As a coach, I don’t like non-gap sound defenses. By that, I mean defenses that send two guys to the same gap. One’s that over-shift the safeties to one side. I like them from the stand point that we can get big plays on them. I don’t like them because typically it creates confusion after the initial time or too. Some defenses choose to be a little less strict on their gaps when they identify a tendency or when they think a pass is coming. It’s at these points that having a little bit of an option running game can get big plays for the offense, or in the least, prevent these exotic looks. Running the option will keep defenses stable.
Running the option also keeps defenses from blitzing or doing some stunts. Having a problem with a backside linebacker run through? Run an option play and kill their backside pursuit by gashing them. A defensive end sometimes spilling power, but sometimes boxing it out? Run load option and win every time by kicking him or logging him and optioning the next guy.
Running the Option: The Excuses
Some teams will say they don’t have time to run the option, because it takes too long to install. They have some… elaborate passing game and don’t have the time to dedicate to the option. Or they don’t want their QB to get hurt. Or he’s too slow. Teams that use these excuses are avoiding a major solution. The bottom line is your QB doesn’t have to be a terrific athlete to make it work. He’s in just as much danger dropping back 30 times a game being protected by a 16-18 year old left tackle.
Don’t believe you have the time to be running the option or teaching the reads? Pre-call the silly thing, or call it from the sideline with a check with me type of deal. OR, spend pre-practice just going over your reads. Trust me, reading the option should be easier than reading 3-4 defenders on a passing play. Finally, the fear of turning the ball over is the other excuse. Personally, this is the worst one. You can run plays like the shovel option to make any dropped pitch an incomplete pass.
Running the Option: Two-man Option
I like the idea of the two-man option or double option when you don’t have a lot of time to install it. Really, you can use whatever your outside zone or veer blocking looks like.
Milt Tenopir, legendary Nebraska o-line coach, used the outside zone scheme for all his double options, which many times included a fake to the fullback to give the illusion of the triple option. He would change up the block of the offensive end man on the line of scrimmage, usually having them combo block with their inside teammate to the nearest linebacker, but everything else was the same. Using the outside zone scheme will eliminate confusion on the offensive line by recycling, as they should know your outside play already. It also only involves reading one defensive linemen, even if it sometimes looks like you’re reading two. This will help keep that defense gap sound. It makes running the option a lot easier as well.
Running the Option: Triple Option
The triple option takes more time to install, but the reward can be greater. If you don’t focus on the option, just install one version of this play. Usually, that version is outside veer or mid-line, depending on what the offense typically sees defensively. I like outside veer better, which can really be blocked using the outside zone blocking scheme (but having the offensive end man on the line of scrimmage combo with his inside teammate to the nearest linebacker). From here, you essentially are just reading the last man on the line of scrimmage.
Again, don’t make this more intimidating than it should be. Once you clear that guy, you’re reading the second man, typically the force player for your pitch key. Again, if your QB can read the flat player to the hook to curl player, then you can execute the triple option. It comes down to how well you teach both concepts.
Running the Option: Coaching it Up
I highly encourage you to Google for the specific option play you want to install. Once you have an understanding of it, go talk to another staff you think has experience with the play and get the nitty gritty details on it. See if you can borrow game film or practice film of a high school team running the option play to see what their difficulties are. Don’t just draw it up and try to do it on your own without knowledge of the play. There are some minor tweaks that may need to happen. Some of you may think this is daunting, but really, whenever you install new plays, not just when running the option, you should be doing this level of research.
Running the Option: Conclusions
Running the option is only daunting when you make it that way as a coach. We’ve used it this year, sparringly, but enough to keep defenses honest. When they start trying some exotic stuff, we typically get a big play out of our option running game. Again, running the option is not a major time investment. It’s worthwhile though, and can really help you offense get moving.