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AFM Subscribers Ask...

with Mike Sewak
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Former Georgia Southern head coach Mike Sewak helped learn his craft from two GSU legendary coaches: Erk Russell and Paul Johnson. An oustanding lineman for Virigina in the late 70's, Sewak first coached at Hobart and Georgia Tech before joining Russell's staff for two seasons in the mid 80's. In those two years in Statesboro, the Eagles won national championships. He then coached at Hawaii and Ohio before coming back to GSU on Johnson's staff. As OC, Sewak and the Eagles won two more championships in 1999 and 2000. As head coach, 2002-2005, Sewak and Georgia Southern went 35-14, making the I-AA playoffs in three of the four years. Considered an authority on the option offense, he answers your questions...

Q. Why the option? From your coaching experiences, why did you select the option as your base offense? Jon Conrad, Assistant Coach, Salisbury, High School (WA). AFM subscriber since 2003.

There are many reasons to choose an option type offense. First, you have the ability to run three plays in one to both sides. Your quarterback gets a pre-snap read and puts you to the side where you have the best advantage – either number-wise or angles. Then you get a post-snap read as to run the dive, the off-tackle play or the toss sweep. Second, you can’t block them all, but you can block everyone except the furthest one from the ball because the option eliminates blocks at the point of attack to get the ball on the corner. Third, you don’t have to have the best personnel. Big athletic tight ends are hard to find as well as big physical fullbacks. You get to recruit undersized over achievers and as many option quarterbacks as you can find allowing for position flexibility in all your skill positions. Speed is the number one factor. Get as much speed on the field as you can. The option simplifies defensive schemes making defenses play assignment football. Sometimes, you can eliminate their best player by making him the option key, eliminating his freedom to freelance by making him play assignment football.

The option has developed over the last twenty years. We ran inside-veer, belly-option, mid-line option, trap option, as well as, counter-dive option and counter-speed option. We had tremendous success with it all, at many different levels. It is a niche football offense. Most teams don’t see it, and it is hard to prepare for it in a week. It also keeps their offense off the field. It can be run from goal line to goal line and there is no field shrinkage. The personnel advantage of having four vertical WRs makes the secondary have to account from each formation as to eligible and ineligible receivers. This eliminates defensive personnel packages. The play gets better as the year goes on because each rep increases the speed of the operation and the faster the efficiency the more production you will gain from this play. The players take ownership for its execution. This creates enthusiasm at practice because the defensive scout team tries so hard to stop the offense. Creating intensity at practice prepares the players on both sides of the ball for the competition on game day. And patience, because that fullback is going to break one sooner or later and when he does, it sends a message to everyone this can’t be stopped.

Q. In running the option, what are the basic principles in attacking a 4-3 defense? How about the 3-4? What about the 3-5-3? Kevin Waters, JV Head Coach, Lakeside High School, Evans, GA. AFM subscriber since 2006.

Getting the playside linebacker eliminated is the key to success to run the football. The 4-3 defense protects the linebacker, because the four down linemen cover your guards and tackles. This means to run the inside veer the playside tackle must get the playside linebacker and he has a defensive end on his outside shoulder keeping off the linebacker. So you would run a “load” scheme making the playside tackle and playside slot responsible for the playside linebacker to run support the free safety. This should eliminate the playside linebacker from tackling the dive on the give by the PST and blocking the linebacker with the PS slot on the quarterback off tackle run. The PST would run a path through the linebacker to the free safety. Against this defense the backside outside linebacker is the only player not accounted for in our blocking scheme.

The 3-4 defense doesn’t cover the guards; however the defensive tackle can eliminate your fullback and the defensive end your quarterback but that playside linebacker can work inside out covering for the quarterback to pitch thus playing the option from the line of scrimmage. There’s no need for secondary run support, which will come anyways. In the 3-4 the center is covered by a nose guard who protects playside “A” gap as well as the backside linebacker and allows him to get involved in stopping the dive. We would send the playside guard straight to the PS linebacker to backside run support and loop the tackle outside the defensive tackle to pin the PS linebacker inside, thus allowing the perimeter blocking to eliminate run support from the secondary. The backside defensive end isn’t accounted for in our blocking scheme.

The 3-5-3 defense covers your center and two tackles and stacks a linebacker behind each sending them to control gaps. The nose and middle linebacker are to control the “A” gaps. This allows the playside guard a clean shot on pinning the middle linebacker every time. Against an option attack taking the fullback from linebacker level leaves too much room for error as well as not eliminating the first phase of the option the fullback dive at the line of scrimmage. This has created a lot of problems with this defense. Also we would loop the PS tackle outside for the free safety accounting for all personnel playside. The only one we wouldn’t be accounting for is the backside outside linebacker.

Q. What is the most difficult defensive front to block the option against? Aaron Hancock, Assistant Coach, Wyoming High School, OH. AFM subscriber since 2003.

Any and every defense is tough if they know how to defeat the base and scoop blocks we use to run our offense. Defeating blocks and playing off blocks is the best way to slow this offense down. Stopping the fullback is the first course of action. Eliminate him and then work out to quarterback to slotbacks. Then you can decide who can hurt you worse. If we have poor guards, cover them and let your linebackers and defensive line stop the option from the line of scrimmage. If our guards are good, uncover them and take the fullback away from outside in from the line of scrimmage. By doing this you hope to get the playside linebacker involved in run support from linebacker level. Penetration slows the inside veer down but helps the mid line option and trap as well as the counter option.

Next Month: Catholic High School in Baton Rouge (LA) head coach Dale Weiner answers your questions about his ‘Spin’ offense...Coach Weiner’s offense has been featured in the last three issues of AFM including his basic strategy for this offense, the running game, and the passing game. Submit your question to Coach Weiner by emailing AFM’s Managing Editor, Rex Lardner deadline for entries is February 20.


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