Triple option

Triple option

The Triple option is an American football formation used to offer multiple ways to progress the football forward in the field of play. The triple option is based around the option run, but uses three players who may run with the ball instead of the two that are used in the standard option run. There are three basic forms of triple option: the "wishbone" triple option, the "veer" triple option, and the I formation triple option. These differ in terms of the personnel on the field and their positioning prior to the beginning of the play.

The triple option forces defenses to worry about multiple running options on a single play. For the offense, the decision of who to carry the ball (which option to make) is made during the play by the QB. Once the play is perfected, the offense decisions become simple. The triple option can be complemented by fixed running plays which start like the triple option but use traditional blocking, as well as play-action passing.


The "wishbone triple option" can utilize several formations including the flexbone or Maryland I. The wishbone triple option is a running play where either fullback, quarterback, or one of the halfbacks will end up running the ball.

First, the quarterback (QB) receives the football from the center. The quarterback then begins the play in one direction by starting to handoff the football to the fullback (FB) right behind the playside guard on a standard fullback dive play. The guard "chips" the 3-technique (Defensive tackle) and blocks the playside inside linebacker (usually called the Mike Linebacker). The quarterback then reads the unblocked defensive linemen, if he crashes down on the fullback the quarterback pulls the ball from the fullback's gut and continues down the line, but if the defensive linemen goes outside to contain the play he hands off inside to the fullback. The offensive tackle on the side of the play's direction does not block the defensive end and instead moves to block the first threat which is ususally the linebacker stacked behind the defensive end. In the traditional triple option the backside tailback will take a parallel course down the line of scrimmage keeping a 3 to 5 yard separation with the quarerback. If the defensive end comes inside toward the quarterback he will pitch it outside to the trailing halfback. If the defensive end keeps outside leverage and plays the trailing halfback the quarterback will keep the ball and cut up field inside of the defensive end. The tailback to the playside is responsible for blocking one of the defensive backs, usually one of the deep safeties. The wide receiver to the play side is responsible for blocking the corner back assigned to cover them if the defense were playing man coverage.

If this is run properly it can be extremely effective as most all defensive players are accounted for by blockers. Once the quarterback or tailback gets beyond the line of scrimmage there should be nobody in front of them because the tackle, guard, tailback and wide receiver are all downfield picking up the first threat.

The play is called the triple option because the fullback dive is the first option, the quarterback keeping the ball is the second option, and the quarterback pitching to the halfback is the third option.


The veer triple option uses two halfbacks and a tight end. The "inside veer" play is similar to the wishbone triple option, but the dive option is performed by the halfback on the side of the play, and the other halfback becomes the pitch man. The veer is more challenging to run to the weak side (the side without the tight end) because there is no lead blocker for the pitch man. The "outside veer" moves the halfback dive option outside the offensive tackle, forcing the outside linebacker to stop the halfback dive, and forcing the defensive backs to play the pitch option.

I formation

The triple option can be run out of the I formation as well. With two running backs, it is sometimes called the "I-veer", as the play is similar to the two running back veer offense. Three running back I formations such as the Maryland I and the stack I are more similar to the wishbone play.

Recent variations

In recent years, as spread offenses have become popular, many teams have begun to run variations of the triple option with the quarterback in the shotgun. This has been greatly popularized by the succes of coaches such as Rich Rodriguez, John Morin, and Urban Meyer. The more traditional version of the triple option utilizes a quarterback under center and is advocated by the service academy coaches, including Fisher DeBerry, formerly of the United States Air Force Academy and Paul Johnson, formerly head coach of the U.S. Naval Academy and now head coach at Georgia Tech.


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