When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or if your starting quarterback gets hurt, put in your super-athletic backup and let him make plays. That was Texas State’s answer to Tyler Vitt’s injury last weekend. The Bobcats put Willie Jones in at quarterback and flipped their offensive script to the option game. It worked.
A brief bit about modern option game before we look at a couple of plays. In the glorious days of yesteryear when option icons like Bill Yeoman, Darrell Royal, and Emory Bellard were attacking defenses, the option was a baffling offensive juggernaut. The idea was simple, no matter what the defense does, you get the last say. If they gut up to stop the fullback, they’d better account for the quarterback. If they slow play the quarterback, they’d better not get flanked on the pitch. If they keep contain on the pitch, you’d better hope you can line up and repeat that Herculean effort 50 times a night. Option offenses bet you couldn’t.
Years later when crazy ass John Jenkins was running the “multiple adjusting pass offense” or Run and Shoot if you’re into brevity, the scheme based itself on “getting the chalk last.” In other words, no matter what the defense does, the offense gets the last say. Then when innovators like Bob Stitt, Rich Rodriguez, Urban Meyer, and Chip Kelly started running tempo offenses and zone reads, they were drawing on old veer option concepts but using them in “spread” personnel.
If you have an athletic quarterback, you can force the defense to account for him with extra box defenders and, if you’re good at it, you’ll create splash opportunities downfield.
Willie Jones is the athletic quarterback you need. Texas State took advantage of that athleticism on Saturday night. Let’s take a look at a couple of plays. Here’s a classic zone read.
New Mexico State botches this, nearly completely. Most teams will defend the zone read in one of a couple of ways; they’ll scrape-exchange with a linebacker, the defensive end attacking the back, the linebacker coming around the backside of the unblocked end to set the edge against the quarterback.
The other way, the way Texas attacked Oklahoma State on Saturday night is to attach the mesh point, or the handoff junction where the quarterback and running back meet and the quarterback makes his read. Finally, teams will walk a safety down to force the quarterback run.
You know how you don’t defend the option? By having both edge defenders turn their shoulders to the dive and leave a yellow brick road to the end zone. That’s what happens here.
If you give Jones a crease, he can burn you.
Here’s a speed option variation.
On the speed option, the critical role of the quarterback is to attack the option man, in this case, the defensive end. Here Jones forces a defender to make a decision; it's the option, the offense gets the chalk last.
Can you count? Great, you’re 48% on your way to being an offensive coordinator. If you also dip snuff, you're 63% there. Here the ‘Cats are in 10 personnel with trips to the field side. New Mexico State puts an extra defender to that side to compensate and runs a single high safety. The Aggies have four players in the offensive box to the field side and three to the boundary.
Jones flips his back and to the boundary side. The two inside backer run two A-gap blitzes. It’s third and six, they’re expecting a throw, and they want to force a quick throw to protect man coverage. Instead, they get a speed option in their face.
Texas State’s tackle gets the easiest down block in history, and one lone defender is left to play Superman. Jones attacks this poor sap, the force player, and causes him to lose his jock. Fifteen yards later, Jones is untouched.
If Vitt’s out for any extended period, I’d give Jones more of these option opportunities. In the open field, he’s special. That’s the job of coaching, to get players in positions where they can be successful. It also helps to get the chalk last.