with you some thoughts and ideas from our philosophy on option football at Furman U n i v e r s i t y. Everything we implement at Furman on offense has come from the combination of philosophies from former head coaches; Art Baker, Dick Sheridan, Jimmy Satterfield, Bobby Johnson and cur- rent head coach, Bobby Lamb. These men have developed an offensive system com- bined with a tough defensive mentality that has enabled us to win an average of 8.2 games per season since 1978 as well as a national championship (1988), two appear- ances in the finals (1985 and 2001), 11 Southern Conference championships and 11 playoff appearances. Along the way we have been blessed to have players with tremendous ability and outstanding charac- ter and intelligence who have believed in our system and worked very hard to exe- cute it in practice and on game day. The combination of a consistent system, stabil- ity in our coaching staff, and top-notch players has brought a winning tradition to the Furman University football program. The purpose of this article is to share the way in which option football has played a part in that success.
We have always believed that an option package is a great equalizer for an offen- sive team that may not be as talented as the defensive unit they are facing; the option can also help to compensate for the lack of \u201cdifference-makers\u201d in key offensive positions. We are convinced a team does not have to have a great running quarter- back, a dominating offensive line, gifted runningbacks and outstanding receivers to successfully run option football. However, we still acknowledge that skill at those posi- tions helps tremendously! Our foundational principle is that we will find a way to run the option so that our opponent must prepare for it. We have all spent too much of our game-planning time asking the question, \u201cWhat if they do that?\u201d We believe the option package causes defensive coaches to ask that question more and demands more discipline and time in the opponents\u2019 practice schedule than they would prefer. It is also a great pressure reducer for us offensively in that it can be an excellent \u201cblitz-buster.\u201d We maintain that great blitz- ing defenses are slowed down somewhat when the option has to be a part of every game plan. For the times when our players are better than most of our opponents, most schemes will work. However, when all
things are equal, or maybe even tipped in our opponent\u2019s favor, the option package can make the difference.
As offenses have evolved over the years, the definition of option football has changed as well. Our description of options at Furman have been altered by many fac- tors. When I first came to Furman as a player in the late 1970s, options were defined here as the triple from an I forma- tion versus a shade 50 defense and an occasional counter option from the same formation. As defenses became more mul- tiple, we adapted by implementing the belly G/Zone series, midline read, midline trap, counter trap and lead option. All of these schemes were used from a basic I forma- tion. As we have evolved offensively and felt the need to add more balance in our passing game, we faced the age-old dilem- ma of having too much in our total pack- age. Consequently, we have concentrated on more double option schemes than triple since the triple takes up more practice time to execute. We have also added a basic lead option scheme from a one-back set as well to give us option capabilities from our predominantly pass-oriented sets.
As we game plan against the defenses we face each week, we have to answer the question of how to incorporate our option package versus the looks we are facing. In implementing our plan, we make the assumption, like most option teams, that our players can make adjustments and communicate with each other at the line of scrimmage. In finding a way to run the option, it is critical that a quarterback can keep his team in the right play and that the offensive line can process information quickly. We have been fortunate to have had intelligent players capable of assimilat- ing a great deal of information which, in turn, has allowed us to execute many dif- ferent schemes against a variety of defen- sive schemes. Therefore, the balance of this article will deal with some of the differ- ent types of option schemes we like to run versus the defensive alignments we prefer to run them against.
Even though we do not run the triple option as much now as in previous years, our option package at Furman began with the triple and so I will begin with it too. If we face a defensive team that gives us a shade nose guard and a five technique on the nub side, we like to triple. Our scheme
may vary depending on the ability of our center to block the nose guard or our effec- tiveness in capturing the playside line- backer. If the center can reach the nose guard by himself, we could call a G veer scheme. (Diagram 1) If the center needs help on the nose guard, we could call a seal veer scheme. (Diagram 2) The seal scheme can only be executed if the play- side tackle can capture the playside line- backer. If the five technique slants inside, the playside tackle should carry him down, and the fullback should slide outside to cut the playside linebacker. On both schemes, the quarterback will read the five technique and pitch off the underneath outside defender (UOD). The execution of these schemes takes considerable practice time which has led us to steer away from it. However, the lure of the triple may bring us back to it in the future.
The belly G and belly zone schemes give us two different double option schemes that we believe can put us on the corner quickly and really stretch defenses. They also have been a great response to blitzing schemes when no other runs have worked. The G scheme can be run to a tight end or nub side against a variety of defensive fronts, but we have liked it best when run to a tight end versus the 4-3. (Diagram 3) The key to the play for us has been to capture/seal the middle linebacker. The tight end must get a good rip inside and up field to seal the middle linebacker. The playside guard must get us around the edge by cutting the nine technique or wrap- ping around to help on the middle line-
backer. The fullback will make a token fake and work around to block the strong safety or if we add a \u201ccrack\u201d call, he kicks out the corner, and the Z cracks the strong safety. The quarterback will reverse out, token fake the belly to the fullback and pitch off the Sam linebacker. Our nub side G has been best from twins pro-set (Diagram 4) when we see a two-deep shell coverage. The frontside guard now has a tighter G/wrap, and the frontside tackle will seal inside. The fullback will now be responsible for the playside linebacker, and the frontside receivers block the strong safety and corner. The belly zone option has been our best option when we face eight man fronts and outside blitzes. This option has also been best toward a tight end (Diagram 5). The zone option requires that the tight end and frontside tackle work together to reach/seal the rush end (six or seven tech- nique) and the playside Sam linebacker. The center and frontside guard will reach/seal the three technique and back- side linebacker. The fullback will token fake and work around to cut the linebacker level to the free safety. The quarterback and tail- back pitch relationship stays constant in all G/zone options.
As we began to see a slant 50 defense, that created some unique challenges to options. Our focus turned to a midline trap option. Our guards were already adept at pulling and sealing or wrapping on a line- backer in our belly G series, so the midline trap scheme was a fairly easy transition for them. If we face a slant Y (Diagram 6) then the frontside tackle will seal the playside Sam linebacker and the frontside guard and center will double team the nose guard to back middle linebacker. The backside tackle will funnel and hinge to prevent any quick penetration. The tight end will arc and kick contain. The quarterback will drop step with his backside foot, pull his shoulders back and step deep to mesh with the full- back, fake and pitch off of the end. Our full- back will pause to allow the guard to clear and stay on a center midline through the ball and slide playside to cut the first defender he sees. If we face a slant X (Diagram 7) then all the paths stay the same and the frontside tackle must stop penetration, and the back guard will wrap to the Sam linebacker. We will hope to get the pitch to the tailback and get him down hill in the alley off the tight end\u2019s block.
If we are facing a weak eagle defense, our thinking turns to a lead option scheme to the nub side (Diagram 8). The frontside tackle has the key block in that he must cut or seal the playside linebacker and give the guard slight help on the three technique. The center will step playside and up to the back linebacker, and our backside will cut off. The fullback will widen and kick out
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