What Would a Triple Option Look Like Run by a Major Program?

Submitted by jcorqian on September 8th, 2012 at 8:40 PM

Saw this asked during the liveblog with no responses.  For the more football savvy of our community, what would a triple option offense look like if a major program ran it?  I'm thinking an LSU, a USC, a Nebraska, etc.  Curious to see how a school that could recruit top tier D1 talent could pull it off.  Why isn't it more prevalent in today's game?

Amazing that Air Force can execute it that well with 260 lb lineman.  What if Alabama's line was executing it, and their backs were executing it?



September 10th, 2012 at 7:59 AM ^

The reason major programs in major conferences don't run it any more is the increased speed and size of defenses.  Back in its heyday, the best athletes played offense for the most part, and if the QB could beat the middle linebacker and safety to the outside, they'd be in business.  

Nowadays, major programs have middle linebackers that aren't Kenny Demens, so running it would be futile.   Unfortunately, our MLB plays in the middle of a dense fog while standing in quicksand. Could you imagine any team, no matter the speed, running that slow developing lateral running offense against Alabama, LSU, or any other athletic defense?  It'd get destroyed.


September 8th, 2012 at 8:44 PM ^

with Barry Sanders and Cory Schlesinger. They'd have had to draft or pick up like 5 option QBs from college, but he was convinced it would have been awesome.


September 8th, 2012 at 8:46 PM ^

It would look like Neb in the 90's.  Or UM in the 80's.  But it's an offense that's not effective when you get behind the down and distance.  I've heard that the option offense went out of favor because D's figured out that you could string the option out to the sidelines and use that as a defender.  However at this point, so few teams run the triple option that it's now difficult to prepare for, which is why you're now seeing more teams run it.  But out of the shot-gun  and other spread formations that make passing more effective as well too.


September 8th, 2012 at 8:49 PM ^

Also, its probably not that easy to recruit top flight players to come play in an option offense when there are more attractive looking offenses out there.


September 8th, 2012 at 8:57 PM ^

Correct me if i am wrong, but I was under the impression that the triple option is a more viable option for teams with limited talent, such as the service academies.  They have such a limited base to recruit from in terms that the player is also signing up for a military commitment.

I know the triple option was ran by larger programs in the 80's and 90's but honestly that was a different era in football.


September 8th, 2012 at 9:20 PM ^

and probably not much more even if it were a marquee program. It's not a path to the NFL at all, so it's not as if GT would get better athletes (in the option system) if it were Michigan.


September 10th, 2012 at 1:09 AM ^

That's true, but the point was that this offense doesn't prepare you for the NFL. That means most players that have NFL aspirations aren't going to want to play in it. And this is a valid point, even if guys manage to develop enough to get to the NFL despite playing in that offense.


September 10th, 2012 at 11:15 AM ^

Yes, I agree that's a concern players should have, but I don't know if i agree with it.  I see why you want more reps and more opportunities at WR, but in the NFL, you don't get 14 attempts your way a game.  Many WRs only get targeted 3-4 times a game anyway.  You learn to make the most of your opportunities,  you still are running routes, getting off being jammed, learning to block.  There's a lot more to being WR than catching the football.  Overall though, I agree.  if Thomas or Stephen Hill were in a pass happy attack, they'd probably get more looks in the NFL.


September 8th, 2012 at 9:34 PM ^

The only reason the triple option is working for the teams that do it is because it is totally different from what everyone else is doing.  It's like fighting a left-handed boxer.  Teams get almost no experience playing against it and it runs counter to a player's reflexes in a lot of instances.  

Also, as someone mentioned, the skill set at QB is not an NFL skill set, so it's hard to get good QB's to commit to a program that pretty much ends any dream they have of being an NFL QB.  

I agree with the poster who said, "ask GT."  They get major talent and run the option.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  The big drawback to the option seems to be that when it doesn't work, you are really, really screwed.



September 8th, 2012 at 9:41 PM ^

spread-n-shred in the NFL.  You won't be able to recruit players to play a style that won't get them to the NFL.  Some positions are ok like O-Line or RB/FB, but QB/WR will always be tough to recruit.  Then you have an overall speed increase at the top level of competition, and getting the edge against those teams is very very hard.   Once you're behind the sticks or on the scoreboard, its pretty much game over without a vertical passing game. My two cents anyway...

User -not THAT user

September 8th, 2012 at 11:30 PM ^

Not sure that I'd agree that GT gets "major" talent...they basically get all the talent that UGA and the other SEC schools leave behind; Tech is something like the Island of misfit toys in that regard.

I like watching it because it reminds me of when I was a kid and EVERY big program ran it.  Oklahoma, Alabama, Nebraska, Texas (Darrell Royal invented the wishbone, after all), Michigan.  Of all the traditional powers I can think of from that era, only USC never ran an option attack, but when you could recruit NFL-caliber RB's like they did there probably wasn't much point.  Notre Dame didn't run it until Holtz started coaching there, but they won their last MNC with it.

Then Miami had to come along in the '80's and wreck everything,


September 10th, 2012 at 10:01 AM ^

"The big drawback to the option seems to be that when it doesn't work, you are really, really screwed." I don't get this statement, but I hear it a lot. If you run any offense and it gets shut down, you're screwed and it looks bad. Ask any of Alabama's opponents recently. I guess what you mean is it looks bad because you're just trying the same basic play over and over, but thinking your offense is better because you're just as unproductive but you were unproductive passing and running the ball doesn't make any sense. "Well at least we lost by throwing a lot of incompletions."


September 8th, 2012 at 9:44 PM ^

You definitely will see teams integrate it into their running sets from time to time, but it is an offense predicated on shortening the game with long-ish drives and meticulous implementation.  I think part of the reason it works at the service academies is because those kids are drilled into military precision for everything they do; modern college athletes strike me as a group that wouldn't be down with the lack of individualism required for that type of offense.  Nobody will be a star, everyone has to be held accountable, etc.  

Also, from a performance standpoint it is a poor return on investment.  Look at today's game - AFA had these massive drives where they basically marched down the field until they either scored or were stopped up by a play or two.  It isn't quick-strike unless you break free, but with guys in the defensive backfield it is harder than, say, Denard taking off and running.  It is designed for 4-5 yards and marching down the field.  So if you have a bad snap or the option is caught for a big loss, suddenly you are behind 2-and-15, it really doesn't have a second gear.  You then have to either run it again and hope to get more yards than expected, or you throw.  Unfortunately, at that point what makes your offense so potent (good WR blocking, small but fast linemen, mobile QB, etc.) bites you in the butt because those characteristics typically are not amenable to good pass blocking and route running.  

Personally, I'd like to see more teams integrate it into their gameplans, but as someone who has inexplicably watched more GT games than I ever imagined, it isn't an offense I'd be excited about year after year.  It seems like an 8-9 win ceiling of an offense, and requires your defense and special teams to be top-notch as well to bail you out of bad field position and keep games close.  


September 8th, 2012 at 9:51 PM ^

either ran the wishbone, the veer (two back triple option), Option-I,  Power-I offense. 

In 1977 the college pass blocking rules changed and all of the sudden you saw teams like BYU, SMU, Stanford, Miami (FL) and Washington State start "airing it out".  Even Big Ten teams started recruiting accordingly and throwing the ball way more: Purdue with Mark Herrmann, Dave Wilson at Illinois and Ohio's Art Schlichter. Even run-centric Bo Schembechler eventually warmed up to the idea.

To me that was the beginning of the end of  "option offenses" being so pervasive in college football.  

But I still consider it a lot of fun to watch. Hats off to Air Force for playing a great game today in Michigan Stadium.





September 9th, 2012 at 12:22 AM ^

In 1995, while Steve Spurrier was running the fun'n'gun and most teams were solidly pro-style, Nebraska produced one of the most dominant college football teams of all time running the Osborne I-Option. They are still the last team to win a championship without even being threatened at some point during the year.

They went to the title game in 2001 running that offense. I believe that if they had kept Frank Solich, and he had agreed to adapt spread principles, he could still be winning successfully without ever blowing up the program.

The problem with the triple option isn't that it has been "solved." Recruit great players and it can win (same as many other systems). The problem is that it doesn't do certain things efficiently, like the 2-minute offense, so there are certain types of games where it is a disadvantage. And it is hard to find Tommie Fraziers and a quintet of Mack trucks to use for an offensive line when you have that offense.


September 9th, 2012 at 8:20 AM ^

Wait... Calvin Johnson was long gone before Paul Johnson arrived (by like two years).  Those other guys who were recently drafted didn't go there to run the option, either.  They were were recruited by someone else.

[EDIT:  This was meant for those above arguing that GT gets great WR talent becaus Calvin johnson went there and a few others have been drafted in the last three drafts.]


September 10th, 2012 at 7:33 AM ^

Well the original point was about attracting talent, and so it is relevant.  Until Johnson attracts talent (as his own recruits) the jury is out on whether or not big time WRs will want to go there to play.  I looked at his WR recruiting over the last few years and it is pretty spotty (at least by Scout recruiting rankings).  He has gotten on 4-star guy and then a bunch of 2 and low 3 stars.

I guess we'll see but it seems a little "head in the sand" to think that the system, one that does not feature WRs at all and that is 100% absent in the NFL, does not affect the decision process of recruits.  


September 9th, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

In the past, defenses caught up with the attack. The triple option gave birth to a new scheme that was rare and tough to plan for (spread), but now that it is once more an anomaly, it is tough to scout, prepare for, and defend. It is an interesting cycle in a way



September 9th, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

In the past, defenses caught up with the attack. The triple option gave birth to a new scheme that was rare and tough to plan for (spread), but now that it is once more an anomaly, it is tough to scout, prepare for, and defend. It is an interesting cycle in a way


Blue Blue Blue

September 9th, 2012 at 10:39 AM ^

Yo clowns....do names like Dennis Franklin or Rick Leach ring a bell?  Michigan ran a base triple option for many very good years.  It looks great and works great.  Want to see what a triple option looks like at a major school?  go to Wolverine HIstorian and watch film from the 70s and 80s.


The problem is recruiting.  You need to find very tough guys who can run and pass  Yes we passed quite effectively out of the triple option, and even  produced high draft pick wide receivers (Jim Smith and Ralph Clayton come to mind).


Ultimately, the best receivers and QBs didnt want to play in the ultra-physical triple option.  Bo recognized where the game was going, and went " pro style" with QBs like Steve Smith (who was a better runner than passer, John Wangler and Harbaugh. 


Not that I have checked, but I would bet our  old triple option teams were some of our higher scoring offenses.


My only question is........how old is the poster who started this thread?   too young to know much about our history?