Option Quarterback: 10 Key Coaching Points

The option quarterback is the key component to an option football offensive scheme. His ability to make decisions within the context of the play directly affects the offenses ability to move the ball.  If the quarterback is unable to do this consistently, the offense will struggle to maintain any sustainability.

Option football success is predicated on the ability of the quarterback to make decisions and protect the football. Photo by Hector Alejandro.

In light of this, the quarterback needs to be taught how to make the correct read and what to do when he makes a mistake. If he can consistently make the correct read, the offense will be very difficult to defend.

Option Quarterback: 10 Key Concepts

Most option coaches will probably have a of list of things that are essential to the quarterbacks success and today I am giving you mine. It is based on my personal views, conversations with other coaches, and clinic notes from Navy and Georgia Tech. If your signal caller can master the following concepts he will be able to execute more effectively and limit the mistakes that commonly plague an option offense.

  1. Trust the Offense – Like Coach Herman Boone said in Remember the Titans, “It’s like Novocaine. Give it time. It always works.” Option football will grind out yards and eat up clock. Ball control and time of possession will lead to victories. Furthermore, if the option is executed properly, big plays will happen.
  2. Give Unless – I have always subscribed to the idea that it is essential to establish the fullback in the option game. In light of this philosophy, if the read is unclear, give the ball and live with the consequences. This is far more desirable than pulling late and risking a turnover. Always protect the football. If a bad read is made, get behind the fullback and take what you can get. Do not allow a bad decision to result in a turnover.
  3. Be prepared for a quick pull and/or pitch – Be prepared for immediate pressure from the Read players. It could be the Dive Read, the Pitch Read, or both .  Many defensive schemes will look to force mistakes by charging the mesh or attacking the quarterback. Expect it. This way when it happens you can react appropriately.
  4. Never Pitch Under Duress – The quarterback should never pitch the football while being tackled.  Again, protecting the football is the number one priority.  While a big play is possible, it is more likely that pitching under duress will lead to a turnover.
  5. Always Look the Pitch In – Always make sure to see the pitch back before pitching the ball. Look the pitch in every time.
  6. Never pitch off of the Dive Read – When the quarterback pitches off of the Dive Read, the Pitch Read is free to make a play. This is not protecting the football as the Pitch Read will be in position to make a play on the ball, possibly causing a turnover.
  7. Pitch when the Pitch Read dictates – When running the option, the quarterback will sometimes place too much pressure on himself to make a big play.  Force the Pitch Read make a decision by attacking his outside hip. When the defender decides, make the pitch if that is the read he gives. This is where big plays are most likely to happen. See point #1. Let the offense work.
  8. Get on the Pylon Path – Never cut back into the defense. Nothing good happens in there. It is a far better play to get on a pylon path. This means running the ladder to the hash, the numbers, and ultimately the sideline.
  9. Avoid the Big Hit – The option quarterback must learn to avoid big hits. Unless the play is necessary to extend the drive, the quarterback should never look to run over defenders. The fullback and slotbacks run through tackles, quarterbacks elude them. Along with this, learn to go down immediately when getting hit.
  10. Be Mentally Tough – An option quarterback must be able to take a big hit on the option play and then get up and immediately run the same play again. Additionally, he needs to understand that football is a dynamic game with many ups and downs. Do not allow the ebb and flow of the game to affect your play. Its called poise. An option quarterback with poise will be far more effective than a great athlete who can’t handle the game.
If you have any coaching points for option quarterbacks I would love to hear them.  Please comment below, and if you would like email updates for this blog use the form on the right.

3 thoughts on “Option Quarterback: 10 Key Coaching Points”

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I’m not familiar with Steve Clarkson. I will have to look into it…thanks for reading!

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