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ithica's triple i

ithica's triple i

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Published by Michael Schearer

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Published by: Michael Schearer on Nov 16, 2008
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The Ithaca I has involved over three

years of running the true triple option offense. To understand why the I is used exclusively at present requires one to know what has transpired in the past.

The first year, we ran the wishbone. However, two-thirds of the time we flankered people and ended up with a bro- ken wishbone. The reasoning behind this was that we faced a number of teams that, in our judgment, out-manned us. Therefore we spread our sets in order to give us a better opportunity to throw. The spread also limits the defense in the various ways that they can cover the option. We ran our total option game from all sets. The broken wishbone created a problem of not being able to run some of our plays because of the position of the deep back.

The second year the full wishbone was retained, but when a spread offense was used, we employed an I rather than the broken wishbone. This eliminated some of the problems we had in running our deep back. Yet we felt there was some conflict in presenting and operating from an I and wishbone combination. We still used the spread offense two-thirds of the time.

The third year, we used only the I, because of simplicity, personnel, and past statistics. The wishbone was totally elimi- nated. The closest approach to the wish- bone is with the power I sets. The spread offense is still employed, but it was used closer to one-half the time. An attempt is made to run every play from any set. The set must not indicate what plays will be run from the set.

Why the I?

The I insures us that we will always have the back we want in the deep position and he is a threat in either direction. With limited personnel, it becomes imperative that we are able to get the ball to the back we want to use at all times. The wishbone did not always afford this opportunity.

Obviously, there are backs who do one thing better than others, or backs in one backfield who have different capabilities in a particular phase of the game. Therefore, to use this potential, we move either one of our runningbacks into the deep spot. Our basic deep man is identified as our A back. The flanker back is identified as the Z back. We call \u201cZebra\u201d to get the Z back deep. This also gives us added depth at the deep spot with a proven player, in the event that our A backs become immobilized, or vice-

versa. This switch of position must not indi- cate the plays to be used, and thus each man must have the overall capabilities to run the entire offense from each position. Yet the player \u2019s strengths will be assessed and we will use him most where he is strongest. Three basic abilities of the men must be recognized. They are the type of running ability, the type of blocking ability and the receiving ability.

The fullback influences us to use the I more than any other factor. The splitback veer was carefully considered but eliminated. Our fullbacks have been some of our better athletes and yet they did not have the speed necessary to be outstanding pitch men. T h e i r greatest strengths were quickness and run- ning ability at the line of scrimmage.

Option Advantages of the I

The I formation has merit on the base play because of the line-up positions. The pitch man is now closer to the corner than he would be in a wishbone formation. Assuming that the players all take a 36- inch stance, the deep back\u2019s near foot is then 54 inches closer to the corner. This one full stride gives us an additional advan- tage in getting to the corner, and of course, in a wider position to receive the pitch. However, to compensate against the possi- bility of the deep man outrunning the pitch, we have deepened him slightly to a posi- tion of 18 feet from the ball.

The fullback is the same as in the wish- bone. Also of great consideration is the fact that we feel the fullback in his conventional position enables the quarterback to make a more positive and easier read.

The up back in the power sets splits the guard\u2019s outside leg. Their vertical position will change, but basically it is 14 to 15 feet from the ball. So, here, too, our lead back is wider and closer to the corner than the same position in the wishbone. The rela- tionship between the lead blocker and the pitch man has been maintained with this lineup.

I Formations and Procedures

Reasons were offered at an earlier point about using a power I or spread I. However, multiple I sets are employed. We believe in multiple sets as long as we do not lose sight of our theory of simplicity. We feel that mul- tiple sets affect defensive preparation and they also allow us the ability to exert maxi- mum pressures on a defense.

The sets used at Ithaca are as follows:
AFCA Sum m er M anual
2 0 0 0
Jim Butterfield
Head Coach
Ithaca College
Ithaca, N.Y.
Ithaca\u2019s Triple I

Also of consideration at this point is the fact that the offense is flip-flopped. Therefore instead of having six sets, there are now 12. Six right and six left. All players flip-flop except the center, quarterback, full- back, and tailback. The directional call always refers to the tight end side. This system is used for several reasons. It allows a better placement of offensive line- men so that our team has a power side and a quick side. It affords a better opportunity to match the offensive players against the defensive players we wish to match them against. It also means a play right becomes the same play left when the offense is flipped from right to left. Or in other words, we double the plays we run with no added play learning or teaching.

Every formation may be changed by calling \u201copen.\u201d The tight end then splits out eight to 15 yards from his original spot. The width of the split may be pre-determined for various reasons, but we are generally look- ing for maximum yardage. The widest max- imum split for us is the distance at which the quarterback can deliver the ball with full velocity on a pass.

On an \u201copen\u201d call, any other receiver stays five yards wider than the tight end. If 15 yards is our maximum, the end then would be restricted to a 10-yard split. The end is kept inside the flanker in order to better utilize his blocking talents.

The split end side follows the same rationale as the tight end side, except now the split end must be told when not to split. This is done by calling \u201ctight.\u201d

Through the use of \u201copen\u201d and \u201ctight,\u201d we achieve different looks on either side. But foremost is the possibility of placing players together in the manner that we think is going to best serve the situation at hand.

Shifting and Motion

In establishing a total I attack, we want- ed to maintain the lead blocker principle that is offered in the wishbone. We do this by using our power I formations. We were greatly concerned about these sets giving

the opposition positive keys on where we were going to run. Something had to be done to help eliminate tendencies. We do three things to help alleviate this problem.

First, we scout ourselves weekly and therefore, we have a general idea what the opposition has seen us do. We keep a com- posite of these scouting reports through the season so that at any time we are able to rec- ognize tendencies building. The scouting report shows plays from formations, total hit charts, down and distance charts, hash mark charts, and plays versus each opponent.

Secondly, we quick shift prior to the run- ning of a play. It is important that we do not do this every time and that the shifting back fully understands when he can shift. He may shift when it has no effect on the play, but at times we have him shift when he is the key to the play. He shifts about once every three or four plays when he is in the power set. The quarterback may tell him to shift if he anticipates an over-shift. The back may shift any time by lining up oppo- site the quarterback\u2019s formation call. It is his responsibility to shift on time for we do not want the quarterback concerned with this detail. Most of the shifting is done on long count plays, but occasionally we shift on a quick count. Because we do run everything in our offense when one back is flankered, we feel capable of shifting a man and then hitting anywhere with confidence.

Thirdly, we motion. We may even com- bine the shift and the motion. This takes tim- ing, but here again, we do not want the quar- terback concerned with this detail. The back must be in the formation called at the right time. The quarterback then starts motion with a heel lift. We will definitely pick up motion and run the opposite way. We motion any length from any set. Most of it by far is quick motion from the power sets and we are

attempting to get the motion man just behind and one-half stride past the fullback. The most important part of the motion is to get the lead blocker in position and to maintain the relationship between him and the pitch man. If this distance is over extended on the base p l a y, the motion becomes ineff e c t i v e .

Teaching the Fundamental Recognition

Because of the many articles written on the techniques of the players involved in running the triple attack, we will not belabor those points. We do not do anything that is radically d i fferent in running the plays. We have initiat- ed some of our own theories and with that comes some slightly different methods.

In teaching the true triple, the coach must be initially overbearing on his players. He must be a perfectionist. He has to insist that all rules of body, steps, targets, and speed are closely followed.

Our practice schedule involves three basic plays \u2014 the true triple, the loaded, and the counter option. We pre-determine every part of the true triple. However, our practice sessions are limited largely to the true play itself. All of these plays are run to each side of our formations and therefore we practice them towards the split end, tight end, wingback, slot back, and twin.

As practice starts in the fall, we obvious- ly spend a large segment of time in the pre- sentation and practice for this very difficult play. We want to present every minute detail and have it clearly understood. We break down each component of the play and present it as simply and logically as possible. We tell the quarterback what will happen to him and limit it to that one event until he understands it thoroughly. We then move on to another problem he will face. Our thesis is that in this way, the quarter- back will have been presented each defen-

AFCA Sum m er M anual
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Diagr am 1
Jim Butterfield at a Glance
Experience:Assistant Coach, University of Maine, 1956-59;
Assistant Coach, Colgate University, 1960-66; Head Coach,
Ithaca College, 1967-93 (206-71-1)

Career Head Coaching Record:206-71-1
NCAA Division III Playoff Record:21-8
National Championships:Division III, 1979, 1988, 1991

Honors:1988, 19991 AFCA National Coach of the Year; 1974, 1978, 1979, 80 AFCA
District Coach of the Year; 1984, 1985, 1986 AFCA Regional Coach of the Year; 1997
College Football Hall of Fame inductee

sive possibility before he sees it in actual scrimmage. The defense will be definitely restricted to only those coverages that have been practiced as we get into full cor- ner or team play. Definitely, the quarterback is not to be fooled by anything for which he has not been prepared. We want him to attain all the confidence he can muster.

The following diagrams (Diagrams 3-14) represent the progression of recognition drills as presented to the backs in learning the triple.

Basic Blocking Drill

After the recognition drills have been initi- ated and run continually in our first three days of practice, the basic blocking drill is present- ed. In the first three days of no pads, we will be blocking lightly versus air dummies. But with pads comes the intensive blocking drills. In any drills involving the triple, a center must be used. This assures that the timing is cor- rect. The center blocks a dummy on him every other time and the centers are rotated to this drill so that they all get equal time.

Below is a diagram of our basic blocking
Progression of Teaching
Correct alignment, steps and arm exten-
sion. Ball to mid-section. Second step.
All give, all backs. Emphasis on steps.
Flash fingers. All backs and quarter-
back\u2019s read and tell number of fingers.
Coach tells quarterback he will stand still.
Coach tells quarterback he is stepping
Coach stands still or steps outside.
Quarterback must report what was done.
Coach stunts down, quarterback keeps
ball attack corner and must keep.
True fullback read. Corner comes
across quarterback keeps.
True fullback read. Corner widens.
Quarterback keeps.
True fullback read. Corner takes quar-
terback. Quarterback pitches.
True fullback read. Corner stunts.
Quarterback pitches.
AFCA Sum m er M anual
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Diagr am 2
Diagr am 3
Diagr am 4
Diagr am 5
Diagr am 6
Diagr am 7
Diagr am 8
Diagr am 9
Diagram 10

Diagram 11 Diagram 12 Diagram 13

Diagram 14

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