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    Option Play FAQ by pnewport77

    Version: 1.0 | Updated: 07/21/04 | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide

    Running The Option
    For NCAA 2005
    By pnewport77
    July 21, 2004
    Version 1.0
    The option is one of the most exciting plays in football, for both the offense
    and the defense.  We will focus first on the offense, and we'll start here with
    the job of the QB from a generic option perspective.  The QBs initial role is
    to get outside of the line blocking and start the ball upfield.  Your initial
    instinct is going to be to run the QB parallel to the line, which is correct
    most of the time.  You need to watch out for any of your linemen losing the
    blocking battle and being pushed down field.  If this happens, you'll need to
    run your QB downfield as well, in order to get around them.  If you run into
    them, the defender will magically shed his block and tackle you (although
    truth be told, this is probably pretty accurate.)  You'll also need to watch
    this with any TEs or WRs pulled in tight.
    Once you get around the line/TE, you'll have your first decision to make.  You
    should either have zero, one, or two more blocks to get around (from WRs on
    the side you are running the option to.)  If there are zero, the decision is
    automatic... keep running with the QB and skip down to the Pitch/Don't Pitch
    section.  More than likely, however, you'll have at least one WR with a block.
    With one WR blocking, you need to look at three main factors: how tight is the
    block to the line, is there a DB to the outside of the block, and is there an
    LB close on either the inside or outside of the block.  Here are the general
    theories.  If the block is tight to the line, this favors the option of going
    around the block before cutting upfield.  The reason for this is to maximize
    the chances of a safe and successful pitch option to the HB.  If the block is
    farther from the line, you may want to consider cutting upfield with the QB.
    This will temporarily eliminate any pitch option (as the blocking players will
    be in the path of the ball), but it will help in gaining yards, as well as
    reducing the time that the defense has to close in on the ball.  Once you go
    upfield and to the outside a little bit with the QB, the option pitch will be
    back in play, although the HB will probably have dropped a couple yards
    further behind the QB.
    The next item to look at is the position of any free DBs, primarily to the
    outside of the block.  If they are far outside, it increases the promise of
    cutting the ball upfield prior to the WR block.  If they are towards the
    inside, you can go around the block and use your QB as a blocker after the
    pitch.  This is pretty much the same thing to look at with the LBs to the
    inside.  If they are very far inside, you can cut the ball upfield prior to
    the WR block, but if not, you'll want to cut upfield after the block.  One of
    the best parts of the option is that you can always use your QB as a blocker,
    after the pitch.  He'll most likely be tackled, but he'll interfere with the
    defender long enough for you to get past him.  More of a "blockle" than a block
    or a tackle.
                                  1 WR blocking
    Since it is difficult to show in any detail how these plays work without the
    use of graphics, I'm going to try to illustrate with time lapse ASCII photo-
    graphy.  In these examples, X will represent any linemen, tight ends, or WRs.
    Q is the quarterback, H is the halfback, and F will be the fullback.  The |
    character will represent the sideline.  Any dots represent defensive players
    trying to get to the ball.  All of these illustrations are very generalized,
    and the specifics may change from play to play.
    Here's some examples of a one WR block.
        .       . |  This is a pretty bad position to be in.  You've got the
    ...      .    |  block back even with the line, and a guy both inside and
    XXX      X    |  outside of the blocks.  You could try to take this outside,
       Q          |  but in this situation, you will probably run out of room.  Cut
         H        |  the QB up on the inside and try to break a tackle or two.
        .   .     |  Slightly better position.  The right side CB has moved towards
    ...      .    |  the inside of the block.  Take this around the block and use
    XXX      X    |  your QB as a blocker after you pitch to the HB.  If you're
       Q          |  lucky, the LB on the inside will be rendered somewhat mute,
         H        |  and he'll get caught up in traffic, unable to make the tackle.
        .         |  This is an option which should be run around the block.  The
    ...  .        |  LB on the inside is the only free guy... he may get to the
    XXX  X        |  QB, but the QB can blockle after he pitches, so your HB will
       Q          |  have daylight until he hits a safety.
         H        |
               .  |  This is pretty easy too.  You'll need to cut up before the
    ...     .     |  block, and do a QB keeper run.  There won't be a likely
    XXX     X     |  chance to pitch this out, since the block will get in the
       Q          |  way of the path of the ball, but you should get some
         H        |  decent yardage.
      .   .       |
            .     |  This one should be run outside all the way.  You'll be able to
    ...     X     |  go at a diagonal somewhat, so you'll be going up field until
    XXX           |  you blockle and pitch back to the HB.
       Q          |
         H        |
             .    |  Here's one where I would cut inside.  Once I get around the
      .           |  block, the LB will probably get the tackle on the QB, but I
                  |  should be far enough ahead where the pitching option comes
    ...   .       |  into the play.  Pitch and blockle the LB, then your HB just
    XXX   X       |  has to shake that CB.  Very good setup that can have very
       Q          |  big gains!
         H        |
                                  2 WR blocking
    If you have two WRs blocking, your option just got a lot more complicated.
    You'll have to decide whether to cut before the blocks, cut after the blocks,
    or cut between the blocks.  These can primarily be determined by position.
        .       . |  This is a pretty bad position to be in.  You've got two
    ...  .   .    |  blocks back even with the line, and a guy both inside and
    XXX  X   X    |  outside of the blocks.  You could try to take this outside,
       Q          |  but in this situation, you are pretty much out of room.  Cut
         H        |  the QB up wherever you can and get a couple of yards.
        .   .     |  Much better position.  The right side CB has moved towards
    ...  .   .    |  the inside of the last block.  Take this around both blocks
    XXX  X   X    |  and use your QB as a blocker after you pitch to the HB.  The
       Q          |  LB on the inside will be rendered somewhat mute, as there will
         H        |  be too many bodies in the way for him to get to your HB.
        .   .     |  Again this is an option which should be run around the blocks.
    ...  .  X     |  The LB on the inside is the only free guy... he may get to the
    XXX  X        |  QB, but the QB can blockle after he pitches, so your HB will
       Q          |  have daylight until he hits the safety.
         H        |
         .     .  |  Much more frustrating.  The WR to the inside has upfield
    ...  X  .     |  penetration.  You could try one of two things: either cut the
    XXX     X     |  ball up between the blocks, and try to get far enough in front
       Q          |  to pitch it (or just take the tackle), or you could run this
         H        |  outside and look for a blockle.  I'd probably do the former.
      .   .       |
         .  .     |  This one should be run outside all the way.  You'll be able to
    ...  X  X     |  go at a diagonal somewhat, so you'll be going up field until
    XXX           |  you blockle and pitch back to the HB... this is the kind of
       Q          |  setup that can go a long way towards the goal.
         H        |
         .        |
         .        |  This is one where you'll want to split the blocks and head to
    ...  X    .   |  the outside.  Even though you'll be pitching about four yards
    XXX       X   |  backwards by the time you have to blockle, you'll make that up
       Q          |  very easily with no defenders.  If you had to run this around
         H        |  the blocks, you'll run out of real estate pretty quickly.
                 Types of Options
    There are several types of options that can be run in NCAA 2005.  While there
    are small differences within these categories, there are just four primary 
    groups. Triple Options involve a FB who can take a handoff running straight up
    the middle, or if the QB chooses to hold on to the ball, the QB and RB will 
    roll out to one side to run the option play.  Power Options involve a FB who 
    runs out to the side of the option in order to block for the QB and RB.  Speed
    Options typically run from a backfield of just the QB and RB.  The last style
    is the Option Pass, which is a passing play, used to confuse and trick the 
                  Triple Option
    =========================================                    F
      ......   .    ......   .   ... ...    .   ...F...   .   ... ...   .
      XXXXXX   X    XXXXXX   X   XXXFXXX    X   XXX XXX   X   XXX XXX   X
        Q             QF             Q                Q                Q
         F       ->            ->            ->            ->             H
        H              H               H                 H
    This is the most "traditional" option play available.  It can be run out of
    any formation that has a FB and a RB in the play.  After the snap, the FB will
    run up the middle awaiting a QB handoff, while the HB will run out to the side
    in the backfield.  The QB has the option here of handing the ball off to the FB
    to plunge upfield through the line, or holding onto the ball and running out
    to the right, along with the HB.  They call this the triple option because
    there are three things that can happen: the QB hands the ball off to the FB,
    the QB keeps the ball in a bootleg run, or the QB pitches the ball off to the
    The first choice that occurs with this play is whether or not to handoff the
    ball to the FB.  The FB handoff should only occur in a couple of situations.
    The ideal situation is when your opponent is in a dime formation and has
    the middle LB already off to one side, ready to stop all of your options you
    have been running.  Hand it off, and the middle of the field is wide open,
    getting you at least ten yards.  Another good time to do this would be on
    second and semi short yardage (3-5 yards or so), when you could pick up the
    first down or you just want to mix up your game a little bit.  I find the FB
    handoff mostly useful if you have been running nothing but options all the
    time, as the D can't keep cheating to the outside.  Personally, I like to mix
    up a few other plays (I probably run 50% option, 30% runs, 20% passing), so
    it isn't as big a deal.  If you do hand off, remember to follow any blockers
    that you have, as they'll change a 3 yard play into a 10 yard one for you.
    Most blockers (if any) are going to be WRs who have cut upfield before the CBs
    had time to react.  Note that you cannot pitch effectively after you hand this
    ball off to the FB.
                  Power Option
      ......  .       ......           ......          ......        ......
      XXXXXX          XXXXXX   .       XXXXXX   .      XXXXXX  .     XXXXXX  .
        Q                Q                 Q   F              F              F
         F       ->        F       ->              ->        Q    ->            Q
        H                 H                  H                H                  H
    This option can be run out of a weak side splitback, strong side splitback,
    I formation, pro set, or any other set that has a fullback in the backfield.
    The role of the fullback in a power option differs from a triple option in that
    the FB is in for blocking purposes only.  In the above diagram, after the snap,
    the FB is going to try to block that right side defensive guy, while the QB and
    HB set up to run the option.  Once the FB is engaged (the third "slide" above),
    the QB and HB are ready to really let loose.
    There are a couple of tips to make this option effective.  One is to watch for
    defensive penetration on your FB.  If the FB doesn't get far enough upfield on
    the block, your QB is going to have his progress impeded by the block.  You
    can't simply run into the block since the game will likely have the defensive
    player break his block and tackle you immediately.  You basically have one of
    two choices.  If you don't see any more defenders to the right of the FB (as
    will be the case often times in a Trips formation), you can have the QB run
    the standard play where he goes behind the FB and around.  The disadvantage to
    this is that it will take time to go downfield before heading up, but the
    advantage is that you'll again run a normal option play, which is very
    comfortable for pitching.  Alternatively, if you see defenders to the far
    right, you may want to try to cut upfield with the QB before you reach the FB
    blocker.  This can be done by speed bursting through the gap between the FB
    block and the TE or RG block.  The disadvantage of this is that all big play
    potential is pretty much gone, and your options of pitching the ball will be
    extremely risky, if not completely eliminated.  One advantage though is that
    you limit your potential for loss by doing this; you won't be tackled 8 yards
    back (or even worse if you pitch it to your HB!)
    Another helpful hint on the power option set is to do a motion misdirection.
    This helps often in an I formation, or any option set to go to the strong side.
    Take your strong side TE and move him in motion to the weak side.  What you'll
    be looking for here is to see how the defense reacts.  If they are playing in
    a man coverage, most of the time the defender assigned to the TE will go to
    the weak side as well.  This is good news for you, since you've basically
    taken one extra block out of your way.  You'll still have the FB who can pick
    up another defender, so if there is still a LB or CB hanging around, that does
    not spell the end of the world.  If the LB on your TE does not follow him over,
    you can always send the TE back to his original location in order to pick up
    his block.  This also can work on weak side runs where you move a WR over,
    although I find this to be less effective.
    Power options seem to be generally useful against teams that are running a 4
    LB formation like the 3-4 or 4-4 defense.  The TE can only pick up one of the
    LBs on your side, leaving a free LB that would normally be picked up by a WR.
    WRs, as a group, aren't known for their blocking skills, and often will get
    knocked down in their attempts to block.  That rarely happens with a FB, since
    their primary reason for being is to block for the RB and QB.
                  Speed Option
      ......  .       ......  .         ......  .      ......  .     ......  .
      XXXXXX  X       XXXXXX  X         XXXXXX  X      XXXXXX  X     XXXXXX  X
        Q                Q                  Q                 Q               Q
                 ->               ->              ->             H ->          H
        H                 H                  H
    This is like a triple option without the FB.  You don't have any FB the QB
    can hand off to or any FB to block for you.  The theory on running this is
    primarily the same as above, but you have a few options which can help.
    The motion misdirection can still be used, with the same effect as before.
    Also in a speed option, the offense is usually spread out a little more due
    to the number of WRs in the play.  I like to call the audible which changes
    the running direction (not flips the whole play, just the running) if I can
    see that the defense is favoring one side or the other.
    The Speed option is best carried out against a defense playing Nickel or Dime.
    This causes a lot of CB to be on the field, which WRs have a better shot of
    successfully blocking.  With only one or two LBs, the QB can blockle for the
    HB and lead to some good gains.  The speed option should only be used on
    offense if you typically run spread out passing plays, as this can get the
    defense to play off the line, expecting pass.
                  Option Pass
    The option pass is a great weapon for teams that run the option on a regular
    basis.  The option pass will start out looking like any other standard option.
    The QB and HB will roll out to the side, but instead of turning upfield, the
    QB will throw the ball to one of the WRs.  The hope here is that the defense
    is anticipating the option so much that they come up to tackle the QB/HB and
    leave the WR open downfield.
    When this play works, it usually works for a big time gain.  The QB needs to
    be in sync with the WR for this to work.  The WR should be blocking his man
    until the QB drops back to pass.  At this point, the WR should disengage the
    block and starting sprinting upfield.  The CB that the WR was blocking will
    now either have to rush in on the QB or try to keep up with the WR (which is
    very difficult since he will be momentarily stunned by what is happening.)
    The key to running this play in NCAA 2005 is to make sure you hold onto the
    ball as the QB before bringing up the passing icons.  You want to sell this
    play as a run.  If you're playing against another human (either in person or
    over the network), check to see what position he is controlling.  If it is a
    LB or CB, try to figure out either the zone or man he should be covering.
    Humans will most likely read this as a run right away, and decline their
    defensive responsibility.  You should be able to read this and target the open
    receiver.  One important note: you cannot use speed bursts in the backfield
    while running this play, as it will bring up the passing icons.
              Defending the Option
    The option is a very difficult play to defend.  Since there are so many
    options at the QBs disposal, you need to make sure you can shut down as many
    of them as possible.  Here are some simple rules that should help you defend
    this tricky play.
    If you find yourself alone in open field between the QB and the HB, almost
    always take the QB first (assuming he hasn't pitched yet.)  Say you try to
    play down the middle to "break up" any pitches.  The QB only needs to juke to
    the inside, and he's got another 5-10 yards on the play.  You need to get the
    man with the ball as your first priority.  Sure, he may pitch it out to the
    HB, and the HB may go for 5-10 yards, but at least you are buying your team
    an added second or so to get over to that side of the field during a pitch.
    If you are in a situation where you have two defenders, and you are the one
    to the outside, you should take the HB.  If you are the one to the inside, take
    the QB.  Do not try to pull of a double team tackle and leave one of them
    alone.  While it is possible for a player to break the first tackle, usually
    this takes enough time where one of the safeties can come over and put the
    guy away.  You just want to ensure that there will be no offensive player
    left alone to run free and clear.
    As for the player you control, I would recommend going with a lineman or a
    blitzing LB.  This will allow you to keep the coverage in the event of an
    option pass, but also, you'll be able to roll to the outside instead of
    immediately trying to barge through the line.  Hopefully by the time the QB
    gets to the outside, you'll have two or three defenders ready to whoop some
    If you're on offense, of course, use the opposites of all of these.  For
    instance, hold onto the ball with the QB, especially if the defender is
    trying to play "between" the QB and HB, and then just run right past him!
    "I love the option!"
    Well, these are my theories... I'd love to hear yours.  I'll add them into
    the next FAQ!
    Good luck with your new knowledge, and I hope you find that the option can
    be an effective and important piece of an offensive plan.
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