The Non-Negotiables of the High School Triple Option Offense

The YouTube link for this article is right here:

Dr. Cella here.  I hope you are all doing well.

I received the following comment from one of my YouTube subscribers and this is a question to which I’m rather passionate:
Hey Dr. Cella the breakdowns are awesome. Appreciate all the hard work. I know you talk a lot about running a concept at least four times a game in order for it to be successful. I was curious if you would do a video breaking down the concepts you would run personally in a high school game? –Kirk Anderson

Kirk, let’s look at the facts.
Triple Option is the Offense.  Currently, Triple Option is 15% of the Georgia Tech, Army, and Navy 2018 Offense. They average running Triple over 10 times/games. So, you better run the Triple.

Zone/Speed Option has become the #1 constraint off the Triple and is now run more than Triple Option.  This is 18% of Georgia Tech, Army, and Navy’s 2018 Offense and they are running this 12 times/game.  Run this when you don’t get four yards on the give phase of the Triple.  You must run this, and if you don’t, you’re cheating your players, coaches, and the people who support you.

Triple Pass is, by far, vitally important to make the offense go.  The average completion on Triple Pass is over 20 yards.  This is an explosive play.  If you have ONE more explosive play than your opponent, you win 86% of the time.  Utilize Triple Pass when the defense forces a pull read (because they’re sacrificing pass coverage for perimeter run support) and/or when you must get a first down.

After this, the drop off is considerably real…

High school coaches tend to overdose on Rocket.  Army, Navy, and Tech are running Rocket about 4 times/game; however, high school coaches get addicted to the simplicity of the concept and they love to enable their Quarterback by taking the play out of his hands.  Rocket is like Oxycontin–it’s great to relieve short-term pain, but you’re only supposed to utilize Rocket to relieve short-term pain.  Utilize this when you can’t get four yards on Zone Option.  If you’re running Rocket more than Zone Option, you’re either losing, or your athletes are so much better than everyone else, that they just overcame your terrible coaching.

Follow is great when the B-gap is open in Short Yardage/Goal-Line out of the Heavy or Double Flex formation.  If it’s not, run Zone Power.  That’s what Army and Navy are doing in 2018.  Sneak it if the A-gap is open.

Zone Dive is great if they’re forcing a pull read; however, if you’re pulling and pitching, you’re winning… barring some pretty awful ball security.  Army, Navy, and Tech run it enough that I have to say “install this.”

Oh yeah–run the Double Flex formation.  Everytime Tech, Army, and Navy are in a tight ball game, they compress the formation.  The difference in yards/play out of Double Flex on Zone Option and Toss as compared to Spread is considerably different.  Army, Navy, and Georgia combined average more compressed formations (Double Flex/Heavy) than Spread.

I get a lot of questions about Trap.  This concept is a coin-flip.  The benefit is that if the defense forces a give read, you trap the Quarterback player (#1) and run the B-Back inside of that.  The downfall is that Army, Navy, and Tech don’t run Trap enough (2-3 times/game), and now you’re installing another give constraint.  You’ll get more yards/play on Zone Option.

Finally, there’s Midline.  Coaches love the Midline because it’s a simple two-way option.  I’ve been running the Midline since the mid-1990s and the truth is the following:  Unless you get a 3-technique and a Backside Action Key, you need better players to make the Midline go.  You must have defensive cooperation to make the Midline go.  So if you want to invest a lot of time in a concept where you’re at the mercy of the defense to utilize–well then… run Midline Lead.  Midline Lead is BY FAR the most effective Midline variation.  The facts are this–Midline as a double option is run twice/game on average (based of 2018 Army, Navy, Tech data) and Midline Triple Option is run twice/game on average.  The data indicates that Midline is not worth the investment.  You can chide me all you want, the numbers don’t support this; however, if you insist to run the Midline, run Midline Lead.

Kirk, in conclusion, if I had to coach high school football, I would run the following:

Triple Option.  If I got four yards on Triple, I’d run Triple again.  This is because if you average four yards/rush on first down, you would have led the NFL in rushing over the last 35 years.  The NFL run study proved that four yards/rushing is a DOMINANT run.

If I didn’t get four yards on the give phase of Triple, I’d run Zone Option.  This is a no-brainer.  Zone Option has significantly increased Triple Option Offensive performance.  At times, I would run the Rocket Toss if I was concerned with serious interior penetration to the point where the Quarterback would get hit before he got off-tackle.

I would run Triple Pass if I got a pull read and/or in long yardage situations.  All it takes is one completion on Vert or Titan and you created an explosive play (play of 20+ yards).  All you need is one more explosive play than your opponent and you win 86% of the time.  If you get one more explosive play and you win the turnover battle, you pretty much just won the game barring an act of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

I would tag off the Zone Option with Power and Power Lead, especially if #2 cancels the Quarterback.  This way you kick #2 out and run the Q up inside.

Zone Dive would be utilized if the defense forces a pull/pitch; however, as I stated above, if the defense forces a pull/pitch you’re already winning.  This is because now they are actually reacting to you.

This is all that I would do.  The average high school football game is 48 plays and you must run a play at least four times/game for the play to be statistically effective (NFL two-year Run Study).

Here’s your “menu”:

Triple Option

Zone Option


Triple Pass (Vert/Titan)

Heavy Package: Sneak (A-gap void)/Follow (B-gap void)/Zone Power (no void)

Zone Dive