As promised, for today’s Concept Wednesday we look at the second option variant run by Scott Frost in Lincoln. It’s only fitting that one of Nebraska’s last great option QBs is now calling them for the Huskers. Last week we looked at the Triple option from split backs. This week we look at the Speed option from shotgun and a fake inside zone variant Frost likes to run that I call Bluff option.
What It Is
As we talked about last week, triple option has the classic dive and pitch elements. The RB runs an inside zone path while the QB reads the end man on the line of scrimmage. If the QB gets a pull read, his next option is reading the alley defender on the pitch:
Speed option, on the other hand, is a two-way option. The dive component no longer exists. Instead, it’s purely a QB or RB option off the end man on the line of scrimmage:
Why It Works
Why speed option? One, it simplifies things for young or inexperienced QBs who may otherwise struggle making multiple reads on a play. If you’ve got a kid that gets overwhelmed running triple option, speed option reduces the reads by half while still getting him out in space. Two, as the name implies, speed option gets two fast players into space immediately. While triple option takes more time to develop, thus giving the defense more time to diagnose the play, speed option is a quick hitter. The pitch defender is immediately threatened by the QB. Three, it takes advantage of a defense cheating to inside zone. Inside zone is a staple run for Nebraska. If a defense starts to overplay that expecting the RB to cross in front of the QB, speed option is a nice counter to keep them honest. And if the defense does overpursue, it’s a big play waiting to happen.
Here, although Adrian Martinez misreads the option defender, you see what kind of space speed option creates if properly read:
True frosh Martinez runs flat to the start the play when ideally you’d like him immediately attacking the LB’s inside leg. This allows the LB to slow play the option component while Martinez works horizontal instead of vertical. Martinez compounds that by cutting up to a hole that doesn’t exist because of a poor block by the RT. Nevertheless, you see what kind of space the RB is left with had the pitch been there.
Another great thing about the Frost offense is how forward looking it is. If inside zone and speed option complement each other by making a defense play neutral with its LBs, why not combine them to really get LBs flowing the wrong way? That’s what Frost does with what I call his Bluff option package. It’s speed option with a little flair. The QB and RB both fake the inside zone path before immediately reversing into a speed option:
As we see, Bluff option produced Nebraska’s only touchdown in what was an otherwise pitiful performance against Michigan. You see Wyatt Mazour initially take an inside zone step before changing direction to take the pitch. This little misdirection holds the interior defenders just long enough to give Nebraska’s OL favorable blocking angles in sealing them inside.
Does It Work With Nebraska’s Personnel?
To be determined. The concept of any option is getting fast athletes in space on the perimeter. Right now, outside of Maurice Washington and perhaps one or two other freshmen currently redshirting, Nebraska lacks speed at the RB position. When that happens, plays like this occur:
Frost gets exactly what he wants on this. Bluff option initially gets Devin Bush, #10 for Michigan, to step inside as he reads inside zone. This is ideal. He’s now chasing the RB to the sideline from inside leverage. In most cases, this is big advantage Nebraska. RB on LB, and the RB has a leverage advantage. But what Devine Ozigbo lacks in speed, Bush has in spades. Bush’s pursuit speed turns what should be a 10-yard gain into a modest two yards. Sometimes Jimmies and Joes beat Xs and Os. A lot of time in fact.
As Nebraska works both Martinez and Washington into better health, I expect them to be quite the pair on Speed and Bluff option. For now, though, Nebraska lacks the RB personnel to make this a true weapon.
Wrapping It Up
No denying that the Michigan game was a brutal loss. Nebraska finished with a paltry 132 yards, much of it gained against Michigan’s backups on an 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. Before that, it was a comedy of errors, as pass protection breakdowns frequently left unblocked Wolverines bearing down on Martinez in the passing game. Not to be outdone, the run game similarly struggled to identify appropriate assignments.
This guy’s opinion is that Nebraska has a lot of running concepts in the playbook right now, and they might be best served narrowing them down f2or the foreseeable future. Lots of scheme is great if you can block it. But if it just causes communication breakdowns in the OL, you end up with performances like we saw this past Saturday.
Fundamentally, no matter what you run, football remains a game of blocking and tackling. And right now, Nebraska is terrible at the former and only adequate at the latter. Let’s hope that changes this weekend against Purdue.