Block the Fulcrum To Run the Triple

Spread Trips Left Zone Triple

Read the front side DE for Give, Pitch on Will

I saw this diagram on the site The article that accompanies it was written by Mark Colyer of I’ve re-drawn it with my own less skillful drawing ability.

In youth football, we wouldn’t see many defenses like this. But it isn’t too difficult to imagine the Will as a defensive end in a 50 defense, the d end as a tackle and the tackle as a nose. The Mike might shift a little to the weak side in that scenario, but otherwise, it would be pretty similar. From there, it is just one step to a single safety 5-3,with the strong-side OLB moving into something like the strong safety’s position above. And of course, 4-4 and 6-2 are just different, tighter arrangements of the same sort of even front defense.

I don’t question whether this could work because of different defenses that you might see in youth football. To me, the more interesting question is, can this be a ‘bread and butter’ triple option?

I don’t think so.

I have a principle that I follow whenever we’re trying to run the triple, that says: If the fulcrum is close, we have to block him both inside and out. I prefer to design running plays, that if we execute correctly, will work for four yards.  But who’s the fulcrum player, and what do I mean by ‘close?’

The fulcrum, in the way that we count defenders, is the #3 man to the pitch side. For an explanation of the counting method that we use to teach our youth players, see this page here, but basically the #3 is the third guy from outside in, provided he is OFF the line of scrimmage. He has to be a linebacker or safety. He’s close if he’s a linebacker, or within four to five yards of the LOS.

When we run the triple we put pressure on the defense at three points. The inner-most point is the dive, the mid point is the keep, and the outer point is the pitch. The #3 man is almost always horizontally positioned, if he is unblocked, to make a tackle on either the dive or the keep, and can even run through to the pitch if we don’t have a good pitch relationship.

Here’s a drawing of the fulcrum, for an inside veer play:

The fulcrum, or pivot point for the defense, can threaten all three outcomes

In Coach Colyer’s Zone Option drawing, the fulcrum player is the Mike (middle linebacker M.) He’s the guy that can get to the pivot point the most readily. For that play, the pivot point is a bit further inside, because the dive can go clear to the other side of the field. And not surprisingly, if you put a count on it the way we count players, the MLB is indeed the #3 man.

There are four players that might block him. With zone read, there is zone blocking to the dive side. If Mike blitzes either A gap, our playside guard should catch him. If he tries to flow across the formation for the dive to the B gap, either our center or left guard will wall him off.

But what happens when the MLB and the defensive end decide to work together to eliminate this type of triple option? The dive read for the quarterback is the end. If the end crashes across, the read is keep, and the QB heads right to read Will as the pitch key.

Assume that Will bolts to the pitch back. The decision at that point is keep… but the middle linebacker has chosen to take responsibility for the quarterback. He may have done this as soon as he saw the motion on the backside.  I’m going to assume that the offensive tackle might be the guy we want to get in the way of the MLB… But the defensive tackle simply MUST be blocked. If he isn’t, then he’s going to get the dive back and the end is free to take the quarterback.

Yes, you can start exchanging keys. But I don’t think that is easily done in youth football. You’ve told all your interior linemen that this is a ‘zone’ play, so we probably need to stick with zone blocking. If the D tackle is in our way on our run, we will block him.

Note that our right tackle has a combination block – presumably if the D tackle goes outside, he’s got him all the way, and if he goes inside, our guard has him and the O tackle gets out to the Mike.

There are a couple of dilemmas for our offensive tackle. The first is that if the D tackle sits and reads, or steps straight through the B gap, our O tackle simply must block him, at least for a while. The 3-tech tackles we see in youth football are responsible first for that gap and then second for ball carrier pursuit. My guess is the D tackle would run to the mesh if we don’t block him, forcing us now to try to quickly read TWO defensive guys for the dive, and that’s usually a disaster. The second dilemma is that if the D tackle slants in, while yes our O tackle can get out to the Mike, will he really be able to get under him to keep him off the dive? Not many youth tackles I know could do that.

But lets assume that somehow we might be able to get around him for the dive.  I still get back around to this:  The blocking scheme doesn’t account very well for the MLB rolling to the quarterback. Every time I see an option play that doesn’t work, my first question on film is “Did we handle #3?” This version of the option doesn’t really have a good way to keep that #3 player from blowing up the keep portion of the triple.

I don’t mind the spread formation – but I normally think it is best to be balanced to run the triple. What you lose in potential numbers for bubble screens and zone flooding passing, you gain in an extra blocker.

But lets assume that coach is a wild spread guy, and really, really wants to run trips and shotgun with his triple. A whole lot of his offense revolves around that. Would there be a way to run a triple with trips to one side that DID block the fulcrum? I played around, and came up with this:


Spread Trips Left Zone Triple

Strong Safety is pitch key; Zone blocking from interior

In my version of a triple out of trips, we’re still zone blocking left with the center and two guards. The right tackle will bounce his man out, then cut off #3 on the backside. The left tackle will pull and trap block the unblocked lineman – first down outside the center.

The Defensive End is the dive key (#4 man) and the strong safety (#2 man) is the pitch key. The fulcrum is the Sam linebacker, and we block him to protect both the dive and the keep/pitch.

Here’s the play against a more typical 5-3 defense that we see often in youth football.

#3 Man is still MLB with a 5-3 - Sam widens for triple, making him #2.

It was very interesting to contemplate using this type of play against a youth 5-3. As you can see, the Sam linebacker is #2 and the pitch key, while the End remains #4 and the dive key. The really cool thing about the spread is that it actually makes the MLB the #3 man. They are so spread out that the MLB is #3 on both sides of the formation.

Per my previous comments, as the #3 man the MLB can put pressure on all three phases of the option, especially the dive and keep. You can see though, that in this case we can get to him from both inside and outside. Only if he leaves to pursue the dive should our slot receiver bounce out to the safety.

The harder thing about a youth defensive formation is that extra man on the nose. But if they move their OLB out to hedge against the trips, even if they don’t move the MLB over to compensate, I think this could be a decent play. When you use the A back as the dive back, and the B back as the pitch key, you’ve added another wrinkle that can pay big dividends. And I think, even for a trips / spread oriented team, this could be a pretty effective triple option.

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