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).
For more on the option from Coach Beckish:
1. Order his hard copy book, Trap Option 40 Plus 60 Equals Option
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2. Order Larry's eBook Coaching the Option Quarterback from the CompuSports Media Exchange
E-Mail the Ol’ Coach with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
After two seasons at Tampa, Beckish headed north to serve as the receivers coach at Clemson under the legendary Frank Howard. He moved south again for a season at the University of Miami before returning to Clemson as receivers coach and he coached the Tigers from 1971-1976.
After Clemson, Beckish returned to his alma mater to work with the legendary Willie Jeffries, who made history by becoming the first African-American head coach in Division 1-A. At WSU Coach Beckish, the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and the staff developed the Trap Option.
Following three years with Jeffries, Beckish became an assistant at East Carolina for a season before joining the Arizona Wranglers of the now-defunct USFL. He later coached three seasons at the University of Minnesota as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Lou Holtz.
After brief retirement Larry returned to coach two seasons at Ole Miss (1990-1992) as well as a season with the Charlotte Rage of the Arena League. From 1995 through 1998 he coached at Duke. Larry recently worked as a ‘volunteer’ coach at Hilton Head High School in 2001 and 2002 before returning to college football in 2003.
During retirement from 1987-1990, he wrote ‘The Trap Option – 40 Plus 60 equals Option.’ He also authored, ‘I Believe in Cream, Apples, and Football – Thoughts for Coaches'.
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