Guest Football Coaching Blog Post
Developing the option quarterback is an essential aspect of most offenses, and this is certainly true for option football. In an option football scheme it is the single most important element of success. The reality is an option football play can be blocked perfectly, but if the option quarterback makes an incorrect read, the result will likely be a loss, or worse, a turnover. In light of this, lets break down exactly what the option quarterback does in the triple option from the time he breaks the huddle to when the whistle is blown.
The Option Quarterback: Part 1
For the first portion of this article we will take an in depth look at what the option quarterback’s responsibilities are after the huddle is broken up until he needs to make his first read.
The Option Quarterback: Approaching the Line of Scrimmage
After the huddle break, the option quarterback moves to the line of scrimmage (LOS) with urgency but without rushing. It is important to set the tone but also to stay calm and capable of analyzing any pre-snap information that might help him make good decisions while executing the play.
One of the first steps in this process is getting a sense of what the defense is doing. As the quarterback approaches the LOS, he looks at how the defense is responding to the formation. The option quarterback determines the defensive front and coverage. If they do not correspond correctly, (e.g. 4-3 Cover 2, or 4-4 Cover 3) he will take a mental note of it and try to understand why.
With this information the option quarterback can more easily identify the two read players necessary to run the triple option.
Knowing the front and the coverage shell will usually give clues as to how the defense will respond to the play. At this point the option quarterback is thinking about the play call and how the defense might react to it. The option quarterback, through thousands of practice and game time reps, garners an ability to pick up on little things that will help him with his decisions long before they need to be made. He develops a feel for it. It becomes second nature.
The Option Quarterback: Pre-Snap Considerations
While at the line of scrimmage, the option quarterback first ensures his players are set and in the correct formation. As the quarterback, he is an extension of the coach and understands where every player on the offense needs to be and what they will do once the ball is snapped. Now, the quarterback looks left, then right, and then left again. This occurs on every play, regardless of the call or the snap count. This ensures the option quarterback sees the entire defense, and helps to eliminate any unintentional cues for the defense.
During the left, right, left check, the quarterback goes through a mental count to determine the read players. In this count he determines a #1 player and a #2 player. (Note – Systems often count out to 3 and 4, however, I have limited the scope of this article in the interest of simplicity and brevity.)
The first player identified is the Dive Read and is labeled #1. This is the player that determines if the quarterback gives the ball to the dive back, or keeps the ball and continues on to the second read.
There are many different variations on how to determine these players, but for the purposes of this article, the rules are:
Rule 1 – The first down lineman outside of the play side B-Gap is the Dive Read. He is #1.
Rule 2 – The next primary run defender behind or outside of #1 is the Pitch Read. He is #2.
The diagrams below illustrate what the counts are against four common fronts.
After determining the count, the option quarterback makes note of anything that might help him make his read more effectively. He should be aware of a stacked playside linebacker, or that the five-technique defensive end has cheated his alignment to the inside eye of the tackle. He is actively thinking about what could happen and therefore increases his chances of making the proper decision when there is adversity.
For example, against the 4-3 defense, the quarterback must always read #1 and #2 simultaneously because of the high probability of a cross charge. The video below illustrates this nicely. The linebacker comes inside of the DE, becoming #1. The quarterback needs to recognize this and read the DE as #2. This will usually result in a quick pull-pitch and is one of the most difficult option reads to make. If you would like to read more about the intricacies of the option read, go to Dissecting the Option Football Read .
The Option Quarterback: Getting to the Mesh Point
The option quarterback has made his pre-snap analysis and is ready to get under center and begin his cadence. His primary responsibility now is to get the ball cleanly without fumbling. He sets his feet just underneath his armpits and bends his knees slightly. He places his hands under the center’s backside, aligning his middle finger with the midline. He keeps his wrists firmly together and rides the center’s momentum forward slightly as the ball is placed into his hands. To accomplish this, he applies pressure from his bottom hand, pushes up into the center’s backside and extends his arms out as the center steps away.
Once the quarterback has the ball in his hands he must simultaneously adjust his grip on the ball, seat it near his stomach, and take his first step. All while keeping his eyes on the Dive Read.
For the grip, the quarterback adjusts his hands so his thumbs and pointer fingers are near the top stripe of the football. He “chokes” the ball and has his pitching hand on the laces or seam. He knows high hands through the mesh are important for improving his ability to pull the ball without fumbling.
While adjusting his grip on the ball, the quarterback will take his first step. Footwork is important and he has spent a lot of practice time perfecting this technique.
When the quarterback is under center he is facing at 12 o’clock and can go either direction with his feet straddling the midline. When running the Inside Veer, the quarterback will step to either 4 or 8 o’clock with his play side foot while keeping it parallel to the LOS. He will then bring his second step and get his feet parallel to the fullback’s path. This path is also referred to as the “Crease Line.”
Football coaches use a variety of teaching methods to ensure the proper steps are taken. A common teaching tool in this regard is the Clock method. Below is a series of diagrams illustrating the quarterback’s steps as they would look on the face of a clock.
As the first step occurs, he brings the ball to his midsection and extends it through his back hip toward the fullback. It is important to not swing the ball, but to push it back while keeping the eyes on the Dive Read.
The quarterback takes his second step and gets parallel to the crease line while keeping the ball fully extended back and his eyes on the Dive Read. At this point, the chin is on the front shoulder and the fullback is making contact with the ball.
The quarterback keeps his eyes on the Dive Read and moves the ball slightly ahead of the fullback on the crease line. He feels the fullback wrap his arms around the football in a soft seal and shifts his weight from his back foot to his front foot as the fullback runs the crease line. The option quarterback is focused in on the Dive Read and is ready to separate from the mesh and attack the pitch key at any time.
The option quarterback’s read is based on the action of the Dive Read and he must decide whether or not he is going to give the ball to the fullback, or pull the ball and move into the next phase of the triple option. This must be decided before the mesh passes the quarterbacks front hip.
In part two of this article we will go over the quarterback’s responsibilities through the two reads of the triple option and what needs to be done through the whistle. We will take a look at the mechanics involved and a “one way” process of decision making.
Part two of this awesome guest post will be released next week.