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By Mike Kuchar, Lead Research Manager, X&O Labs


If you never see the bubble, then there isn't any reason for you to read this article. For the rest of us, some great insight on stopping the bubble starts here...

 



By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar

 

Introduction

The following research was conducted as part of XandOLabs.com special report on “Defending RPO and Triple Option Concepts.”

Much of what Coach Manchester does is out of a three-deep shell. “We want those outside linebackers to bounce, bounce and get a run/pass key on the end man on the line of scrimmage,” said Coach Manchester. “He won’t shuffle inside because teams will throw the bubble right away and it’s a pitch and catch. When we play three deep zone the Dog will be over number two five yards from the line of scrimmage and six yards from the receiver. They will bounce, bounce to get their run/pass key and then if it’s pass their eyes go straight to number two to reroute him. We read pass routes.”

But late in the year, this coverage was tested by gap schemes with bubble concepts in the form of an RPO (Diagram 73). “We did that bounce technique the first couple series against Iowa Western Community College, but they were running the QB Power RPO concept out of it, but we weren’t attacking. The receivers were coming and cutting us and we were just sitting and trying to get off the block. Finally, we settled down and said ‘screw the pass.’ When you see that action coming at you, just go attack that guy as hard as you can. It’s one on one blocking. Once we started being more physical, we were making that guy that caught the ball bubble even more which was good. We attacked it like it was a run.”

Slide73
Against 3x1 sets, the Bats and Mike’s open up to trips side and work to be a seam to number three player. “If we get trips, we will pull the rope by aligning the Mike over the front side guard,” said Coach Manchester. “He can be the extra quarterback player which helps against the zone read. When the Bat is removed, he becomes a pass first player. He is a secondary contain player. If number three does the bubble, he has to help. They just create one on one blocks with the corner and the Dog. The quarterback would hold the ball to make him hesitate. That Bat needs to read the end man on the line of scrimmage and also read the number three receiver. If he goes vertical, you know you need to work to number three. If he does the bubble, he can play it and the Mike needs to help with the quarterback if you’re staying with the zone concept (Diagram 74).”

Slide74

One of the problems against cover three could be the empty formation, which presents a vertical stretch on the coverage and opens up lanes for the quarterback on the power game. This is the reason why Coach Manchester will pinch his ends into the B gap to muddy up the read for the quarterback. “If you have your guard pulling, that backside tackle has to do a great job of sealing him off. Those tackles are reading the block of the guard anyway so it becomes a tough angle. Even with four in the box, the Bat must be your outside in player because if they start running it he’s outside and the Mike is inside (Diagram 75). If you stay with zone concepts, they get numbers on you.

Slide75

To study game cutups of Georgia Military’s Three-Deep concept against RPO’s, click on the video below:

Defending the Option:

RPO & Flexbone

 

The dynamic of defending option football has shifted. The "stop the fullback" mentality has shifted to a "get two on the quarterback" mindset. The emergency of dual threat signal callers has changed the premise of defending option football. The pitch element of triple option has been supplanted with the quick game of RPO concepts. 

Due to the new trends in the option, defending these concepts became our #1 course of study in 2016. 

But, it certainly wasn't easy... 

Since many of these offensive concepts are still being developed, we were not surprised with how many coaches were still grasping for answers. Naturally, we did our due diligence to identify and find those that believed in what they are doing and had the credibility to put their name to it. In fact, we enlisted the help of only those coaches who won at least 75 percent of their games defending these schemes. 

We broke down our research into two distinct areas: 

  1. Defending flexbone triple option football 
  2. Defending the new triple option football, run/pass option concepts. 

We segmented our research by breaking down defending the triple option by front structure and defending RPO concepts by coverage structure. 

And the good news is we have released all our research into our brand-new special report... 

 

The Defending RPO & Triple Option Study

 This in-depth study takes you inside the programs who have had success in stopping these option concepts. These are proven strategies at defending RPO and triple option concepts. 

The truth is... many coaches have a plan, and most of them are preparing to implement that plan now. Its no secret, 61 percent of coaches start preparing for option offenses in the spring and summer leading up to the season. 

But the question is... 

Is your plan the right plan? 

Has it proven to stop RPO or flexbone concepts? 

Can it hold them to 3rd and medium? 

If you can't answer "yes" to all of these questions, you must read The Defending RPO & Triple Option Study. 

What's important to note is that above all else, this project is a study in defending first and second down. As Trinity College (TX) defensive consultant and secondary coach told us, "you have to limit these offenses to four yards or less on second down." 

Run/pass option is option football and the threat of the run equally dissipates in third down situations, the same could be said about flexbone offensive stuctures. So, the purpose of this special report is to provide defensive coordinators with sound structures and adjustments to put these offenses behind in the chains. 

Below is the list of successful programs that contributed to this study: 

  • Henderson State University (AR): Finished 4th in Division 2 in scoring defense, surrendering 15.8 points per game. Led the country with 29 interceptions in 2015.
  • Trinity College (TX): Finished 3rd in Division 3 in rushing defense, surrendering 60.5 yards on the ground in 2015.
  • University of St. Francis (IN): Finished 11-1 in 2015, surrendered 121 rushing yards per game.
  • Georgia Military College: 8-4 record in 2015, birth in JUCO national championship game.
  • Dodge City Community College (KS): Finished 9-3 in 2015, surrendering 93 rushing yards per game.
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (IN): Finished 8-2 in 2015. Had a defensive efficiency of 66% defending RPO concepts.
  • As well as a number of successful high school programs from Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Florida and South Carolina 

Here's what you'll find in this brand-new study... 

Case 1: Odd Front Stuctures to Defend Flexbone Triple Option

It's not an aberration that when the Naval Academy and Army compete against each other in December, they are utilizing odd front structures. In this case, we will present various viewpoints on using the odd front, it's important to note that many odd front coaches continually change their assignments when defending triple option concepts. Part of the complexity of defending triple option is having the discipline to play your assignments properly. We all know that. The successful option offenses will continually monitor how you are defending them and adjust accordingly. In this case, we studied pure triple option concepts from the flexbone formation and how odd front defenses are defending them. 

Some of the research we uncovered in this case includes:

  • Why 64 percent of coaches use a phase base system (dive, pitch keep), while 19 percent use a gap based system (A gap responsible, B gap responsible, etc.)
  • Base run fits to defend the flexbone triple option in both the 3-4 and 3-3-5 defensive structures.
  • An analysis with video of Central Arkansas Christian High School's Rebel package from its 3-4 structure and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis with video of Henderson State University (AR) 3-4 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis of Fairfield Central High School (SC) 3-4 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis of Noxubee County High School (MS) 5-3 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • Analysis with video of odd front pressures used to defend flexbone triple option schemes including the Wide Dog Pressure used at Fairfield Central High School, the Grizzly pressure used at Mukwonago High School (WI), the Saw Pressure used at St. Joseph High School (CA), the Smoke Dog Pressure used at South County High School (VA), the Pinch Fire pressure used at Woodmont High School (SC) and the Razor Pressure used at West Laurens High School (GA). 

Case 2: Even Front Structures to Defend Flexbone Triple Option

We found that the majority of coaches, 44 percent, choose to use four down fronts to defend the flexbone option. The reasoning is molded around the ability to cover up offensive linemen to prevent them from getting to the second level. We've also found that many defensive coaches are choosing to use a single gap control system (rather than those two-gap principles tied to odd front teams) to defend option. They are in the opinion that your assignments are clearer when you have one gap to control. While those might be the base ways to defend triple option concepts in the even front system, we wanted to single in on some specific programs to research how they were defending pure option football. We selected six programs from all levels who had a winning percentage of .750 or higher in defending option football. We presented a synopsis of how each of these systems defend option football. 

Some of the research we uncovered in this case includes:

  • Base run fits to defend the flexbone triple option in both the 4-2-5 and 4-3 defensive structures.
  • An analysis with video of Northwest High School (OH) 4-2-5 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis with video of Trinity College (TX) 4-2-5 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis with video of Dodge City Community College (KS) 4-3 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis with video of Ponchatoula High School (LA) 4-3 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis of West Carolina University 4-3 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • An analysis with video of Sayreville High School (NJ) 6-2 defense and how it is used to defend flexbone triple option including base fits of the first, second and third level defenders as well as the changeups it uses to vary responsibilities.
  • Analysis with video of event front pressures used to defend flexbone triple option schemes including the Saw Zero Pressure used at Ponchatoula High School (LA), the Shark Pressure used at Western Carolina University and the Lightning Pressure used at Miami East High School (OH). 

Case 3: Zone Based Coverage Structures to Defend RPO Schemes

By now, the RPO (run/pass option) game has arrived at a ball field near you. According to our research 80 percent of defensive coordinators have experience defending RPO concepts. While these types of concepts are proliferating, we wanted to research how defensive coordinators were using a holistic approach in defending them. Were they treating them as triple option elements? Where they using a certain coverage or front to contain them? We decided to segment our research in this case to certain coverages that coaches are using to defend RPO concepts. We also detail which types of RPO concepts or constraints (stick draw, zone bubble, zone pop, etc.) that these coverages are efficient in defending. In this case, we focused on zone-based configurations, whether it be split field variations or whole field variations. Our research shows that the majority of coaches, 32 percent, will use split field coverage principles to defend the RPO game. 

Some of the research we uncovered in this case includes: 

  • An analysis with video of the Deuce coverage concept that Henderson State University (AR) uses to defend 3x1 stick draw and 3x1 stick skinny RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Read Solo coverage concept that Henderson State University (AR) uses to defend 2x2 zone bubble and 2x2 zone pop RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Read Solo coverage concept that Henderson State University (AR) uses to defend 2x2 zone bubble and 2x2 zone pop RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Cover two read coverage concept that Grand Island High School (NE) uses to defend 3x1 smoke, 3x1 fire and 2x2 bubble RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Robber coverage concept that the University of St. Francis (IN) uses to defend backside pin and pop RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the "X out 3" coverage concept that the University of St. Francis (IN) uses to defend 3x1 stick draw and 2x2 zone out RPO schemes.
  • An analysis of the Squat two coverage concept that the University of St. Francis (IN) uses to defend 2x2 zone bubble RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Steal coverage concept that Longview High School (TX) uses to defend backside X RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Spy coverage concept that Longview High School (TX) uses to defend 3x1 vertical RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of Field 3 Porch coverage concept that Trinity College (TX) uses to defend field side 3x1 RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of Field 3 Sky coverage concept that Trinity College (TX) uses to defend field side 3x1 RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of Field 3 Cobra coverage concept that Trinity College (TX) uses to defend backside bubble, smoke and fire RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video on how Georgia Military College uses Thirds coverage concepts to defend Empty RPO schemes. 

Case 4: Man Coverage Structures to Defend Run/Pass Option Concepts

We decided to segment our research in this case to certain coverages that coaches are using to defend RPO concepts. We also detail which types of RPO concepts or constraints (stick draw, zone bubble, zone pop, etc.) that these coverages are efficient in defending. This case will focus on zone-based configurations, whether it be split field variations or whole field variations. Our research shows that 14 percent will use man coverage principles to defend the RPO game. In this case, we studied programs that will exclusively use man coverage concepts to defend RPO schemes. In this particular case, the coverage is not as important as the fundamentals that these programs are teaching to those players who are put in conflict with run/pass action. We selected four sources that have had a win percentage of .750 or higher in defending these offenses to explain how they were successful. 

Some of the research we uncovered in this case includes: 

  • The run first/pass first methodology that is used at prep powerhouse Westfield High School (VA) which tags a specific "pass first" defender to take away RPO schemes depending on the coverage/pressure called.
  • An analysis with video of the "Tampa" coverage concept, which tags a second level defender to be a "pass first" player if an RPO develops.
  • An analysis with video of the "Alert" coverage concept, which tags a third level defender to be a "pass first" player if an RPO develops.
  • An analysis with video of the "Bronco" coverage concept, which tags a second level defender to be a "pass first" player if an RPO develops.
  • An analysis of the Conversion coverage concept that Bucknell University uses to defend 2x2 and 3x1 pop pass RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Dallas coverage concept that Rose-Hulman Institute uses to defend 3x1 stick and 3x1 pin and pull RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Round Rock coverage concept that Rose-Hulman Institute uses to defend 2x2 zone bubble and 2x2 pop pass RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Frisco coverage concept that Rose-Hulman Institute uses to defend 2x2 zone bubble and 2x2 pop pass RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Austin coverage concept that Rose-Hulman Institute uses to defend tight end attached, 11 personnel RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the Waco coverage concept that Rose-Hulman Institute uses to defend 21 personnel, two-back RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of the El Paso coverage concept that Rose-Hulman Institute uses to defend Empty personnel RPO schemes.
  • An analysis with video of how Blair Oaks High School (MO) defends 3x1 and 2x2 RPO schemes with man coverage from its 4-2-5 defensive structure.
  • An analysis with video of how Dodge City Community College (KS) defends 3x1 and 2x2 RPO schemes with man coverage from its 4-3 defensive structure. 

Bonus Case: Practice Planning for the Triple Option 

It's impossible to defend these schemes during the course of a game week, which is why most coaches don't. We've found that the majority of coaches, 57 percent choose to start preparing for triple option offenses in the spring or summer leading up to the season. So, we reached out to hose coaches who have won at least half their games against these schemes to tell us exactly how they prep for these offenses. This case details how various coaches are preparing to defend triple option concepts including:

  • Half-line methodologies
  • No-ball methodologies
  • Option period methodologies
  • Off-field preparation methodologies
  • Segmented teaching methodologies

 

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The Defending RPO & Flexbone Study

 

 

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