In Gap, Scrape, Option Exchange part 2, we study the triple option of yesteryear (I just like saying yesteryear) and look at the Oklahoma Wishbone from the 80’s and the Nebraska I from the 90’s. Name a better era of college football, I double dog dare you. This is part 2 of a 3 part series.
The first offense we will look at and discuss how to defend is the Wishbone Triple Option. I’m showing what I’ve labeled the A Back (using Paul Johnson’s terminology so it is easier to link) lead blocking almost a wing-like-arc block path. I believe the ‘bone coaches also used that player to kick out the CB and the Z would block the safety at times giving multiple looks, not to dissimilar from blocking toss multiple ways.
In the Wishbone, the defense has 3 concerns (one of the 3 is doubled with the 2nd RB but he really is a blocker depending on direction). Since this play goes left in the GIF, we will examine the reads to that side. The QB has to identify his 1st level read (the DE in the triangle) and his 2nd level read (the LB/S that’s in the other triangle). If the DE goes outside or sits, the QB gives to the FB. If the end crashes/squeezes the QB pulls and goes to the 2nd phase.
The 2nd phase is the pitch option. The QB reads the 2nd level defender and either keeps or pitches. If that defender attacks the pitchman (RB) he will keep, if the LB attacks the QB he pitches. When it’s a well oiled machine, everyone is accounted for.
In the GIF below, the DE hits the QB, the DT/MLB play the dive, and the OLB/S guy plays the pitch down to the dive- and the play goes for 1-2 yards.
Below you can see what happens when no one is on the pitchman
Jimmy Johnson supposedly switched from a 5-2 to the 4-3 Over in order to combat the triple option. I think it’s a smart move, it gives the defense really 9 players in the box and allows for the safeties to be involved in the run game. JJ was big on players having responsibilities versus the option. For instance, the DE takes the QB regardless, the OLB takes the pitchman, the safety runs to the ball, the CB forces it inside, the DT takes the dive while the MLB plays dive to QB to pitch- as you can see below.
You can see in the GIF below what happens when all three responsibilities are played.
Above, you can see the ‘Bone played to perfection
Above- you can see the Nebraska Power I played to perfection
Now this is where option exchange comes into place. If the defense does nothing but play it the same way all game, the offense can figure out who to block (Paul Johnson is a master at this) and play accordingly. The defense has to switch for a drive here, or a quarter there, to keep the offense guessing. Below, the End still takes the QB, but the OLB plays the ball while the safety screams down to play the pitchman.
Another switch is seen below, here the DE plays the pitchman and the LB and Safety play the QB to ball. Much like scrape exchange makes the QB pull on inside zone read (see part 1), the option exchange like this makes the QB think he can keep and then he’s hit by two defenders square in the jaw.
And there’s always the greatest run in college football history from Tommie Frazier…
Check out the Patreon Exclusive video below that features chalk-talk and cut-ups on the option exchange