Air Force is one of just a handful of teams in Division 1 football that runs the option. What was formerly the "in" offense to run (it was the spread before the spread was the spread) is now rarely used and thus can be more effective because defenses are not used to gameplanning and stopping this offense. Exhibit A: Navy not converting a 2-pnt conversion at Ohio State that would have tied it in the 4th quarter last week.
The basic premise is you have options (duh right?) and the vast majority of the plays run are running options. Typically an option play will block everybody but one or two defenders, intentionally leaving them free. The play will be designed to go at that defender with two offensive players. The QB will then make his decision based on whether that defender comes at him or plays the second option. This is at a VERY basic level, but this is the general idea. The option can be run out of multiple formations and have more than one "option".
Your very basic triple option will have a FB going up the middle as the first option. The QB will read someone directly in front of the line of scrimmage, usually a LB. If this LB stays home and fills the gap where the FB is going then the QB will keep the ball. That was his first option. Next he will take off running parallel to the line of scrimmage with a RB running next to him. The offense will usually block everyone except the DE on that side or maybe the OLB. The QB will read this unblocked player, if the defender comes at the QB then he pitches to the RB (option #2). If the defender stays with the RB assuming the pitch then the QB will keep it and run on his own (option #3). This is pretty basic but this is generally what you can expect to see on Saturday. Only there will be receivers in motion who can be the pitch man or who will get a pitch as they are running the opposite direction for a reverse or the QB would even fake the run-option and then drop back for a pass. It will get much more complicated but the point is if defenders get themselves out of position or do not stay patient with their assignments then this system will exploit that and go for big plays.
Anyway, I'm not going to try and diagram the option or tell you exactly what to expect from Air Force. But I'll point you in the right direction.
Navy has been running the spread option for a while now and The Birddog has discussed the option at great length and if you care to learn more this is the place to go.
- Here he talks about the futility of preparing for the wishbone just because it is the more traditional formation for running the option.
- Here he talks about the midline option.
- Here is a YouTube video of Georgia Tech head coach, Paul Johnson explaining a little bit about his option. Johnson was the coach at Navy and is in his second season at GT.
- Here are the top 10 plays for Air Force in 2008. It will give you a flavor of what their offense is capable of.
- Finally here are the highlights from Navy's near upset of Ohio State. Watch how Navy breaks a big 24 yard run against a very good Ohio State defense. They used the pass more than you can expect to see Air Force but you get the idea.