Thursday, May 20, 2004

In the Beginning...

In the Begining, there was the Straight T ... and it was Good. Then the "T" begat Split Backs and the Bone...


Sorry about that! I've been grading final exams and I'm slap-happy. Aside from my failed attempt at humor, I'm going to go ahead and open up the "In the Beginning" post so I can start piecing together the history behind the development of the Veer. It's sad how little I really know concerning the Veer's roots. Coach Homer Rice, who has written extensively on triple option football, credits Bill Yeoman at the University of Houston as being the first coach to his knowledge to the run splitback alignment and run the triple option. People were already running the triple from the Wishbone and from the T formation. He also attributes the basic inside veer triple option play as a combo of the Inside Belly play and what he calls the Split T Option play - Both ran from the two-Tight Straight (Full House) T formation. His base play at Fort Thomas Highlands High School (KY) was what we would call the inside triple ran from the Straight T formation (pretty much like you would see it drawn up out of a 2-Tight Wishbone). From 1957 to 1961 his teams were undefeated in 50 straight regular season games, State Champs three of those five years and runner-up the other two. The Triple option was his base play and I'd say it was mighty good to him!

Below are some snippets I have "Googled" from a few places today after searching for "origins of veer offense." they are in no particular order, and I'm just gettin them out to be read and commented on if need be. Organization will come later. I guess it's okay to use them - if not, lemme know! - Smith


have a great book by Homer Smith, that describes the chess game between
offensive coaches and defensive coaches throughout the century. The name of
the book is: Football Coach's Complete Offensive Playbook 1987 by Parker
Publishing. The first chapter is entitled The Evolution of the Offensive
Challenge. It takes you from 1955 up to the present---1987. It is a
historical retrospective to educate the offensive coach how defenses have
been developed to stop offenses. It is important for any coach to understand
how this chess game has been played and why. After reading it you will have
new feel for the game and understanding of the constant battles between
defensive and offensive minds.

Anyone who would like to trade for this book let me know as I am interested
in learning about the veer option game from the I and would trade for some
good information or tapes. This book is a classic.

CoachTruscello@aol.com

The explosion was Texas in 1968-70. I understand that some high school and
jr. high coaches were experimenting and this gave Emory Bellard the
inspiration to start his UT tinkering for Darrell Royal. I have gathered
that Texas A&M may have actually started the development by using alot of
triple option out of an I. At this time the Houston Split-back veer was
becoming the formation/system of choice. When Oklahoma couldn't make that
work and it appeared Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer (then OC) may get
fired, Royal and Bellard shared it with OU and the rest is history.
I have always wondered why (I know the answer) bigger-time colleges do not
still run Wishbone and Triple Option schemes. On the Megaclinic option list
one coach quoted John Makovic (a pro-passing guru) that if he had done so
with his mid 90's Texas teams he would have won a title or two. He didn't
because if he didn't win big he would get fired and wouldn't have been hired
by another major school. After the Arizona problems he probably wishes he
had done so. If he did get fire he would be happy now at a Div II or I-AA
school.
Greg B




www.wacotrib.com
Bill Yeoman: Vision behind the Veer
By JOHN WERNER Tribune-Herald staff writer
Soon after he arrived at the University of Houston, Bill Yeoman organized a meeting with some of the most influential African-Americans in the city.

It was the early 1960s and racial tension was in the air. Yeoman knew he needed to say just the right thing. The future of the University of Houston football program depended on it.

"The first thing I want to say is that I'm prejudiced," Yeoman said.

Heads turned. Jaws dropped. Why would he bring the black community's leaders together to tell them this?

"I'm prejudiced against bad football players," Yeoman said. "I don't care what the color of their skin is. What matters to me is whether or not they can play."

With those words, Yeoman became the first coach at a major-college football program in Texas to recruit black players. He opened the door in 1964 by signing San Antonio phenom Warren McVea, who became an all-American for the Cougars two years later. Soon other great black players like Paul Gipson, Elmo Wright and Robert Newhouse followed him to Houston.

Yeoman built his career on recruiting the best black players and white players overlooked by Southwest Conference schools. The Cougars became such a football power that the SWC finally asked them to join the league in 1971. After a five-year waiting period, Yeoman's teams blitzed the SWC by winning three titles in their first four seasons.

Yeoman, who will be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in February, not only put the Houston football program on the map. His success gave the university visibility it couldn't buy anywhere else.

"Coach Yeoman played a big part in making the University of Houston what it is today," said Deryl McGallion, a former Cougar linebacker and assistant coach. "When I grew up, I didn't know anything about Houston. All I heard about was Texas and Texas A&M. Bill's the guy who put the university on the map."

If all Yeoman did was break the color barrier and fashion a 160-108-8 record, his 25-year coaching career at Houston would have been a major success. But Yeoman also invented the veer in the mid-1960s, which became the most widely-used offensive formation in college football.

----Hard to solve----

College defenses didn't really catch up with Yeoman's innovation until the 1980s. Yeoman was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 with former Baylor coach Grant Teaff and former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer.

"Coach Yeoman was one of the most innovative coaches in the game throughout the years," said Teaff, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "More than anything, he's known for creating the split-back veer. You had to play perfect defense to stop it, and a lot of people had a hard time with it in the early days. He just did a great job of running that offense."

Though Yeoman retired from coaching in 1986, he's still active at the University of Houston as a fundraiser. Now 75, he still bleeds Cougar red and white. His blue eyes light up when he talks about the future of the Cougars under Art Briles, who is turning the program around after a tough decade.

"There's no question Art's going to get the job done," Yeoman said. "He's great with the kids and the alumni. I feel very good about where the program is heading."

As a fundraiser, Yeoman gets out in the community and sees many of his former players. Though most of his players are middle-aged, he can still see their 18-year-old faces when they arrived at Houston many years ago. Many of them have gone on to successful careers and now give back to the university.

"The University of Houston will always be a big part of my life," Yeoman said. "I like getting out and seeing all my players. Some of them have done extremely well. When they tell me they got a lot out of the football program, that means a lot to me. I know the commitment meant something."

Yeoman learned most of his lessons about commitment and discipline from his parents. His father was a superintendent, while his mother was a librarian. Although Bill and his two older brothers were all good athletes, academics came first in the Yeoman household.

Bill's oldest brother, Wayne, graduated from the United States Military Academy and later earned a doctorate from the Harvard business school. He's retired in Kerrville now after serving as the chief financial officer at Eastern Airlines. Elmer, the middle brother, was a doctor before he died three years ago.

"Our father was a lot like Army coach Red Blaik," Wayne Yeoman said. "He was very much a disciplinarian. He was a wonderful man, but he expected us to perform as well as we could and behave ourselves. He was always very clear on that point."

The Yeomans lived in Glendale, Ariz., then a small town of 5,000 outside Phoenix. Much of the community was made up of Hispanics and Russian immigrants, so Bill was always around a diverse group of people. Spending his boyhood in the Depression, he learned the importance of sharing.

"Growing up in the Depression was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Yeoman said. "You were judged by what you were and not by what you had. No one locked their doors because there was nothing to steal. About the only entertainment we had in the house was a radio. So we spent every evening talking to mom and dad and learning what made them tick."

Yeoman developed into a talented all-around athlete who competed in football, basketball, baseball and track. Standing 6-2 and 195 pounds, Yeoman was a dominating lineman who was good enough to be recruited by major colleges. Though he signed with Texas A&M, his goal was to get an appointment to West Point.

Wayne Yeoman helped his younger brother get through the door at Army.

"When I was a cadet, I went over to Coach Blaik's office to tell him about Bill," Wayne Yeoman said. "It took a lot of nerve to talk to Coach Blaik because he was very cold and austere. I was scared to death, but I told him that I had just the center for him. I delivered that message as quickly as I could."

Blaik listened and Bill got his appointment to West Point in 1946 after one year at Texas A&M. During that era, Army fielded some of the best college football teams in the country with Felix Blanchard and Glenn Davis winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies in 1945-46.

Blaik's coaching staff included Vince Lombardi, who became the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. But everyone deferred to Blaik during that era.

"Coach Lombardi was tough," Yeoman said. "But he was like Mary's little lamb compared to Red Blaik."

Armed with a very small playbook, Blaik drilled his players relentlessly until they got every detail down pat. Repetition was Blaik's formula to great execution. Everybody knew what Army was doing, but they did it so well that few teams could stop them. With Yeoman making second-team all-America at center, the Cadets competed for national championships throughout the late 1940s.

"I got a chance to help out the coaches at Army when I was finished playing," Yeoman said. "It just amazed me how systematically Coach Blaik got ready for the next team. There was no secret to Army's success. Each man just executed better than the guy he was facing. If you weren't totally committed to Army football, you didn't go on the field."

----Back to the gridiron----

After graduating from West Point in 1950, Yeoman served 2 1/2 years in Europe. But his goal was to coach college football, and he landed an assistant's job at Michigan State in 1953. Following an eight-year stint under Duffy Daugherty, he got the call from the University of Houston in 1961.

Yeoman took over a program that often had winning records, but never won big. After leaving the Missouri Valley Conference in 1960, the Cougars had taken on a more challenging independent schedule. Beating Baylor and Texas A&M in the first two games, the Cougars finished 7-4 and overpowered Miami-Ohio in the 1962 Tangerine Bowl.

But after going 2-8 in 1963, Yeoman knew he needed to bring in a stronger recruiting class. Though northern schools had recruited black players for years, major-college programs in the South had shied away from them. Yeoman knew that he could raise Houston's talent level quickly with black players, and the best in the state in 1964 was Warren McVea.

McVea was a great all-purpose back at San Antonio Brackenridge High School, rushing for 215 yards and scoring 38 points in an historic 55-48 loss to San Antonio Lee. Many people still consider that 1963 game one of the greatest ever played. McVea got national attention from schools like Notre Dame, USC and Nebraska, but Yeoman convinced him to sign with Houston.

"Coach Yeoman was different than most recruiters," McVea said. "Everyone else was trying to sell me on going to their school. But Coach Yeoman took everything in and didn't overdo it. He talked a lot more to my parents than me. He was one of the smartest men I've ever been around."

After McVea signed with the Cougars, Yeoman protected him from racism and any other problems he faced. Since McVea went to an integrated high school, it didn't bother him to play with white players at Houston. With his engaging personality, McVea made friends quickly with his teammates.

"If things didn't go well with me, Coach Yeoman knew he'd have difficulty recruiting black athletes in the future," McVea said. "So he protected me from things. No matter what happened, he always took my side. When I talked to Bill recently, he told me, ‘Warren, the reason I treated you the way I did was because you took a chance on our program when you didn't have to.’ ”

With inroads to black athletes, Yeoman opened up a whole new world for his football team. During a practice in 1964, Yeoman began devising an offense that would revolutionize college football.

Yeoman found that by giving his quarterback the option to hand off, keep or pitch the ball to a trailing back, he could create advantages for his offense. The triple-option offense became known as Houston's renowned veer.

"We found that when people tried to defend the triple option, they had to overload somewhere," Yeoman said. "When they overloaded at one spot, they weakened the defense somewhere else. If you executed the offense, it was hard to stop. We were also able to pass very well out of the offense. The triple option was the one major contribution the University of Houston made to college football."

With quarterback Bo Burris joined by halfbacks Dick Post and McVea, the Cougars fielded one of the most explosive offenses in college football in 1966. They averaged 33.5 points on their way to an 8-2 season. During a nine-year period from 1966-74, the Cougars averaged eight wins per season and finished in the Top 20 eight times.

"Coach Yeoman did a tremendous job of recruiting guys who fit into his program," said McGallion, who lettered at linebacker for Houston from 1971-73. "He made a living on recruiting guys who were overlooked by other schools. The color of a player's skin just didn't matter to Bill. I know we wouldn't have been nearly as good a football team without black players. Some of my best friends today were the black athletes I played with at Houston."

----Big splash in SWC----

After finishing 2-8 in 1975, many people questioned whether the Cougars would be ready for their inaugural year in the SWC in 1976. The Cougars answered all doubters by finishing 10-2 and tying for the SWC title with Texas Tech at 7-1.

With quarterback Danny Davis operating the veer and lineman Wilson Whitley leading a fierce defense, the Cougars beat Maryland in the Cotton Bowl and finished fourth nationally for their highest final ranking in school history.

"Coming into the 1976 season, I remember people saying, ‘Now, Houston's going to see what it's like to play with the big boys,’ ” Davis said. "People were saying we were going to be doormats for the other teams. But we knew we could win the SWC. I wanted to be part of history."

The Cougars proved that the 1976 season was no fluke by winning the SWC in 1978 and 1979. A string of 1,000-yard rushers like Alois Blackwell, Emmett King and Terald Clark kept Yeoman's veer running as powerfully as ever. The Cougars won their final SWC title under Yeoman in 1984 before he retired from coaching two years later.

"Players liked to go to Houston because they knew Coach Yeoman was going to give them a fair shot," Davis said. "He was a military man with an Army background. He always said there's three ways to respond: Yes sir, no sir and no excuse sir. But he also had a jovial side. He had a way of making you feel like you were part of the family."

Besides fund-raising for Houston, Yeoman spends his days with his wife of 53 years, A.J., and their four children and eight grandchildren. In many ways, Yeoman feels like he has hundreds of children. Once a player joined the Cougars, he felt like Yeoman adopted him regardless of the color of his skin.

"I still call Coach Yeoman all the time," said McVea, who lives in the Houston area. "If I need something, he still works out things for me. He always made me feel like I'm part of his family. He's just such a good human being and a good football coach."

John Werner can be reached at jwerner@wacotrib.com or at 757-5716.

1 Comments:

Blogger RFarley said...

Coach Smith,

Congratulations on your site, I always enjoy running across football oriented bloggers.

I commend undertaking on the history of the veer offense. The history of offensive and defensive concepts is a subject that I have a great interest in.

I did note that you had only begun your study of the origins of the veer. I posted a link to the 1999 AFCA Proceedings Manual that contains perhaps the most concise statement by Coach Yeoman on the veer.

I should point out that the Veer preceeded the Wishbone.

Option football is traced back to 1941, when Dan Faurot of Missouri designed his Split-T offense. One of the plays in the series was the "Running Pitch Out." It was a double option. As strange as it may seem, Faurot got the idea for the play from basketball's pick and roll.

The triple is traced to 1962 at Houston. The outside veer came first. Then with some tinkering, the inside veer. At first they were plays, not an offense. Around 1965, Coach Yeoman put together the complete system we now know as the Split Back Veer Offense.

Although the formation may very well have been used previously, the Wishbone originated in 1968 at Texas. At Royal's behest, Emory Bellard designed the offense after Texas A&M (under Gene Stallings) won the 1967 SWC title with the triple option out of the Slot-I.

The second program in the country to go to the Wishbone was Montana under Jack Swarthout.

Switzer, then OU's OC, installed the Wishbone in the bye week leading up the the 1970 OU-Texas game. The OU staff planned to surprise Texas by coming out in the Wishbone. Switzer has stated on numerous occaisons that he picked up the details from film study.


I hope this help clarify the timeline somewhat for you.

R.Farley
http://www.footballbooklist.com

8:47 PM  

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