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The Intricacies of the Triple Option


Over the next two weeks Wake Forest will welcome Georgia Tech and Navy into Groves Stadium for night games. This also means they will be welcoming in one of the most feared offenses run in the country today in the triple option.

What most people do not understand about the triple option (flexbone/spread option/wishbone/whatever you want to call it), is that is very similar to the spread offenses run at Michigan and Florida. The biggest difference of course is that it is run under center, while Rich Rodriguez and Urban Meyer operate almost exclusively out of the shotgun.

After reading this article hopefully you will have a better understanding of the triple option be able to be the life of the party at your tailgate and during the game as you disperse your new football knowledge

Editors Note: I wrote this article a couple of years ago before we played GT and Navy in back-to-back in order to educate our fans about the triple-option. Army also runs this attack, and while it isn't the exact same because of the intricacies of the attack, it is very similar in many facets. In two games this season Army has amassed 768 yards rushing on 148 attempts (5.19 YPC, 35th in the country), or in other words 384 YPG (2nd in the country). While some of the information here is outdated (names, opponents), most of the information is very useful and I hope you all enjoy it!

Read more about the triple option after the jump

First of all let's take a look at where the triple option came from and some other basic tenets of the offense.

The triple option is part of a system that is called the Veer System. If you recall from "Remember the Titans", Denzel exclaims about his playbook "I run six plays. Just like novacain. Give it time it always works." He is referring to the Veer System and the variations that he runs out of it.

Bill Yeoman is often credited with the Veer system and he ran it at Houston for over 25 years extremely successfully.

The system works very effectively when executed well. it allows the offense to burn a lot of the clock and keeps the defense on the field to fatigue them. It can also be a very good offense for a team that is overmatched athletically and physically. When it is not executed to a T, problems can arise from mis-communication, most frequently resulting in fumbles or big losses of yardage.

The Veer offense can be run out of many different formations. The shotgun (Michigan, Florida), the I-Form/Power-I/Maryland-I, the wishbone, and the flexbone, (a variant that Fisher DeBerry took from the wishbone) just to name a few.

Georgia Tech and Navy both run the Veer out of the wishbone/flexbone for most of the game. This is effective for these two teams because they have very disciplined teams and also have the personnel to fit the system.

The key to running the option smoothly is for all the players to be on the same page. On any given play there can be many different options, usually three though (QB run, FB dive, pitch/option with the runner). This is disguised by GT and Navy by lining up in the flexbone as seen here:


GT calls the SB position the "A-Back", and the FB position the "B-Back"


The play can go either to the right or the left, usually to the side with more field (if the ball is lined up on the right hash, the play will usually go to the left). Before the snap the QB (as well as the FB in most situations) will read the defense and see how they are setting up. This is where it is important for the QB/FB and SB's to be on the same page. If they see the same thing in the defense, the potential for a big play is pretty high because there is likely a lapse in the defense.

The QB takes the snap and then must again read the defense very quickly to see where the defense is attacking from and where the holes are. If there is a hole up the middle (blitzes from the OLB's and the DE's), the QB can either hand the ball off to the FB, or he can keep it himself for a QB Isolation/Draw play. If the pressure is up the middle, the QB will then stay in front of the SB coming from the weak side, while using the SB he is running towards as a lead blocker. The QB must then read the defense for a third time in deciding whether to keep the ball and how long, and when (if at all to pitch it to the SB behind him).

Executing this can be very difficult because often times the QB and SB may not be in the right place at the same time, which can lead to a fumble or a big loss of yardage.

The Quarterbacks Role in the Option

Here are a few examples of triple option plays run to perfection by Georgia Tech and Navy over the past couple of years:

Dwyer 88 yd td run

This is what happens when the QB and the RB make a good read and are on the same page. The defense relaxes just for a second and Nesbitt makes the correct read to not hand off to the FB. Dwyer is right behind him, and the pitch is perfect. The downfield blocking is also incredible by the wide receivers. Nesbitt took a big shot, but the defense was not where they needed to be. The blocking all over the field is very, very good and executed to a T.

Jonathan Dwyer 60 Yd. TD

This play is a little different than the last one. It is run to the short side with only one SB (on the left side, along with the FB in the backfield with the QB). The right tackle pulls off the line as soon as the ball is snapped and takes over the lead blocking role for the play. The guard takes the ROLB and the tackle takes the DE, leaving one guy for Nesbitt to fool. He pitches right away to Dwyer, who breaks several tackles and then takes it to the house. This variation is one of the many different plays the can be utilized. Sweeps/sprints/tosses/pitches can be thrown in with all sort of different blocking patterns to confuse the defense.

Eric Kettani Touchdown

This play is one that Wake Forest fans should be very, very nervous about in the next couple of weeks. I expect the Deacs defense to be able to contain the outside pitches and tosses quite well with the above average defense ends that we have, as well as the experience we have with Ehrmann and Malchow on the outside. What I am concerned about is the inability we have in the middle, particularly at nose tackle, to stop the FB dives and the QB blasts.

In this play, the O-line seals off the middle to the defense and does not allow anybody to get in there. The defensive line, that was already spread out a bit too much to start with, had absolutely no chance of stopping Kettani until he was already at the second level of running. He then shows a great balance of speed and power to finish off the run and take it in for 6 points. This is a great decision by the QB, and Kettani just takes care of the rest after the O-line does their part.

The problem with stopping the FB Dive is that these positions are not filled by a typical fullback. Georgia Tech puts Anthony Allen in the fullback spot, a 6'0 230 lb athlete that has run for 618 yards on 64 attempts (9.66 ypc) and 6 touchdowns. Allen switched this offseason to the FB position from the SB position. Unlike most teams, under Johnson, the fullbacks work with the quarterbacks under the same position coach so they can read the field the same way that the QB's do. This increases the chance that they are on the same page and make the same decisions.

Today we took a look at the way the option attack is run and how it is executed to be one of the most feared offense in the country. Tomorrow I will go over a few ways that the defense can stop the option, as well as go over what Grobe's philosophies behind stopping it are.

Hope this cleared up some things that were up in the air. If there are any questions after reading the article, please feel free to ask in the comment section and I will do my best to answer it.