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How to Defend the Option (updated for Army-Wake Forest)


Yesterday we took a close look at how a team like Navy and Georgia Tech will run the option against us in the upcoming weeks.

Wake Forest has not had a lot of success in the past 3 years playing against Navy and Tech (1-4 total). They have mainly been close games, but the FB dive has killed us, as well as a hurricane in Annapolis last year.

Defending the triple option

EDITORS NOTE: This is an article from two years ago and was run a day after the "Intricacies of the Triple Option" was run as well. I've updated the names of the players next to the positions, but left all the other stuff the same. This was written specifically for the Wake-GT game two years ago (which Wake played very well in), but it reads the same for Army. It's funny to read the comments, especially mine about Nikita from two years ago. I was...ummm... a little off with that comment. Enjoy!

The best way to defend the triple option is to take away something that the offense does. When you limit the number of things that the offense does, it makes it much, much easier to anticipate what they are doing it, as well as where it will be run.

It doesn't really matter what it is that you take away. It can be the dive or the pitch, but I would recommend the dive for Wake Forest because that is what is going to be the hardest for us. We are undersized in the middle, and we have had a lot of trouble in the past stopping Kettani, Murray, Allen, etc. The FB dive also sets up the entire offense. If there is no threat for a play to go up the middle, it means the tackles can spread out, the middle linebacker(s) can rove, and the ends can just move outside.

The best way to stop the dive is to get the linebackers into the holes in the middle, and control the line of scrimmage. Our defensive lineman are going to have to man up this week, stay disciplined, and just get the job done no questions asked. As the ball is snapped, the defensive tackles have to win the line of scrimmage and cannot get pushed back. The ends have to move toward the middle and force the play to go to the outside as well. This makes the linebackers and the secondary make a decision to attack the middle of the field or play the pitch. If the middle of the field is taken away by the tackles and the middle linebackers (Whitlock, Souza, Booi, Haynes), it will force the Jackets this weekend to go toward the strength of our defense, the defensive ends and Joey Ehrmann.

A way to anticipate what the offense is going to do is to see what the center and the guards do. If the guards pull out for a trap play (where they become a lead blocker), this allows a hole where the guard will move, but it also changes the point of attack for the offense. If the defense reads the play wrong and does not see the guard trap if he does, or does not stay at home when the guard does, it gives a numbers advantage to the offense, which is what they are trying for.

These plays are out of the shotgun, but watch how the tackles and the guards will pull to a certain side of the field. The defense does not read it very well on either play, and it gives the offense a brigade of blockers to lead the runners through.

One remedy to stop the dive that in all likelihood will NOT work, is stacking the box at the line of scrimmage. If a defense brings everybody inside, it puts immense pressure on the OLB's and the CB's to get off their blocks and make a tackle if a pitch play is run. Since the offense reads the defense on every single play, this usually spells out doom for the defense.

Although this is not the best example because of the lack of the ability to see the defense, and also the offensive formation (shotgun with a singleback), it is a great demonstration of what can happenif the defense stacks the box and then overcommits to the run up the middle. The QB gives a great PA, and the line does a very good job of selling it as well. The defensive ends are sealed off and maybe even pancaked to the left. This leaves the cornerback on an island and he gets rocked by a downfield block from the WR. This counter draw QB run was perfectly drawn up and executed.This is what cannot happen to us the next two weeks,we have to be disciplined.

This brings me up to my next point: everybody has a guy and they stick to him, no matter what. Each position on defense has a certain thing that they are trying to stop.

Defensive Ends- Hazime, Redding

Their main priority against the option attack will be to make help contain the fullback and ensure that he does not get the ball. If it is a FB dive, they go to the ball and help the tackles make a play. The end position is so difficult against the option because of the sheer number of things that they are accountable for on one play. On the snap, they have to get a leg up on the line of scrimmage to either get the FB or get to a position where they force the QB to show his hand before he is ready to. This means, either make the QB commit to the run, make a pitch, or make a big hit on the QB to blow up the play on the backfield. This takes excellent footwork, speed and strength to do correctly. The body has to be in a position to stop the QB in his track, the speed is used to beat the tackle/TE off the line, and the strength is to get off blocks and hopefully make the tackle.

If Lambert wants to drop the defensive ends back in a QB Spy type defense, this is also an acceptable way to help the ends read the play better. Taking a 2-3 step drop into a shallow zone will give the DE a better chance of seeing where the play is going and help sniff it out in any way possible.

Defensive Tackle(s)- Whitlock (?), Harris, Offor

If it were up to me for the next two weeks, I would take Whitlock out and use him as a linebacker, rotating him with the Haynes Bros, Ehrmann, and Malchow (who I believe should get the start for at least the next two weeks). This would naturally make our defense a 3-4, which sets up much better against the option in my opinion. The reason I believe Souza or Booi has to get the start at the NT position is because the only purpose of the NT against the option is to blow up the FB dive, and or hit the QB. If the play goes to the outside, they should try to get off their blocks and go in pursuit of the ball. They also need to dominate the LOS and try to push the center/guard that is on them back on his feet to cause more confusion in the backfield.


Quick run-down of the 3-4 and what each position should look like and do.

If Tech and Navy run a lot of FB dives with Allen and Murray, I would say to go back to the 4-3 every once in a while with Souza and Booi in the middle. This is is not a slight to Whitlock except to say that he just does not have the size we need to clog up the holes in the middle. If Whitlock starts, we will lose another player on the rest of the field because one of the linebackers will have to be there to help clog up the middle. At linebacker, Whitlock and rove more and go to the ball when he sees it to make a big hit.

Linebackers- Riley Haynes, Scott Betros, Justin Jackson, Joey Ehrmann, Mike Olson

The linebackers have a difficult job as well on the field. They read the play and react from what they see. Their eyes should ALWAYS be on the guards to see how they react. If they pull in to a trap option, they can follow and get extra bodies there. If they see the FB get the ball (which is very difficult because of the amount of bodies in the backfield), they should swarm there and try to jam up the middle. If nobody on the offensive line charges the linebacker (i.e the guards take the d-tackle across from them, and the tackles take the ends) must look for a gap near where the ball is and swarm to the ball. If the guards pull, the linebackers have to go with them because that is where the ball is headed (unless it is a misdirection play, in which case, the linebackers will not be at fault there).

Secondary- Bud Noel, A.J. Marshall, Duran Lowe, Daniel Mack, Kevin Johnson, Kenny Okoro

Wake will more than likely run a lot of Cover One and bring another safety up to help out with the rushing attack. I think Frye will be better in this zone coverage because he goes to the ball well, and I think Quarles is a slightly better tackler (although they both had angle and tackling issues on Saturday). The safety that is not in coverage just finds the ball and goes to make tackles. This could lead to a big tackle day for Quarles and I hope he is up for it.The corners obviously cover the WR if there is one lined up across from them. Their goal is primarily to get off the block to help make a tackle or make the QB pitch the ball. At least 2-3 times on Saturday, Okoro or Bush will be alone out there with the QB or the RB after the ball has been pitched and they will have to make a play or it will be a touchdown. Tough life, but the one they chose as CB's. I think they will step up to the plate and handle it well.

In general, the defense has to be aware and on their toes at all time. The point of Georgia Tech's offense is to get 3.5-4 yards per play for 3 plays and then get a new set of downs. If there is any lapse on the defense at any time, a big play can, and will, get sprung.

I expect Wilber and Dorty to dominate the line of scrimmage and cause some problems for the developing pitches to the outside. I think that GT will effectively use Anthony Allen in the FB spot and he will cause us some problems as always. Malchow should get the start at linebacker over a Haynes brother because of his ability to make plays against the option (7 against Navy last year). That is unless we do in fact go to the 3-4 and have 4 linebackers, in which case he should start in the middle with Hunter Haynes.

A bit wordy, but I hope this gave a good thorough look at what Wake Forest should look to do this weekend, as well as the following weekend against the options. Any questions are welcome as always! Please comment as well!