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What makes a veer/option offense go? A closer look at the responsibilities of an option QB.

We have involved ourselves in how the veer is executed and what it takes for a defense to defend such an attack in earlier posts. Now we will discuss basic priciples an athlete will need to abide by to be an option QB. In an successful option attack, QB play really makes this thing go. The quarterback is critical in such an offense for several reasons, and must have several attributes to be successful. First, the quarterback must be a tough individual. He can expect to take many shots and is extremely vulnerable when running most option plays. The quarterback has to be an excellent decision maker before the snap and must make correct reads throughout the play. Finally, the QB must be athletic enough to be a credible weapon on the ground. A quarterback who possesses all three of these skills puts a veer offense in good position to pick up lots of yards on the ground. Further, we will discuss the decision making progression and basic techniques needed by the signal caller to really get an option offense going. Throughout this explanation, we will focus on GT, thus we will assume the offensive fomation is balanced flex (one wing and one split end on each side of the formation and a fullback in the backfield).

Campus Sports Media outlines some keys to overall offensive option success.

The quarterback must first and foremost understand everything that will go on within an option play and anticipate what the defense will give him so that he can make immediate and correct decisions as each play unfolds. Coming out of the huddle, the QB must make an immediate defensive read. This involves diagnosing where the interior linemen are positioned and where the force/option will occur. Thus, the immediate read is the playside defensive tackle and the end. The tackle location and DE play is the dive read and each player's pre-snap alignment is critical. The other item to notice is the technique played by the DT. Should the QB read a 3 and a 1 technique, he may check to a mid-line option to counter the off-balanced defensive front (as explained earlier in the week here). Otherwise, with double 2 and 3-technique defensive tackles, the outside veer is still applicable.

The next read will be on the perimeter. The QB will want to know where the safeties and the corners are located. If the SS creeps into the box for run support, the QB immediately assumes the end is the force or option and the SS will crash down to provide run support on the pitch. Similarly, defenses that play a hard cover-two will utilize the end as the force and get run support out for the trailing back out of the corner. In less aggressive (4 deep) schemes, the DT may end up being the force with the end maintaining outside run support. In any of these scenarios, it is critical for the QB to identify who will most likely be optioned BEFORE the ball is snapped.

Before we get too far into this, please keep in mind that the first choice for any team running the veer is the dive. This read is made at the snap of the ball and is based on the defensive tackle/end behavior. Should the tackle and/or end pinch to take away the dive, the QB must pull the ball. Otherwise, you will see a steady dose of the fullback gaining 6 up the gut all night long.

The Quarterback in all cases should be thinking PITCH first. Throughout the play, the quarterback's goal is to create an advantage for the trailing pitchman and gain positive yardage. From the mesh until the force man is optioned, the quarterback must be prepared and willing to pitch the ball at any given moment. The QB should also assume there will be a hard force (designed to maintain outside contain) and thus a pitch is possible immediately after the fake dive.

Should the dive not be available, the QB then finds his key--the option defender. The QB then attacks the nose of the option/force man. By getting to the force, the QB is running away from the heart of the defense and making the defender make a quick decision, which often results in a quicker pitch and immediately occupies a defender. By immediately attacking, the QB negates any defensive pursuit while keeping the force (usually the end) out of the run or option alley. The option alley is a diagonal lane between the defensive end and the split end slanting towards the playside alley. This area is critical because it is the designed running lane for this play. This immediate attack also increases the likelihood a good QB to pitchman relationship is maintained.

Once the QB is isolated on the optioned player, the QB must then make another immediate decision. The QB must force the defender to commit to him or chase down the pitchman, and make an immediate decision based on the defender's movement(s). The QB reads the defender's feet and hips. If the defender plants his feet to attack the QB, the QB pitches. If the defender opens his hips or commits to the pitchman, the QB will tuck the ball and get up field. An experienced QB will utilize his eyes and body position to fake out the force man on both pitch and keeper plays.

In the video below, you will see the QB attack the optioned player and create a pitch scenario. The QB attacks the nose of the squatting defender to get him to commit. This allowed the pitch and a clean option alley.

The final responsibility is possession of the football. The QB MUST secure the football with two points of contact coming out of the mesh point. The quarterback must know where his trailing back is at all times. The QB must make a good pitch and never risk turning the ball over, even if it means a tough shot on the ball carrier.

If you can master all of these skills and are tough enough to get hit on each of these plays, you just might have what it takes to be an option QB for Paul Johnson.