Fourth Option

But what happens when the defense takes away the A, B, and C gaps?

High school coaches rarely see this, and college coaches probably don’t even practice against it – but youth teams can see goal line defenses all over the field.

One youth football guru has made a nice packet of money promoting a goal line defense all over the field that he calls Gap Air Mirror. Here’s a picture, lined up as we’ve seen versus our flex formation:

Gap Air Mirror Vs Flex Formation

We’ve played teams that play it, and have tried it ourselves with a couple of teams. Don’t laugh – it’s a very serious defense, especially for youth teams, and if you have the right players, doing the right things in the right spots, it makes for a very long day on offense.

The dilemma running the football is that the fullback is largely taken away. Because the outside linebackers will widen some to ‘mirror’ the A backs, it is possible to run OSV at the C gap with the fullback, or follow him with the quarterback. See the Third Option page for the blocking scheme against goal line defenses. If everybody does what they’re supposed to do, the cornerback tackles the fullback after a three to four yard gain.

But the Fourth Option is really Speed Option with a built-in pass component against goal line defenses. Here’s the way that the speed option run looks against the Gap Air Mirror:

Speed Option Vs Gap Air Mirror – Trail Back with key Load Block on OLB

Most of the blocking is straightforward. The B gap and A gap defenders on the play are easy targets for highly leveraged down blocks. The safety, who plays almost like a middle linebacker, can be walled off by the cracking wide receiver.

C1 and B4 are the key players, both for this play, and in the GAM defense entirely. In my experience, GAM teams put their best players (or nearly so) at the OLB and CB positions. The Flex Speed Option should attack the B4 player with a log block if he comes inside, and a kick out block if he resists. If he begins to sit still and wait again, attack him with outside veer and OSV follow.

In the tradition of the defense, the B4 player will ‘float’ outside in a mirror of the lead A back as he goes horizontally to the corner. This will open up a natural alley for the quarterback in the C gap – a clear early keep read.

The cornerback (C1) also mirrors, and will chase the split end, then drop him as the quarterback approaches the line with the ball.

As the quarterback comes down the line, he looks through B4 to C1. If the linebacker stays with the A back man-to-man, the options are reduced to Keep or Pass. The quarterback simply cuts toward the early alley and looks to see if the cornerback appears before he hits the line of scrimmage. If the corner doesn’t step up, the QB can almost always make one to four yards, depending on the initial width of the end and how quickly the corner leaves his man.

If B4 disregards the A back and comes inside, the options are reduced to Pitch or Pass. The quarterback continues his belly run directly at the (typically) boxing end E2, who is the pitch key for this play. The quarterback runs to that defensive end’s outside shoulder, prepared for a quick pitch to the fullback when the pitch key is within a step of him. Obviously, if the pitch key goes as deep as the deepest (as he is taught in the basic responsibilities of this defense) then the quarterback will keep, splitting the alley between the log blocked B4 and the pitch key outside, now looking to see whether the cornerback appears here before he hits the line of scrimmage.

The corner is the final man to read in either keep case (inside of B4 or outside of B4.) If the corner steps up, the A back will be wide open on a wheel route. The speed option pass looks like this:

Speed Option Pass Vs GAM with Nosy Corner C1

Even the split end can be open on a slant and go. Be sure he gets appropriate width from the back on his route, not turning up field until he has gone past the safety.

The Speed Option against the GAM has two potential pass receivers, a pitch back, and a quarterback keep path in either the C gap or further outside.

I have some video of the Option Pass component of Speed Option – but not much video of Speed Option itself yet. I’ll add some more to this page as we run that play more often this season. The Option Passes shown below were run with an ISV look, but the crack down of the trail back as a blocker is the same. The end result of the wheel route against the nosy cornerbacks is also the same.

It’s a pretty good play.


Here’s a Speed Option run against a 5-2 with safeties at five yards…. your basic 9-in-the-box defense.