden
Colerain High School, Ohio
Running the Option From the Shotgun
Devin Rutherford
White Station High School, Tennessee
The Double Wing Option Offense
Troy Calhoun
U.S. Air Force Academy
Option From the Spread Offense
Clint Satterfield
Trousdale County High School, Tennessee
Installing the Zone Option
Anthony Hart
Lafayette High School, Mississippi
Triple Option and Complementary Plays
George Smith
McKeesport Area High School, Pennsylvania
The Spread Formation Option Game
Paul Johnson
Georgia Tech
The Triple and Midline Option Schemes
Mark Soboleski
McDowell High School, Pennsylvania
The Zone Read Option Game
Chip Kelly
University of Oregon
Building a Program−The Zone Option Plays
Frank Solich
Ohio University
The Base Multiple Option Schemes
Mike Lalli
Chantilly High School, Virginia
The Option Play and the Running Game
Ed Warinner
University of Kansas
Read, Read Option, and Shovel Pass
Urban Meyer
University of Florida
Option Football: Coaching 4 Life
Jim Wells
General McLane High School, Pennsylvania
Why and How to Run the Triple Option
Ken Niumatalolo
United States Naval Academy
Options and Screens to Control Blitzes
Dave Wilkerson
Northeast Mississippi Community College
ISBN 978-1-60679-295-7
9 781606 792957
Coaches Choice
Each volume in the Coaching by the Experts Series features articles on a specific topic that have been carefully
selected from past editions of the renowned Coach of the Year Clinics Manuals and Coach of the Year Clinic
Notes. The contributing authors for each volume are among the most respected coaches in the history of the game.
Coaching the Option: By the Experts
The Complete Option Game
Shawn Berner
Fort Campbell High School, Kentucky
Coaching the Option:
By the Experts
Edited by Earl Browning
Coaching the Option:
By the Experts
Edited by
Earl Browning
©2014 Coaches Choice. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without the prior permission of Coaches Choice.
ISBN: 978-1-60679-295-7
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013957799
Book layout: Cheery Sugabo
Cover design: Cheery Sugabo
Cover photo: ©Albert Pena/Cal Sport Media/
Coaches Choice
P.O. Box 1828
Monterey, CA 93942
Chapter 1:
Shawn Berner, Fort Campbell High School, Kentucky
The Complete Option Game (2009)
Chapter 2:
Ben Blackmon, Greenville High School, Alabama
Play-Action Passes off the Zone Option (2009)
Chapter 3:
Tom Bolden, Colerain High School, Ohio
Four Phases of the Option Offense (2008)
Chapter 4:
Troy Calhoun, U.S. Air Force Academy
The Double Wing Option Offense (2012)
Chapter 5:
Anthony Hart, Lafayette High School, Mississippi
Installing the Zone Option (2012)
Chapter 6:
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
The Spread Formation Option Game (2009)
Chapter 7:
Chip Kelly, University of Oregon
The Zone Read Option Game (2009)
Chapter 8:
Mike Lalli, Chantilly High School, Virginia
The Base Multiple Option Schemes (2010)
Chapter 9:
Urban Meyer, University of Florida
Read, Read Option, and Shovel Pass (2005)
Chapter 10: Ken Niumatalolo, United States Naval Academy
Why and How to Run the Triple Option (2010)
Chapter 11: Shane Patrick, Mountain Home High School, Arkansas
Options: Multiple Offensive Formations (2009)
Chapter 12: Howard Rub, Astoria High School, Oregon
Wing-T Option Out of the Spread Offense (2010)
Chapter 13: Devin Rutherford, White Station High School, Tennessee
Running the Option From the Shotgun (2010)
Chapter 14: Clint Satterfield, Trousdale County High School, Tennessee
Option From the Spread Offense (2006)
Chapter 15: George Smith, McKeesport Area High School, Pennsylvania
Triple Option and Complementary Plays (2009)
Chapter 16: Mark Soboleski, McDowell High School, Pennsylvania
The Triple and Midline Option Schemes (2010)
Chapter 17: Frank Solich, Ohio University
Building a Program—The Zone Option Plays (2007)
Chapter 18: Ed Warinner, University of Kansas
The Option Play and the Running Game (2007)
Chapter 19: Jim Wells, General McLane High School, Pennsylvania
Option Football: Coaching 4 Life (2007)
Chapter 20: Dave Wilkerson, Northeast Mississippi Community College
Options and Screens to Control Blitzes (2007)
About the Editor
The Complete Option Game
Shawn Berner
Fort Campbell High School, Kentucky
First, let me thank Coach Browning and the Nike clinic people for allowing me the
opportunity to talk to you guys. It is a real honor to speak in front of a lot of great coaches.
We have great kids at Fort Campbell. It is a unique place. It is the home of the
101st Airborne Division in the United States Army, and you all know the special work
that they have done for our country in recent years.
Our situation is also unique. I have no affiliation with the military at all, but I took
the coaching job there right during the 9/11 situation, and to see the transition of the
Army and the way our kids handled things then was absolutely amazing. Without a
doubt, it is because of the kinds of kids we have and the types of players they are that
has allowed us to be successful coaches. Not only are they good athletes on the field,
but they are also high-character kids. They believe in what we tell them, and they make
it a truly rewarding place to work.
I am going to talk today on our stretch play and how we adjust our offensive scheme
to fit our personnel. I will show you some of the drills we use to prepare to run our zone
option stuff. I will talk about the way we run the outside zone and show you how we
incorporate our inside zone, outside zone, and some other things in one particular drill.
Finally, I will show you a few of the complementary things we do off of the outside zone.
Incorporating the zone play a couple of years ago was one of the best things we
ever did, and I am going to talk about the reasons why. Before, we found ourselves
constantly trying to outscheme people and come up with creative ways to put the
football in our athletes’ hands. Now, over the last couple of years with the zone scheme,
we are able to simplify more than ever from what we had been doing before. Before, I
never was a zone guy, but now, I am only a zone guy, so to speak.
We are a spread offensive team. Often, when you see a spread offensive team you
think that is a team that is going to throw the football a lot, but that is not our philosophy.
We rushed for over 4000 yards and threw for over 2000, but our passing game is not a
vertical passing game at all. What we do in the run game opens up some of our screens
and our quick passing game, but we averaged 412 yards per game, and the majority of
our yardage came off of this particular stretch play I am going to talk about.
First, I think you have to develop a philosophy. With our military situation, we
sometimes have a kind of revolving door with our kids, and sometimes, we do not
know exactly who will be there. What we are doing allows us to have very simple rules,
especially with our offensive line. You will see with some of our other plays that we are
going to be able to run the exact same thing with different plays and in different ways,
so it creates simplicity for us in our offense.
It also saves us scheme time. We meet on Saturdays now and get our game plans
made in much less time than before. During the week, the same is true for practice
planning, so it keeps us fresher and gives us more time for other things.
Our scheme allows us to control the football. My mentality is that we want to run
the ball first, we want to run the ball second, and we want to run the ball third. We want
to run the football. We do throw it some, but essentially, we are a running team and
our scheme allows us to do that. With our zone-blocking scheme, we are essentially a
triple-option offense, but now doing it in a different way.
In our philosophy, we want to utilize our athletes as much as possible, especially
our quarterback. He will always be one of our best athletes on the field. Unlike most
of the under-center offenses, in our scheme, the quarterback is in the gun and he is
a threat on every single play. In addition to that, our tailback is a threat on every single
play, and our slot receivers are also a threat on every single play as well.
We use multiple formations and various motions to move these guys around and
get them the football in different ways while staying within the simplicity of the scheme
and staying exclusively in the shotgun set. At the same time, that simplicity allows us
more practice repetitions.
In our shotgun formations, a one-back set has the firepower of a traditional twoback set because the quarterback in the gun position can assume the role of a running
back. In essence, he becomes a bonus player. Beyond that, we actually gain an
additional one-player advantage because we do not have to block certain people in
the zone-read play. It is an added bonus to our offense that those players we do not
have to block are the edge players, who are usually among the best and most physical
players on the defensive line.
The last point to be made about our scheme has to do with tempo. We are a nohuddle team, and we can set a tempo that can put a defense back on its heels. We
have several things that we do.
We will “sight adjust” the offense at the line of scrimmage and run what we call a
regular tempo, or we can run what we call a speed tempo. Where our opponents have
huddled their defense all season, now, they cannot huddle. It forces different practice
habits for them and a tempo they are not comfortable in. It also allows us to get tons of
offensive practice reps in, literally hundreds of reps, during our practices. I will be happy
to give details of all that in the breakout session that follows.We used to be a big gapblocking team. We used the down-down-kick scheme along with the inside trap, the
speed option, and that type of stuff. I was against the zone play because of penetration.
We tried every spring for the past five years to run the zone play, and we studied
how others ran it, but when we ran the inside zone, the 1 technique would penetrate,
hit us in the mouth, and it was a done play. After about two days of practice, I would
give up on it and we would go back to a gap-blocking scheme.
Finally, we visited West Virginia and we visited Western Kentucky. We took a lot
of the things they do, tweaked them to fit our personnel, and now, the way we run it
allows for penetration not to affect the mesh of the play or the reads. I am going to talk
more about that later on.
When you run the zone-read scheme out of a shotgun formation, the shotgun
snap has got to be in the strike zone. That is one of the most important elements of
the play. Off-target snaps will distract the quarterback and hinder his reads.
This scheme also causes you to create different practice habits and come up with
different drills. We run the old two-ball drill that we once used when we ran some
option from underneath, but now, we use it with the shotgun snaps to run the inside
zone, outside zone, and other parts of our offense. We can do all that in our group
period and get a lot of things accomplished. I have some of that on film for you.
This is our stretch play versus the 4-4 defense (Diagram 1-1). You can see that we
are in two-back, but we will run it out of everything you can possibly think of. We will
run regular stretch out of two-back and out of one-back, we will use motion to run it,
and we will use different tight end formations. We will also run a quarterback stretch
out of empty, which I will also show you.
Diagram 1-1. Stretch vs. 4-4 defense
What we are doing is running the old triple option. That is all it is. We are zoning
everything to the left, we are reading the backside 5 technique, and the triple is coming
off of the outside Will backer.
I want to talk first about some of the drills that we have come up with. I take the
quarterbacks first. We work through a progression of just steps, reads, and throws, and then,
we will come together as a group and do our two-ball drills where we work quarterbacks,
running backs, and receivers all in one drill that emphasizes mechanics and scheme.
In this first setup, I have the three quarterbacks that I work with (Diagram 1-2). I have
one snapping, the number one quarterback is up first, and my freshman quarterback
is back here. I stand just outside the dummy, and if I have an extra defender, I will put
him at outside backer and use him to read the triple.
Outside Backer
Diagram 1-2. Quarterback bubble mechanics drill
All we are trying to do here is work on steps and making simple throws. The way we
run the triple off of the outside zone play is the bubble screen to the slot, away from the
zone. I will just put the younger kid out there and let him simulate the bubble route.
There are several steps to the quarterback’s technique that we teach. His eyes
are up as he secures the snap, and his first step is with the opposite foot back just to
get off the mesh. He gets the ball to the front hip, rides it to the back hip, and then,
shuffles out and throws the bubble. While he is doing that, I am just holding up a
number. He has to tell me that number so I know his eyes are on me the whole time. I
will talk more about his technique as we get into the actual scheme. That is one of our
individual drills that we do with our quarterbacks.
After that, we will come together for a two-ball drill. I will bring up our receivers
coach with his guys, and we will work on one side of the ball together with the running
backs and quarterbacks. On the defensive side of the ball, we will have our defensive
backs coach and our linebackers coach along with their players.
Now, one thing we have done that I think is really important is to take the philosophy
that we are going to put our best guys on defense. We have finally gotten to a point
in our program where we have enough kids that we can take kids that are maybe not
quite as aggressive, maybe not our very best football players, and bring them over to
offense. That creates two platoons for us.
Of course, we do not two-platoon every single person on the field because we
just do not have that kind of personnel, but the way we structure our practice allows
us to keep one kid on one side of the ball as much as possible. I mention that now
because, when I get into this drill, I have my starting defensive personnel over on
defense working against our two-ball drill (Diagram 1-3). I think, for obvious reasons,
that has made us a better team. Here is what the drill looks like on film.
Diagram 1-3. Blast, two-ball drill
The two inside backers are not going to work a lot of stuff, but the outside guys can
get some good work. The receivers and corners are working stalk blocking the whole
time, and then, the safety is going to run the alley and get a look.
What you see first here is our inside zone, which we call blast. The back who is running
the inside zone is our F-back, and the back running the pitch route is our H-back. We will
flex our F-back in and out of the backfield so he has to be one of our better athletes.
On our inside zone play, we are running a backside-A/backside-B read, so what you
see here is blast left, and we actually hit it on the backside. I talked about penetration
earlier, and this is why we run it on the backside. If the 1 technique penetrates, he
does not become a factor. In fact, we want to run it to the 1 technique if we can.
In this drill, we are getting running back reads on the inside and pitch reads on
the outside. The F-back reads the inside backer for his A-to–B-gap cut. I hand the
quarterback a second ball, and he and the H-back run the pitch read off of the outside
backer. Our quarterback is not getting the handoff read from a 5 technique in this drill.
We have already gone through that drill as far as getting his eyes up. We will progress to
that, and he will get more work on it during inside period and also during team period.
Now, one thing we do, probably differently than most option teams, involves our
pitch mechanics for the quarterback. We do not pitch with one hand because we
have had so many inconsistent pitches in the past. Several years ago when we visited
Western Kentucky, they were teaching the two-hand basketball chest pass. We thought
that was a more consistent way to do it, so that is what we have done since, and it has
improved our ball security.
If we go to the right to pitch the ball, we have the ball securely in both hands up
high, we step with the right foot, and we pitch chest to chest. We extend our arms with
thumbs down, and then, we trail the football just as is done with the one-handed pitch.
Here are a couple more reps of the drill and you can see that our coaches will mix
up the reads, we will run it in both directions, and we will alternate our kids through the
drill. We spend a lot of time with our kids on this film. At the end of the day, we bring
this in and try to make sure that we are all coached up.
Notice, on that inside zone, I was on the line of scrimmage just off the bag for the twoball drill. Now, this is our outside zone, and the way we create the triple option on it is to
throw the bubble screen (Diagram 1-4). To work the two-ball part of this drill, I just come
up high and hand it to him quicker so he can avoid bobbling the ball and stay in rhythm.
Diagram 1-4. Stretch, two-ball drill
The quarterback steps back and then slides with the running back. As they mesh,
the ball tip goes up and down. In this drill, obviously, he hands the ball off every time,
and I give him the second ball to throw. The coaching point for the quarterback is to
ride back hip to front hip and snap the football.
If he is a right-handed quarterback, he has to flop his hips around to square himself,
and then, he has to sprint for three steps high. He has to stay up three steps past the
mesh, and that is one of the keys to this play because of the threat of penetrating
defensive linemen. Off of that third step, he throws the screen, right foot to left foot. For
a right-handed kid throwing to the left side, he makes a crossover step off of the mesh,
then goes three steps, and throws.
He is reading the outside backer to make the throw or keep the ball. So, he has to
make the choice by the third step to keep the advantage we gained from the misdirection
that the play provides. If the outside backer turns his shoulders to the outside at all, the
quarterback is pulling the ball down and running. If he just sits in no man’s land and
shuffles his feet, the quarterback will throw the bubble because our slots can outrun the
outside backer once he gains that relationship. That is how we teach the read.
Now, this is just the one-ball drill that we run (Diagram 1-5). It is a misdirection off
of our stretch play where we are pitching off of the 5 technique. I will go through that in
more detail in the breakout session.
Diagram 1-5. Stretch, one-ball drill
After we do these group drills, I will bring the offensive line down and we will mesh
with them for five minutes, mainly working gap scheme (Diagram 1-6). We will work
against the same personnel that we had in the previous drills, adding two 5 techniques
to the drill but no other down linemen. It is still a kind of group drill for us.
Diagram 1-6. Mesh with offensive line
All we are doing here is working reads with our quarterbacks, and we are also
working different ways of running the gap play, whether it is counter or dart. We will
play games with the defensive guys and make sure that we are kicking and sealing
against the various looks they can give us.
On our stretch play, the quarterback, the H-back, and the F-back all align their heels
at six yards. The running backs put their outside foot on the inside foot of the tackle, or
we may put a faster back all the way behind the tackle. I have one back who is really
fast, and to get the mesh the way we want it, he has to bump out over the tackle
because we want to go full speed when we mesh on the stretch play.
Our X- and Z-receivers in the spread alignment will normally align on the bottom of
the numbers on the shortside of the field and the top of the numbers on the wideside.
The Y- and F-receivers in the slots will split the difference between the #1 receiver and
the offensive tackle. These are our normal spacing rules.
The splits of our offensive linemen will go from one foot to two feet, based upon who
we are playing. In this regard, we would consider their athleticism and their style of play.
On the stretch play, we teach the quarterback to step off the mesh because we
teach the running back to run through the quarterback’s heels. The quarterback then
rides the running back from front hip to back hip.
When we first started running this play, we would teach the quarterback to read the
5 technique, but we started seeing all kinds of games being played off the edge by the
defense. So, we started teaching him to just read the C-gap defender. We do not read
a guy, we just read the C gap.
The H-back steps lateral, opens, and goes right through the quarterback’s heels.
When he gets the ball, he goes three steps past the mesh on the same plane, and
that is a big key in the success we have had with the play. We want to get it to the 1
technique, but that does not always happen. We often end up running it toward a 3
technique and a 5 technique who are trying to penetrate and get upfield. In the past,
we taught the ballcarrier to work downhill, sink it into the tackle’s tail, and then, make a
read. That did not work so well against penetration.
Now, with our running back, we go three steps past the mesh on the same plane,
and we read the tackle’s hat. If the tackle can hook up, we are getting downhill and
reading the block of the slot and making the cut off of the second defender in.
If our tackle cannot hook up, and 9 times out of 10 he cannot, then, we stick the outside
foot in the ground and we are working cutback right now. Then, the next thing we are looking
for is the second-down defender, the defensive tackle who is covered up by our guard.
If our guard can hook up, we are banging the B gap right now. If the guard is
kicking, we have faith that our backside guys are doing their jobs, and we are banging
it all the way back. This is almost an inside run for us. Even though we call it outside
zone, we run this in our inside period because, probably 9 times out of 10, it hits in the
B gap or to the backside. We can bang it all the way back because the quarterback’s
read removes the C-gap defender from the play.
If we are in a two-back set, our F-back steps at 45 degrees and also reads the hat
of the tackle. He is the lead blocker. If the tackle hooks up, he is going to the edge
player or force player. We would like for him to hook up too, but, if not, he gets a hat
on a hat and creates lanes. If the tackle kicks, then we are banging the B gap, and we
will likely double-up on the Sam or Mike backer.
Our slot away runs bubble screen, and the wideout on his side blocks bubble screen.
The wide receiver on the side of the zone simply stalk blocks the cornerback, and that is it.
The offensive line has a couple of different techniques. We do not teach the inside
zone the same way we teach the outside zone, so I am talking outside zone here. If
we get a playside shade, we are going to step laterally on the same plane, actually four
inches laterally and climbing four inches, or 4x4. Then, we are going to go three steps.
We will fight three steps, get to that third step, turn, and create a running lane. We will
run him all the way to the sideline if we cannot hook up on him, and if he gets a little
penetration, we are still okay with that.
Against a backside shade, we do what we call a pop step. We do a pop step, skate,
and get up to the next level as the backside technique works underneath the block.
If we are uncovered, we will drop laterally and lose ground to gain ground in the
zone scheme. Then, on the backside, if we have a 3 technique, we will just make
a come-through call and cut him off with our backside tackle because we want the
backside guard getting up on the backside backer for the cutback play.
Now, I want to show you some video and you can see how this thing works.
I think my time is up now. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have in
the breakout session. Thank you.
Play-Action Passes
Off the Zone Option
Ben Blackmon
Greenville High School, Alabama
It is good to be here today. Greenville High School is located in a low-income county
in Alabama about 40 miles south of Montgomery. We are in the 5A classification. The
top class is 6A in Alabama. The enrollment of our school is in the middle to low in our
classification. I have been there two years. During the nine previous years, they have
had their ups and downs. They did win a state championship in 1994. When they got
to 2000, they had some rocky roads. They had a number of turnovers in the head
coaching position. I took the job in July of my first year, and I am beginning my third
year as head coach.
I hope you can get something out of this lecture. What we do, we feel we do well. I
do not profess to know everything. I have been coming to clinics since 1995. I father ran
the Nike Clinic in Birmingham before we moved the Nike Mid-South Clinic to Tunica. I
started coming to the clinics when I was a senior in high school to learn football.
In 1996, I remember sitting in the back of the room listening to Hayden Fry speak.
At that time, I did not know if I wanted to be a coach. He said something that caught
my attention. He said, “There are two kinds of coaches. There are those who want to
be called a coach, and then there are those that want to coach.” Those that just want to
be called “Coach” are the ones you see sitting in the halls, talking to their friends. They
are in the casino gambling and are always looking for other jobs. They never seem to
want to learn and improve their knowledge of the game. That is why I appreciate you
being here today. You are trying to learn and want to coach football.
We try to be good in everything we do, but we have not seen the results we would
like to see. We keep working every day to improve. It is not the X’s and O’s that make you
successful. It is the people you have on the field playing for you. I learned that the hard way.
When I went into the job with the offense we were using, we were going to be
good. We ran the West Coast offense and struggled. We simplified what we were doing.
We are in the shotgun spread, but we have only five running plays and one protection.
We use that protection in all of our passing game. You can learn a great deal, but what
you have to do is get something that fits your program and do it well.
A turning point in my life occurred at this clinic. I met Dennis Parker, and it changed
the way I looked at coaching. He talked to me about character education. He talked
about what players need to be successful. They need a male role model. In Greenville,
Alabama, the mothers run the home. There are not many male role models for the
players to follow. We use the program that Dennis Parker advocates. We talk to our
players every day about some important topics in their life. To me, football is more
than a game. We have to teach our players how to be men. I feel we are doing that.
I got a technique from Coach Jeff Tedford from the University of California. I
listened to him speak at this clinic last year. I coach the quarterbacks at Greenville, and
this is something you can do with them. In the off-season, he plays checkers with his
quarterback. He takes a checkers set, uses a white marker, and writes the positions of
the offense and defense on them. He sits his quarterback down and gives him the red
checkers, which are offensive positions.
He takes the black checkers, which are the defensive positions. The quarterback
lines his checkers up in an offensive formation. Coach Tedford lines up the black
checkers in a defensive alignment. They run a play, using the checkers. He moves his
checkers around and asks the quarterback what he does in each situation. I started
doing that, and it worked well with our quarterbacks.
Offensive Philosophy
Let me talk about our philosophy. I know coaches do not like to hear other coaches talk
on philosophy, but this is what we are trying to do.
• Force the defense to defend the entire field.
• Use the triple and double option to keep the defense honest.
• Utilize screens and draws.
• Effectively throw the ball off play-action, quick game, and sprint pass.
Our offensive philosophy is simple. We believe we have to run the football first
before we can throw the ball. We feel we must run the triple and double options along
with some kind of jet sweep. We try to get the defense going one way and run back
the other way. When we started to run the option game, the defense did not blitz us as
much. We use the play-action pass, quick game, and sprint pass. This year, we did not
throw a straight dropback pass.
2008 Offensive Statistics
• Rushing: 396 carries for 2,548 yards (6.4 per carry)
• Passing: 110 completions of 190 attempts for 1,593 Yards (62 percent)
• Total: 4,141 yards / 11 games = 378 yards per game and 32 points per game
When I was the quarterback coach at Opelika High School, I used to challenge
our quarterbacks to throw for 60 percent pass completions. Sixty-two percent is a
high percentage when you throw the football. Our quarterback next year is a two-year
starter. He started as a sophomore and again last year. He runs the 40 in 5.0 and was
our leading passer and rusher. He is not very fast, but he makes the right decisions.
The first year we came into the program, we overloaded the players with a new
offense. We tried to do too much. This past season, we had 12 seniors on the team.
Of the 12, only three of them had played football from the 9th grade through the
12th grade. We had six first-year seniors play on last year’s team. We have reloaded
the program. We have 111 players and 26 seniors coming back. We return 16 starters
from last year’s team.
Our base runs are zone, stretch, dart, speed option, and midline option. We are a
shotgun team. We went under the center one time last year, and that was a quarterback
sneak. We run the zone play, but we are actually running the triple option (Diagram 2-1).
We read the zone play and run the triple option with motion or two backs in the backfield.
Diagram 2-1. Zone
We also tag the play and run the bubble screen as part of the play. We picked up
that series from Fort Campbell and everything they did. We installed it this past year,
and it was one of our better plays.
We block back with everyone on the callside of the play. We try to build a wall to
the backside. The important thing for them to do is not let anyone cross their face. The
back opens up and aims at the onside leg of the center. The back presses the A gap.
If he feels pressure, he has to be prepared to cut the play back. The quarterback reads
the man over the playside offensive tackle. If he steps down the line of scrimmage, he
pulls the ball and runs the triple option with the Sam linebacker as the pitch key. We
call this a zone play, but it is the veer out of the shotgun.
We can motion the slotback as the pitch man or align him in the backfield. We
can use the slot receiver to the callside as the pitch man. We snap the ball, and the
slot backs up, delays, and becomes the pitchback. We can run the scheme for the
pitchback a number of different ways.
We call the play 35 zone, even though the play goes to the right. The five tells the
offensive linemen to step to the left. In the beginning, we veer released the playside
tackle for the linebacker. As we got better at running the play, the defense tightened
the defensive tackle down to prevent the tackle from veer releasing on the linebacker.
We told our tackle to take the best release. If he can get inside, he goes inside. If he
cannot get inside, he releases behind the defensive tackle for the linebacker. He jabsteps inside and arc releases behind the defender. That gives the defender a clear shot
at the running back, but the quarterback pulls the ball and runs the triple option. With
the tight tackle alignment, the option becomes a double option because we do not get
the read on the back.
The stretch play we run comes from West Virginia (Diagram 2-2). I listened to Rick
Trickett talk about the blocking and backfield mechanics. We installed that play also. On
the stretch, the playside tackle will determine where the back runs the ball. We want
the offensive tackle to reach the defender. We tell the back he must stay high for three
steps. He reads the tackle’s butt. If his butt is outside, we run the ball to the outside. If
his butt is inside, we cut it back.
Diagram 2-2. Stretch
The defense in the diagram is a 3-3 stack. The playside guard and tackle zone for
the outside stack. The tackle reaches on the down lineman. If he goes inside, the tackle
steps up for the linebacker. The guard zone steps for the down lineman. If he comes
inside, the guard blocks him. If the linebacker blitzes the B gap, the guard blocks him.
We teach the back to bounce, bang, or bing his cut. He bounces the ball to the
outside if he reads that the tackle has reached the outside. He bangs it into the hole if
he reads the tackle’s butt inside. If he bings the ball, he goes backside with the run. The
back is making one cut and not dancing around trying to find a hole. He cannot get in
a hurry to cut the ball up. He has to be patient and let the blocking develop. When we
ran this play in the spring, the best gains came on the cutback play. The back’s aiming
point is the inside leg of the tackle.
The running back’s alignment on the zone play is in the B gap. We widen him
somewhat on the stretch play. He straddles the inside leg of the tackle. We try to
spread the defense with a double slot or trips formation.
If we run the play with two backs in the backfield, the playside back reads the same
thing the ballcarrier sees. If the tackle’s butt goes outside, he goes outside and blocks
the force on the run. If the tackle’s butt goes inside, he has to get inside and isolate on
the linebacker.
We tell the playside tackle to reach to the outside. If on his third step he does not
have the defender reached, he jams his inside hand on the hips of the defender and
runs him to the sideline. If he can do that, it creates a gap for the back to cut.
We align the quarterback with his toes at five yards from the line of scrimmage. The
tailback lines up on the heels of the quarterback. When he steps to receive the ball, he
uses a J-step. That puts him on the proper angle to receive the ball. He steps forward at
about a 45-degree angle to get in front of the quarterback. The quarterback drops the
leg to the side of the running back to give him room to make the mesh. This allows the
quarterback a one-step ride on the tailback.
If the quarterback finds the backside defender closing hard down the line of
scrimmage, he can pull the ball. We tag the play and give him two options. He can run
the ball out the backside or throw the bubble to the inside slot receivers.
We had a wide receiver with decent speed. We began to bring him in motion and
run the jet sweep using the stretch blocking scheme. We run the dart play and the
speed option. We felt if we were going to run the triple option to the outside, we had to
put add the midline to give us an inside option play.
We read the zero-technique player on the center all the way outside to the 3
technique on the offensive guard. We have to teach the backs the aiming point on the
different alignments. The blocking and mechanics are the same.
Showing you the base runs allows you to understand our passing game. The two
base runs are the zone and the stretch. Our play-action passes are based on those runs.
We have one pass protection we use on all passes.
• 200: Half slide right; #1 and #2 on the left; back fills inside-out off the play-action.
• 300: Half slide left; #1 and #2 on the right; back fills inside-out off the play-action.
• 34/35: Back will fake zone.
• 36/37: Back will fake stretch.
We call different plays in our passing game, but we protect only one way. The
protection concept is the same. If we call 234, the center right guard and tackle slide
protect to the right (Diagram 2-3). They are responsible for the A, B, and C gaps to
that side in a zone-protection scheme. On the backside, the guard and tackle block the
first and second man on the line of scrimmage. To the backside, the #1 on the line is
anything head-up on the center to the outside. We block big-on-big. The running back
is set to the left of the quarterback. He fakes the 34 zone play and blocks the left side
of the protection. He is picking up linebackers on a blitz.
Diagram 2-3. Protection 234
If we call 237, the protection is the same thing to the other side (Diagram 2-4).
The center left guard and tackle slide protect to the left. The right guard and tackle block
big-on-big on the line of scrimmage. The center calls the defensive set of the defense.
He calls the set by verbally calling out 4-2, or 4-3, or 3-3, or whatever the front they are
playing. The running back aligns to the left of the quarterback, fakes the 37 stretch, and
blocks to the right side of the line.
Diagram 2-4. Protection 237
If the center has a nose aligned on him, he blocks him if he slants into his frontside
gap. If he slants into the backside gap, he belongs to the guard. He punches the nose
to slow down his reaction to the backside if that is the way he is going. However, his
gap is to the playside and not backside. In the play-action, the line takes one playaction step before they start into their protection scheme. We do not full slide because
of the size our backs. A full slide puts that small back on a defensive end.
We are a double- or triple-formation team, which eliminates a lot of the running
backs’ blocking. We always want the backs to block from the inside out. If a back gets
a two-linebacker blitz, he blocks inside first. If the linebacker walks up into the backside
B gap, we give a “danger” call. On that call, the tackle blocks down on the linebacker,
and the back takes the first to the outside. That is the only time we have a back on a
defensive lineman.
To the backside, we pass off line stunts. If the guard’s defensive tackle loops to the outside,
he lets him go and sets for the defender coming to the inside. If the tackle’s man slants down
on the guard, he rides him until the guard takes over and then reacts back outside.
I am going to ask our passing game coach take you through our passing game.
He was a great player, and he is a great coach. He was the all-time leading receiver at
Jacksonville State University. I am proud to have him as our wide receivers coach, and
he coordinates our passing game. Here is Joey Hamilton.
Joey Hamilton
There are three main points I want to touch on. I am going to go over the routes we
use in the play-action passing game. The second thing is an abbreviated version of how
we teach those patterns. The third thing is to look at the cut-ups of these routes.
The first play is our 234 slant (Diagram 2-5). The quarterback action is the 34 zone
play to the right. This is a double slant into the trips side. Our goal on this pattern is to
put some defender in a bind. We align in a trips set to the right. The first inside receiver
runs a bubble pattern to the outside. The middle slot runs a two-step slant pattern to
the inside. The outside receiver runs a four-step slant to the inside. The player we want
to put in the bind is the strong safety or the flat defender.
Diagram 2-5. 234 Slant
If the strong safety jumps the bubble route, we throw the first slant behind him. The
middle slot runs his two-step slant at the strong safety. If the strong safety sits on the
slant, the outside slant is open. The backside pattern can be a tag call or a pivot in route.
If the quarterback gets a bad snap or reads the blitz coming from the outside, he
does not fake the zone and gets the ball out of his hands immediately.
The second pattern is 234 switch go (Diagram 2-6). This pattern is a four-vertical
route. We teach landmarks on the vertical routes. The outside receivers are running on
the bottom of numbers, and the inside receivers are up the hash marks. When we run
switch and go, we switch the responsibilities of the inside and outside receivers. The
outside receiver goes first, and the inside receiver comes underneath him. When they
get 10 yards down the field, they should be on their landmarks.
Diagram 2-6. 234 switch go
This is a good pattern against one high safety. If it is cover-1 man, we get the
natural run with the switch of the receivers. With one high safety, the quarterback is
thinking inside seam pattern. With two high safeties, he has to read the field.
The 237/336 pop is a backside throwback (Diagram 2-7). The action is the stretch
play. We like this pattern against two safeties. We want the backside slot or tight end
to get between the two safeties in the middle of the field. If there is one safety, the
receiver wants to run away from that safety. We are pushing deep with all the other
patterns. If we are in a 3x1 look, we want the action away from the formation, and hit
the middle slot on the post route. The inside slot in a trips set runs the bubble route.
Diagram 2-7. 237 pop
As soon as the pop receiver comes off the line of scrimmage, he has to read
the safeties. If it was a two-safety look at pre-snap, they may roll the coverage. If the
coverage stays two-deep, he wants to get down the middle between the safeties. If
they roll out of the two-coverage look into a three-deep coverage, he wants to work
away from the single safety, going to the middle of the field.
The 237 jet post/wheel is designed off our jet sweep action (Diagram 2-8). In the
diagram, we run it from the trips set right with the inside slot running the jet motion.
The single receiver runs a post cut at the corner, hoping to take him inside. The jet
motion comes out of the backfield and runs a wheel route up the field. The middle slot
receiver runs an inside dig, and the outside receiver runs a go route.
Diagram 2-8. 237 jet post/wheel
We throw the bubble pass to the backside of the play-action pass. This play is 36
bubble (Diagram 2-9). The wide receiver blocks the man over him, and we throw
the ball on the play-action to the slot receiver. This can be a tagged play off a running
play. The ball is thrown behind the line of scrimmage, so it does not matter if anyone
gets down field. At the beginning of the season, I called 336 bubble. At the end of the
season, I called 36 bubble, and the quarterback could read the play off the backside
defensive end. If the end closed on the stretch play, the quarterback pulled the ball and
ran the bubble pass.
Diagram 2-9. 36 bubble
When the receiver runs the bubble, he can stay flat to the line of scrimmage toward
the sideline. He does not have to belly back to run the pattern. If he catches the ball,
we want him one yard behind the line of scrimmage. We coach him to open, take
three steps, and look for the ball.
The last play is the 36 slip (Diagram 2-10). The outside receiver takes three steps
down the field and retraces his steps. The inside receiver pushes three vertical steps up
the field and blocks the corner. The playside tackle blocks his assignment and releases
for the flat defender. The offense line and backs are running the 36 stretch play.
Diagram 2-10. 36 slip
When we start to teach the receivers, we go back to the basics. We teach stance,
start, and release. In our stance, we align with our outside foot back. When we leave the
line of scrimmage, we explode off the ball and make up the cushion on the defensive
back as quickly as we can.
When I teach the receiver, the first thing I have to teach him is how to get off
the line of scrimmage. If the defender presses the wide receiver, he can take three
releases. The first one is a single-move release. On that move, all he does is jab-step
to the inside or outside before he releases. If he is going to the outside, he jab-steps to
the inside and gets his outside release. As soon as the receiver gets his release, he gets
back on top of the defender and gets back on his line.
The next release is the double release. We align with our outside foot back in our
stance. On the double release, he fakes to the outside on the first step, fakes to the
inside on his second step, swims over the defender, and gets back on his line. I hope
you understand this is not all we do. This is an abbreviated version of some of the
things we teach.
The third release is to drive hard at a 45-degree angle to get the defender to move
his hips. That allows the receiver to get across the defender’s path and back on his line.
If you need anything, let us know. If you want to stay around and talk, we will be
around. I appreciate your attention. Thank you.
Four Phases
of the Option Offense
Tom Bolden
Colerain High School, Ohio
I want to thank you for coming out today. I am going to talk about the four phases of
the triple option. We have been running it at Colerain High School for the last 15 years.
During that span of time, we have been very successful with the triple option.
There are some good reasons to run the triple option. The first reason is you do
not need many great linemen to run this scheme. So many times, if you have one
good lineman, you are doing well. When you run the scoop scheme or veer scheme,
there is not much drive blocking involved with those types of blocks. Sometimes, all the
linemen have to do is get in the defenders’ way to make things happen.
Everyone wants that 6’3” or 6’4” quarterback with the laser arm who can stand in
the pocket and pick teams apart. Those types of players are few and far between. In
the triple-option offense, you do not need a true quarterback. All you need is a player
who can run and make good decisions.
The triple option is difficult to prepare for in one week. If we watch teams during
the pre-game warm-up and we see one of the assistant coaches trying to assimilate the
quarterback in the option game, we know they have done that all week in preparation
for us. When we see that, we know we are in good shape. It is hard for a scout team to
simulate the option game with almost no time to practice it.
The triple option is a rarity today in offenses. Teams do not see it as a week-in-andweek-out offense. It takes discipline and correct assignments to play defense against the
triple option. Also, with the triple option game, you can control the tempo of the game.
In the triple option, the fullback and the quarterback should be the best ballcarriers. They
are the ones carrying the load. The running back and wide receiver must be able to block.
The quarterback must master some techniques to run the triple option. There is
more than one way to skin a cat. You have to decide whether the quarterback is more
comfortable with the hop or the glide. The first step into the triple option is either a hop
step or a glide step. That step puts him into the mesh area. Most of our quarterbacks
have been more comfortable with the hop step.
The hop step gets the quarterback away from the center and turns his shoulders to
reach back to get into the mesh. He has to reach back with the ball to the fullback to
make the ride and read. I will talk about the read later.
If the quarterback pulls the ball, he has to attack downhill. He cannot delay. He must
force on the pitch key to react. When he pitches the ball, he uses a basketball pitch.
As the quarterback makes his read, he looks at the jersey numbers of the key. If he
can see both numbers of the jersey, he gives the ball. If the defender is flat down the
line of scrimmage, the quarterback pulls the ball. If the defender gets depth across the
line of scrimmage, the quarterback gives the ball.
The fullback’s hands in his stance are two yards from the quarterback’s heels. If he
steps straight ahead, that is the step for the midline play. The second step is the hard
crossover step. We refer to his movement as a “train on a track.” His target is the butt of
the center, guard, or tackle. If he runs the midline, his track is right up the center’s butt.
If we run the inside veer, he runs at the butt of the guard. The target for the outside
veer is the butt of the tackle. He is a train on a track, and he never leaves that track.
As the quarterback reaches back with the ball to mesh with the fullback, the fullback
needs to feel pressure. If the quarterback gives pressure on the ball, the fullback knows
he is taking the ball. If he does not feel the pressure, he knows the quarterback is keeping
the ball. The hardest thing for the quarterback is to pull and pitch the ball immediately.
That happens when both the handoff key and pitch key are stunting inside.
With the running backs and wingbacks, we like to use late and fast motion. That
means they do not leave until the ball is about to be snapped. When they go in motion,
it is fast. If the running back is in the I formation, he bucket steps to get the pitch
relationship. The pitch relationship is about four yards from the quarterback and a half
yard behind him. When the running back catches the ball, he wants his shoulders
square, and he wants to run downhill as fast as he can.
Our wide receiver must block on this play. We have two blocks for the wide
receiver. We call them “cloud” and “stalk.” If the coverage is a cover 3 or cover 4, the
wide receiver stalk blocks on the perimeter. If we get a cover-2 look, we “cloud” block
on the play. On cloud, the split end cracks inside on the safety, and the wingback
comes outside to block the corner. It creates a natural alley for the pitch back to run.
In the offensive line, we want to get huge splits. We split three feet or more in the
offensive line. We take the defensive line as wide as they will go. If they come back
inside, it gives our quarterback a pre-snap read on the defenders as to what his read is.
That works to our advantage.
At Colerain, we have a quickside and strongside in our offensive line. Our quickside
tends to be not as good as the strongside. We flip-flop our line. That does not mean we
always run to the strongside. Fifty percent of the plays we send into the game are checkwith-me plays. We have the ability in our offense to go from the midline to the inside veer
and from the inside veer to the midline. Linemen need to know three main principles for
the triple option. They must know veer, loop, and scoop schemes in this offense.
If the defender is head-up on the offensive lineman, he loops to the outside. If the
defender aligns in an outside technique, we veer block to the inside.
Phase 1 is the midline, which I think is the best play in football. The good thing about
the midline play is you do not have to worry about an errant pitch. The midline is a twoman game. We always run this play toward a 3 technique or double 2 techniques. We
have four different ways to run the midline play. We call slam, freeze, tuff, or dick ’em.
Responsibilities Versus 40 Front
• Backside tackle: Anchor backside
• Backside guard and center: 2-for-2 on 1 technique and Will linebacker
• Playside guard: Mike linebacker
• Playside tackle: Defensive end
• Split end: Stalk corner
• Playside running back: Inside of tackle’s block; block for quarterback
• Backside running back: Pitch phase
• Fullback: Butt of center
• Quarterback: Hop back; reach back and read depth of 3 technique
The backside guard and center double on the 1 technique up to the Will linebacker
(Diagram 3-1). If the Will linebacker is wide enough, the center blocks back on the nose
tackle, and the guard goes straight up on the Will linebacker. The playside wingback’s
track is the slam tag for the play. He goes inside the tackle’s block on the defensive
end. If the quarterback pulls the ball, he runs through the gap off the wingback’s block.
However, if the outside linebacker runs outside to take the pitchman, the playside
wingback continues on to the safety. He is the lead blocker for the quarterback.
Diagram 3-1. Slam versus 40 front
The quarterback has to hop to get out of the way of the fullback, who is tracking
right up the center’s butt. The quarterback hops out to seven o’clock on the quarterback
clock and reaches back for the fullback. He reads the 3 technique and pulls the ball
or gives it to the fullback. If he pulls the ball, he can pitch it to the wingback going in
motion. However, he looks to run the ball behind the wingback’s block in the B gap.
We use formations to get the looks we want to run against. The slam play against
the 40 defense with a tight end is almost the same. The only difference is the tight end
anchors the defensive end, which allows the tackle to block the Sam linebacker. The
playside wingback goes inside the tackle’s block on the linebacker all the way to the
safety. Everything else on the play is the same. If we run the play against the 50 front,
the rules are similar.
Responsibilities Versus 50 Front
• Backside tackle: Anchor backside
• Backside guard: Mike linebacker
• Center: Nose
• Playside guard: Mike linebacker
• Playside tackle: Out on defensive end
• Split end: Stalk
• Playside wingback: Inside of tackle’s block; block for quarterback
• Backside running back: Pitch phase
• Fullback: Butt of center
• Quarterback: Hop back; reach back and read depth of 3 technique
We traditionally have the most athletic lineman play the center position (Diagram
3-2). He is not the biggest lineman, but he is the player with the best feet. The kid we
had this year signed with Cincinnati. When we played 50 defenses this year, he did
an excellent job on the noseguard. The 50 defenses are slant-and-angle defenses.
Something that helps us against a 50 defense is we can formation the front so we
know which way they will angle. We run the midline away from the angle of the front.
However, we teach our fullback to cut off the center’s block on an angling noseguard.
Diagram 3-2. Slam versus 50 front
We play teams that play the 50 defense and always angle to the wideside of the
field. We align in a balanced set, knowing they are going to angle to the field and run
the midline into the boundary. We run behind the angling noseguard, and the playside
tackle cannot get down that quickly to stop the midline. Our splits prevent him from
covering that much ground.
The question was: how do we handle the 3-3 stack from the odd front? St. Xavier
of Cincinnati runs a 3-3 stack defense. When we play them, we do not run the read
midline. If we run the midline against them, we call the give play. We wedge the center
and two guards on the nose stack. We block three blockers on two defenders. We get
in a double-wing set, release the tackles inside on their outside linebackers, and try to
cut the end with our wingbacks. When we play St. Xavier, the only midline we have in
the game plan is 40-41 give. It is a keep-them-honest type of play. We do not expect
to get many yards on the play. It keeps the linebackers from flying out of the middle.
If we run the slam with the tight end against the 50 defense, it is almost the same
blocking. The difference is the playside tackle. Instead of blocking the defensive end,
he loops around the defensive tackle and cleans up on the linebacker. That scheme is
more of an influence block on the defensive tackle. If the defensive tackle reacts to the
tackle loop, the fullback is gone inside.
When we play Sycamore High, they pinch their tackles inside and scrape the
linebackers. The loop by the tackle takes care of that scheme also. When the defensive
tackle slants inside, the quarterback pulls the ball and steps behind the offensive tackle,
looping on the scraping linebacker.
We have run this play from the I formation this year (Diagram 3-3). With the
running back in the I formation instead of the wing position, he has to run his slam
technique from the back of the I. We run the play away from the tight end and read
the 5-technique tackle to the split-end side. The quarterback reads the tackle, and if he
pulls the ball, he follows the running back through the gap. He goes through the same
gap and more or less isolates on the safety. Everyone else blocks a hat on a hat.
Diagram 3-3. I slam versus 50
The second way we run the slam is a freeze with no motion (Diagram 3-4). When
we start to have problems with the safeties dropping over the top or coming downhill
in the box, we want to use that against them. We call “freeze,” and we have no motion
back for the pitch. We run the play the same way, except the motion back stays in
position and goes downfield on the backside safety.
Diagram 3-4. Freeze
The next adjustment to the midline play is “tuff” (Diagram 3-5). It is the same play
as the slam, except we run a double slam. We bring the playside wing through the gap
on the safety, and the motioning pitchman comes through the same gap and blocks the
linebacker. We got this play from Georgia Southern. The motion back aims for the butt of
the fullback as he comes in motion. When he reaches the fullback’s butt, he plants and
gets downhill in the B gap. That gives us two blockers leading the quarterback.
Diagram 3-5. Tuff

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