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The triple option is an American football play used to offer six ways to move the football forward on the field of play. The triple option is based on the option run, but uses three players who might run with the ball instead of the two used in a standard option run.
The triple option forces defenses to worry about multiple running options on a single play. For the offense, the decision of who is to carry the ball—which option to use—is made during the play by the quarterback (QB). The QB makes the decision whether to give the ball to the fullback (FB) or, based on his read of the defense, to keep the ball. If the QB does choose to keep the ball after the initial snap, he still retains the option of employing a third option; handing the ball off to the tailback. If, for example, the defensive end (DE) is blocking the FB or for any other reason it appears to him that his group of ball-carriers are otherwise limited, he will simply keep the ball himself instead of handing it off. If the DE runs straight upfield or directly at the QB, then the QB gives the ball to the FB. The triple option can be complemented by fixed running plays which look like the triple option when they start, but use traditional blocking, as well as play-action passing.
There are three basic forms of triple option: the wishbone triple option, the veer triple option, and the I formation triple option. These differ in terms of the personnel on the field and their positioning prior to the start of the play.
The wishbone triple option can use several formations including the flexbone or Maryland I. The wishbone triple option is a running play where either the fullback, the quarterback, or one of the halfbacks (also called "running backs" [RB] or "tail backs") runs the ball.
First, the quarterback receives the football from the center. The quarterback then starts the play in one direction by appearing to hand the football to the fullback right behind the play side guard on a standard fullback dive play. The guard "chips" the 3-technique (defensive tackle) and blocks the play side (the side where the play is going) inside linebacker (usually called the "mike", or middle linebacker). The quarterback then reads the unblocked defensive lineman. If the lineman attacks the fullback, the quarterback pulls the ball from the fullback's gut and continues down the line, but if the defensive lineman goes outside to contain the play, he hands off inside to the fullback. The offensive tackle on the side of the play's direction does not block the defensive end and instead moves to block the first threat, usually the linebacker stacked behind the defensive end. In the traditional triple option the backside tailback will take a parallel course down the line of scrimmage keeping a three to five yard separation from the quarterback. If the defensive end comes inside toward the quarterback, he will pitch it outside to the trailing halfback. If the defensive end retains outside leverage and covers the trailing halfback closely, the quarterback will keep the ball and run upfield inside of the defensive end. The tailback to the play side is responsible for blocking one of the defensive backs, usually one of the deep safeties. The wide receiver (WR) to the play side is responsible for blocking the corner back assigned to cover them if the defense were playing man coverage.
If this is run properly it can be extremely effective as most all defensive players are accounted for by blockers. Once the quarterback or tailback gets beyond the line of scrimmage there should be nobody in front of him because the tackle, guard, tailback, and wide receiver are all downfield picking up the first threat.
The play is called the triple option as the fullback dive is the first option, the quarterback keeping the ball is the second option, and the quarterback pitching to the halfback is the third option.
A slight variation of this formation is the "flexbone", where the running backs move to just outside the tackles, but still behind the line of scrimmage. The running back that the play is using for the third option motions in, and while in motion the ball is snapped. The triple option, in this case, is still run mostly the same as the wishbone.
The veer triple option uses two halfbacks and a tight end (TE). The "inside veer" play is similar to the wishbone triple option, but the dive option is performed by the halfback on the side of the play, and the other halfback becomes the pitch man. The veer is more challenging to run to the weak side (the side without the tight end) because there is no lead blocker for the pitch man. The "outside veer" moves the halfback dive option outside the offensive tackle, forcing the outside linebacker to stop the halfback dive, and forcing the defensive backs to play the pitch option.
The triple option can be run out of the I formation as well. With two running backs, it is sometimes called the "I-veer", as the play is similar to the two running back veer offense. Three running back I formations such as the Maryland I and the stack I are more similar to the wishbone play.
Nebraska in 1980–2003 deployed an I formation triple option. They won 3 national titles with it in 1994, 1995, and 1997.
In recent years[ when? ], as spread and zone read offenses have become popular, many teams have begun to run variations of the triple option with the quarterback in the shotgun. This has been greatly popularized by the success of coaches such as Rich Rodriguez, Mark Helfrich, and Urban Meyer. The more traditional version of the triple option uses a quarterback under center and is advocated by the service academy coaches, including Fisher DeBerry, formerly of Air Force, and Paul Johnson, formerly head coach of Navy and Georgia Tech (who installed this offense at Hawai'i and Georgia Southern, the latter school winning several Division I Football Championship Subdivision titles using it).
Paul Johnson, along with former assistant and current Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, have had the most success with the triple option/veer in the last few years. The triple option can be used in the spread offense. Teams like Ohio State, Oregon, and Arizona have used an inside zone triple option from the spread. The quarterback reads the defensive end for "give" or "keep". If the defensive end squeezes down to take the dive, the quarterback will pull the ball and take his reading progression to the outside linebacker or defensive back. If the linebacker/defensive back takes the quarterback, the quarterback will pitch the ball to his running back who is running in formation with the quarterback.
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A 2009 NCAA rule change that allowed linemen to block three yards downfield on a pass (as opposed to one yard in the NFL) opened the college game to the run-pass option (RPO) plays. Much like in a traditional option attack, the quarterback "reads" the defense at the snap and quickly decides how to execute the play depending on the initial actions of one or two "key" defenders. In an RPO play, however, one or more receivers run a pass route, and the quarterback has the option to throw a pass. Because the offensive line (and usually some receivers) run block at the snap, any pass must be thrown very quickly, before blockers have pushed forward three yards. A properly executed RPO is difficult to defend, as a quarterback who correctly reads the defense will run the version of the play which has the best chance for success.
The rule change that resulted in the widespread use of RPOs by college offenses was controversial. By "destroy[ing] the ages-old division between passing plays and running plays" the RPO changes offense, defense and officiating roles. The Wall Street Journal highlighted the option in the lead-up to the 2017 playoff between Alabama and Clemson, in which both teams "will [try to] use [it] to win".
The RPO has also been utilized in the NFL despite rules disallowing linemen to block more than one yard downfield on passing plays, though NFL QBs must make quicker reads to avoid a penalty if they decide to throw a forward pass.
The quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in gridiron football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive platoon and mostly line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offense, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is almost always the offensive player that throws forward passes. When the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack.
A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfield in gridiron football. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback to rush the ball, to line up as a receiver to catch the ball, and block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.
In American and Canadian football, a single-wing formation was a precursor to the modern spread or shotgun formation. The term usually connotes formations in which the snap is tossed rather than handed—formations with one wingback and a handed snap are commonly called "wing T" or "winged T".
Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player is given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmanoeuvre or overpower their opponent in order to win the game. On offense, a team's job on the field is to score through touchdowns and field goals, all while being observant of the defensive strategy of the opposing team. On defense, the team's job on the field is to prevent the offense from scoring touchdowns and field goals, and to possibly intercept the ball.
An option offense is an American football offensive system in which a key player has several "options" of how each play will proceed based upon the actions of the defense. Traditionally, option-based offenses rely on running plays, though most mix in forward passes from an option formation as a change of pace. A successful option-based offense can keep possession of the ball for long periods of time, giving the opposing offense fewer possessions and keeping the option team's defense rested. However, because passing is often not a strength of the system, it can be difficult for option-based offenses to come back from a large deficit or to score quickly when needed.
American football positions have slowly evolved over the history of the sport. From its origins in early rugby football to the modern game, the names and roles of various positions have changed greatly, some positions no longer exist, and others have been created to fill new roles.
The wishbone formation, also known simply as the bone, is an offensive formation in American football. The style of attack to which it gives rise is known as the wishbone offense. Like the spread offense in the 2000s to the present, the wishbone was considered to be the most productive and innovative offensive scheme in college football during the 1970s and 1980s.
In American football, a T formation is a formation used by the offensive team in which three running backs line up in a row about five yards behind the quarterback, forming the shape of a "T".
A halfback (HB) is an offensive position in American football, whose duties involve lining up in the offensive backfield and carrying the ball on most rushing plays, i.e. a running back. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player, as in the I formation, that player is instead referred to as a tailback.
In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position". Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions", meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation. This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense, the defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the jobs that the players are doing.
The flexbone formation is an offensive formation in American football that includes a quarterback, five offensive linemen, three running backs, and varying numbers of tight ends and wide receivers. The flexbone formation is a predominant turnover formation derived from the wishbone formation and it features a quarterback under center with a fullback lined up directly behind the quarterback. There are two smaller running backs called slotbacks aligned behind the line of scrimmage on each side of the offensive line. The slotbacks are sometimes incorrectly referred to as wingbacks. But in order to be a wingback, there must be a guard, tackle and tight end all on one side of the center on the line of scrimmage and then the wingback off the line of scrimmage.
The split-T is an offensive formation in American football that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Developed by Missouri Tigers head coach Don Faurot as a variation on the T formation, the split-T was first used in the 1941 season and allowed the Tigers to win all but their season-opening match against the Ohio State Buckeyes and the 1942 Sugar Bowl versus Fordham. Jim Tatum and Bud Wilkinson, who coached under Faurot with the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks during World War II, brought the split-T to the Oklahoma Sooners in 1946. After Tatum left for Maryland in 1947, Wilkinson became the head coach and went on to win a record-setting 47 straight games and two national titles between 1953 and 1957.
In American football, a play is a close-to-the-ground plan of action or strategy used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly, plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in a playbook.
The Veer is an option running play often associated with option offenses in American football, made famous at the collegiate level by Bill Yeoman's Houston Cougars. It is currently run primarily on the high school level, with some usage at the collegiate and the professional level where the Veer's blocking scheme has been modified as part of the zone blocking system. The Veer is an effective ball control offense that can help minimize mismatches in a game for a team. However, it can lead to turnovers with pitches and handoff option reads.
A fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield in gridiron football and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Fullbacks are typically larger than halfbacks, and, in most offensive schemes, the fullback's duties are split among power running, pass catching, and blocking for both the quarterback and the other running back.
A pro-style offense in American football is any offensive scheme that resembles those predominantly used at the professional level of play in the National Football League (NFL), in contrast to those typically used at the collegiate or high school level. Pro-style offenses are fairly common at top-quality colleges but much less used at the high school level. The term should not be confused with a pro set, which is a specific formation that is used by some offenses at the professional level.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
In American football, a back is a player who plays off of the line of scrimmage. Historically, the term "back" was used to describe multiple positions on offense and defense, although more descriptive and specific position naming is now common. Thus, "back" can refer to positions including:
A play calling system in American football is the specific language and methods used to call offensive plays.