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Clinic Talk: The Georgia Tech Flexbone Triple Option Offense

Dive into Paul Johnson’s Flexbone triple option offense

Vanderbilt v Georgia Tech Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Under Coach Paul Johnson Georgia Tech has compiled a record of 61-44 including 38 ACC wins over nine seasons. He matches George O’Leary and Bobby Ross with winning an ACC title during his tenure. Ross was 31-26 in five season at Tech including a share of the 1990 National Title. O’Leary finished 52-30 in seven full seasons (0-3 upon taking over the Jackets in ‘94 at the end of the season).

When Johnson arrived at Georgia Tech, many thought his Flexbone option offense which worked so well at Navy wouldn’t carry over to the ACC. In 2008, only his second season, he defeated Florida State, Miami and Georgia to finish 9-4. In 2014 the Jackets finished 11-3 including wins over Mississippi State, Miami, Clemson, and Georgia, and losing to FSU in the ACC title game by only 2, before pounding Miss State in the Orange Bowl. How does a Flexbone offense knock off legendary college football powers known for playing in a modern offense? Simple, it’s different, requires discipline to defend, and PJ is the master of the offense.

I’m sure you’ve heard, Paul Johnson doesn’t use fancy boards or even a play-call sheet. Johnson calls the entire game from the sideline off of his head running receivers on and off the field for the play-call. His most used formation is a balanced spread set with two outside receivers, two A-Backs (slots/wings) and a B-Back (Fullback). With the amount of cutting and pulling Tech will employ, they don’t recruit your typical Tide or Longhorn sized Offensive Lineman. Instead, Johnson opts for converted Tight Ends and Power Forwards to play O-Line. He rarely uses a TE in his offense though, as he prefers the spread look.

Below is the base spread formation in the Flexbone both in a diagram and a screenshot.

Inside Veer

The veer is a form of triple option made famous by Coach Yeoman at Houston in the split-back variety, but also the Flexbone (Navy, Georgia Tech), some I-formation teams (Osborne’s Nebraska) and the Wishbone (Switzer’s Oklahoma) teams. It’s predicated on 2 reads, the first being the dive read with the B-Back, and the 2nd being a pitch-option between the QB and A-Back. The read on dive will be the defensive end, the read on the pitch will be whoever is responsible for the pitch-back (A-Back).

If the D-End sits or attacks the QB, the QB gives the ball to the B-Back. If the D-End squeezes on the dive, the QB pulls and plays the option against the defender playing the pitch. It could be the safety or the outside linebacker/nickel/up-safety to that side. If that player attacks the QB, the QB pitches. If he attacks the pitch-back the QB keeps, if he plays the middle the QB keeps.

Midline Option

Midline is probably my favorite play in all of football. Above, I’ve shown a counter/quick motion and fold block by the play-side A-Back. The QB in midline reads the 3-technique. If the 3 (T) sits, the QB gives the dive. If the 3 attacks the dive, the QB pulls and follows the A-back through the b-gap.

Below is a give read where the QB gives the midline to the B-back.

Below is a keep-read with the 3 playing the dive, so the QB pulls.

In the 2nd GIF (directly above), you can see the size of the hole midline leaves when blocked properly and the 3 crashes that hard on the B-Back.