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Football Coaches Association for allowing us to be a part of the AFCA Summer Manual. It is a great honor to be associated with such a fine organization. We have grown considerably as a team and a coaching staff from the many articles featured in the AFCA manuals. In 1980, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play for Pat Dye at the University of Wyoming. Al Kincaid was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys and the next year took over as head coach. These great coaches and their triple option attacks have had an influence on me ever since then. I believe in and have enjoyed using the triple option both as a player and a coach. It is as a coach that I have grown to truly appreciate the capabilities of option offense. While coaching at the high school level I spent a lot of time with the Air Force Academy staff. Coach Ken Hatfield and especially Coach Fisher DeBerry and their staffs’ philosophies have been instrumental in developing our option attack. At Mesa State we have improved every year with the option game. In my first season in 1998 we finished the season 5-6, which was the most wins in five years. In 1999 we finished 6-5, which was the first winning season since 1990. The offense finished seventh in the nation in rushing offense. The 2000 season was even better and included a 10-3 finish along with a conference championship and the first conference win in the Division II playoffs. Offensively we finished fourth in the nation in rushing offense and ninth in the nation in total offense. The credit belongs to the players who have worked hard every day and believed in the system and what we are trying to accomplish. We are continuing to model our program after the AFA and especially try to instill the discipline and teamwork that they have. Darin Robidoux, Pete Cyphers, and I coordinate the offensive package together. We have nine different option series, three of which we will discuss in this article. The three phases, which will be discussed, are the inside veer, counter lead, and lead option series. All phases of our offense hinge off of the option game. Our offensive philosophy is as follows: 1. No less than four yards a play. 2. 100 percent ball security
3. Win time of possession. 4. Finish The base of our offensive attack begins with the inside veer. The option play has designed alternatives (fullback-dive, quarterback-keep, halfback-pitch) that enable the offense to threaten across a broad front. The option play is best when it uses the entire width of the field. The synchronized reaction of the play to defensive movement destroys team recognition and makes the defense play responsibilities rather than team pursuit. Our strategy changes responsibilities by using alternate plays, blocking schemes, and formations that control defensive movement. The option alternatives must be synchronized so that maximum separation can be obtained. The option premise is that no one defender can defend two threats. The pivot point of the play is the course of the fullback, or what we call the crease. The area from the crease to the sideline is the potential width of the play or what we call the perimeter. We try to attack this area with speed and create a bad angle for the defense. Because the same play can be run to both sides, the inside veer requires five defenders in the perimeter to both sides to stop the play. This creates a numbers advantage that the defense can only neutralize by getting an extra man in the perimeter. The philosophy of the triple option is to try to deceive the opponent as well as have the ability to let three different people carry the ball. It also allows the offense the freedom to not block a dominating defensive player. We emphasize this point because we do not have the luxury to recruit just any player. We have to try to get players that want to come to Mesa State that fit our system and team approach. There are two basic fronts you can have, an eight-man front and a seven-man front. The eight-man front will most likely consist of no middle linebacker and no nose guard. The seven-man front will usually have a middle linebacker and no nose guard or a nose guard and no middle linebacker. (Diagram 1A & 1B). The read key is the first man outside the offensive guard, or outside the B gap. The read key will always be on the line of scrimmage, and he is the defender who is to be optioned for the dive aspect of the offense. Usually four things can happen on the read area:
Run with the Mavericks: Mesa State’s Option Attack
Joe Ramunno Head Coach Mesa State College Grand Junction, Colo.
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
1. Mesh Charge (Diagram 2) 2. Squat (Diagram 3) 3. Upfield (Diagram 4) 4. Q Stunt (Diagram 5)
the hand of the quarterback leave the stomach to know to take the ball. If the quarterback does not give the ball to the fullback, he will attack the inside leg of the pitch key, which is the next man outside the read key. The pitch key can be on or off of the line of scrimmage. The pitch key can do four things: 1. Sink (Diagram 6) 2. Slow Play (Diagram 7) 3. Upfield (Diagram 8) 4. Hot (Diagram 9)
Diagram 7 Diagram 3
Diagram 8 Diagram 4
defense horizontally, as well as take pressure off the quarterback. On this play we want to attack the perimeter and pitch off the corner. The success of the play depends on the block of the tackle. He must get his reach block for the play to be effective, or the defense can stretch the play to the sideline. The quarterback’s action is to reverse out and press the outside. We still want to attack the inside leg of the pitch key and make him commit. The pitch key can slow play or be hot. This makes it easy for the quarterback and allows him to be more aggressive. Diagram 12 will show the counter lead option against the eight-man front.
The quarterback wants to key the inside pad of the read key. The fullback will have his hand at six feet from the quarterback’s heels. He will take a six inch step at the guard, soft squeeze the football and feel
The following drawings will show how the inside veer is blocked against the seven and eight man fronts (Diagrams 10 & 11). The counter lead option is part of our double option series. This play is intended to get to the perimeter and stretch the
Our lead option is part of our double option series with full reach blocking up
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
front. The lead option can be run to either a tight end or split end side effectively. In this series we do not want the quarterback to carry the ball. We want to limit the hits the quarterback takes by getting the ball to the halfbacks. The pitch key is the end man on the line of scrimmage. The quarterback will drop step and attack downhill at the inside leg of the pitch key. The pitch key can sink, slow play, upfield, or be hot. We want him to make a decision and not stretch the play. The halfback will block the widest secondary defender. The fullback’s responsibility is to check for any leakage up front, then work to the outside for clean up (Diagram 13). If a defensive player walks up on the line of scrimmage outside the original pitch key, that player becomes the pitch key. The offensive line and running backs will adjust
their blocks accordingly, because we do not want to block a defender on the line of scrimmage in a hard run support position (Diagram 14). We have six other options in our package. We have found that having only a couple options made it easy for opposing teams to defend us. By adding these other options to the attack it made it difficult for other teams to prepare to stop just one option,
which leads to a lot of vanilla defenses. Everything comes down to execution and being good at what you do. You give yourself a better chance of success with a multiple option package. Because we get many repetitions at multiple fronts, our players are confident and able to make adjustments. To continue the success that we have built to this point, we know we must keep improving and have great discipline.
Make plans now to attend the 2002 A F C A C o n v e n t i o n J a n u a ry 6-9 • San Antonio, Te x a s
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •