Saturday, December 22, 2007

Senior College Tape

I thought I would digitize a tape I made to send colleges for one of our Senior classes at MHS. Each copy was sent with a xeroxed sheet with each play numbered from first to last. In each play, the Senior being highlighted was noted (position on offense or defense, position with respect to the screen, name, and number.) I found this easier than trying to do an individual tape for each kid. I could take a highlighter and mark the plays if a school was interested in one or two kids. I thought you might like to see it as it has a lot of Splitback Veer on it as well as Coach Roark's "Send the House" defense.

Another thing to think about is getting them ready for financial aid assessment (can you say FASFA, boys and girls? ...I thoughtcha could...) You can do this entirely online IF someone in the kid's family has a working email address (better check this out... many schools block access to personal email such as Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo. So if you're planning to have a big session in the library to make this happen, you better spend some time with your technology person making sure it all goes well.

You will also need to make sure they are entered in to the NCAA Clearinghouse. You can find more info about it here as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Calling Plays in an Option Offense

I mentioned in a previous post that when I first starting calling plays, I was convinced that you needed a minimum of 3 things offensively in order to be successful:

1.  An off-tackle play of some sort good enough to make the defense over-commit in order to stop it.

2.  A counter play to take advantage of a defensive adjustment dealing with the front 7.

3.  A play action pass to take advantage of a defensive adjustment with respect to the 4 defensive backs.

While this was a somewhat simplified view of running an offense, I still feel the overall premise is sound on any level.


PART ONE: Off- Tackle

The great thing about some type of option being your "bread and butter" off-tackle play is the fact that it is really 2 or 3 plays in one (2 if a double option or 3 if its a triple option.)  Let's choose the Inside Veer (ISV for short) as our main off-tackle play.  Depending on the reaction of the defensive reads, the ball may go off the guard with the dive back, off tackle with a QB keep, or around the end if the ball is pitched. 



The diagram above is a generic Flex formation ISV right.  The football might end up in the FB's hands, the QB's hands, or the WB's hands.  The PsDT is the dive read and the PsDE is the pitch read in a traditional 52 defense ('Scuse me...  the 3-4 defense for you younger coaches!)

The PsG and PsTk release to psLB while the C and BsG Scoop the NG to BsLB.  The BsTk cuts-off Bs B gap then goes second/third level.  The PsWR has #1 and the PsWB has #2 in the base perimeter blocking scheme.  The BsWR releases to the middle cutting-off whoever tries to cross his face.


In the screen captures below from Navy's great win vs. Notre Dame , the Midshipmen are using a modified blocking scheme. 


Navy's Tight Slot Set

The WR's have moved down to what I call the Nasty Set (recalling the old Nasty Slot Set). 


 Backfield Paths for the FB, QB, and WB

The PsWR's block has been adjusted so that he is now responsible for cracking down on the fast-flow ILB.  I have used the word "Seal" to tag this adjustment in the past.  The PsTk is doing what we've called a "round" or "loop" release.  I'm using the term "Loop" for the tackle releasing not only outside the DT, but also the DE as well.  He will end up blocking the SS. 


Blocking Paths 

At the high school level, vs. a 4-I DT we sometimes give a "Round" call for him to release outside the DT (but still inside the DE) as his route to the PsLB (or SS if the PsLB isn't there to be blocked.)  Again, I'm calling the technique that Navy employs a "Loop."

In the shot below, the QB has pulled the ball due to the DT pinching.  In fact, the DT is "squeezing" down on the PsTk and keeping him from getting upfield.  It is just as well, as the PsLB is scraping hard C to D gap.  This is why the formation was tightened down - to allow the WR the ability to seal the LB.


Dive Read, Pitch Read, and Looping Tackle

01Nasty-VeerRight-Loop(Dive Read Pinches)-02

Dive Read pinches

01Nasty-VeerRight-Loop(Pitch Read Collapses)-03

Pitch Read takes QB - ball is pitched


WB has ball and is getting North and South


WB accelerates through traffic for a big gain

Notre Dame's 2 weeks of defensive preparation are rendered useless by a simple change in formation and a built-in adjustment to the perimeter blocking. 

By running fewer plays but knowing how to block them against a host of defensive schemes, Navy is on track to pull the upset and end the losing streak to N.D.


PART TWO: The Counter

Whether its to slow down pursuit, take advantage of an unsound secondary rotation, or simply as a change of pace, the Counter-Option is one way to do it.


The play starts with "Twirl" motion (PsHB motions away from the play before coming back (to the left in this case.) The FB dives and fills for the pulling guard and the QB opens right - faking the ball to the FB before turning back to the left and acquiring the Pitch Read, the left DE.


Everything looks the same...

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft(Backfield Action)-01

My attempt to show the backfield action! 

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft(Pitch Read)-01 

The DE will be the pitch read.

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft(Pulling Guard)-01

The pulling RtG will try to seal the ILB. 

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft(Pulling Guard)-02

The play is underway... notice the LB's and secondary are frozen

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft(Pitch Read Collapses)-03

In the case of this particular play, the N.D. linebacker does it right - he stays at home then sniffs out the play.  The pulling RtG takes a slightly bad angle and instead of sealing the LB, he lets him cross his face...  almost resulting in a loss. 

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft(LB Crosses Guards Face)-04

The LB has crossed the RtG's face.  The guard has no choice now except to try and wash the LB upfield.

But the wingback proves the wisdom of Tony DeMao's phrase, "Getting Speed in Space..." he makes a nifty cut and breaks the play for a 10+ yard gain.


Below is the entire sequence again.

02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft-01 02Nasty-CntrOptionLeft-02

Backfield fake right- freezing the LBs and secondary


The QB has faked away from the pitch read... so even thought the DE is charging him, the QB has time to make a good decision.


The ball is pitched...  The pulling Guard knows the LB has beaten him


This not being the Wingback's first "rodeo," he jukes the LB and cuts back up inside.


The Wingback is heading North and South on his way to a another big gain.

Next time...

PART THREE: Play Action Passing

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Niumatalolo named new head coach at Navy

In the "Gee, I'm a little late posting this" Department...

"ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk already had a new coach in mind when Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech on Friday after six successful seasons."

Story is HERE.  And HERE.

If you are a fan of the option, the past week has got to be up there with the best of them.  Not only is Coach Johnson headed to the ACC to prove the option can give the "big boys" fits, his long-time assistant coach, Ken Niumatalolo has been named the H.C. at Navy.  Guess what?  He's an option man, too.

Good luck to both Coach Niumatalolo and to Coach Johnson.  I may have to break down and get a Tivo by next season.  Dang it.


Coach Smith

Interview Up at the Georgia Tech Sports Blog

Scott over at the Georgia Tech Sports Blog was kind enough to ask me a few questions about the Option and what I thought of Coach Johnson heading to G.T. Needless to say, I was pumped. Here is the article. Now you know where I've been (wearing out the spell-check!)

Coach Smith

ps. I'm posting a copy below. (1/06/08)

Original post is on the

Georgia Tech Sports Blog

I have a treat for my Georgia Tech brothers and sisters out there. With all the talk of the triple option, I thought it might be useful to start providing some insight into the system. However, why let a two-bit hack like me try and explain things? With that in mind, I made contact with Coach Steve Smith, a guy who has coaches the multiple option, studies the multiple option and is a believer in the multiple option. He's so much of a follower, that he has his own website - called "The Multiple Option Offense" at

Coach Smith agreed to do a Q&A with the GT Sports Blog and provide some insight into the triple option and share some thoughts on Paul Johnson and what we might expect on the flats. With that in mind, let's go to the questions:

First, tell us a little bit about your background.

Coach Smith: I’ve been a high school football coach for 15 years and have become something of a minor “option guru” on the Net since starting back in 2004. I started it as a resource to become a better option coach myself and to share what I learned with other coaches. Somewhere along the way I started answering more questions than I asked… funny how it worked out. I’m just glad I started a resource where folks can go to learn more about the option.

BTW, One of the early adopters and creative forces in option football back in the day was Homer Rice at Fort Thomas Highlands, Kentucky. I believe he retired as Athletic Director at G.T. only a few years ago. I know this because he married a lady from my home town of Middlesboro… and two of the most successful head coaches at Middlesboro, Chalk Stapleton and Ken Roark both ran Rice’s Veer Option. Coach Stapleton was and is good friends with Carson Newman’s head coach, Ken Sparks, who got a few National Championship rings while running the Veer option… It really is a small world after all.

What are the high level basics of option offenses? What are the advantages? Disadvantages? Misconceptions?

Here are a few general advantages of running the option. There was a really great post concerning this over in the Forums at the Flexbone Association site ( and I’m borrowing heavily from it below.

Advantages of the Option

• Reduces the need for a dominant offensive line (O-linemen are blocking low and fast playside or releasing to screen linebackers- one on one blocks aren’t needed as much as in other schemes.) Also, since the quarterback's reads eliminate defenders, there are fewer defenders to block. (ps. You don’t have to recruit traditional D-I talent to run this offense – although it wouldn’t hurt)
• Enables a physically inferior team to control the ball by running it, thus giving its defense more time to rest while wearing down the rival defense. Option teams are often great 4th quarter teams.
• Is adaptable to the team's personnel (A running QB will love it and a passing QB gets simpler coverages to throw at due to the defense having to play the option)
• Forces the defense to play assignment football (the Dline must play with some control which also slows the pass rush, blitzes become much more of a risk, etc)
• Reduces the number of coverages that the secondary can use and forces the secondary to get involved with the run.
• Is a goal-line to goal-line attack that requires no special red-zone or goal-line plays.
• Uses a variety of perimeter blocking schemes, thus simplifying the task of making game adjustments.
• Opens the door to more big plays… because the defense must concentrate on stopping the option, passes, reverses, and other “trick” plays can really catch them off-guard.

Disadvantages of the Option

• It can sometimes be harder to showcase a singularly talented back in the option unless you go out of your way a bit to tune the offense and get the football in one back’s hands. The option is designed to “spread the wealth” with respect to carries… most see this as an advantage.
• Penalties can be harder for an option team to overcome.
• It requires more timing, discipline, and practice time to perfect than some other offenses.
• The option was designed to win football games, not “sell beer and hotdogs.” Fans expecting to see a “mini-Pro” game on Saturday might be disappointed.

Misconceptions about the Option

The option will get your quarterback “killed.” If your QB lives through Spring Ball (just kidding!), he’ll get adept at making guys miss at the last second just like any good running back does. Think of it this way; put your QB in the shotgun 40 plays a game while those defensive ends pin their ears back and he’ll take a lot more blind-side shots. Pick your poison.
The option is easy for D-1 defenses to stop. Hmmm… really? Vintage Air Force and more recent Navy teams have put the points up on some decent opponents. Besides, if it were so easy, why aren’t more option teams scheduled to be “Homecoming patsies” for the big schools?
Good recruits won’t go where they run the option. True, some blue chip QBs don’t like getting that uniform dirty, but then you have those guys like Tebow at Florida who don’t seem to mind. You should also remember the option is designed for smaller, faster offensive linemen… it lets you recruit smaller, faster O-linemen that the D-I schools mostly overlook. And it won’t effect the defensive recruiting either way.

Can you help fans understand some of the different terminology? Spread offense, triple option, multiple option, veer, run-and-shoot, etc.

Running a spread offense usually means you feature formations with two split ends and either receivers or wingbacks… or that there’s one back in the backfield with the QB instead of two or three. Spread can mean either the QB is under center or in the shotgun. The term Flexbone is pretty much the same thing, but I take it as emphasizing that the QB is under center and you’re looking to run more than pass.

Running the option (another link) is when the QB “reads” the charge of a particular defensive lineman (succinctly called the “read” in this case). Depending on what that lineman does, the QB may hand the football to a dive back up the middle, keep it himself off tackle, or pitch the ball to a trailing running back. The analogy of the 2-on-1 fast break in basketball is not bad. The defensive player can’t cover both at the same time.

Are you familiar with the offense Paul Johnson ran at Georgia Southern and Navy? Is there something Jacket fans should know about the system he put in place at those schools? How is Johnson's system different from others?

The main thing GT fans should consider when thinking about Coach Johnson is that programs win when he shows up to coach there. Look at Johnson’s time at Hawaii… also at Ga. Southern as coordinator and as head coach… and most recently his time at Navy as a HC. The man wins football games. I have faith in his ability to make a big difference in a couple or three years – IF he’s left alone and allowed to coach.

Johnson has made it clear that he customizes the offense to the talent he has on the field. There is some evidence of that from his days as OC at Hawaii, where they passed at a higher rate. However, what is your guess as to the type of offense he installs at GT? What are the critical factors in making that decision?

I have no crystal ball concerning Coach Johnson’s offensive system for his initial year at Ga. Tech. I would be surprised if it were a complete clone of Navy’s offense right off the bat. Johnson and his staff will have to make their schemes fit the athletes that have been recruited over the past few years. But you never know… a lot of high school coaches still run the option and I’d almost bet there’s at least one kid on the team that’s ran it before. Regardless, I would also be surprised if you didn’t see the option play a huge role in the offense right away.

Talk about the importance of the QB in the option system. What are the key traits you are looking for at QB?

The option QB is the focal point for the offense. It all starts with the QB and his ability to make correct reads during the option. A calm, level head is a must… really the same things you look for in a QB in any offense. Option QBs tend to be competitors who don’t mind “getting their hands dirty” running the football. Most good option QBs are respected on the team because they are willing to take a lick or two and be physical and athletic in the process of winning. But things really get cooking when you get a kid that has the system down well enough to check-off at the line of scrimmage and hit the defense where it’s weakest. I honestly think that once a QB is confident in his ability to make option reads (pull and pitch stuff), a lot of the pressure is off. The option spreads the runs around the backfield and passing becomes more a situation of opportunity rather than necessity. I’d say an option QB has less pressure than a run and shoot QB who knows the team’s fortunes ride heavily on his throwing arm.

What role do the wide receivers typically play in the option? With the popular wide receivers these days being 6'4" big guys (like GT's former star Calvin Johnson), do typical option offenses get these type guys? What do you think are the ideal traits of a WR in this system?

The main thing the option gives them is predictable coverages – and the option almost assuredly eliminates the defense’s ability to double-cover any one receiver. I personally think that the option has allowed the teams I’ve coached to have a very explosive passing games. I’m not talking 20 completions a game but more like 6-12 completions with 3 being genuine big plays that went for big yardage. Think quality and not quantity. You aren’t likely to see an option team make a living off short passes thrown in the flat. But you are likely to see long balls like a backside Post, or a playside Fade or Wheel route go all the way for a score. The defensive coordinator must use his DBs as run support and it really puts them in a bind. I really hate that for ‘em.

Talk about the difference in play from the offensive line when comparing the option to a traditional pro-set.

The Option is designed for smaller, faster, and more agile offensive linemen… most of the blocks are low and quick since the running game is north-and-south and hits fast. You can get “more with less” concerning size and strength. The main requirement for the option lineman is quickness off the ball and a nasty disposition. Pass protection is much simpler since it’s usually either play action or turnback protection. In the first case, the defense has to stay under control and not just come sprinting up the field for fear of being “read” or “trapped.” In the latter, the O-lineman has the angle to begin with and thus an advantage.

I have read many comments that Georgia Tech is going to be watched closely next season by writers, fans and "experts" to judge the success of the triple option at the highest level - almost like some science experiment. What is a fair amount of time to judge the success of his system, considering he is starting over with a new team, new players and has to teach a brand new system? Will the fact that he will be playing more talented competition be a factor?

Coach Smith: I’ve already seen articles where the writer wasn’t wondering “if” G.T. was going to be successful but instead wondering just “how” successful they might be. No coach wants to “spot” the competition a season or two so I expect Johnson to get as much of his scheme in place as he possibly can. But most option teams –especially young and inexperienced ones- tend to start off slow but peak late. I expect some initial problems but think the team will begin clicking by mid-season. Barring any key injuries, I’d say the latter games of the season will be the ones to look at with regard to the future despite the strength of the opponent. The Yellow Jackets do have the ability to be 3-0 going into the Miami game. If they do, and confidence is high… then who knows what might happen. But I’m going to be cautious in Johnson’s first year and err on the conservative side and say a 4-6, 5-5, or 6-4 season is most likely. But if the players learn the system and most key players stay healthy… Well, let me say that I’d love to be eating my words as G.T. wins 8 games and heads to a bowl!

Johnson has said that he does not have a playbook. He basically runs only a handful of plays over and over, and may alter the formation instead. What advantages does this offer for players in the system?

Players go harder when they are sure of what they are doing and what their responsibilities are. They will have fewer blown alignments and fewer blown assignments in a simpler system. Also, the fewer plays you have, the more time you have to practice them to perfection. In this day of 20 hours of practice per week, Georgia Tech has the advantage with respect to the opponent’s defense. It has 3-4 days to prepare for G.T., probably the lone option team on the schedule.

It has been said that the triple option is a great equalizer in terms of reducing the impact of talent gaps between two teams. Johnson proved it at Navy, where he consistently held his own against more talented teams. So we know the option works in those situations. However, what happens when you get equal or greater talent running the option as your opposition? Does it further distance your team in terms of winning games, or is the advantage a lot smaller in this case? In other words, the multiple option can neutralize the disadvantage of inferior talent, but can it exploit the advantage of equal or better talent?

Better talent helps any offensive scheme you run; period. When you are significantly superior to your opponent, you just get to name your score.

There is a perception that recruiting into this system is a challenge, as high level future NFL caliber players don't think it prepares them for the NFL. Is there any truth to this? Obviously Johnson will have his first real access to bigtime Div IA talent. What should Jacket fans expect in terms of the types of recruits he will go after? Do you believe he will have success recruiting high level athletes into this system?

Remember Eric Crouch at Nebraska? He won the Heisman trophy in 2001. He wasn’t the best passer but I don’t think it lessened his ability to shred college defenses in the least. Yet how many pro teams wanted him as a QB? Not many. There are a lot of great running QBs in high school who every year who are forced to join D-I teams as receivers because their talents are largely ignored by college coaches eager to prove they can run what the pro coaches run. Every high school option QB in America now has a D-I school (other than a service academy) where he can now aspire to play. I honestly don’t think G.T. is going to hurt at the QB position. The biggest talent at wide receiver might look elsewhere, but G.T. will get plenty small, fast wideouts who will be very open due to the coverages they will see. Big-time tailbacks will most likely try other schools running the “I” or one-back sets, yet bruising fullbacks will see an opportunity to carry the football at G.T. Also look for Johnson to have success recruiting the utility-back type to play wingback/receiver. What you lose in one area you make up for in another. Georgia Tech recruiting will be fine.

How will option offense impact the Georgia Tech defense? What about the fact that they will not be practicing against a conventional offense during the week and will have to rely on the scout team more heavily? What about during gametime? Can the defense expect to stay on the field less because the offense will control the ball more?

If the option game is going well, then the G.T. defense can expect to be rested when it hits the field. It might also allow the defensive coordinator to gamble a little more. I don’t think the scout team situation will be much of a factor. No scout team in America is going to be as good either physically or execute as well as a D-I offense. Scout team plays are scripted and drawn out for the players… who most likely will have to emulate pass patterns and pass-pro drops. It will be far tougher for G.T.’s opponents to get a good option scout team ready when you consider the timing and practice involved. And they will have only 3-4 days to make it happen.

I hope I’ve made things a little clearer. And like G.T. fans everywhere, I’m really excited about the 2008 season.

Coach Steve Smith


Coach Smith, I just want to thank you for the interaction and insight into the Triple Option. It is great to have someone who has implemented these schemes share their insight. Hey, and the insight into Homer Rice was priceless and will be appreciated by Jacket fans!

You are welcome back anytime!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Trap Option

Note: Post updated on 12/10/07
Along with Inside Veer, Outside Veer, and many other option plays, the Trap (or Freeze) Option will be heard mentioned as well in hushed tones in darked doorways and back alleys across America.

Run the football?? Coach, are you crazy??

Unfortunately, the finer points of the Trap Option are hard to find in this modern age of Empty sets and Shotgun offenses. However, I was fortunate to learn some Trap Option this past year while coaching with Bobby Bennett. Coach Bennett was a G.A. at East Carolina in the late 80's when they were running the Trap Option. It is from installing the Trap and Trap Option part-way through this past football season at Suwannee, watching a video of game cuts from Coach Bennett's time at East Carolina, some vintage Miss. State Trap Option from the "I," and a borrowed copy of the excellent George DeLeone Syracuse Freeze Option clinic tape that I solidified my grasp on the theory of the Trap Option.

Trap Option High School Team In Tennessee On It's Way Winning State Title

Link to larger video

Almost every team runs some kind of inside trap. If you run the Wing-T, then you of course run it. So if you do happen to have the inside FB trap in your playbook, then you essentially have almost 50% of the Trap Option in already!

Most option teams have a call that lets the QB know that he's going to give the ball to the dive back - no matter what. Blocking this "called dive" is as varied as there are ways for football coaches to hide a receding hairline from the fans in the stands.

Some will base block it and others will still veer block it, but one thing is certain: the dive back is the one who is going to get the football. One bad thing about base blocking your dive might be the fact that you might be running the option precisely because you aren't a very good base blocking team! Of course, if you veer block it and the dive read pinches and takes the dive... well, that's no good, either. No, we need a way to use quick linemen and angle blocking to our advantage while still going with a predetermined give.

This is sounding more and more like we need to be looking at the blocking scheme for the inside Trap.

Vintage So. Miss. Trap Option

Link to larger video

Lets start with the backfield footwork. I'm not going to set this up with any particular offensive set. Stay with whatever backfield set you already use- you don't really have to change things around unless you just want to. If you have a set with a true fullback, like the "I" or Flex, or Wishbone then you are fine. And there are many teams running Midline very effectively from splitbacks.

So if you can already run Midline, then you have the backfield action needed for running the Trap Option series. If you have been afraid to install the Midline, here's a nice way to move in that direction without initially having your QB learn to make a dive read.

If you already have the Midline installed, then many of your existing coaching points will probably work pretty well with the Trap.

Note: Some may ask, "Why run both?" Well, I look at the Trap Option series as a way to get some option out of a QB that just hasn't "gotten it together" with the option. This might be a good series for a sophomore backup QB to run if he's suddenly thrown into a big game ("Just hand the ball off, Kid - it's the Trap! And stop looking like you've seen a ghost and swallowed your tongue!") You might also use it for a wide receiver that's your second-string QB and just doesn't get enough quality reps on Midline and Inside Veer. Survive the game with him running Trap/Trap Option... Then you've got the next week to get him more up to speed. - SS

The QB will clear the midline of the Center stepping back and gaining depth away from the LOS. Coach DeLeone, however, extoles the virtues of the long ride on both the Trap and Trap Option.

This is the point where I deviated somewhat from traditional thinking regarding the FB depth, type of mesh, etc. I had four days to install some semblance of the Navy offense this spring at my ill-fated non-job, and I wanted to make it as simple as possible. I like the point mesh and will not have one mesh for ISV and another mesh for Midline and Trap.

First, I decided that the point mesh was my mesh. I have my reasons and you are free to agree or disagree. What I needed to do was find out if it would work with the Veer, the Midline, and the Trap.

I based the FB depth from the 4 - yard HB depth that we had used at Middlesboro. Hey, go with what you know, right? However, I had the FB's adjust their depth a little depending on which play we were running.

On ISV, I had him think "I want my heels just an inch or two in front of the 4-yard mark." (Oh, and I put his aiming point as the crack of the psGuard instead of the outside foot. More on this in a later post.) On Midline I had him think, "I want my my toes right in the paint marking 4 yards." And on Trap/Trap Option, he was to think, "I want my toes a couple of inches behind the paint." In a nutshell - Midline = 4 yards, ISV = cheat up, and Trap = cheat back.

I honestly don't think it was enough for the defense to pick up on as I watched for any signs of recognition among the defensive players and coaches - and saw none.

Now to the mesh.

Somebody once said that consistency is "the hobgoblin of little minds." Well, consistency in your mesh (whatever type you choose) equates to improved ball security. Feel free to quote me - it will make me feel better.

Anyway, pointing the ball directly at the read isn't that difficult on ISV - whether or not you're in Split Backs or the "I" or the Flex. Now, the QB's first step isn't as far as it it is when running ISV from Splitbacks, but it's still up into the LOS and the ball still gets seated then extended.
Like I mentioned above, I cheated my FB in the Flex so it would hit as quickly as it would is Split Backs... not leaving the QB standing there poking the ball and whistling while waiting on the dive back to finally get there. It looked good and I was satisfied when our gives on ISV left defensive players "breaking their necks" as they realized the ball had been handed... and that they were definitely heading in the wrong direction.

Gotta love it when the dive breaks!

Now, how did the point mesh work when applied to Midline and Trap Option? The short answer is: it worked . But you're not entirely running the point mesh, either. Confused? Read on.

When you try running the Midline and Trap with the point mesh, don't go nuts because the ball isn't pointing directly at the defensive Tackle. Take a second to think about the QB's footwork and what's going on with the positioning of the football.

The QB must dropstep - clearing the midline of the Center, and gather. This leaves him oriented parallel to the LOS - not pointing into it like he would be running ISV. The ball still gets seated then extended... and the ball is still right out there directly in front of him like it would be if he were running ISV. It's his orientation with respect to the LOS that's different - and that's okay. His footwork has changed, but not how he seats the ball nor what he does with it afterward.

That doesn't mean that you're not going to have some challenges, however.

The QB might start tryiing to reach the ball back to the FB since he can now see him out of the corner of his eye (due to his being parallel and not into the LOS.) My only coaching point concerning this was for the QB on Midline and Trap/Trap Option was to concentrate on pointing the ball at the "tip of the read's nose" - instead of his center of mass like we do on ISV.
This seemed to work.

You "ride and decide" aficionados will be happy to here that I actually think a short ride is okay on the Trap Option. Of course, I tried to limit the ride to just the back hip of the QB to the front hip of the QB at it's greatest. So maybe there's hope for me in your eyes yet, lol! I've noticed that the "back hip to front hip" ride many times is the extent of the ride used by several of Navy's QBs, so I guess that's cool.

As far as the line play, just stick with your rules for inside trap. Some teams won't try and trap an "A-gapper" while others just say to hell with it - trap the first man past the center. It's probably best to be consistent to your existing rules and go with it.

Figure 1. Trap (no motion)

Figure 2. Trap Option (no motion)

Note that the blocking rules of the Trap/Trap-Option are pretty close to those of the Midline Triple. Both plays have the "Seal N' Wheel" block of the bsTackle... and the front side blocking is pretty similar. The Trap/Log block of the bsGuardis the main difference... other than that, it's pretty close. I believe this is why we were able to put in the Trap Option series in short order and be fairly successful with it - we had repped the heck out of Midline in the Spring And Fall.

Well, that's about it on Trap Option. Below are some diagrams showing how easy it is to make two plays look like a whole bunch. I've not even got into running it from Trips or from other offset formations.

Figure 3. Trap (with twirl motion)

Figure 4. Trap Option (with twirl motion)

Figure 5. Counter Trap (with twirl motion)

I'll probably have a short video of to go along with this post by the end of the week.

Coach Smith

ps. It feels good to be back on veersite.

Some Old Video

My first coaching job was in West Tennessee at Crockett County High School. I volunteered to do the Freshman team my first year in order to learn more and get experience calling plays. Below are some O cuts of the 6-2 '96 team and the 8-0 '98 team which later lost by a touchdown in the 3A championship game in 2000. The video below is from a tape I made to show for a meeting with prospective football players in the 8th grade. My goal was 35 players for the Freshman team. If we lost 10% a year due to transfers, jobs, girlfriends, rules violations, etc., that would still leave us with over 20 Seniors and around 25 Juniors (with a healthy sized Sophomore class, too) with which to field a varsity team. Not bad for 3A.

Note: Google Video is having problems (12/11/07). Hopefully the video will be back online soon. - sts
Crocket Freshman O Cuts '96 and '98

Link to larger video

One thing both teams had in common was a great work ethic. We had the majority of them lifting after school and they didn't just go through the motions. Inertia is a two-way street. Get them used to working early on and it becomes second nature. All things said, the '96 and '98 players were that rare breed that simply will do what you ask them to do with 100% focus and effort... what a great group of young men.

One thing I learned from my time doing Freshmen was that you need a bread and butter straight ahead running play, a bread and butter misdirection play off of that, and a couple of playaction passes to finish it off. I think I called it the "Nuclear Triad." What an idiot... Regardless, I had blundered onto something which I still hold fast to this very day. You need to know how to run your base plays against any front - period- before you start piling-on the supplementary stuff. The same goes for your defense and it's adjustments to various sets. Stick to that, and have a great kicking game, and you reduce your chances of making mistakes and giving your opponent the game on a silver platter. The '96 group ran off tackle iso, power sweep, FB dive, counter trap, playaction, and boot. All plays and rules were straight out of the high school playbook, too. I just kept the formations simple so the guys could help each other when they discusses what they did on each play. Our defense was the high school's base 53 cov 3 and we taught technique. If we called a blitz that season, I can't remember it. The '98 group was even more pared-down. We ran our power toss, counter tray, and playaction passes. We didn't hit a defense that could stop all three phases all season long. In fact, those guys game me the best complement as a coach that you could hope to get. After getting up 28-0 in the first quarter on a pretty good 4A team and watching them fold after that, my guys said that after the practice and prep the actual game was almost a let down. They knew everything to do from both an offensive and defense perspective.

Don't think I didn't walk away from that after game huddle with a big old grin on my face, either.

Coach Smith

Friday, December 07, 2007

Paul Johnson To Georgia Tech

I am sad for Navy, but I'm hopeful we will see some triple option in the ACC.  Congratulations Coach Johnson!




Tech to introduce Johnson as football coach
Navy coach will be unveiled Friday afternoon
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/07/07

Georgia Tech will introduce Paul Johnson as its next football coach at a press conference at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Johnson's timetable to take over the Georgia Tech program was not immediately known. Navy (8-4) is scheduled to play Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20.

Now that Johnson is Georgia Tech's head coach, what happens to Jon Tenuta, the Yellow Jackets' defensive coordinator? Tenuta has been serving as interim head coach since Gailey's firing on Nov. 26 and is currently preparing the team for the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 31 against Fresno State.

Contacted Friday morning, Tenuta would not speculate whether he will remain as Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator under Johnson.

"My job is to manage the football program and get our team ready to play Fresno State," Tenuta said. "I look forward to that because our players deserve every chance to succeed. I have made that commitment to them."

Johnson, who is 107-39 in 11 seasons as a head coach, won a pair of national championships at Georgia Southern in 1999 and 2000. He took over a Navy program that was 0-10 in 2001. He has won five straight Commander in Chief Trophies, which goes to the top school among the service academies. He is 11-1 in six seasons against Army and Air Force.

Johnson's decision to come to Georgia Tech will send a ripple throughout the coaching carousel. Johnson entertained strong offers from SMU and Duke, which are still looking for new coaches today.

Johnson was named Navy's 36th head coach on Dec. 9, 2001. The program had been 1-20 in the previous two seasons and Johnson was 2-10 in his first season in Annapolis. But over the past five seasons he is 43-19.

Johnson has been successful at Georgia Southern and Navy by running a version of the triple option offense. But over the years he has made it clear that if he landed a job at a BCS school, his offense would be more diversified. He spent eight seasons as the offensive coordinator at Hawaii (1987-94) before going to Navy as offensive coordinator (1995-96).

Johnson then took over at Georgia Southern where he was 62-10 with two Division I-AA national championships. He was on Erk Russell's original staff at Georgia Southern when the program was started in the early 1980s.

A native of Newland, N.C., Johnson has an undergraduate degree from Western Carolina and a Master's Degree from Appalachian State. He and his wife, Susan, have a daughter, Kaitlyn (14).

Find this article at:



Report: Johnson leaving Navy for Georgia Tech

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Navy coach Paul Johnson is set to become the next head football coach at Georgia Tech, according a report in the Atlanta- Journal Constitution.

Citing two anonymous sources close to the hiring process, the newspaper reported that Johnson has yet to finalize the deal by signing a contract.

Johnson, 50, would replace Chan Gailey, who was fired November 26 after a 7-5 season ended with his sixth consecutive loss to Georgia.

Johnson turned around the Navy program that suffered the worst two-year stretch in its 122-year history prior to his arrival, going 1-20 between the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

After a 2-10 mark in his first year, Johnson led the Midshipmen to a school- record five-straight bowl games and a school-record six consecutive wins over arch-rival Army. He finished 37-29 at Navy.

Prior to joining the Naval Academy, Johnson posted a 62-9 record in five seasons with the Georgia Southern Eagles.

Johnson won consecutive I-AA National Championships (1999 and 2000), five straight Southern Conference championships, and was also named Division I-AA National Coach of the Year four straight times (1997-2000).

12/07 14:59:00 ET

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I've Said It Before And I'll Say It Again... is one of the best football sites on the Web. For my money, his "News You Can Use" segment is the best reading I may do all day.

Below is an excerpt from comments mailed to him from coaches across the country. His own analysis of the Navy/ND game is about as an outstanding explanation of making blocking adjustments in the spread option as you're likely to see anywhere. Props to Hugh and his great site,

*********** It was Notre Dame 28, Navy 28, with 45 seconds left. And even Notre Dame's NBC announcers up in the press box expressed mild criticism when Jolly Cholly, faced with a fourth-and-eight at the Navy 25, passed up the field goal and went for it.

Later Weis said something about the wind. What - your chances of making a fourth-and-eight were better than your chances of making a 42-yard field goal?

He might have tried a fake field goal, but he'd already tried that back in the first quarter, and it didn't work. Maybe that was because it was fourth and 15! WTF??? Fourth and 15, and he's faking it? Analyst Pat Haden did criticize that call. Come to think of it, the director probably told Haden that there'd be no more criticism of Coach Weis, which would account for the mildness of his comment on Weis' fourth-quarter idiocy.

*********** Give Pat Haden credit. He's essentially on the ND payroll as an announcer on NBC, the Official Notre Dame Mouthpiece, but he can still be fair. When Notre Dame's final incompletion - and an apparent Navy win - was instead ruled pass interference against Navy, giving ND a do-over, the camera showed us a very unhappy Paul Johnson, and Haden commented, "I think he has a right to be upset."

*********** After looking at the video of the Navy-Notre Dame game... What a job Paul Johnson did, closing down into a Double-Slot so that his nasty-split ends could crack down on ND's fast-flowing inside LBers. And Notre Dame "reacted" by not reacting at all - moving their corners in, of course, but keeping them at 6 yards depth and their safeties at seven. After Navy ate their lunch a few times with toss sweeps and option pitches, they got smart and moved them up. And then, to win the game, Johnson hit them with the wingback on a wheel!

But then, nobody said Charlie Weis was a defensive genius. He is, as we all know (and as Notre Dame's stellar offensive performance has borne out this year), an offensive genius. (By the way, anybody know how New England's doing without him?)

One of the beauties of running the same offense as long as Navy's Paul Johnson has is that he's seen just about anything a defense can do to him, and he's got answers. It took him oh, maybe two plays to recognize what Notre Dame was doing Saturday, and make the necessary adjustments.

With a bye week to prepare for Navy, here's the scheme that ND came up with to defense Navy's triple option:

Slanting Def tackle has dive (D), outside LBer has QB (Q) and inside LBer has pitch (P). The first time Navy ran the play, the inside LBer was flowing so fast to the outside that the playside tackle (*) couldn't get to him, and the pitch man was tackled for a loss. On the next play, Navy turned the ball over.

And the very next offensive series, Navy came out in what we would call "Slot" or "Double Slot", with their ends in a "nasty split" of 3-5 yards. Notre Dame made no adjustment, other than to move their corners in (but still at 6 yards' depth). They left their OLBs in the "nasty" gap, vulnerable to a down block by the Navy ends.

Now, the man responsible for the pitch, the fast-flowing inside LBer, was blocked by the Navy end. The Navy tackle now released upfield for the safety, whom (this being NCAA rules) he was able to block at the knees. And the playside wingback, after a very slight pause - just long enough to freeze the OLBer so the tackle could pull across his face, arc-blocked on the corner.

For Navy: Problem solved. For ND: Two weeks of preparation out the window.

Haw, haw, haw! This, a flexbone version of an outside veer, was my favorite, because Navy proved once again that two "average," undersized Navy linemen working together can knock the ass off a Notre Dame blue-chipper. Knowing that the Notre Dame DT would be slanting to stuff the fullback dive, the Navy playside guard and tackle put the wood to him with a classic double-team. They mashed the Notre Dame tackles, actually hitting them with their shoulder pads (if you can believe that anyone in this modern age would still use such outmoded tactics), and driving them back into the paths of the scraping playside LBers. Hmmm. Anybody know anyone else who preaches doing that with their double-teams?

The QB appeared to read the unblocked OLB, who had been trained not to leave his main responsibility - the QB. So the QB's read was always "give." The playside corner, who as the game went on began sneaking closer to the line, was no factor, either, because he had to come up to take the pitch.

One of the reasons people hate to play Navy is that Navy blocks low. Legal, but low. Not very enjoyable for defensive linemen used to standing up and dancing with opponents on passing teams. As an example of what Notre Dame's nose man had to deal with on plays going to his left (Navy's right), here are three different techniques he had to face. On the left, the center fires low to playside and the guard comes in second - not a chop block, because the first hit is low; in the middle, as part of the scoop technique, the center slips past the nose and up onto the backside backer, while the backside guard takes the nose man low. Again, not a chop block because the Navy center is making a bona fide effort to escape the nose and is not "engaging" him. Finally, the center reaches the nose with a high drive block, while the guard steps at the nose then fires up on the backer.

*********** The irony of the Navy win over ND was that Navy's final touchdown - and winning two-point conversion - both came on passes. And both were to Reggie Campbell, who at 5-6, 160 pounds is way too small to play major college football. Except in Paul Johnson's offense.
-- Excerpt from

Video Clips Almost Restored

I've gotten emails (for too long a time, lol) that the links to the video clips in some of my earlier posts are broken. Well, I've finally gotten most of the clips uploaded to Google Video and I'll be updating those links during the next week. I'm also looking to get a new article up on the art of play calling in an option offense (hint: it's so easy you Run-and-Shoot guys will be green with envy!)

Take care,

Coach Smith

Skills To Teach Your Players (installment 1)

I've said in past posts how glad I am to have had the opportunity to have learned the Veer at Middlesboro High School under Head Coach Ken Roark. Middlesboro is the 10th winningest program in the state of Kentucky and Coach Roark is it's winningest coach. But today this post isn't about X's and O's... we'll have time for that later God willing. No, today I want to talk about something else.

I read a syndicated column in our local paper a couple of days ago that really touched me. (I've attached a copy of it at the end of this post as well as links to the site where the column originates.) It deals with some football players in Ohio helping a classmate with a terminal illness become a part of their team.

When I read it, it hit me that Coach Roark has always made his program available to special needs students. Actually, he does a lot more than make his program available, he goes out of his way to see to it that kids with disabilities know they are welcome. And I bet if you called him up and asked him right now about it, he wouldn't know what the heck you were talking about. Kenny is one of those people in life that can do more good accidentally than most folks can do when they set out to do it. It's the damnedest thing.
Anyway, while most are content to help with the logistics as a manager, I know we've had a few guys to dress out and warm up with the team. Both said that they would be happy just being on the sidelines in their uniforms helping the team stay pumped-up and motivated... and, man, did they ever! But I can remember many practices during water breaks where our regular ed player and our special ed players would run pass patterns and just be kids together. I can't think of one instance where an unkind word was said by anybody. And we're not talking kids from upper-crust elite families here, folks. On a scale from 1 to 10 our local economy might rank somewhere around a -25 since the big mines shut down... there are 5 assisted living apartment complexes in the city limits and as many Dollar Stores as well. Most of our players are tobacco chewing (off campus, of course), pickup truck driving kids raised in blue collar homes by 2 parents (if they're lucky) who, pardon my French, work their asses off just to make ends meet. But I'll tell your this about those kids, you won't find one of them that would sit still and let one of our special ed guys get picked on in a class or in the cafeteria.

So I'm going to take a moment and give you some props, Kenny. I think you're doing a good thing and making a positive difference in young men's lives. You get my first ever Good Egg Award for the month of December 2007.

Think about the lessons you teach your players, gentlemen. We have a golden opportunity to teach some great lessons to some outstanding young men. I challenge you not to let one opportunity slip by.

Coach Smith




By Daniel J. Vance

Payton Printz and Andrew Teets became friends, and soon an entire Ohio high school football team and school district joined their friendship. This is a heartland America story worthy of becoming a Hollywood movie.

They both live near Urbana, Ohio, where the Urbana Citizen publishes this column.

The pair first met in 2000 when Teets was in sixth grade and Printz was starting as a junior high health and physical education teacher. “After exiting the (accessible) school bus, Andrew would need help getting out of his wheelchair so he could walk to and from classes,” said 44-year-old Printz in a telephone interview. “It took two teachers to lift him out of the wheelchair, one on each side. He had students carrying his books for him.”

Teets has muscular dystrophy, and from 2000 on he was losing a little more muscle function each year. For example, he could walk nearly all school day in sixth grade, but now he is able to walk only the first three class periods before tiring and having to use his electric wheelchair. Currently, Printz has the responsibility of helping Teets out of his wheelchair and assisting with his personal needs.

Printz is also coach of the Triad High football team. When Teets was a freshman, the team, after learning of his interest in football, asked as a group if there was any way their popular classmate could earn a varsity letter.

The coach found a way and the team pitched in to buy their classmate an expensive letter jacket. To earn his varsity letter this year he attended a four-day football training camp, where Triad High players voluntarily assisted with his personal needs. “They were washing him head to toe,” said Printz. “My heart fell out of my chest. His teammates were doing this and not complaining. Talk about selfless.”

This school year Printz again is helping his friend off the bus. “And my day is incomplete unless I see him,” he said. “We have great rapport. He is unbelievable. He has a smile on his face every day.”

After the last game of 2006, Printz said if possible he would give Teets the opportunity to score a rushing touchdown in a real game during the 2007 season. What happened then would fill an Ohio town with pride and tears.

[Part one of two columns. Read next week.]

For more, see [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod,]

If you know about a player or coach deserving an "attaboy" or "attagirl," please send me an email at