H/Y OPTIONErick Streelman
I have to admit, I am a little biased toward the option route, because it probably accounted for about half of my catches in college. But, that being said, it absolutely shreds high school coverage schemes. Like most of the routes in this offense, the option route stretches the defense both vertically and horizontally. In particular, this route puts pressure on the playside OLB and the playside Safety.
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Let’s start with the concept of this route. The entire route is based on the idea that there are very few OLB’s that can cover your slot receiver. It’s like back yard football – Set up your man and get open. He can break in, break out, or sit. His only rule is to get open. If you rep this route so that your QB and H are on the same page, he should always be open against man coverage. If a defense is playing cover 3 or cover 4 and the backers take away the option route, the only defender left to cover the deep cross is the playside Safety. If he jumps the cross you will have a post over the top. It really is unfair! This route kills defenses.
THE OPTION ROUTE
At its core, the option route is a 5 yard out or 5 yard dig, but it is much more nuanced than that. The number one coaching point I stress with my guys is patience. This is 5 yard route attached to a 5 step drop. Your H can be really patient as he comes off the ball. He can jog, or even walk as he sets up his man and tries to decipher where he is going to be open. It doesn’t do any good to get open quickly and give the defense time to react. Tell your H to get open late. Be patient and get open right when the QB is ready to deliver the ball. There are some keys and some clues that will help your H if you decide to give him all this freedom.
1) Do your homework and anticipate how the D is going to cover your slot. If your slot is a little guy and they are playing man with a big OLB, then he should break out almost every time and run to the open grass. If your guy is big and their guy is small, run right at him and knock him back two yards, turn around and catch the ball. There is no pass interference in high school football unless the ball is in the air. And, even then, it is rarely called. If you have a 210 pound Y and they are covering him with a 150 pound safety, he should get open every time.
2) Read the leverage of the defender. If he is playing you with inside leverage, whether it is man or zone, you will probably be most open if you break outside. If he is playing you with outside leverage, you will probably be most open if you break inside or break inside and sit.
3) Don’t over think it. This is how kids play in the backyard when they are growing up. Don’t complicate matters. Let them figure out how to get open. Their only rule is to stay patient and not get deeper than 5 yards.
THE DEEP CROSS
Despite the fact that this route is named for the option, most of our big plays come by hitting the crossing route. The goal of this route, is to get over top of the Middle Linebacker and get into the QB’s field of vision as soon as possible. Teach your Y to split the backers and then slightly gain ground. The depth of the route will be dictated by how deep the Mike backer gets when he reads pass. Most high school backers won’t get deeper than 12 yards. If you do run into a team that plays Tampa 2 and drops their backer to 20 yards, you can come back with CURL (subject of a future post) but this is usually an adjustment for summer 7 on 7 leagues where the backers cheat. I have rarely seen a high school backer get deep enough where the Y cannot get over top. Another trick is to tag the route with play action. This will hold the Mike and make it easier for your Y to get over the top.
When we throw this route in practice, I usually put two defenders with bags in the Y’s path to get him used to running through contact. If the Y gets knocked off his route, the safety can stay deep and the route is dead. He has to be able to run through contact.
THE POST ROUTES
The coaching points on both the playside and the backside posts are pretty simple. These post routes are actually a bit counter intuitive. I teach my guys that their main job is to make the safety turn and run. If the safety has to cover the Post, the option and/or the cross will be open. If the safety doesn’t turn and run, the post will be open. But, the WR’s cannot allow the safeties to sit in no man’s land without being threatened. If they are allowed to hover between the playside post and the cross, they can ruin the route. Threaten the safeties.
QB TIPS AND PROGRESSION
I always tell my QB that the first thing he should do is identify the number of safeties. Because, if there is only one deep safety and he shades or buzzes to the playside, you always have the option to throw the backside post. (Honestly, if you practice this offense correctly and become efficient at it you aren’t going to see a late of single high safety looks). So, if we assume that the QB can rule out the backside post due to pre-snap defensive alignment, let’s go through the progression.
This is a 5 step drop. The progression is Option, Cross, Post, Swing. Eyes start on the option route. If it breaks open, the QB should throw it off his 5th step with no reset. Like all the routes in this offense, the QB makes his first read while in his drop. He can’t wait until his drop is completed to finally look at the option route. If the option is covered, the QB will reset and look at the cross. The main coaching point here, is to throw the ball before the route breaks open. So, if we call ACE H OPTION, the Y will be running behind the backers. The QB should deliver the ball to the left of the linebacker while the Y is still to the right of the linebacker. I use the window drill to teach this skill. Set up a few defenders in a line 5-7 yards apart and have a receiver run down the line behind them. This crates windows, where the receiver is open between the defenders. The trick is to throw it to the 2nd window while the receiver is still in the 1st window. If your QB can master this drill, he will be good at throwing the cross.
If the backers do a good job of taking away the cross then the QB’s eyes will automatically go to the playside safety. If the safety has come down to cover the cross, throw the Post. If the safety is still deep, the QB will check it outside to his back.
It is a very simple progression and the defense can’t be right. Someone is going to win!
WHEN TO CALL THE OPTION ROUTE
You can call this route against any defense. It can beat all coverages and the option route is a built in blitz beater. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know that this is a common theme and it is the main reason I love this offense. I love plays that work against any coverage because they are not gameplan specific. I see so many coaches put in unique looks to combat a certain team. They rep them for two days and then try to execute them on Friday. I do not believe this is a recipe for success. Kids need repetition and familiarity. We can call Y or H option every week, no matter the opponent, no matter the coverage, no matter the gameplan. I only have a few routes in my playbook that are specifically designed to beat a single coverage. I want routes that are flexible, the the kids can execute all year, and that we can rep every single day. We call Y option or H Option in every game, 7 on 7 league, team period, or summer workout. It is a constant staple. As a result, kids get really good at it. This also saves your staff on Sundays. You don’t need to invent a gameplan to beat a specific coverage, because you always practice routes that work against every coverage.
That being said, Cover 1 and Cover 2 would probably be my favorite coverages for OPTION. Versus Cover 1, I think my Slot is going to win on the option route almost every time. Versus Cover 2, the H might be covered if he breaks in and double covered if he breaks out, but the playside safety is on an island and has to choose between the cross and the post. That is a recipe for a big play. Cover 4 is probably the best defense against this route because the playside CB and SAFETY can both sit deep and pass off the post and the cross. If the OPTION doesn’t win, the route might be dead. (Actually, If I was playing an Air Raid Team and I didn’t have 4 guys that could play press man, I would major in Cover 4…subject of a future post).
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Please feel free to comment or ask any questions. Keep Chucking it.