GT Preview - Understanding Johnson's "Flex Bone Offense"
Growing up in Savannah, Georgia, Paul Johnson was some sort of legend because he won some second-rate National Championships at Georgia Southern (just kidding GSU fans).
The reason Johnson became so popular at Southern and, later, at Navy and GT is because of the success he has had running a very unique offense - the flex bone offense. Typically, you see high schools and small colleges running these offenses because the offense covers up a talent gap by making defenses play perfect.
Now, a big misconception about Paul Johnson's offense is that it is called the "Triple-Option Offense" well, that is just incorrect. The triple-option is a concept that is run out of the flex bone, but it is not the correct term for the offense. In today's X's and O's articles, I just wanted to show you some of the "basic" run plays that you will see this weekend - The Inside Veer, The Outside Veer, The Midline, and the Counter Option. I played in a flexbone offense in high school, and my alma mater, Savannah Christian, runs this offense to a "T." Although there are more plays - the toss sweep, veer action passes, and cross buck - I just wanted to show you these base plays.
The Inside Veer
The inside veer is the "basic" run play that the flex bone is based. The backside A-back (wing) goes in an orbit motion, gets 7x1 (7 yards away by 1 yard back), and awaits the pitch. The B-back (fullback) aims for the near hip of the play side guard, takes/fakes the handoff, gets square to the line of scrimmage or looks for the cutback if he gets the ball.
The QB steps play side at 3 o'clock and goes through his read. For the dive read (#1), the read is to give unless 1 pinches flat down the LOS - if he crashes, he pulls. Then, the QB goes to his #2 read. The goal is to get square and keep the ball unless 2 commits to the QB - then he pitches it.
The Outside Veer
Should the defense begin to clog the inside A/B gaps, the outside veer allows for the offense to still run the triple, just to a different hole. The backside A-back again goes in motion and gets 7x1. The B-back aims for the outside hip of the play side tackle and gets square after the mesh (handoff).
The QB's job is to get down the line, get 1 foot of depth, mesh (handoff/read) and sit. The line will block down on the DT's and LB's, so the QB will now read the end man on the LOS or OLB. If the OLB (#1) crashes down the LOS, you pull, if not, you give the dive. The next read is the pitch read (#2) which is the CB because the WR crashes down on the safety. If 2 commits to the QB, you pitch, if not, you keep.
Again, this is just another variation of the option - except, it gives the offense the ability to hit the A-gaps hard. This is a downhill run that hits the defense up the gut if they lock of the B, C, and D gaps.
The backside A-back goes in orbit motion, but just becomes a blocker. The play side A-back goes in and leads through the hole as the lead for the QB. The B-back runs on the midline (center of the LOS) and slides to the play side.
The QB reads the first person away from the play side of the center. He reads, clears the midline, rides, and ducks into the B-gap if he pulls. The read is that the QB is to give unless the 3-tech (or first person on the play side LOS) pinches flat down the line. If they do pinch, the QB is to get up through the hole and gets what he can.
The Counter Option
Finally, this is just one of the counters of the flex bone offense. When the defense begins to fly down on the orbit motion, the call is to run the counter option - which is just the inside veer with a twist.
The backside A-back goes in orbit motion, however, when he gets half way, he counters back to the backside (which is now the play side) and the offense runs the veer to that side. The read is the same as the inside veer (or outside veer - whichever is called). This just gives the offense the ability to counter any action to the motion by the defense.
HOW TO STOP THE FLEXBONE
The reason you run this offense is the balance it enables you to have. The flex bone, in its base formation, is a balanced formation. Therefore, defenses cannot scheme to the strong/weak side. What is causes the defense to do is to make sure they play disciplined and play focused for all 4 quarters.
How you stop this offense is to stop all three phases - the dive, the pull, and the pitch. Defenses have to get off blocks, stick to and know their assignment, and make plays. Another technique - other than playing perfect defense - is to mix your fronts, stunts and blitzes.
For Georgia, look to see a mixture of 3, 4, and 5 man fronts. You will see OLB's and DE's run twists and stunts to mix the QB's reads. The safeties will fill down into the run lanes and CB's playing and recognizing passes vs. runs. The big thing is - when they stop the basic plays we've shown here - they must respect the veer-action passes and counters. Playing disciplined is the key and that is why I like UGA vs. GT.