I’m home alone right now, and great googly moogly is it boring around here. My wife is out of town on some urgent family business, so my personal interaction with others has been limited to pushing my cat down every time he climbs up onto my keyboard. That’s not to say that there isn’t any excitement, though. I mean, last week I came home from work one day to discover that the cat had opened the door to the garage, and the dog had learned how to escape from his crate. The two of them proceeded to find the bag of dog food that we keep in the garage, rip it open, engorge themselves, then leave heaping piles of crap all over the carpet. VROOM VROOM DER PARTY STARTER. The thought of an encore makes me feel all tingly.

As exciting as that was, I still look for other, less odorous, ways to entertain myself. Rather than doing anything productive with my free time, my favorite pastime in this situation is watching old games. It’s like my own little ESPN Classic, but without the bowling or world’s strongest man competitions. It’s good to calibrate my memory whenever I get the chance; it’s sort of amazing how the things you think you remember can differ from what actually happened in a game. It’s fun to see players and plays I haven’t thought about in a while, too. The best part about revisiting old games is being able to look at them with a critical eye, but without the inherent emotional bias that you have when watching it live.

Emotional bias really wasn’t a problem for the first game I decided to take a look at– last season’s Georgia Tech-Georgia game. I mean, I wanted Georgia Tech to win, of course, but a loss wouldn’t have had the same marriage-jeopardizing implications for me that most Navy losses do. I know, I know… Georgia Tech again. Blah blah blah. But even if you’re sick of talking about them, there’s still plenty to learn from watching them. They’re like an offensive laboratory for us. It’s not because of what they’re doing themselves, necessarily; I don’t think they’re doing much that we haven’t seen before, although the frequency with which they do a few things is a bit different. It’s really about the opportunity to see how a different group of defenses line up and try to stop the spread option, and to see if there’s any difference in how common opponents (like Duke) try to defend the two teams. I’m kicking myself right now for not having recorded more Tech games this year, but oh well. I’ll be sure to get their games that don’t conflict with Navy’s next year.

Anyway, enough talk of poop and regret. More talk about football. As I was rewatching the game, I took notes on a couple of items that I thought would be of interest to Navy fans. I began this post with the intention of highlighting only those things, but as I got going I figured I might as well break down the whole game like I would any other. In the process of doing so, I was reminded of plays we’ve seen in Navy games past. I decided to go ahead and include that stuff too. It makes for one long, sprawling post. But hey, it just gives us more to talk about in the middle of the summer, right? So off we go.

The spread option, as run by Paul Johnson and Ivin Jasper, is not the wishbone. While you and I realize that, coaches facing it for the first time have a tendency to prepare for it as if they were scheming against 1979 Oklahoma. Maybe it has to do with the sheer difficulty of game planning in general. Think about what coaches have to go through; you practice all week, play on Saturday, then get right back to work on Sunday watching film and putting together a game plan that you have to start installing on Monday. That’s not much time for coaches to sit around and debate strategy while puffing cigars and sipping brandy down at the club. No, when it comes to coaching college football, time management is everything. You and I might be able to ponder these things for a week leading up to a game, but coaches have to have their plan straight by the time they start practice. The wishbone was option-based. Johnson & Jasper’s spread is option-based. There are well-established defensive strategies for the wishbone, so why not use one of those? What a time saver! I mean, how different can they be? Plenty different, as Georgia found out.

Fundamentally, the mechanics of your basic triple option play are the same whether you’re running it out of the wishbone, I-formation, spread, or whatever. Each of these formations, however, imply different overall philosophies. The underlying theme of the wishbone– bringing blockers to the point of attack to support a power running game– is very different than that of the spread. In the spread, you want to stretch the defense, both vertically and from sideline to sideline, in order to create running lanes. You might think these are just platitudes, but they aren’t; this difference, coupled with the threat of the pass, is why wishbone defenses don’t work against the spread option. The spread allows an offensive coordinator to use a greater variety of formations in order to create the space he wants for his ballcarriers. That advantage played a big part in Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia.

Let’s take a look at how the Bulldogs lined up.

This is the first play of the game. Tech lined up in the base spread. Georgia brought a safety up in run support as a de facto fourth linebacker, resulting in a 4-4 look. The free safety lined up in the middle of the field. His assignment was to take the pitch man, which is usually the tail motion A-back. He’d start moving towards the line of scrimmage as soon as he saw the tail motion. Does any of this sound familiar? It should. We’ve seen it several times, most recently against Rutgers last season. This is Dave Wannstedt’s wishbone defense.

In victories over Oklahoma in 1986 and 1987, Wannstedt relied on a speedy nose guard to disrupt the fullback up the middle.

The middle linebackers flowed to the side opposite the nose guard. And the outside defenders used their speed to focus only on the run.

It’s not unlike the famed “backbone” defense, but Wannstedt’s influence is of particular interest here. As Christian Swezey noted back in 2007, Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator at Miami from 1986-1988. In those years, the Hurricanes defeated Oklahoma and Nebraska by a combined score of 71-33 using these defensive principles. In 1986, former Miami defensive back Willie Martinez worked for Wannstedt as a graduate assistant… The same Willie Martinez who is now the defensive coordinator at Georgia. Martinez took those lessons he learned while coaching at Miami and tried to apply them to stopping Georgia Tech.

So let’s take a look at the plan in action.

You can see the safety spying the tail motion slotback and blowing up the play. The playside slotback’s responsibility here is to load from the linebacker to the safety. What that means is that his first responsibility is to block the first playside LB not in the count. If that linebacker plays the fullback dive– like he does on this play– then the A-back moves on to block the safety. If the A-back makes the right block here, this play is probably a touchdown. Instead, it’s only a gain of 2 yards. Such is the fine line between glory and disaster in football.

Coach Johnson made the exact same call on the next play. Only this time, he has the playside A-back run right at the safety. The result is a big ol’ gain:

Something else to notice here is the formation. By lining up both wide receivers on the short side of the field, Coach Johnson accomplished two things. First, he gave the slotbacks a lot of room to run. By adjusting to block the safety, you leave yourself vulnerable if the PSLB decides to play the pitch instead of the fullback. Moving both WRs to the short side of the field overcomes this problem; now that there’s no cornerback to worry about on the wide side of the field, the slotback is free to run all the way to the sideline. This gives him the ability to outrun any inside-out linebacker pursuit and turn upfield. If your A-backs aren’t faster than the other guy’s linebackers, then you have a whole different set of problems.

The other thing Johnson achieved from the twins formation was a bit of sleight of hand. The cornerback followed the WR to the other side of the field to cover him. But the inside receiver in the formation was ineligible! Both receivers are on the line of scrimmage; only the one on the outside is eligible. The defense had a CB covering someone who wasn’t even allowed to catch a forward pass. In essence, the formation took a defender out of the play without even having to block him. Martinez never adjusted.

The A-back blocking the safety, plus some bad tackling on Georgia’s part, also led to Tech’s last touchdown:

The slots weren’t the only ones tasked with blocking the safety; Johnson was able to use the respect that Georgia was giving Demaryius Thomas to his advantage.  With the free safety playing the run almost exclusively, Johnson knew that the cornerbacks would be in man coverage and couldn’t blitz. To take advantage of this, Johnson ran the triple option out of the trips formation. The formation forced the Georgia defense to shift to account for the three receivers on one side. The option was run in the opposite direction. There was no slotback on that side of the formation to block the safety; instead, the job fell to the wide receiver. Usually the receiver would be tasked with blocking the cornerback, but with the corner committed to playing man-to-man defense on the WR, that wasn’t necessary. The corner, in covering his assignment, just followed the receiver right on into the charging safety. In effect, one player (the WR) blocked two defenders.

Take a look at these two plays. In the first play, the corner played relatively loose coverage. He was able to adjust and make the tackle, but not before the slotback was able to run for a 7-yard gain and a first down. On the second play, the corner tried to jam Demaryius Thomas at the line of scrimmage. This time, he wasn’t able to adjust to the play; he gets caught up in the traffic in the middle of the field. With nobody left to tackle the pitch man, it’s off to the races.

Pay particular attention to the view from the end zone. Try pausing the video at the moment the A-back catches the pitch. Look at the incredible amount of unoccupied territory in front of him. This is the very definition of using your formation to create running lanes for your playmakers. In this case, the running lane is about the size of a small national park. That doesn’t happen in the wishbone.

If this seems sort of familiar to you, it should. Ivin Jasper did something similar against Rutgers. You’ll remember how in that game, Jasper made extensive use of the unbalanced line. There was a reason for that. In the 54-21 blowout of the Scarlet Knights back in 2004, the unbalanced line was a big part of the Mids’ offensive success. Rutgers overcompensated for the heavy side of the formation, and left the wide receiver– lined up as a tackle on the other side of the formation– uncovered. But by rule, Corey Dryden was still an eligible receiver, and the Mids made Rutgers pay for ignoring him:

In this year’s game, Greg Schiano made sure to cover the “tackle,” but he still overshifted to the heavy side. Jasper took advantage of that by running the other way. The cornerback still had to be accounted for, though. Jasper’s adjustment was for the WR-turned-tackle to block the CB on the snap, then release him and block the safety. It resulted in 5-7 yard gains on plays that would have otherwise been stopped at the line of scrimmage.

We’ve seen a lot of different ways to attack this defense over the years. If you look at the safety overplaying the run and think to yourself, “Hey, the play-action pass should be wide open,” well, you’re right. In the first play against Wannstedt’s own Pitt team in 2007, Coach Johnson called a pass. With the safety following the tail motion slotback one way, O.J. Washington came on a crossing pattern the other way.

Against Rutgers, Coach Jasper called a similar play:

The Navy coordinator also added a new wrinkle, sending Tyree Barnes on a post-corner route. The safety followed the tail motion, and fell down when he ran into Tyree while trying to adjust to the play action.

In the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl, Colorado State came out in the same defense. On Navy’s first play from scrimmage, the safety follows the tail motion and is caught with his eyes in the backfield as Reggie Campbell ran right by. (Lamar Owens also makes one hell of a pass with a defender at his knees.)

Now, with the smorgasbord of effective pass plays available to him, why didn’t Coach Johnson throw the ball much against Georgia? He called a pass on his first play, and took a shot at the endzone on one fourth down play early on, but other than that he didn’t really try for the home run. Why not? I’ll answer that question with a quick story from Johnson’s first stint at Navy as offensive coordinator.

Navy took on Air Force in Colorado Springs in 1996. It was a huge game; the Mids were having their best season in years, and came into the game with their best chance to knock off the Falcons for only the second time since 1981. Fairly early in the first half, Navy fullback Omar Nelson came over to the sideline after a drive and told Johnson that on plays where they would fake running him off tackle, he’d run past the line untouched. Charlie Weatherbie, the head coach at the time, wanted to start running Nelson off tackle on the next drive. Johnson said no; he’d “save it for when he needed it.” It ended up being a tight, fairly low-scoring game. With a little less than two minutes left in the game and the score tied at 17, Navy got the ball on their own 35. It was then that Johnson cashed in his chips. The first play of the drive was a give to Nelson off tackle. The Navy fullback took the handoff, ran off of the right tackle, then worked his way back across the field. The play went for 51 yards and set up what would be the game-winning field goal with nine seconds left. Navy won, 20-17.

That story tells you a lot about how Paul Johnson manages a game. Just because you can call a play that will work, that doesn’t mean that you should. It has to be the right time. So what’s the right time? For Johnson, it’s whenever he feels like he can put a game away. Sometimes that comes at the end of the game, like the Air Force example. Sometimes, if he can jump to an early lead against a heavily-favored opponent, he’ll call that play in an attempt to break their spirits by going up by multiple scores. But until he’s put in these kinds of situations, Coach Johnson usually prefers not to tip his hand. The 2007 Army game is a great example; Army’s defense was leaving them vulnerable to all kinds of things, but Johnson didn’t feel compelled to make them pay for it. Navy’s defense and special teams were dominating, so there was no need. It might have been the most conservative five-touchdown victory in history.

This brings me to the first point I originally wanted to bring up. Coach Jasper has been criticized by some for being too conservative, which I think is unfair. People remember Paul Johnson as some mad scientist that created frankenplays and unleashed them on unsuspecting townspeople every week, but that isn’t true. Trick plays and big passes are what we remember, but all things considered, Johnson was pretty conservative himself. He’d make his adjustments, but he didn’t get crazy with passing or trick plays until he felt he could achieve maximum effect. Sure, he liked to catch defenses off guard once in a while by throwing the ball on his first posession of the game. But the Mids scored on the first drive of almost every game in 2008 without opening with a pass, so I don’t see why anyone would complain about not passing in that situation. Looking back at the season, I don’t know if Paul Johnson would’ve been any less conservative than Jasper. Most of Navy’s games were pretty tight contests. That, plus having to juggle three quarterbacks and four offensive tackles all year, doesn’t really lend itself to going nuts with the playcalling. With a more stable situation at both positions in 2009, I’d be willing to bet that Navy’s total pass attempts are closer to their 2003-2007 numbers.

Moving right along… Another play that we’ve seen used extensively against this defense is the fullback dive out of toss sweep motion. By spying on the tail motion, the safety abandons the middle of the field. If the blocking is good enough up front, there’s nobody left to stop the fullback if he gets past the second level.

The key part there is “if the blocking is good enough.” We didn’t see Georgia Tech run this play. In what was probably a harbinger of things to come against LSU, Tech was getting dominated at the line of scrimmage. One guard in particular (who shall remain nameless, mostly because I have no idea who the hell plays guard for Georgia Tech) had a horrible day.

Gotta get that pad level down, big fella. There were better examples than this, but I don’t want to make a montage of some poor kid’s screwups. It’s beside the point I wanted to make anyway. More important for Navy fans than Tech’s o-line problems is what Coach Johnson was able to do to compensate.

You hear a lot of talk about “establishing the fullback” in this offense. It’s important because you put the most pressure on a defense when you force them to respect all three elements of the option. But establishing the fullback is a lot easier said than done when the interior of your offensive line is being dominated. If you have the right kind of fullback, though, you can run around your problems rather than through them.

That brings me to point number two. Some Navy fans look at Alex Teich and Vince Murray with a bit of concern. The Mids have had some big dudes at B-back; Kyle Eckel, Adam Ballard, and Eric Kettani all checked in between 230 and 240 pounds. Teich and Murray only weigh 212 and 217, respectively. They’re physically different players, and it makes fans wonder if they’ll be effective. The question is what makes for the ideal fullback in this system. Because of our experience, Navy fans tend to favor more traditional wishbone-style fullbacks; big, north-south runners that can move a pile. The problem with that style of runner, though, is that you’re pretty much committed to running between the tackles with them. With Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech faces no such limitation. Most of the biggest fullback carries of the day came off of the pitch.

Most, but not all.

This could have easily been a blown play. The playside tackle actually blocked the wrong guy, leaving a linebacker unblocked. Jonathan Dwyer didn’t try to meet the guy head-on and push him backwards; instead, he was able to sidestep the LB, then do it again in the secondary, and trot in for the touchdown. The best fullbacks in this offense don’t move piles; they avoid them. As big as Navy’s fullbacks have been, they didn’t play their best football until they learned that lesson (especially Eckel). Now, it’s completely unfair to expect Alex Teich to step in and play like the ACC offensive player of the year, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be as effective as his predecessors at Navy. With the potential to dust off some of the lesser-used areas of the playbook, it might just look a little different.

Don’t get me wrong; at 6-0, 235, Dwyer is no microback. But he doesn’t use his size to bowl people over; he uses his quickness to make them miss. Alex Teich can succeed with the same approach.

There’s one more thing I wanted to point out. Take a look at this play:

It looks like a well-defended option play that wasn’t going anywhere. But if Kaipo was the quarterback, it would have been a touchdown. One of the things we’ve talked about a lot around here is quarterback development.

Young quarterbacks in the spread tend to focus on very specific reads. They zero in on their keys and react to what those keys do. Those are the basics. But over time and repetition, the quarterback gains a better understanding of the big picture. He is able to see beyond his keys to understand how to exploit the weaknesses in certain defensive alignments.

This play is a perfect example of what I was talking about. Here’s the view from the end zone:


The safety is spying on the pitch man, so we already know he’s moving toward the sideline at full speed. Meanwhile, the quarterback’s pitch key hasn’t committed one way or the other. Now, let’s move ahead a couple frames.


All the quarterback had to do was look at the pitch man and lift his arm, and the pitch key shifted his hips and turned to cover the pitch. If the quarterback had faked the pitch, he would’ve had a clear path to the end zone. Instead, he pitched the ball for a modest gain. These are the little things that you lose when an experienced guy like Kaipo graduates. Not that Ricky won’t develop, but it takes time. Of course, Kaipo only played so much last year anyway, so it’s not like we’d be able to tell too much. Just keep this in mind before you guys fire up the “bench Ricky” talk.

So what was my point when I started this rambling? I can’t remember.

Anyway, there are lessons to be learned here. There’s no one defensive scheme that will shut down this offense. Some schemes, however, are a lot worse than others. Defend this offense like it’s the wishbone, and get burned. If it wasn’t for penalties and mistakes, Georgia Tech probably would’ve scored a lot more. Not that it mattered in the end.

(By the way… This is exactly how a certain former Youngstown State coach defended this offense once upon a time. But we’ll talk about that later.)


  1. chbags

    great read Mike – your last play breakdown and that ending tease got me thinking: With tOSU’s flat out burning speed (maybe like that UGa overpursuit the GaTech QB did not take advantage of) I have got to believe there are going to be some big plays — too bad we couldn’t have the week 8 Navy offense against the week 1 tOSU defense looking forward to USC.

  2. GoalieLax

    nicely done. i will say one thing thou, dwyer can run over guys as well as he runs around them…and move the piles

    the two best “lollerskates” moments of dwyer being a bruiser that I saw last year at the tech home games were

    Dwyer vs. Miami

    Dwyer vs Duke

    i shall tell my GT buddies of this post and increase your page views.

  3. getwrecked

    Ga Tech fan here. You do absolutely the best job of football analysis I have ever seen. I love to read your analyses of PJ’s offense.

    I just hope the ACC DCs and Willie Martinez never hear about your site!!!

    An absolutely great job!!

  4. Martinez won’t need to see this site. He won’t do the same thing next year. That sort of alludes to a point I made in my last post about the effect of defensive coordinators getting familiar with the offense… Even if there’s no “right” way to defend this offense, there are a lot of wrong ways. The more you see it, the more you learn what the wrong ways are, and avoid them.

  5. chris

    Great read! Thanks for the effort. Interesting how things like fakes can break open a play which looks to go nowhere.

    Cool how PJ holds plays up his sleeve until he feels the time is right. Wow! I know he loves to keep going back to the well until another team shows they can stop it. I was amazed at how many teams would not make adjustments after he ran the same thing 8 times for big yardage. To me that shows how many DC’s are really clueless defending the flexbone.

  6. This was a great read, and one much appreciated by this Tech fan. I haven’t gotten around to reading the previous column; I will try to do so today. I’m a regular reader during the football season and look forward to your analyses of whatever games you get to. Go Mids!

  7. “Winfield Featherston, on June 29th, 2009 at 8:31 am Said:

    Once again, great read. And BTW, you can write about GT in every entry. I won’t complain.”



  8. chris

    I think F$U and Miami also tried to stop the flexbone as though it were the wishbone. Those were the teams we ran all over.

  9. EightyFiver


    There’s probably a tenured faculty position in Annapolis or Atlanta when you’re ready to leave your current job. (Well, there should be.)

  10. GT Lifer

    Fantastic analysis. As a life long GT fan, it makes me feel really good about the improvements that had to have occurred since this game and the prospects for a great season. I wish only the same luck and development to Navy as well!

  11. chbags

    Mike, on June 29th, 2009 at 1:46 pm Said:
    All you Tech fans are skewing my poll!
    yes Mike and they think this blog entry is about GaTech … you are killin’ us Mike – I need you to come down off the fence and tell us what you really think

    Loyalty oaths !!! That’s what we need !!

  12. GTD

    THWUGA, on June 29th, 2009 at 8:54 am Said:
    “Winfield Featherston, on June 29th, 2009 at 8:31 am Said:

    Once again, great read. And BTW, you can write about GT in every entry. I won’t complain.”



    We GT fans love CPJ, and many more of us than I appreciate ALL the service acadamies, as well as CPJ’s history, so taken together, we’ve become Navy fans, if we weren’t already. Your breakdowns just make it that much easier and better to pull for Ken and the Mids too! Thanks Mike. Please keep up the great work, and GO NAVY!

  13. GTJuggernaut

    ‘nuther GT fan here. I can’t get enough of a veteran’s breakdown of how the spread option offense works and how it can be used to confound a defense no matter how many times they see it. Excellent analysis!

    Part of me wants to send this to the sports media here in the southeast that continues to write the babble about being able to stop it after a year’s worth of film (specifically the LSU film), but then I realize that it will be all the sweeter when they are saying the same thing after next year’s season. Best of luck to the Mids in ’09!

  14. pete

    You are slightly off on the value of the twins formation as it relates to Georgia moving a corner over. Because Tech has an extra man on that side of the ball to block, moving a defender only makes sense. This is in effect an unbalanced formation, and Georgia has the right number of defenders on each side of the ball. By alignment, Georgia is in pretty good shape.

    In the passing game, you arent giving up anything by covering an ineligible man because Tech isnt replacing him with another eligible WR. The fact that Tech didnt complete a single pass after it first used this formation is proof of that. Now, if you dont move the corner over, all Tech has to do is put the opposite wingback up to the line, drop the inside twins WR back a step, and he’s now eligible. Any team would play both corners on the same side v. that formation I’d expect, and its the right thing to do.

    The formation gave Tech what it felt was a better blocking matchup, but the formational edge was overstated in this piece, imo. The real key to Tech’s running game vs. Georgia was simply a great second half of execution – blocking, breaking tackles, and protecting the football on a wet day.

  15. The Realist

    “Martinez never adjusted.”

    No kidding. You could throw in a “has” and the statement would still hold true.

  16. Pete… It wasn’t really about the alignment. The WR was ineligible, but the corner still covered him while he ran a pattern after the snap. Obviously you align yourself to the offense, but if Georgia had figured out what was going on they could’ve basically had a no-risk blitz on every down. Tech never attempted a pass out of this formation.

    The advantage in the formation came from giving the A-back enough room to run.

  17. fisheriesdawg

    First, thanks for the analysis. Very interesting stuff.

    Second, not to bombard your blog with Georgia commenters, but…

    “If it wasn’t for penalties and mistakes, Georgia Tech probably would’ve scored a lot more. Not that it mattered in the end.”

    That just doesn’t make much sense to me. Tech was getting shut down in the first half. Georgia was the one making mistakes (allowing huge kickoff returns, fumbling kickoff returns, blatantly missed tackles/chest bumps) and penalties (horse-collars, for example) in the second half. Had Samuel not fumbled the kickoff return, that game is probably a 10-14 point UGA win.

    Where exactly should Tech have been scoring a lot more? The description I heard from the Tech people after this game was that Johnson was just biding his time and waiting to exploit UGA’s defense when it is pointed out to them how horribly UGA’s defensive backs played in that second half. It has to be one or the other. Either he was intentionally slow-playing the game or his team was getting dominated in the first half.

  18. Amazing. I’m not going to lie and say I understood everything you wrote, but wow. Honestly Mike. Please take a job as a color analyst for CBSCS or something…

  19. chbags

    Mike, on June 29th, 2009 at 2:39 pm Said:
    I take it you voted “no” on the poll, then.
    No . . becasue you added “PJ broke my heart” — ain’t THAT emotionally tied to one man .. so I went with “meh” (not sure what that means but I think that is the noise I make when I see yet another GaTech post here — text me when it is over — seriously, Mike: text me when it is over)

  20. GermanGT3

    Mike, Outstanding breakdown. The highlighted clips bring the analysis to life. This GT grad and USAF pilot pulls for the mids against AF!

    THWG! and THWchbags! Keep up the good work, Mike.

  21. DotBone89

    I was about to ask you what that play was called for about a week since re-watching the “can he win the foot race?” play.
    I wanted to call it the “whirling dervish”; then as soon as you wrote toss sweep motion it clicked and was confirmed when I looked down at the video. If Mike Brimage can break one for 50 yds ( at, what 5-8, 190# tops ), I think we will be fine at B-back.

  22. Alaska Hokie

    I’m a Virginia Tech fan from a Navy family, and I’d just like to say thanks for posting this. It’s a great job of breaking things down. The only problem is those damn Dailymotion videos; they really slow down the site because they never stop loading.

  23. gtfan

    “Where exactly should Tech have been scoring a lot more? The description I heard from the Tech people after this game was that Johnson was just biding his time and waiting to exploit UGA’s defense when it is pointed out to them how horribly UGA’s defensive backs played in that second half. It has to be one or the other. Either he was intentionally slow-playing the game or his team was getting dominated in the first half.”

    How about the part where Nesbitt could’ve faked the pitch and took it in for a touchdown?

    How about the part where the a-back blocked the wrong guy, leaving the safety able to make a play on Jones (the pitch man)?

    How about the part where Gilbert (the guard who took a little heat from the author) wasn’t playing well and was making mistakes?

    How about the part where the author showed the play where Dwyer scored even though Barrick (the left tackle) blocked the wrong guy? It’s pretty safe to assume there were plenty more busted plays like this that COULD’ve gone for huge gains if the right block was made.

    Seriously, did you even read the article?

  24. fisheriesdawg, Georgia making mistakes is not mutually exclusive from Georgia Tech making mistakes. Maybe they did, but I don’t really care. I’m a Navy blogger, not a Georgia Tech blogger, so I don’t really care about this game except as it might potentially be of interest to Navy fans. Georgia’s chest-bumping doesn’t qualify.

    And lol no, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Yeah, it was a tale of two halves for Tech’s offense, but in how they executed. They didn’t change much schematically.

  25. buzzed

    Excellent read! You’ve obviously put a lot into this post, and it is much appreciated by GT fans who still have a lot to learn about CPJ’s offense. And I could watch clips of us running all over Georgia all day!


  26. chbags

    Mike, on June 29th, 2009 at 6:41 pm Said: …..I’m a Navy blogger, not a Georgia Tech blogger, so I don’t really care about this game except as it might potentially be of interest to Navy fans.

    Jerry McGuire — you are stil my agent !!!

  27. fisheriesdawg


    Thanks for the response. I guess I don’t really buy the slow-play argument. I remember being at the Navy/Kent State game and watching Johnson absolutely blow up on his entire offensive line in the first half for not executing. He knew he couldn’t dick around all day against Georgia, because, with the offense he runs, it is extra-difficult to make up large deficits. He was lucky that some awful special teams play and atrocious defense by Georgia at the start of the second half allowed him to pull even and not have to play catch-up, then his team began executing much better.

    Certainly Georgia Tech’s execution played a part in their impotence in the first half. Certainly Georgia’s execution played a part in their effectiveness in the second half. I just get tired of the deification of Paul Johnson (who I have a ton of respect for from his GA Southern and Navy days and was tremendously disappointed when he sold his soul to the devil, so to speak) trying to claim that it was all some sort of master plan to lull Georgia into a false sense of security. His team played like crap in the first half, he took them into the locker room and ripped them a new a-hole, he got a couple of lucky breaks, and his team took advantage. I actually have a lot more respect for him as a motivator than I do as a schemer.

    Kudos to Georgia Tech for winning that game, considering how crappy both teams looked for most of the day, I’d be wary of trying to read anything into it for Navy. Hell, we gave up just as many points to Kentucky’s offense two weeks before that. Not exactly an impressive feat. The fact of the matter is that Georgia’s defense was simply atrocious at the end of the season and they were even worse in the second half of that game.

    Good luck to the mids this year. I lived in DC for a couple of years and attended several games. I guess they got as close as I could ever get to having a second-favorite team in college football during that period. God knows there isn’t any other decent football in the area.

  28. Keep in mind that I’m looking at the game in the context of what he and his successors have done at Navy for the last seven years, not in the context of either team’s individual season. If you see things differently, so be it. I’m not trying to get in the middle of any Georgia-Georgia Tech feud. Frankly, when I watched the game live my biggest impression was how disappointing Tech’s defense was.

    I don’t know what else I can do to demonstrate my points about the offense, though.

  29. Goldseater

    Thanks Mike, BTW the UGA-Tech feud has a name, both schools call it “Good Ole Fashioned Hate”. I look forward to your analysis of this year’s showdown at Grant Field @ Bobby Dodd Stadium.

  30. GTRed

    Wow. Thanks. I typically feel like I killed some brain cells when I read off-season football articles or blogs but this was very educational. Well done!

  31. PHIL

    That was just an awesome right up. Many thanks from a guy who loves X’s and O’s. I’d love to see you look at the LSU game and see what they did differently and obviously how every opponent will defend Tech next year and also that Division 42 school Gardener-Web that played Tech to a 10-7 game.

    The only thing that I thought you missed was about Martinez never adjusting to the twin WR formation that had the slot receiver covered and therefore ineligible. If you don’t respect that inside man, all you have to do is to shift the opposite side wong back up a step to a tight end position and step that slot back a step to make him eligible and 3 eligible receivers on that side. I think even Tech could complete a pass like that. Also that really doesn’t prohibit running the option to the strong side if you run a counter version that gives that wing (tight end) time to get back around. So it’s difficult not to respect that man just because he is covered.

  32. PHIL

    Also, I could only get each of your attached videos to play for 2 seconds and then hang up. And as to the blitz off off the ineligible receiver he appeared to me to block and not run a route, but I didn’t see the whole game on film. If he indeed ran a route and was followed, doesn’t seem to me that a coach would have to tell a college player he didn’t need to be covered. All the breakdowns were on the players, not the coaches.

    And I believe congratulations are in order for you as well for getting every single Tech fan there is to comment on your blog. I have no idea how you could have reached all 30 of them without trying.

  33. PoppaNovember

    QB development is a big theme. I’d love to see you explore it in a subsequent blog. The blurb about Nesbitt and his pitch/keep/fake decisions is dead on.
    But I know you want to keep this a thread about the Mids. So what are your thoughts on Navy QB development in this offense?
    From a decision standpoint, Kaipo ran the spread as well or better than anybody who PJ had at Navy. Its a shame he had so many injuries. I have to assume he ran an option in HS.
    Candeto had real grit, Hampton we never really got to see.. I watched Owens almost take down Maryland in Baltimore, but we know how that turned out…
    But Kaipo could make the reads look easy.Its a shame he had those nagging injuries.
    Dobbs looks explosive, but who knows how he’ll develop.

    PN (GT ’87)

  34. GoalieLax

    Phil, not going to speak for Mike on this one, but I know what you’re talking about. However, just because that receiver MAY become eligible doesn’t mean you should defend him like he IS eligible. That’s just poor defensive coaching/recognition of what is going on. Basically it shows that Willie couldn’t make the adjustment live to use a defender properly.

    Tech was essentially playing 11-10 at that point, because the ineligible receiver was being used to the advantage of the offense while the defender may as well not have been on the field on plays when the ball was run away from him.

    Of course, it’s really more like 11-9 or 8 at that point given the fact the reads are esentially eliminating someone from the play in the first place.

  35. Phil–
    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t move a defender over to account for the strong side of the formation. I’m saying that AFTER the snap, you don’t have to drop him back to cover a guy that can’t receive a pass. Put the guy on the line of scrimmage and have him run down the option from behind a couple times or something. FORCE the offense to make the changes you describe instead of just watching the same thing over and over again.

  36. pills91

    We run that formation a lot, and, as far as I can remenber, that ineligble is “covered”. If you don’t cover him, it gives Navy an extra blocker. Pretty sure Navy/GT would have a check at the line to run away from a run-blitz alignment out of that formation.

  37. JDJMilford

    Good read on the Georgia – Georgia Tech game. It would be good to have similar read on last years LSU – Georgia Tech bowl game. At least some word on how LSU was able to so completely dominate. I know you mentioned how LSU dominated the line of scrimmage but, was that all there was to it? Seems our opponents would want to watch that game film.

  38. Pills, they already were running away from it, every time. That’s the point. What’s the harm in giving the offense an extra blocker on the backside if you aren’t doing anything that forces them to actually need to block you to begin with?

    Look at it this way… If this was the base spread, and that WR was lined up on the play side of the formation, the corner could be a factor in the play. Even if he doesn’t actually make the tackle, he might be able to alter the pitch man’s path and force him back into the inside-out pursuit or something. Either way, he will need to be blocked because he could potentially affect the outcome of the play. The way the corner was playing against this formation, he was rendered irrelevant.

  39. Wow. What a great post. This is why I think this blog is the best football blog, bar none. Football strategy explained, and illustrated with video. Echoing other responses: EDUCATIONAL.

    For those that didn’t play or coach this is invaluable. Really lends depth to the experience of watching Navy Football.

    Great work Mike.

  40. beej

    Careful, Mike. You could have hundreds more bulldog fans in here soon, barking and whatnot.

    I too would love to see a breakdown of the Peach Bowl if you have it on DVR and have a chance to do so, since that’s being touted by the talking heads down here in SEC country as a universal blueprint to “stop all spread triple option football” for all eternity.

    Personally I think the 3 turnovers, failed fake punt, successful fake punt by LSU, successful onsides kick by LSU, and 3 first round NFL D lineman lined up against a bunch of freshmen had something to do with it, but what do I know?

    PHIL –

    I had the same “2 seconds and hangs up” problem with the videos. Update to Flash 10, should fix it.

  41. jgish92

    Mike, this post was great for the X’s and O’s, but please, for the love of God, DO NOT break down the GT-LSU game. There are plenty of Navy games where teams were able to blow up the TO probably for the same reasons that LSU did it to GT.

  42. Ben W


    As a dawg fan, thanks so much for the awesome write-up. I was at this game and saw a lot of the things you commented on first-hand. I even remember commenting during the game how Tech always seemed to have a back or WR in the secondary blocking one of the receivers.

    Anyways, it’s certainly a good testament on how playing fundamental football and executing your scheme (or not) can lead to the difference between winning and losing. I don’t think there was any question that UGA had the more talented team overall last year, and Tech certainly ended up spoiling the season. That being said, I think you are right to assume that UGA;s defensive look will be quite different next year. Thanks for the read.

  43. Ben W

    By the way, in that first paragraph I just wrote I meant that there was “always a back or WR in the secondary blocking one of the safeties”. I hate when my head goes faster than my fingers.

  44. gish– I’m not sure I even recorded it. I think I did, but I’d have to find it. The only reason I talked about the Georgia game was that I saw the continuation of patterns we’ve seen for years. I thought it’d be relevant to Navy fans. I welcome Georgia Tech readers as our brothers-in-option, but I have no interest in turning this into a Georgia Tech blog.

  45. jgish92

    I know you have nothing else to do with your time, but what would be interesting to me is seeing a breakdown of how McKillop and Aaron Curry singlehandedly impacted our offense. I know you had a few examples from the Pitt game.
    I would also pay a fair sum to do what Deli did and sit in with the coaches going over game film. That would be beyond awesome.

  46. I’m not sure there’s anything to say about McKillop that wasn’t already said in the Pitt post. We couldn’t block the guy.

    As for Curry, I was saving that stuff for next year’s Wake Forest pregame. I’m struggling for new material on those guys, since we’re playing them for the fourth time in three years.

  47. jgish92

    Maybe for Wake, you could look at our defensive game plan that worked in Winston Salem. We had to be doing something that made their QB stink so bad. They obviously made some adjustments between that game and the EBB. Do you appreciate me tasking you to handle this stuff? ;)

  48. chbags

    can you break down the 1916 Cumberland v. GaTech game? — just how did the Cumberland coach not make the right adjustments when the score got north of 100?

  49. UGAGRAD02

    Seriously man. Tech beat us once in what 7/8 years. Are you kidding me people. Play in a real conference and come back to the SEC. You beat UGA and MSU both who had terrible years. What did LSU do to that “running game”.

  50. Great read. Many are saying that ACC defenses will catch up this year, but they won’t. Only teams with superior line of scrimmage play will slow the offense down like you pointed out with LSU.

  51. DotBone89

    LSU was simply Jimmy’s and Joes beating X’s and O’s. Props to beej.
    Mike, the ’16 Cumberland game should be right next the ’29 Navy practice reel ( although I still maintain that Plebe Summer PEP with Coach Lenz ) on the shelf.

  52. GoalieLax

    hey look at the dawgs coming in here and arp arping. i find it hilarious that all the UGA fans somehow think that they have the right to lord the LSU win over GT fans. They sound like the same quacks we have to deal with at USAFA.

    dear UGA fans,

    you LOST. you don’t get to talk smack about GT until the next time you beat them. right now you’re living either 1) in the past (lol 7 years before this one!!!) or 2) vicariously through others (OMG LSU PWNED GT!!!!111111).


    This post is about:

    1) A common wishbone defense.
    2) The common mislabeling of the spread option as the “wishbone.”
    3) Why this offense is different from the wishbone.
    4) Why the aforementioned scheme designed to stop the wishbone, regularly used against this offense, does not work (illustrated with examples).

    This post is not about:


    There’s no need to get defensive here.

    In 2002, Navy lost to UConn 38-0. The Mids only had 82 yards of total offense in that game. Randy Edsall made comments to the media afterwards that hinted at how he had Johnson’s offense figured out. They played again in 2006. This time, Navy churned out 605 yards of offense and won, 41-17. After the season, UConn dropped Navy from its future schedules.

    Thank you for reminding us that running this offense is not a ticket to invincibility. Conversely, that doesn’t mean that every loss is because some defensive coordinator “solved” the offense. If you think that LSU did, in fact, find the cure-all defense, then I’m sure that Georgia Tech and Navy will be a combined 3-22 next year since the secret’s out.

  54. beej

    Oh my god, I just fell out of my chair. Too funny.

    I did warn you.

    I’m interested to hear something LSU did schematically as well.

  55. beej

    An interesting historical note about your UConn example..

    ..Tech fans are generally pretty high on Randy Edsall, because he did a wonderful job as DC for Tech in 1998, and has been in the discussion during Tech’s last two coaching searches. He was a “generate turnovers and score off of them” kind of DC though, which you’d expect to either win big or lose big vs option teams.

    Mike, I must say I absolutely love your blog, and have forwarded your breakdowns of Navy games many times to friends and colleagues. You have a wonderful football mind, and a great way with words. You have single handedly made a Navy fan of me, someone with 6 relatives in the Army, one of which died in the line of duty, another of which is a professor at West Point, a third of which is an Apache flight instructor.

    Go Mids. (and tech)

  56. All UGA/GT readers, please remember that this too is an neutral fan diving into breaking down CPJ. I would strongly advise you to read his other entries most notably:

    1. 5 Myths about Paul Johnson’s Offense

    2. Reading is Fundamental

    Mike, those 2 have been my favorites.

  57. stinger78

    In answer to your question about LSU, I was at the game. Sorry, sorry effort by GA Tech. Sorry ST play that led directly to 21 LSU points in the second quarter, essentially turning a 14-3 game into a 35-3 game at the half. Can’t explain why, and it ultimately doesn’t matter as that game is behind them and the team is focused on this coming fall.

    LSU did slow us down, though. Having not seen film, my recollection is that LSU’s very good DL simply concentrated on stuffing the B-back dive, and the LB/S concentrated on shutting off the pitch. They wanted to force the QB to outrun the pursuit or to throw it. This indeed slowed us down, but didn’t stop the offense. To wit:

    A) We drove three times inside the 15 and came away with only 3 points.
    B) They practiced their super-secret blueprint D and held Dwyer to a mere 4.1 ypc (which in itself is a grand advertisement for the offense).
    C) GA Tech put up more rushing yards than did LSU in amassing the 38 points.

    Again, thanks for you analysis. Great job.


  58. stinger78

    Oops… point B should be: “practiced their super-secret blueprint D for a whole month and held Dwyer to 4.1 ypc…”

  59. ncjacket

    Mike, First of all thanks for the outstanding work diagraming what this offense is all about.

    Second, I sincerely apologize for Tech fans bringing this to light and subjecting you to the stupidity that is ugag. Please don’t hate us because dogs follow us around wherever we go.

  60. Rob in Atlanta

    This is by far the single best breakdown of the offense I have seen to date. I would pay if this site went that way…

    I have been to USNA games since I was 2, and only recently became a Tech fan when I came to school here. I remember Bob Hope filming the USO specials at the stadium in the late ’70s. Have nothing but respect for you guys who serve. Dad and step dad are ’72 and ’70 respectively, so I have grown up with Navy Football.

    Keep up the good work!

  61. Josh


    Wonderful analysis; I retired Navy in Sept 08 and am a life time dawg fan and Navy follower.

    Dont get to bothered about the UGA/GT fans that want to make this about them; I’ve noticed on a couple of UGA boards that they are as bad as SWO’s – like to eat their young/own.

    I have got to admit that I usually lose interest during long articles/posts but was ‘glued to my screen’ on this one.

  62. 1Techfan

    Thanks, I learned quite a bit about PJ’s offense. I can’t wait till next year so I can break down the games like you did.

    I was a student at GA Southern 1989-1992 so I’ve seen a bunch of PJ coached games and I’ll always be a fan of this offense.

    Go Mids/ Go Tech.

  63. Melinda

    I’m curious to know how the blocking assignments are changed…

    Does it depend on which side of the field the play is run to, or does the coach send in changes with the play call from the sideline?

    A lot of your analysis also leads me to the conclusion that the football “experts” don’t truly break down a lot of film and in large part, do not understand the flexbone offense. I HATE when they call it the wishbone!

    The beautiful thing about this offense is that it is big play, but per the Poinsettia bowl, even if you do your assignments correclty, it is still good for 3-4 yards per play. Remember that 12 plus minute drive in the rain? That just broke N.M. State’s will.

  64. Blocking assignments for the triple option aren’t dependent on the direction you’re running. It’s dependent on the defensive alignment, and whether you’re running to a 5- or 6-man side. Basically, there’s a difference in how you block if you have a numbers advantage vs. if you don’t.

    The call to send the slotback straight to the safety instead of first checking the PSLB comes in from the sideline. That’s why they always ran to the wide side of the field when they ran out of that formation; to make sure the A-back had enough room to outrun what would now be an unblocked LB.

    Don’t be too hard on the national guys. They cater to the average fan, not us hardcore types, and they have to talk about two new offenses every week. It’s not easy. You just have to understand that and take what they say with a grain of salt. The only time they annoy me is when they say that this offense won’t work, then roll out the usual option cliches.

  65. Dave'69

    Mike – I’ll add my compliments on the quality of this post. I continue to learn from you.

    I lived near Atlanta for more than 10 years and one of my sons went to both UGA and Tech (He now lives in Boise and cheers for Boise State.) so I was not suprised at the posts you’ve received from both sides. Since I’ve lived in Alabama for the last 18 years, I’ve been exposed to Alabama/Alburn group of crazy fans. I can’t wait until we beat tOSU in September and you break down that game. Imagine what will come out of the Michigan & Ohio woodwork! Start working on how the Navy offense compares/contrasts with Appalachian State! LOL.

  66. chbags

    Good Lord Mike — I took 24 hours off and see the comment count will soon be north of triple (option?) digits .. but it is like the mall on the other side of town going south — you need to quickly break down the Class of 2013’s chow call techiniques to weed out the drive-by’s … the eyeball count must be going through the roof? (I’m waiting for the guys pimping weight loss products to show up next)

  67. chbags

    Now I see what happened — just did a drive by on The Hive and I see that it is the work of the 3rd member of the Senior Bowl road crew !!! — Collateral Damage


    great read. UGA fan here – Hate to see our D dissected in slow motion again but, either way, it doesn’t change the outcome of the game that already happened. If only more websites could be this thorough and objective. great read again.

  69. Spartan

    Greatest analysis of a football game I have ever read. And nice use of video clips.

    I can’t wait to see how good a developed and experienced Nesbitt is.

    Thanks for the read, I have referred my friends to this post.

  70. newt91

    Mike, on June 29th, 2009 at 9:16 pm Said:

    I don’t know what else I can do to demonstrate my points about the offense, though.
    understatement of the year.

    and great post! thanks for firing up the fball juices

  71. GoalieLax

    hey, I figure I gotta pimp us where we can be pimped. little did I know we were going to be 5 posts from 100 comments

    come on…i know there are some stragglers out there that want to say something!

  72. chbags

    Maybe we make a quick drive-by on a tOSU board and run some smack about how the T.O. ‘s gonna run wild at The ‘Shoe and that the Birddog says so? — and here is his link ?

  73. meansonny

    Thanks for the breakdown.

    I agree with your analysis regarding approaching the spread option with a wishbone defense (who couldn’t agree. your blog is executed as well as Navy deliviring a patented 11 minute offensive drive).

    The UGA v NATS debates can be saved for another board.
    The fact of the matter is that it will be fun dissecting the successes and failures of defenses against spread option for years to come.

  74. Me

    For the record, GT fans only care about this article insofar as it pertains to GT. We really don’t give a fuck about Navy, and PJ is all GT now. We fully understand what we are seeing in this offense.

    UGA fans. You are garbage. Get back to work before I fire your ass.

  75. AugustaJacket


    Thanks for the breakdown. Given your earlier work, it would have been very interesting whether Tech won or lost that game. I appreciate you taking the time.

    Please don’t let the GT/UGA “back and forth” keep you from including The Jackets in the future. Guys (and Gals I suppose), we need to keep that stuff on our own boards/blogs.

  76. GoalieLax

    And “Me” proves that all fan bases have people who are classless and stupid. Congrats “Me,” you’re no better than the arping dawgs you hate.

  77. Dave'69

    GoalieLax – Don’t be too hard on him.
    Remember –
    No man is completely worthless. He can always serve as a bad example.

  78. rfjeff9

    As a GT fan, I want to thank you for the excellent analysis and apologize for a few GT fans who display no class on here.

    Alot of us are still learning CPJ’s system, your post has explained alot. Man, it really is fun to watch. This was an excellent post, and I am glad I have found your website, I will be going back through your previous stuff later today.

    I would like to point out a few things to all the comments and questions above…

    This was CPJ’s first year at Tech, inheriting a pro style offense. He lucked up with Nesbitt and Dwyer being here as well as a few speedy A backs but he found out he had a freshman offensive line. It was hard to expect last year’s success when most of the players still seemed clueless at the beginning of the season (and some still at the end of the season). They progressed well and seemed to execute much better vs Maimi and UGA by years end, but we were still seeing missed blocks and bad play even then.

    Nesbitt had no pass protection to count on. The offensive line was all freshman with one sophomore, I think. I believe the center was converted from D-Line. He still gets in a 4 point stance to snap the ball.

    LSU had 3 weeks to scheme Tech, alot can be said on that fact alone. Plus, CPJ didn’t practice like he should have for the bowl and I do not think the team was prepared. The Peach Bowl was VERY important to us, Tech has never won it. His approach to it was disappointing. Fake punt? Too bad we were In the redzone 3 times and we have only 3 points for it. 3 turnovers are never good either. And LSU’s trickery put us in the hole quick.

    I still hear alot about how opponents have seen this defense before so they will be ready for it next year, but the same can be said for any offense. I guess that’s why SEC teams have been so successful stopping UF. After all, they see it all the time, right? And CPJ has had year upon year success running it too, it’s not like there is not game film floating around on it. Even so, Tech is still learning and I would say they only executed a small portion of this offensive scheme potential last year. I look forward to 2009.

    No, I will not request a breakdown of GT games, I understand this site is about Navy, but I will not promise to not devour an article with delight or post a GT comment occasionally, but only in regard to the offense style.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot to comment on the Garner-Webb 10-7 game. That game is what happens when your mobile 1 and 2 QB’s are out injured and the snail speed 3 and 4 QB’s are pocket passers and try to run the option.

  79. Dan Nolan

    This whole thing is pretty comical. A bunch of fans, led by another fan, who think they have a clue about what the option is all about. Best comment – “I believe the center was converted from D-Line. He still gets in a 4 point stance to snap the ball.” To quote Jim Mora…”You dont know, you never will know…”

  80. Mike,

    I also loved your analysis with the Notre Dame blogger on BlueGraySky of the Navy/ND game. One thing that stands out is not a lot of big gains, but if you execute the offense you still get those 7, 10, 12 yard gains that wear our the defense. Also, comparing the O-line play of Navy vs. GT… the Navy o-line gets down the field VERY quickly, leaving the original LOS in the dust. They look so much more efficient and fast than GT’s bigger and I assume speedier, linemen.

    I think Ivin Jasper did a great job of play-calling this year, especially with Kaipo in and out so much of the year. I thought a 2-0 streak against ND was possible at the end of that game!! Also, a great job by Coach Green as the defense also played far better than 2007’s sometimes disastrous performance.

  81. "Not Disappointed"

    Howdy Mike!

    You really are good. I’m not saying this as a Die Hard Ga Tech and Alumni, but because you shot it from the hip.

    Best of luck to the Navy this year.

    Go Navy & Jackets!

  82. TALON

    The spread option, as run by Paul Johnson and Ivin Jasper, is not the wishbone. While you and I realize that, coaches facing it for the first time have a tendency to prepare for it as if they were scheming against 1979 Oklahoma. Maybe it has to do with the sheer difficulty of game planning in general. Think about what coaches have to go through; you practice all week, play on Saturday, then get right back to work on Sunday watching film and putting together a game plan that you have to start installing on Monday. That’s not much time for coaches to sit around and debate strategy while puffing cigars and sipping brandy down at the club. No, when it comes to coaching college football, time management is everything. You and I might be able to ponder these things for a week leading up to a game, but coaches have to have their plan straight by the time they start practice. The wishbone was option-based. Johnson & Jasper’s spread is option-based. There are well-established defensive strategies for the wishbone, so why not use one of those? What a time saver! I mean, how different can they be? Plenty different, as Georgia found out.

    Fundamentally, the mechanics of your basic triple option play are the same whether you’re running it out of the wishbone, I-formation, spread, or whatever. Each of these formations, however, imply different overall philosophies. The underlying theme of the wishbone– bringing blockers to the point of attack to support a power running game– is very different than that of the spread. In the spread, you want to stretch the defense, both vertically and from sideline to sideline, in order to create running lanes. You might think these are just platitudes, but they aren’t; this difference, coupled with the threat of the pass, is why wishbone defenses don’t work against the spread option. The spread allows an offensive coordinator to use a greater variety of formations in order to create the space he wants for his ballcarriers. That advantage played a big part in Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia.

    WOW – You’ve been BONEing up on the Triple Option

  83. That Tech guard getting blown up was mostly going up against Geno Atkins, if I’m not mistaken.

    Great post. I’ve read it half a dozen times, even as a Georgia fan.

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