As with any sporting technique, everything relies on proper footwork. To start, I teach QB steps in the option game, based on the face of a clock.
- QB should transfer weight from a balanced stance, to his left leg (remember we are running inside veer to the right) where he will push off, taking a step long enough to get him into the mesh, but not overextend himself. This is the tricky part, because every QB is different in their stride. The key here is repetition, not distance. It takes some time to find the sweet spot in terms of steps. In another segment, I will talk about drills that can help facilitate your QB's stride to get into the mesh. Anyhow, back to the footwork! The toes of the right foot should hit the ground pointing at 2 o'clock. As this step is being made, the weight transfer is shifting from the left leg now to the right leg. Once the right foot is in the ground, the left foot is brought with it, and the toes of the left foot should be pointing at 1 o'clock. What this does is put the QB into the LOS. This is very important, the QB cannot be pointed down the line, or into the backfield as this will cause him to belly off the mesh. Bellying off the mesh, forces the triple option to run lateral, or backwards, 2 things any offense can ill afford to do.
- Once the second step is in the ground, the weight should be back to balanced. The QB is on the balls of his feet while he is making his read. The QB should also not elevate, but stay in a crouched position. What I look for is no change in pad level from snap to mesh. This is important, because you want the football to be held at the same point for all the FB's. When I first started this method, I noticed that since there was no connection with the FB, sometimes the ball was hitting them at the top of the pads, or the bottom of the numbers. This was mainly due to lazy QB play, and the QB standing up, instead of staying low and crouched.
- As the QB gets his read, the weight again begins to transfer to the rear leg, or the right leg in our example. We want the weight on that leg, because I always taught our QB's to accelerate off the mesh, running to the hash, numbers, sideline for the aiming point. We did not teach the "option alley" as some option coaches do. We just wanted our QB to "haul ass" off the mesh. By transferring the weight to the back foot, this allowed us to get more into the LOS and get downhill, thereby putting greater pressure on the defense.
Now that the footwork has been established, the next most important part of the Point Method is the QB's arms. The arms are important, because we tie the QB's eyes to his arms, so to speak, to help him with his reads.
- The QB, upon receiving the snap, should not seat the football! This is the number one item I have to correct from day one with young option QB's, especially those that have never ran the triple option. The ball is to be extended immediately with the arms being rigid. As the QB takes the steps mentioned above, his trunk and torso will turn to face the handoff key. As this occurs, the arms, extended, should take the football, and literally point it at the handoff key. This is the where the technique gets its name from. The biggest coaching point for this is not to short-arm the ball. The FB will adjust his path as to where the ball is, so the QB is simply to extend his arms and point the ball at the handoff key.
- Regardless of a pull or keep read, the QB will execute the following technique. For this example, I will speak as if the QB has pulled the football. As soon as the QB gets his read, he will snap the football, back to his chest. The ball should be at heart level, as we preach "pitch the ball heart to heart". Pulling the ball back to the QB's chest does 2 things, first it allows the QB to clear any of the tackle by the handoff key in the mesh. It also has the QB ready to make an immediate pitch in the case of facing a back-to-back stunt (see here and here to read more about handling the back-to-back stunt). It is very important that the option QB come out of the mesh ready to pitch the football immediately.
I teach our option QB's to let their eyes follow their arms. This is an important step and a difficult one to teach. The QB, familiar with non-option offenses will want to look at the FB in this process instead of the handoff key. The Point Method, allows the QB to have a landmark (handoff key) and a means of helping him getting his eyes to his landmark (the arms). The eyes should look right down the forearms of the QB as he extends the ball and points it at the handoff key. The eyes should fixate on the far shoulder pad of the handoff key. I teach my QB's to give the ball every time unless the handoff key's far shoulder and earhole come down to take the FB. The eyes have to be trained to see this. Some defenders will turn and squat, so the eyes must be trained to see the far pad, and earhole come down inside to take the FB. Like any skill, this takes repetitions, but can be taught to even a junior-high school QB. As your QB progresses, you can then teach him "cloudy" and "clear" reads instead of having him focus on the shoulder pad and earhole. Once this progression is made, the QB, will still point the ball, however he will use his peripheral vision to see the hole and whether or not it is "cloudy" (closed), or "clear" (open). This method is for experienced option QB's only, and should help your QB make the reads even faster.
The QB's eyes will gather what the QB is seeing, however the mind must process this information in a split second or the play will not work. I give my QB what I call, an "unless" rule. He is going to give the ball every time unless the far shoulder and earhole of the handoff key comes down to take the FB. I ask our QB when making this read to ask himself a simple question, "Can the handoff key tackle the FB?" If the answer is yes, it was a pull read, obviously if the answer was no, the QB should give the football. Some common things young QB's do with their mind is guess. This read happens a lot faster than they are used to seeing things happen. This is where you give them an "out" by telling them, to give the ball unless.
The number one reason I switched from ride-n-decide (RD) was the turnovers. I constantly had FB's and QB's doing what we called "hanging up in the mesh". This was where the QB made a long read, or the FB gets impatient and squeezes the ball too early in the mesh. These are all eliminated in the Point Method. Here are some additional coaching points to add to the above techniques.
- Better a wrong read than a long read. This is a saying stolen from Coach DeMeo (see his site here), who many credit with the invention of the Point Method. I took it a step further, and built in a system where this long read, simply cannot happen. What I tell my QB's is if you feel the FB touch the football, give the football, regardless of what your eyes are seeing. This prevents any hang up in the mesh, and also goes along with the give the ball any time unless rule we teach. The FB's are taught from day one, to run over the football, and if it's there when you get there, it's yours. If the FB feels the football, he takes it and runs with it. This greatly reduced our "hangups in the mesh" problems, that RD teams quite often have.
- If the QB pulls the football, and he's made a wrong read, turn up and follow the FB. I have, in more cases than one, seen this actually go for decent yardage. This also gives your QB an "out" in case he makes a misread, which inevitably will happen.
- If the QB opens to the handoff key, and for some reason, the handoff key gets blocked, he is to give the football. Again, this is a simple "out" the QB can always use to help him with his read. Defenses like to pinch 4 techniques into the B gap vs. triple option offenses, and this puts the 4 technique right in the path of the veer blocking tackle. I teach the tackles to block the inside gap 1st, so the slanting 4, which by rule is handoff key (first down lineman outside the B gap)ends up getting blocked. We simply tell the QB to give the football in this case. Again, a key your option QB can lean on, when his read is "fuzzy".
The Process as a Whole
To reiterate the points of the Point Method, the first thing is setting the feet properly. The feet must be set properly so the QB is in to the LOS and can attack the defense off the mesh. The arms, must extend to present the football to the FB, and be pointed at the handoff key. The eyes follow the arms and distinguish what the handoff key is doing, and relays this information to the mind of the QB. Once the information is processed the read is made, at which time the QB snaps either the ball or his empty hands back to his chest and accelerates off the mesh attacking to the hash, numbers, and on to the sidelines.
I'm adding some video my good friend Brophy (check out his blog here) sent me of Georgia Tech's Option drills and a video of some Carson Newman highlights. Compare the 2 videos, especially the QB at 0.23 seconds into the Carson Newman video. You can see the difference in RD vs. the Point Method at that mark. Take a look and decide for yourself which one you like better.
In my third installment of the Point Method I will talk about the other options such as midline, and outside veer. Stay tuned!