Counter Option from the Pistol

While the veer option is the bread and butter play of every option based pistol offense, adding effective counters provide big play potential and force the defense to consider additional options when defending the base play.

In both fall scrimmages, the Hokies first team offense has had great success running a counter option, as both Martin Scales and Logan Thomas had long runs on the play. The play pressures the defense at four different points which causes the defenders to sit back, read the play rather than aggressively attack, and be pulled out of position. Let's watch the play on video first.

Now, let's break down the play.


The Hokies line up with a tight end right, a flanker (who could be a receiver or J.C. Coleman) about 7 yards wide, and a split end left. In the backfield, Logan Thomas is in the pistol, with Michael Holmes behind him and Joey Phillips to his right. It looks almost like a power I, but without a quarterback.

Upon Logan's signal, Phillips will flex from his fullback position to an H back position, one yard behind the tight end, with the inside foot even with the tight end's outside foot. When Phillips gets set, the flanker will then rocket motion with an aiming point of one yard behind the tailback. The snap should come as the flanker gets even with the fullback.

At the Snap

The offensive line will zone block to the right (against the motion) with the right tackle and the tight end working to seal the defensive end to the inside. One of the two will roll off to get the outside linebacker to the tight end side. The quarterback takes the snap and turns to his left, creating a mesh point with the tailback who is diving quickly towards the line on the left. The fullback will be coming across the formation looking like a pulling guard. The defensive end on the play side will be unblocked UNLESS he stunts inside the left tackle. If that happens, the linebacker to the left side of the offense will be unblocked, as he will stunt forward and outside to get contain responsibilities.

Let's stop at this critical moment and put ourselves in the defenses shoes. The dive is going left. The H-back is pulling left. The quarterback turned left to form a mesh point with the fullback. The motioning flanker is moving left. Which way does the defense think the play is going, especially after seeing everything that looks like the straight veer option over and over again? Hmmmm, I'd say, LEFT! The natural instinct of the defense is to flow with all the motion, which sets up the zone blocking of the offensive line (preventing penetration) and allowing the tight end and tackle to seal that end.

Back to the mesh point. The quarterback doesn't have a read to determine giving the ball to the tailback, so if the tailback gets the ball, it was a called handoff in the huddle or at the line. At the mesh point, the tailback takes the handoff, and bends sharply against the grain back to the right, just like a counter trey. He will break up the field just outside the tight end and tackle's double team.

If the quarterback fakes to the tailback, he reads the defensive end who has not been blocked. That end, who likely has contain responsibility, will likely be going wide, away from the quarterback. If this is the case, the quarterback will keep, turning up just off the outside of the left tackle's zone block. If the end forces (crashes down on the quarterback or chasing the tailback fake) the quarterback pitches to the trailing flanker.

In addition, the Hokies can build in a quick throw on the move by Logan to the split end instead of having the split end block. If Logan fakes the dive, and sees the corner playing soft coverage, he can pop up and zip the ball wide.

This play forces the defense to account for three-quarters of the field on every single snap, rather than being able to load up at the point of attack (as we have seen teams do to the Hokies in the past). It get's every player on offense involved with touching the football, and as long as the quarterback makes the correct read, the defense has to react to the offense rather than attack.

We have seen the Hokies run this 3 times in scrimmages. Martin Scales had his best run of camp on this play in the second scrimmage. Logan Thomas had a 10+ yard keeper (where he only needed to be touched to be tackled) and on the same play, the counter dive by Holmes had a hole almost 5 yards wide if Logan had given him the ball. Holmes also had a nice 7 yard run in the first scrimmage that was called back on a hold by Randall Dunn (which was the last snap we saw with Dunn on the first team.) If the Hokie offensive line can prevent penetration, expect this counter/option look to be a big play producer for the Hokies this season.


some observations

1. My eye is twitching because I want to see us break this open on GT.
2. In the video, you see LT3 feigning a block (since this was yellow-jersey time) on the LB who crashes in.....can't you just see LT clocking some guy in a gold jersey trailing this play on Monday?
3. hopefully, the introduction of the new playbook section doesn't prompt anyone's head to tie up their feet....except maybe the opposing defense.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

I don't think Logan is faking the block as much as he is trying to occupy the OLB's attention as much as possible. On the video version of the play, the defensive end to the option side crashed hard inside across Becton's face. If a defensive end does that, he doesn't have outside contain, and the outside linebacker has to go outside to take the option. If Logan had kept the ball, he would have needed to read pitch to the motion flanker ASAP, who would have likely had a big run.

When we watched the Hokies the previous Saturday and Logan kept on the play, the defensive end went to the pitch. Malleck turned up and trapped the OLB to the outside, and Logan had a huge seam right off the left tackle's butt for about a 10 yard gain (10 yards until he was touched... in a game situation, Logan probably gets 3-4 more just falling forward.)

The key to the play really is preventing penetration. It takes a long time to develop. If the defense is sitting back reading and watching, then if the quarterback makes the right read, it will get good yardage. If the defense is attacking and gets penetration to the mesh point of the QB/TB exchange, then you have a big freaking mess on your hands.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

If you watch the bottom of the screen at about the 1.5 second mark, you can see the safety running forward where Joey Phillips is in position to block him. He is running away from the guy who actually has the football!!!!

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN


Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN



I'm tired of pre-season pro horse-schizzney, and then ESPN's obligatory attempt to cover the ACC (and it's appreciated for all the conference's shortcomings come BCS-cross conference play) but now I JUST NEED TO SEE BURNT ORANGE AND CHICAGO MAROON ABSOLUTELY ANNIHILATE GT.

Living in Atlanta... I need this. Bring on the Tecmo Bowl!

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

I think there actually is a give/keep read for LT here

The mesh doesn't look as smooth in this play, if only because the snap was low. However I think the odds are that this is a true zone-triple option play.

It might be an automatic give based on alignment though, most option plays will have such a thing (obviously GT will do a lot of this with their option runs). Number 44 looks like a linebacker, and the backside DE lined up right overtop of the Tackle. Based on this alignment, rather than letting both the DE and LB through on reads (which would force LT to make two very fast decisions in a row) they just snap-audible to an automatic give.


It might actually be called from the box. Beamer might not want to get that involved with the intricacies of Pistol Offense, and getting all those reads in line might take to much time in practice for his liking. Shame really. I think Tech's personnel would fit great with a true Pistol Offense.

Love it, concepts looks like something out of Clemson playbook

With the misdirection and the wing in the play as well as a possible option toss or pass to the split end looks right out of Chad Morris's playbook.