As long as I can remember, even when I was a kid, I’ve loved option football. First of all, I loved the running game whether it was offense or defense. Defense, you ask? Yeah, I loved the ruggedness of a player running through the line, several defenders making the tackle, and me being in on it. I loved getting in on a big pileup. Gave me chills. I loved being the ball carrier attacking the line, looking for a seam, and trying to explode through and break tackles. Heck, I loved being hit hard! But, back to my love of option football.
What is option football and why do I love it?
The ball carrier in a true option running play is determined by reading the defensive alignment or the actions of defensive players. The quarterback will give the ball to a running back or keep the ball, depending on what the defense does. Thus, the option run must include two or more potential ball carriers. These potential ball carriers each perform a predetermined route, or “track” that poses a unique threat to a defense. If there are two options when the play begins it is called Double Option, if there are three options when the play begins it is called Triple Option, which I find the most exciting.
I love option football because of what I consider the beauty of it. To watch a well executed option play with it’s precision, timing, and hard nosed running – man, that’s a sight. It’s exciting football to watch and as stated in the opening paragraph, I love the running game.
There are many formations and schemes that lend themselves to the option including Wishbone, Flexbone, Veer, I, Wing-T, and Shotgun just to name a few. Some are tailor made for the Triple Option like the Wishbone, Flexbone, and Split Backs Veer. The I formation is generally thought of as a power formation with a lead fullback blocking for the tailback. But for 15 years I coached under two head coaches that ran power AND triple option out of the I formation. Not many programs run triple option out of the I any more but it worked great and we had a lot of success with it. Shown below is the most basic option play out of the I – the Dive Option to the weak side. Note the 3 options labeled #1, #2, #3.
Quarterback – Turns and puts the ball in the fullbacks belly – eyes on defensive end. Here comes option #1. If the defensive end goes upfield or remains in position, the QB gives the ball to the fullback who will have a nice seam to run through. If the defensive end squeezes down to collision the fullback, here comes option #2. The QB pulls the ball from the fullback’s belly and continues down the line looking for a lane to cut upfield. If he sees an opening – keep the ball and GO! If there is no opening here comes option #3. As a defender closes in to tackle the QB, the QB pitches the ball to the tailback.
Fullback – Always assumes he’s getting the ball and ready to rumble. If the QB pulls it away, the fullback pretends he has the ball and makes a great fake enticing the defense to tackle him.
Tailback – Gets on his pitch track and remains on it through out the play. Maintain a distance of 5 yards from QB and be ready to receive the ball anytime. Must keep his pitch relationship with the QB and carry out any fake pitch from the QB. He is option #3. If the ball comes – catch and GO!
Every time this play is run it will look the same as it begins. We just don’t know who’s getting the ball. It depends on what the defense does and what the QB sees. Triple Option and fun to watch!
Today’s most popular triple option offense.
You’ve just seen how the option can be run out of the I formation but today’s most popular triple option offense is the Flexbone. Birthed from the wildly popular Wishbone from the 1960’s and ’70’s, this offense, made popular at the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech features a fullback just behind the quarterback and a wing back to both sides. By running motion, the wing back can get a full head of steam as he gets the ball. The base Flexbone formation is shown below with motion. By the time the ball is snapped the wing back will be behind the fullback making him similar to a tailback in the I.
Flexbone Veer Option
The defensive end is left unblocked and will be the option man.
Quarterback – Same as in I formation.
Fullback – Same as in I formation.
Wingback – Goes in motion and gets on pitch track.
The veer option is the heart of the Flexbone option offense.
Flexbone Speed Option
If the fullback is fast enough to cause problems on the edge, then the speed option, or double option can be run. Without any motion from the wing backs, the speed option is a basic one-read option run, aiming to get the ball to the edge thanks to a numerical advantage. By leaving one of the outside defenders (can be a DE, OLB, or Safety) unblocked, the QB simply reads this option defender and decides whether to keep or pitch. Unlike the veer option, which takes some time to develop, the Speed Option gets the ball on the edge quickly, not leaving the backside defenders much time to get to the ball and help.
Quarterback – Immediately attacks perimeter of defense, reads option defender and decides whether to keep or pitch.
Fullback – Gets on pitch track and maintains pitch relationship with QB.
Wingback – Block the safety or OLB, whichever is assigned to him.
As a wrinkle to the dive in the Veer option, the interior tackle can be left unblocked, leaving him to attack the fullback as he runs inside. If the defensive tackle goes after the fullback (which is his responsibility), the QB will keep and follow a lead block inside. The QB is given a lead block from the wingback who goes in motion then cuts up through the hole and takes out a linebacker or safety on the second level. Shown below is the Midline option.
The defensive tackle will be left unblocked and will be the option man that the QB reads.
Quarterback – Fakes hand off to fullback, who should be tackled by the defensive tackle. Then keep and follow a lead block by the wingback inside.
Fullback – Make a great fake from QB and collision defensive tackle.
Wingback – Go in motion then cut up through B gap on the snap and lead block on Backer.
The above three option frames are the most common in the Flexbone although counter option can be used as well. I’ve seen Navy and Georgia Tech use counter option effectively. As in any offense, rocket sweep, jet sweep, iso, belly, counter, and countless pass plays can be implemented. When it’s all said and done, this is a potent offense. Add in the plethora of formations including unbalanced and it’s my belief that the Flexbone is one great offense for high school football.
I attended the Glazier Football Clinic this past winter in Indianaplolis and had the pleasure of listening to Tim Rulo, head football coach at Helias Catholic in Missouri. Rulo has been the head football coach at Helias since 2015 and has maintained the high powered Flexbone attack that he had in seven years at South Callaway High School. In his time at South Callaway, Rulo went 66-19 with four district titles under his belt. The team advanced to the Class 2 championship game in 2014 for the first time in that school’s history, on their way to a 14-1 season. While going 14-1, South Callaway outscored its opponents by a staggering 753-109.
Known as a “winner” on and off the field Coach Rulo has the Crusader program on track to be another triple option juggernaut with the Crusader Flexbone.
If you’re a triple option guy or are thinking about switching to the flexbone, I highly recommend Coach Rulo’s three video series. As always we here at Chiefpigskin believe that all offenses are good if learned inside and out and then taught to your players inside and out. The Crusader Flexbone is no different and the available videos will give you that opportunity. Feel free to contact us any time to talk football. That’s what we do.
Coach L. Albaugh – DBLITY