Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Paul Johnson's "If-Then" methodology to Triple Option Football

"Tell me what did the pitch key do?"

A lot has been made over the past few years about Paul Johnson's triple option offense.  However not much has been made about "the process" in which the man calls plays and attacks defenses.  For years Coach Johnson has made fools of even the best defensive minds, including, but not limited to, Mickey Andrews, Bud Foster, and Randy Shannon.  Exactly how does Johnson go about attacking opponent's defenses?  There is a method to this man's madness, and it is simply known as his "if-then" sheet.  This post will elaborate on the thinking behind the triple option gurus like Johnson, Niumataolo, and Stowers to say the least.  Let's look at the actual sheet, and from there I'll break down the different scenarios bit by bit.

Follow the link here to my version of the "if-then" sheet and follow along and I'll explain the reasoning behind each decision.  Please note, Johnson's version is much shorter, and obviously uses his terminology, so I will elaborate on my terminology as we go, so bear with me.  So, let's move on with this and dig deeper into the  mind of a triple option offensive coordinator (OC)!

    Fear the Veer, or midline, or Rocket, or...
  • IF-Defense in 8 man front
    • Then- Run over (ends unbalanced).
      • Reason- To gain a 1/2 man advantage.
        • Explanation- 8 man fronts, have to get a little creative when adjusting to end over formations.  This can leave them vulnerable to triple option to either side.  To go even further into damaging an 8 man front, run twins over, with a slot on the LOS (shown below) to keep both receivers eligible.  When running ends over, look for the free safety's declaration, and run opposite.

    Ends Over
Ends over formation, both ends eligible

  • IF- Force players on the line of scrimmage (LOS).
    • Then- Run Tight (Nasty split double slot).
      • Reason- You gain blocking leverage by bringing in the wideouts. 
        • Explanation- The wideouts can now effectively crack block your force players, thereby out leveraging the defense and getting to the perimeter.

    "Nasty" Split
  • IF- Facing odd stack (5-3 look).
    • Then- Run tackles over unbalanced (Heavy).
      • Reason- Unbalanced looks give odd stack teams trouble.
        • Explanation- Odd stack fronts have some trouble adjusting to unbalanced sets that are unbalanced with a 3 man surface.  Similar to the ends over example (8 man front), look for FS declaration and run opposite.  Also, if you can outflank the DE/invert, run outside with crack blocking to that side until a DB becomes "nosey" attempting to stop the run.  Run veer pass when this DB has become a problem.

  • IF- 2 or 3 technique playside.
    • Then- Run midline.
      • Reason- A gap bubble.
        • Explanation- A gap is open, with B gap defender to read.  No need to run triple at a 3 technique when you can run midline.  Force the defense to get into 2I's, so you can run triple again (B gap bubble).
  • IF- No 2 or 3 technique playside.
    • Then- Run triple.
      • Reason- B gap bubble (same reason as above).
        • Explanation- Triple is what we are here to do, if the defense gives us a soft B gap, we are going to attack it with the triple.
  • IF- Handoff key turns shoulders ("sitter"/squat technique).
    • Then- Run zone dive.
      • Reason- Cloudy read.
        • Explanation- When a read key is giving your QB fits, block him.  Remember "Easy to read = hard to block, hard to read = easy to block.  Since a squat technique is hard to read, he's easy to block.  You can also run load or toad (tackle load) option at him (basically triple but fullback or tackle blocks handoff key).

    Zone Dive
  • IF- Pitch Key turns shoulders (squat or sitter technique).
    • Then- Run Rocket.
      • Reason- Force player has lost leverage by turning.
        • Explanation- If the pitch key is turning and squatting, he will not be aggressive enough to force the Rocket toss, thereby allowing us to outflank him.

  • IF- Secondary rotates with motion.
    • Then- Run counter iso/option.
      • Reason- No backside force player.
        • Explanation.  Teams that jump motion, often put themselves in a poor position in that they lose their backside force player.  This is a gamble by the DC, make him pay for it, by catching him a man short at the point of attack (POA).
        • Counter Iso

  • IF- Secondary rotates with motion (2).
    • Then- Run triple pass or waggle (off Rocket action).
      • Reason- No seam player (triple pass); Curl/flat player out leveraged (Waggle).
        • Explanation- Triple pass catches them with the seam player coming at the LOS and waggle catches them with the curl/flat player caught inside off run action.

    Veer pass (Vertical or Whip Route)
    Waggle off Rocket Action
  • IF- 4I's.
    • Then- Run midline.
      • Reason- Handoff key too far removed from POA.
        • Explanation- Midline at a 4I is dangerous.  Even better is midline triple.  The 4I is simply too far removed from the action to be effective against the fullback (FB).
  • IF- Double Eagle (TNT) look.
    • Then- Run Rocket.
      • Reason- Numbers advantage on the perimeter.
        • Explanation- Double eagle puts too many people in the box to run between the tackles, so test the flank.  If they over load to force they are weak on playaction.

    Rocket vs. Double Eagle
  • IF- Triangle (3 in box outside the B gap).
    • Then- Run zone dive.
      • Reason- Numbers advantage inside.
        • Explanation- Teams that attempt to put players on the edge of the box are weak in the middle, run zone dive to exploit this weakness.

  • IF- Force players on the LOS.
    • Then- Run Rocket with switch blocking.
      • Reason- Blocking leverage.
        • Explanation- By cracking the force player you now have leverage on the perimeter.
  • IF- Defense is blitzing.
    • Then- Run Rocket.
      • Reason- Soft flank.
        • Explanation- Defenses that blitz the triple, find themselves with weakened flanks and poor pursuit angles on quick hitting plays such as the rocket (and we don't have to block anything from a 5 technique back, which includes your blitzers).
  • IF- Stunting.
    • Then- Run zone dive.
      • Reason- Cutback run.
        • Explanation- Same reason teams run inside zone, to eliminate the effectiveness of stunts, zone dive does the same thing.
  • IF- Middle of the field closed (MOFC).
    • Then- Run 4 verticals.
      • Reason- Attacks the seams and FS with 2 defenders in his zone.
        • Explanation- Now I know all the haters out there will say 4 verticals are not a problem, but you got to try it vs. 1 high teams at least once a game to show the opponent you DO have the balls to attempt it.  Very important for slots to run down the hashes and the receivers to run down the field outside the numbers.  Also very good from a trips look to, as most teams will overplay their FS to trips.

    4 Verticals from trips look
  • IF- Linebackers overpursue.
    • Then- Run zone dive, counter iso/option.
      • Reason- Numbers advantage away from action.
        • Explanation- Counter iso was our bread and butter, as it makes teams pay for overpursuit, and it doesn't tip off overpursuing defenders by pulling linemen.  Make the defense pay for trying to cheat and get guys across the midline!
  • IF- Taking away FB.
    • Then- Run zone dive or speed option.
      • Reason- Keeps the ball in FB's hands.
        • Explanation- The FB is 1 of your best runners, you need to find a way to keep the ball in his hands even if the defense is doing a good job taking him away from you on triple and midline. 

    Speed Option
  • IF- Stunting A gap.
    • Then- Run triple.
      • Reason- B gap bubble.
        • Explanation- We want to run triple to a soft B gap, so let them stunt to the A.
  • IF- Stunting A and B gaps.
    • Then- Run zone dive.
      • Reason- Zone blocking/cutback run.
        • Explanation- Again, let them stunt, zone blocking was made for this, and it keeps your best runner with the football in his hands.
  • IF- Stunting A, B, and C gaps.
    • Then- Run Rocket.
      • Reason- Soft flank.
        • Explanation- Anytime the middle is mass confusion, run outside.  Stunting and blitzing can be controlled by the old adage "Run where they ain't".  Rocket does this, and does it by not blocking any "box" player playside, thereby getting more offensive bodies to the perimeter to block and already weakened flank.
  • IF- Odd front with 4I's.
    • Then- Run Loop scheme.
      • Reason- Read 4I, put him on island.
        • Explanation- A lot of odd front teams are going to this look, running loop scheme can still keep the triple option a viable part of your offense, just watch the beating your FB will take due to the proximity of the handoff key.  Keep the 4I even more confused by running loop trap and midline at him.

    Loop Scheme
  • IF- All inside gaps occupied (Bear look).
    • Then- Run Rocket.
      • Reason- Outnumbered on the perimeter.
        • Explanation- Teams that load the middle, leave the perimeter soft, make them pay by running the quickest hitting outside run in all of football.
There's a lot here I've added through the years, but the original "if-then" sheet is there.  A lot of it is repetitious, but I did this b/c in the heat of battle you don't want to be searching for your answer, so I felt like repetition was a good thing. 

Now that's repetitious!

The basis is simple, Paul Johnson wants to run the triple, whatever you do to take that away, he's going to make you get back to being honest with every other play in his playbook.  That's the beauty of his spread option offense.  It's not a myriad of plays with no rhyme or reason, there is clear focus and goal in the triple option.  If the defense takes that away, then they are vulnerable elsewhere, attack their weakness.  The "if-then" sheet will help the triple option OC, find his answer quickly when his team is having problems.  It allows the OC to have an immediate answer that is built into the offense.  This is why you see early in games, defenses seem to have an advantage against Johnson, but after a series or 2, or at the very least after halftime, he's found his answer, and begins to make defenses pay. 

Say Uncle...

The simplicity of the system is the beauty.  You can run this offense with little to no game planning.  After running it for 2 years, I quit watching game film of our opponents because we were seeing the "defense of the week" and what I was seeing on film really didn't matter.  The "if-then" sheet gave me immediate answers to this "defense of the week" mentality and allowed us to adjust on the run.

Did someone say "simply beauty"?

I hope this was helpful, and if you have your own "if-then" sheet please share it with us, always looking for more ideas!  Ok, Vassdiddy from the Huey board has gotten my interest peaked on writing a peice about the University of Florida's Nickle Tracer (Auburn fans will know this as their Heat blitz).  So I'm digging through boxes of clinic notes trying to find some stuff.  If you have any suggestions hit me up, will discuss and see what I can come up with.

Sit down sucka!!!!

On the job note, I may be going to a local junior high to be the defensive coordinator.  Nothing is set in stone, but it does look promising.  Haven't coached that age group in a coon's age, but hey it's coaching right?  Looking to run the 46 Nickle as they are in spread to run league, and I had hella fun with that defense last season.  Plus if my gut keeps getting any bigger, I will look like a shorter version of Rex Ryan!  Hope everybody had a happy 4th, season is right around the corner!!!!