Football is becoming more and more of a passing game.
Modern quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes have unbelievable skills. What they can do with a football is almost beyond human ability.
But at its core, football is a simple game that is won by big runners.
This is what the triple option offence playbook does. Even though this offensive strategy isn’t used much in the NFL or college anymore, high school and youth team coaches should still have it in their playbook because it’s a good one.
In this guide, I’ll show you how the triple option playbook works and show you two fast running plays that you can use to make holes in the defence and score touchdowns.
I’ll also show you a couple of tried-and-true plays that will trick and confuse the defenders of your opponents.
First, though, let’s look at where this offensive play came from.
What Is The Triple Option Offense?
Most people say that University of Houston coach Bill Yeoman came up with the Triple Option Offense back in 1965.
Yeoman used the play well to help Houston finish in the top ten three times in the 1970s.
When quarterbacks didn’t have the same arm strength or accuracy as Patrick Mahomes does now, touchdowns were scored by running plays. In the old days, football was a bit like rugby.
So, the head coach of Houston came up with new ideas and built a whole playbook around the idea that a quarterback should have three ways to run the ball up the field.
One option was for a running back to move up through the middle of the field; another was for a running back to spin around and drive left or right; and the last option was for the quarterback to keep the ball and run himself.
This is how the triple option came to be.
It has stood the test of time, and coaches still use Yeoman’s triple-option playbook to plan plays and run routes.
Who Should Use The Triple Option Playbook
Even though many college and NFL football teams are slowly moving away from the playbook, many Division I football teams and military football teams still use the triple option.
It’s a great choice for these teams because they often don’t have players with the same level of skill as a college team. Instead, they’ll use their size and strength in the middle to run the ball and break tackles.
Because of this, I’d suggest that football coaches in lower leagues and at the youth level add the triple option playbook to their offensive tools.
So what kind of team should use a triple option offence?
Teams With A Mobile QB
At the end of the day, this play needs a quarterback who isn’t afraid to run with the ball. You need a quick quarterback who can get around defenders and a strong tackler to get past defenders.
Teams With Strong Running Backs
In modern football, the value of a good running back is way too low. Running backs are the most dependable and effective way to gain yardage.
For the triple option offence to work, the running backs must be strong, fast, and able to block. They must also be able to run deceptive running lines to get defenders out of position.
Blocking Wide Receivers
Wide receivers in American football are the ones who try to get the spotlight. If you can find a few wide receivers who can block defenders and make holes in the defence for your runners, they can be an important part of any football play.
Intelligent Offensive Linemen
In a triple-offense play, these guys have more than one job to do. Not only do they protect the quarterback, but they can also push defenders in different directions to make holes in the line of scrimmage that your running backs can use.
No one expects you to run right through the danger zone, and in the triple option, a lot of yards can be gained by running straight up the middle of the field. Remember that the key to a good offence always starts with the linemen at the coal face.
Now, with that in mind, you might not want to use this offensive play if your players aren’t willing to block or if your team has to play tight ends along the line of scrimmage.
How Do We Set Up For A Triple Option Offense?
The setup for the triple offence is similar to that of most classic football plays.
Teams should have five offensive linemen in their starting lineup:
- x1 center;
- x2 offensive guards; and
- x2 offensive tackles.
In the backfield, teams will then typically have:
- a quarterback;
- x2 wide receivers; and
- x3 running backs.
Modern plays are different from the ones in the triple option playbook because they call for three running backs. One thing to keep in mind is that if you line up with three running backs on the field, smart defences will know you’re about to call a running play.
To throw them off, put your runners in different spots around the line of scrimmage. This will keep them from knowing what’s going to happen next.
Triple Option Plays
Here are some of my favourite and most effective triple option plays that I’ve seen teams run over the years.
This play uses the right side of the line of scrimmage to its advantage.
The sweep requires your offensive linemen to work together to make holes on the right side of the offensive line. So, they’ll have to work together to turn their shunts and drive plays to the left and right to make holes in the field.
Running backs A and E give you options for running, and player B gives the QB a fake line. The quarterback can also run, but most of the time he will show for backs A and B and pass to the E runner, who will run quickly through a small gap created by the offensive guard and be tackled on the right side of the line of scrimmage.
If the quarterback sees that defenders are trying to close this gap, he can use player A’s swooping line to run the ball around the crowd and attack a cornerback on the right.
On this route, the QB’s wide receivers usually run short safety plays and offer themselves to the QB if they have to pass the ball.
This is a great way to get to the end zone quickly or make quick yards up the field.
This play is pretty hard to master, so you should definitely run it a few times on the practice field before you try it in a game.
But the fact that it’s hard to understand means that it’s a trick play that confuses defenders and can be used to find holes in your defence.
The play starts when the offensive guards squeeze and pull the other team’s players toward them to make space on their left and right sides.
The offensive tackles will then do the opposite and push outward to widen the gap and give the quarterback and player B a space big enough to get the ball through.
In this play, the quarterback has three main choices: himself, player A, and player B. E will act as a fake runner and charge through between the centre and the right-hand guard.
The QB can then pass the ball to player B, roll around to the right side and give the ball to player A coming in on the sweep route, or take the ball up to himself through the gap between the right guard and tackle.
When you’re less than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, this is a great smash play to use.
The Flexbone Formation
The triple option offence has a lot of different ways to play, and you can build on the two plays above to make your own.
Another triple option play setup that coaches should be aware of is the flexbone.In the flexbone triple option, the quarterback is right behind the centre, and the fullback is on his back.
At the start of the play, two smaller running backs will be tucked behind their offensive tackles on each side of the line of scrimmage.
The flexbone is great because it lets the offence run wide lines at the defence and stretch players at the line of scrimmage.
Here are two of my favourite triple-option flexbone plays.
In this version of a traditional running roll-out, the play depends on player E pulling either the tight end or the quarterback away from the space between the wide receiver and the line of scrimmage.
After the snap, the quarterback will start to roll to the right, and he or she will have three choices. He can use the fullback coming through from behind him to hit a line between the right tackle and right guard.
The quarterback can pass the ball to another player, roll to the right and pass the ball to player B, who is coming from the left side, or take the ball himself and hit the channel outside of where the wide receiver is in the diagram above.
You can also use the flexbone as a pass-action play. In the play above, the pass is the third option. The fullback and player B give the quarterback running lines.
Running back E will start the play close to the back of the right offensive tackle and run a dragline toward the right side of the field. Again, this is a great play if you want to stop the clock by running the ball out of play.
With player E moving to the right, the right wide receiver should try to hit a sharp corner route to keep his cornerback and any linebackers from following player E.
The fullback, meanwhile, will give the quarterback a flat run and curve through the middle of the line of scrimmage.
He can change his run to go between the guard and the centre or between the tackle and the guard. The most important part of his job is to keep the other team’s players from moving to the right side of the field.
The quarterback’s last running option comes from player B, who will loop in front of the quarterback and hit a gap between the right guard and tackle.
This is a good way for the QB to pass the ball on, and if E and the right WR take care of the defenders on the right side of the field, player B can pass through with little trouble.
The best time to use this play is when a team needs to gain 10 yards to get the last down. With two wide receivers running routes that are short and open and a running back dragging out, the quarterback has a lot of options for throwing and running to get those extra ten yards.
Even though triple-option offensive plays usually involve running the ball, you can add a pass play by using one of your running backs as an extra wide receiver.
If a coach wants to use the triple option playbook, my best advice is to keep things simple. If your running routes are too complicated, your players will always run into each other as they cross paths in the backfield.
Make the most of your runs by giving each player a clear job at the start of the play and making sure they know the route they need to take.
Coaches should tell their players to run hard and straight at defenders to overpower them and force them off the ball. The goal of players who run looping routes should be to run into open space and attack the holes your offensive line makes.
Try out different plays and routes to see what works best for your team. Run straight and in narrow lines if you have big running backs. Try to use the flexbone triple option formation if your running backs are small and fast.
But remember that the triple option playbook is a great way to gain important yards on offense, no matter what level of football you play.