Option football has evolved so much in the last decade that it has become hard to keep up as defensive coaches. Offensive coordinators are constantly finding new ways to neutralize our best football players by reading them, instead of blocking them.
Starting with the Triple Option, and moving right up into the Zone Read Option of today, the whole concept was to read the guys you couldn’t block. Not many offensive linemen in college football have hopes of blocking Jadeveon Clowney, but well-coached option quarterbacks can use his speed and athleticism against him by reading him.
As defensive coordinators, we have found ways to deal with teams reading the defensive end. Take the Power Read Play as an example. This could be a Two-Back Power, with the same concepts, but we will work against a One-Back Power running play.
Our concepts here are run out of a 4-2-5 Defense, but could be applied to almost any defensive scheme.
Defending the Power Read
In the One-Back Power, the back side Guard on the play will pull and work up through the first daylight he sees to the play side, attacking the play side Linebacker.
Otherwise, the play works just like the Zone Read Option. The back side Defensive End works up to the back side Linebacker, leaving the Defensive End to be read. If he comes down the line to chase the back, the Quarterback pulls the ball and replaces. If he squats, the Quarterback gives the ball to the back. The Defensive End has been completely neutralized.
Why run the Power Read instead of the Zone Read? By pulling the back side Guard, the Offense gets an extra blocker to the point of attack for the running back. Essentially, this creates an extra gap. The back side Linebacker now must scrape over top to keep the defensive numbers advantage.
On the defensive side of the ball, we can affect the play by using an X-Blitz by our weak side Defensive End and Will Linebacker.
The defense will set the strength call to the side of the back, to force the offense to run the play at our strong side. We’ll play games with the Quarterback using the X-Blitz. The Defensive End will slam hard inside on the snap. He’s attacking the near hip of the Guard. When he sees that Guard pull away from him, he chases. That gets our extra player to the pull side, keeping numbers.
The Linebacker will scrape over to the outside, replacing the End. The hard slant by the Defensive End should let the Will get over top freely, and be waiting for the Quarterback. The crash by the End gives a pull read to the Quarterback, but he runs into the Linebacker waiting for him.
Power Reading the Linebacker
Now the chess match really gets going. When the Offense finds they’re having trouble running the Power Read on the Defensive End, they can move the read. Many coaches will adjust the read based on who is giving them the most problem at that point in the game. With a simple tag, they can move their confusing Read Option games to a different defender, thus slowing him down.
If the Offense goes to read the weak side Linebacker, they will turn the back side Tackle out on the Defensive End and seal him. Another method is to pass set, and then turn him out when he rushes up the field (similar to a Draw play). Everyone else runs the play as they did before.
The Quarterback reads the Will Linebacker to see if he scrapes over to give the defense the numbers they need to the Power side of the play. Many Linebackers are trained to scrape over top when they see a Guard pull, while others are taught to run through and replace where the puller left.
Either way, the Quarterback will be right on this play. If the Linebacker scrapes, he pulls and runs through the vacated space. If the Linebacker fills the gap, the Quarterback gives to the back, who is running behind more blockers than the defense can handle to the play side.