Blitz The Option

“You gotta play assignment football!”

“Do your job! You’ve got Dive! You’ve got Quarterback! You’ve got Pitch!”

“You have to stay in base and be disciplined!”

Sound familiar?  If you get most coaches talking about how to defend the option, you’ll got responses similar to the ones above.

Problem is…that approach is wrong.

There…I said it.

Yes, you do have to have some general rules for defending the option.  Yes, someone has to get the Dive the Quarterback and the Pitch.  And yes, to an extent you have to be disciplined to beat a good option team.

But you cannot, you just cannot sit in base and play assignment football all night.  You just can’t.  On paper it works.  In real life, you simply cannot do that play after play for an entire game.

Your kids ARE going to screw up throughout the game.  They’re kids!  Another thing, that other team…they have coaches.  They are going to figure out who your pitch man is and block him, pitch the ball and its off to the races.

They will figure out who your Quarterback guy is, scheme him into a block, and now the signal caller is off to the races in the power hole!

Not good.

What if your base can’t stop dive?  It’s going to be a long night my friend…a long, long night.

No, the key to stopping the option is attack it.  You have to screw up their blocking.  You have to keep them guessing which of your players is assigned to which part of the option.  You have to eliminate the chance of your kid screwing up his assignment by being aggressive and giving him a direct point of attack.

Coach…You gotta blitz to beat the option.


Hear me out…

The first time I ever faced an option team as a play caller, I did it by the books.  Worked on reads, practiced everybody tackling their assignment (no ball drill!) all week.  We were PREPARED!

We got ran out of the stadium…slaughtered…it was ugly.

I vowed it would never happen again…I’d never sit back and take it like that…from now on…we attack them, not the other way around.

How to blitz the option

First, you have to have option rules in place that fit your defense.  That way when the kids blitz, they are locked into an assignment and can torpedo their target without thought or remorse.

You can read my option rules for the 3-5-3 defense here:

Once your blocking rules are established you can now call blitzes that do two things:

  • Specifically attack blitzes based on tendency
  • Alternate option responsibilities to keep the offense confused

Here are two blitzes from my 3-5-3 Playbook that alternate linebacker responsibilities for the Quarterback and Pitch.

1) Slant Weak, Dog Strong vs. Option Strong


Here we are denying the dive by attacking A and B gap aggressively with our Tackle and Middle Backer.  We KNOW the Quarterback is going to pull the ball when he reads the Tackle slanting inside.  By dogging the Mike and the Right Backer (B) we close the C gap NOW with a blitz.  The Tight End SHOULD block the B as well.  We now have a situation where the Quarterback is on the Stud…he will see the Stud playing on the line (not blitzing) and pitch the football.  Now we have the Stud, the Free the Corner and the Sideline vs. the Running Back with the ball five yards deep.  I like those odds.

By Blitzing the offense, we can PREDICT who will end up with the football and create a situation where we have a numbers advantage at our chosen point of attack.  Here we FORCED the Quarterback to pitch the football…and we have multiple defenders unblocked by design on the pitch.  Awesome.

Now check out this scenario where we force them into a Dive:

2) Slant Out (Weak), Dog X Strong


Here the Quarterback will see the Defensive Tackle move OUT.  That usually will trigger a Dive read.  Now by adding X to the Dog blitz, the Mike and Backer will exchange gaps, but are still BOTH going after Dive.  The Guard can’t block them both.  We teach our Backer here to flash first, cross the face of the guard or collision him INSIDE, the Mike loops overtop and is unblocked into the backfield right when the Quarterback gives the ball to the fullback…BOOM!!!  We can also “Bull” the Center and Offensive Tackle to further protect our linebacker blitz. (Bull means bull rush and pull to the direction of the call).

There are countless ways to do this.  Is their Quarterback the weak link?  Make him keep it every time.  Want to turn it into a sweep as fast as possible?  Blitz the Stud to the QB and X the Backer over him straight into the pitch you KNOW is going to happen.

We tell them what to do, not the other way around.  Common knowledge and general wisdom vs. the option is great when you’ve got stud athletes that can sit and play.  The rest of us have to scheme this out and give our kids a chance to play, to be aggressive and to win.

So next time you run into the triple, don’t just sit there and play assignment football…give your kids a chance…


You may still get beat…but its a heck of a lot more fun than sitting there and taking it all night!

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