I'm going to tell you all some things that you don't want to hear first.
There is no defensive scheme that "solves" the option, and there will never be one that "solves" the option.
4-3, 4-2-5, 3-3-5, 3-4, 4-4, etc., does not mean anything. Just because a team beats GT with a 4-2-5 or 3-3-5 does not mean they have "solved" the option. If you think that just because Kansas showed more 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 sets is the reason they beat GT, and that Kevin Steele should do the same thing just because Kansas won the game against them, then you are a dumbass and you don't know shit about the option.
The basic scheme that we played against GT on Thursday night last year is the same one that Iowa used to defeat them in the Bowl game.
The basic scheme that we played against GT on Thursday night last year is the same one that LSU used to defeat them in the Bowl game.
The basic scheme that we played against GT on Thursday night last year is the same one that Miami used to defeat them last season.
The basics of that scheme is the one we wrote up prior to last offseason right here. There are minor tweaks with bringing up players from the secondary in alignment and a tweak in alignment of the Linebackers, but the assignments were all apparent and very similar to anyone who was paying attention. Its the scheme I would play and the one that we used to force GT into the most 3 & outs they had of any opponent last year in that Thursday night game. We lost that game because we got outcoached, plain & simple.
So then why did GT lose to a Kansas team that lost to a 1-AA squad? Why did they lose to Iowa or Miami and not us?
Because their OL got the hell beat out of them and they couldnt block worth a damn against them. That was the overriding factor in controlling Paul Johnson's triple option in each of these games. I watched part of the Kansas game yesterday, and their OL play was atrocious. I vividly remember watching the Iowa game, and the DEs for Iowa were planting Nesbitt on his ass nearly every play and their DL as a whole completely overran Georgia Tech up front. That is why they couldn't take over the clock and grind them into dust. The second factor, and similarly important, is that teams like Iowa or LSU jumped well ahead of Georgia Tech, and it took them out of their gameplan early.
Football is always going to be about blocking and tackling. If your Front whips them, you will stop them. If GT plays really well up front, they're going to get yards. If they have good backs + that blocking, they're going to get wins, so stop this BS that keeps getting posted on message boards about "GT will be stopped because people will figure out how to stop the option." Thats nonsense. GT will be stopped through recruiting of their linemen and backs, or their defensive players, long before somebody "solves" the option. The option has been around since the beginning of football and its always going to be here. Florida runs an option-based system, Oregon is heavy on the option, and both run a version of a spread Midline attack and Veer that GT runs constantly and the basic differences are just the formation and who is doing the blocking.
Now I'm going to tell you something that you do want to hear, and probably felt after the ACCCG:
The scheme we played against GT in the ACCCG is the dumbest scheme I have ever seen thrown against the option.
As I was watching the tape again this afternoon of the game, I could only shake my head at what Steele was doing. I've watched this tape several times this offseason just to try to figure out what Steele was thinking. I know some other coaches thought the same thing after seeing what we could (or couldn't, rather) do with the two best defensive ends in the ACC, hands down. At the time I was so amazed at GT's blocking ability that I didn't berate Steele publicly for it, but we should've.
Kevin Steele's scheme is why we lost the 2nd time around. If he goes back to this same scheme, which I do not see him doing (/crossesfingers) then we will lose Saturday. I want to be clear here, GT blocked us about as well as I've ever seen an option team block, ever. Their cut blocking was exceptional, to say the least. The fact that we were even in the game points to their atrocious defense and CJ Spiller's pure ability.
So how do you slow down the option? You must make a choice as a coordinator whether to make them run inside or outside.
In my opinion, step 1: Stop the FB Dive. - Everything is set up from the dive play, midline and the veer option. We did that pretty well in both games. The actual dive play did not generate that many yards for GT. Later on, when the defense was clearly worn out, it did begin to pick up, but we did not do terribly against a "true" dive play. Not all of Dwyer's carries are on actual dive plays however.
Step 2: Hammer that damn QB on every single play. If he's not on his ass you need to sit your player's on their's, on the bench. We did not do that.
Why did we not do that? Awful LB play, not playing assignments, and a genuinely dumb scheme.
The coverage for Miami was C2 on one side and Quarters on the other. Clemson ran Quarters all the way. This part was fine, and both LSU and Iowa did these same things. That part is not under debate here.
What was different was the front schemes between the two games we played against them. Now lets go into what Steele ran out there in Game 1 vs. Game 2.
Game 1 - A mix of DE on the Dive and as the Force player (on the QB).
When the DE is on Dive, MIKE and SAM/WILL (whether strong/weakside run) come over the top, with S/W on the pitch back and MIKE on the QB as force. The LB on the backside (S/W) of the play is playing Dive first, and then over the top.
The Arc Triple Option play below will show you what I'm talking about. Watch Bowers take the FB, Maye is on the QB by assignment, but the Veer block takes him out (its designed to, notice Bowers is completely unblocked, they option off him). Conner is on the pitch but has no help, and he doesnt take the pitch back like he should and it goes for a TD.
There is nothing wrong with that scheme, assuming your MIKE can get off blocks, which unfortunately we know Brandon Maye could not do. Its a common scheme, particularly from the Under front. Maye and the others can't get off blocks, probably because we don't do LB Shed drills all week.
If the Wingback blocks down on Bowers, then the assignment changes. MIKE still has QB, SAM/WILL takes the first threat outside, WILL/SAM comes over the top again to help, but the Safety must be there to take the Pitch.
When DE is on the QB, then the DTs and MIKE/Backside have Dive responsibility. The DE executes his block-down-step down rule when his OT veers inside to the 2nd level, and is supposed to be standing there in the QB's face to plant his ass or force the pitch, and SAM/WILL should be there to take the pitch man. This is the one we used for large portions of the Thursday game, and the one that Iowa used. Iowa's hugest DE somehow managed to take out everybody at once several times though.
Game 2 - Some DE on the Dive, but mostly DE on the pitch back. Also, he stepped MLB back 2 yards deeper from his normal alignment, theoretically so Maye would look before he runs (didn't happen), and stood both Ends up in a 2-point stance. In addition, he widened the stance of the OLBs beyond the Ends, presumably to let them see the Wingback come up to arc block with outside leverage on him, and also to make the inside veer block impossible.
When you step MIKE back, you are taking him out of position to really make it to the QB as the force player. He's just too far away from the LOS. That means he is either meant to play pitch or Dive, and he really should only be on the Dive. Iowa moved their MLB back, though not 2 yards like we did, and put him on the Dive. Instead we had Maye take the QB at times, and he scraped to play pitch at others. Dumbest shit I've ever seen. Sometimes when he was on Dive he did dumb shit on his own, or just jumped into the wrong gap and missed the guy totally.
When you stand both Ends up, the goal is obviously to make them play with their eyes: to see the play develop and not be fooled. Its also to keep them upright and able to use their hands to get over cut blocks. Well when you have guys who aren't used to being in 2 point, it can make their reactions considerably slower and less aggressive.
I see nothing wrong with the alignment change of the OLBs. That in itself is a hallmark of the Over front and is what Miami did to them as well.
Steele left the Ends on the Dive for some plays, which is not that bad itself, but as I said when you have MIKE 6-7 yards off and have to have him take the QB by gap exchange, you basically give up what we did to Nesbitt on the outside veer option (2nd vid below). Otherwise you have to use the Cornerback as the pitch and SAM/WILL as the force, which we also did, and executed it poorly (directly below).
Now for Steele's most ridiculous move of the game, he put the Ends on the pitch back. Do any of you recall Bowers or Sapp running right by Nesbitt, unblocked? Steele was being gashed so badly by Nesbitt with his Ends on the Dive that he didn't do the smartest thing he could think of, like putting the End on Nesbitt, and instead did the dumbest thing he could think of, like sending the unblocked End to hit Anthony Allen or the other Wingback.
Its so hard for me to wrap my mind around his logic that I'm having a hard time describing the assignments. SLB/WLB is aligned outside and now must attack the QB directly by gap exchange. Well what do you think the Wingback on the playside does? He arc blocks and takes out the SAM/WILL, and Nesbitt goes 20 yards once he cuts inside the Safety. If S/W gets off the block, and then misses his tackle then you must pray that the SS/FS is able to fill the gap immediately or Nesbitt gets 20 yards. MIKE is too far away to get over there before Nesbitt crosses the LOS, so they'll automatically get 3-4 a clip this way. If the pitch is not made, Bowers cannot flatten the pitch back, and he simply follows Nesbitt outside, and the pitch option is still available to him to make.
But as you see below, this is not what Steele diagrammed, making it even dumber. Look at what the OLB is doing below, he's taking the Dive while the End takes pitch, and NOBODY is there to hit Nesbitt. He actually has Maye still coming over to hit the QB, from his deeper position.