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RTI Film Study: Georgia Tech

The Triple Option

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Tech is replacing a cast of contributors who made those wins possible. Starting with quarterback Justin Thomas.

The likely starter will be Matthew Jordan, a junior with plenty of experience in relief. Jordan led Tech to victory at Virginia Tech last season with a team that was missing four starters. In that contest, Jordan rushed for 121 yards and two scores.

This was Jordan’s biggest run of the day, a 53 yard dash to the endzone.

When you slow down the tape, the Hokies have three players in position to make the play here. In this scheme, one player takes the quarterback, one takes the fullback and another takes the pitch man. But two defenders both dash to the outside to guard the running back in motion. That leaves the middle of the field wide open for Jordan to waltz into the endzone unharmed.

It’s that easy to blow an assignment against Tech’s offense. The way you prevent this is to disrupt the timing of the quarterback. You can see in the film how good a push the Yellow Jackets get. That allows the center to get to the next level, picking up a linebacker.

Tennessee has to get pressure in the A-gap, which is the gap between the center and each guard. That’s what you call the “mesh point” of the option offense. If you can attack the mesh point, it throws off the balance of the offensive line. But more importantly, you can’t miss an assignment. That’s the simplest way to stop the triple option. Don’t get sucked in to all the trickery before the play even starts or the ball is handed off.

On this play, the guard crashes to double team the nose tackle. The right tackle swings out wide to create a convoy for Jordan. But the QB is too indecisive. The defensive end recognizes he has zone help to the outside, and stuffs the fullback.

Neither of Georgia Tech’s leading blockers make significant contact down field. Giving the Hokies help on the outside to funnel the run to the middle.

The key word here is contain. The linebacker (circled) engages the outside blocker to funnel the run back to the inside. The blitz forces the running back to pick up both linebackers, but he can’t make any significant contact.

Meanwhile, the right tackle doesn’t touch anyone. When Georgia Tech makes assignment mistakes like that, Tennessee has to make them pay. On the interior of the line, the defensive end rushes inside between the tackle and guard to crash the middle of the line. That’s the mesh point you have to control on the defensive line.

The defense not only keeps contain, but they freeze the quarterback. There are two players on the perimeter, which forces Jordan to tuck the ball and take the loss. The Hokies almost force a turnover, but Jordan falls on his fumble right at the line of scrimmage.

Schematically, Virginia Tech chose to use three linebackers instead of an extra defensive back. Expect the Vols to use Rashaan Gaulden a lot like a third linebacker. Nigel Warrior and Todd Kelly Jr will also be relied upon as rovers around the line of scrimmage.

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