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Option “Musts” and the critically important “Option Alley”

Publisher’s note: We’re thrilled to have Larry Beckish back with us after a serious illness. He’s back at the keyboard sharing his thoughts, expertise and passion for option football.

To successfully and consistently run a dive option the offense must:

I. Protect the mesh

Whether it’s a trap option, (midline or freeze) the inside veer, the outside veer, or the belly the offense can’t function with defensive gap penetration which disrupts the quarterback – dive back mesh. Penetration forces the quarterback off the line of scrimmage providing the defense with more reaction time. It prevents the quarterback from reaching the option man and forces impulsive pitches which result in turnovers. Teach gap responsibilities to the offensive linemen and the dive back.

II. Run the option alley

To the tight end side of the formation the inside edge of the alley is 5-6 yards outside the tight end. The alley is about eight yards wide. The same parameters apply to the split end side of the formation.

The outside edge of the alley angles to the front pylon on the goal line. The option alley is a running lane for the quarterback and pitch back to run the ball to the outside third of the field where most big plays occur. The option alley places pressure on the defense by limiting the effectiveness of pursuit. It guides the quarterback and pitch back away from the heart of the defense. The quarterback and pitch back run ‘northeast,’ by running to the hash, numbers, and up the boundary.

As importantly, the option alley concept aids the run support blockers by defining where the ball is being run in relation to their blocks. It makes blocking the run support more manageable.

The Option Alley concept is different for most coaches and ball carriers, but it is productive by:

a. Yardage gained. The quarterback and pitch back run away from the defense, not through it preventing ‘big hits’ on the ball carriers

b. Making it more difficult for the playside linebacker to make the play for no gain

III. Seal the playside linebacker

Whatever occurs with the blocking on an option play it’s essential to seal (block) the playside linebacker or force him to run over a block for the play to have chance to be a positive

A successful option offense must seal the playside linebacker for two critical reasons:

1. To prevent the defense from outnumbering the offense at the point of attack.

2. To prevent the linebacker from constricting the option alley

IV. Block the run support

The tight end and wide receivers must effectively block the secondary run support. The technique for blocking the run support is the most difficult technique to coach and master in an option offense.

V. Understand the pitch relationship between the quarterback and pitch back

Proper pitch relationship occurs when the option man can’t defend the quarterback and then make a play on the pitch back. The basic pitch relationship places the pitch back four yards deeper than the quarterback and four yards in front of him.

However, the quarterback and pitch back must be coached to meet constantly changing situations as the defense reacts slightly differently on each play -long and short (quick) pitches must be coached.

VI. Dictate the option man to the defense

Most dive option offenses option number 3, (basically the end man on the LOS) An exceptional option team can option number 2 (a defensive lineman), number 3, and number 4, (a defensive back).

Provide the quarterback with a simple, logical decision-making process. The quarterback should be taught to make one-way-decisions on an option plays.

A quarterback can’t attack the option man by trying to decide whether to pitch the ball or keep it by asking himself, ‘do I keep it, do I pitch it?’ That decision is made as soon as an option play is called in the huddle.

The quarterback leaves the huddle saying, ‘I’m going to pitch the ball until the defense won’t let me. If he can’t pitch the ball there is only one reaction remaining – keep it and run.

VII. ‘Check with me.’

A ‘check with me’ system which allows the quarterback to call plays at the LOS creates an advantage, regardless of how slight for the offense. The system makes each play selection count.

Example: ‘Check with me,’68 – 69 (either the option right of left defending on the defense)

‘Check with me,’ 60-61 to the three technique (a fullback trap to the three technique).

E-Mail the Ol’ Coach with your questions at

LISTEN TO Coach Beckish on The Coaches Corner Football Coaching Podcast and hear him discuss other thoughts and ideas from I Believe.

Looking for the Web’s #1 Site for Option Football? CLICK HERE to Visit

Coach Beckish is an expert on Option Football. The list of coaches that Larry his worked with reads like a “Who’s Who” among coaching legends. His coaching stints include stops in the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten.

Larry played for four years at Wichita State University (1960-1965), and was team captain in 1963. Upon graduating from Wichita State, Beckish began his coaching career at the University of Tampa where he coached both the offensive and defensive lines.

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