triple option offense

What Is A Triple Option Offense?

Teams employ different offense formations. In most games, you’ll see teams passing the ball and making runs. You’ll see quarterbacks with excellent throwing skills. In the end, football relies on runners to make ground and score touchdowns.

One such play that does exactly that is the triple-option offense. So, what’s a triple-option offense?

A triple option offense is a play that offers various ways to advance the ball in the field. It utilizes three players that run with the ball as opposed to the standard two players. In a single play, defenders have to worry about three runners.

Keep reading below as I dig deep from its creation to popular triple option offense plays.

Who Created Triple Option Offense

Bill Yeoman, a coach at the University of Houston, is hugely credited with creating the triple option offense. Working as a coach in the 1970s, Bill deployed the formation, leading the team to 3-top ten finishes.

In the 70s, running plays were the norm as quarterbacks (QBs) didn’t have the accurate passing skills we see nowadays. Almost every touchdown was scored from a running play.

Modern-day quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes have excellent throwing and passing skills. Houston developed the play to ensure quarterbacks had three runners on the upfield.

The triple option offense was set with a center runner, a side left or right runner, and a quarterback with the ball. In the play, the QB was the first runner with two further options ahead.

The play worked, and that’s how the triple option offense was formed. It has been proved to be effective over the years, with most coaches still using it.

Why Do Offense Run the Option

Teams run the triple option offense because it’s pretty difficult to defend. In most cases, teams don’t see the play. They are unsure of where the quarterback will throw the ball. He can run with it, or pass it to the center, left, or right, depending on the play.

It’s a very deceptive offense that keeps the defenders guessing. The defensive team is not sure of the runner with the ball. The quarterback has the option to hand the ball to a running back or even pass it to a second running back. The third option is the quarterback running with the ball himself.

It’s a quite effective offense that requires running backs and wide receivers who can block. The triple offense option requires teams that throw the ball. It pretty much works the same as traditional plays but adds one more runner to the mix.

How To Run the Triple Option Offense 

First, it’s important to note that the play doesn’t differ too much from the classic football plays. It’s more of a hybrid between the single-wing play and the run-heavy offenses.

football teams ready for the game

Here is how to run the triple option offense on the offensive line

  • One center
  • Two offensive tackles and
  • Two offensive guards

Here is how to line the backfield

  • Three running backs
  • Two wide receivers and
  • A quarterback

As you can see, the formation diverts from the normal modern play by using three running backs. However, it’s important to note that most defensive teams will easily notice you’re planning a triple option offense once they see three running backs.

To effectively run the triple option offense, players need to line up at the scrimmage line in different locations. This confuses the defenders and keeps them guessing.

In running the play, the chosen team carrier is selected from how teams line up. Teams can intentionally leave defenders unblocked. The quarterback then needs to read the intentions of the players before deciding where to pass the ball or whether they can keep it.

Running a triple-option offense requires a quarterback that knows his job. If he reads the game well and makes the correct pass, the unblocked lineman will be taken out.

What Do You Need To Run an Triple Option Offense

Running the triple option offense requires a few traits from the players. Not every team is suited to run the offense. Many teams in the military and Division one still use the triple option offense. But what exactly do you need to run the offense?

The pay works in the lower leagues because most teams lack the skills of professional players. It simply means the offensive can utilize their runners and break tackles.

Below are a few traits you’ll need in your players to run the triple option offense.

A Quarterback That Can Run

First and most important, you need quarterbacks that can run with the ball. In fact, the most successful triple option offense features QBs that can run. If a quarterback in a team cannot run, then the triple option play will not work.

You need mobile quarterbacks that are not afraid to run with the ball. What’s more, the QBs need to be pacey and know how to skirt their way around defenders.

Strong and Fast Running Backs

If you’re going to gain yards, then you need strong and fast running backs. The triple option offense relies on fast running backs. These are running backs that can create deceptive runs on the lines, draw defenders, and block.

They are usually deployed in the backfield but can be seen running with the ball anytime.

football player in red jersey running with the ball

Smart Offensive Linemen

In a triple option offense, offensive linemen have various roles to play. They need to be intelligent to easily read the game and make the right decisions. A smart offensive lineman will push defenders in different directions while protecting the quarterback.

By doing this, they can create holes at the line of scrimmage for running backs to exploit. A lineman at the coalface is the foundation for a successful triple-option offense. While nobody expects you to run through the danger zone, teams can gain yards running in straight routes in the middle.

Running Backs and Wide Receivers That Can Block

You also need a team with running backs and wide receivers that can block. This is an essential aspect of the game since only one player will be carrying the ball. You need the other players protecting the ball carrier by blocking defenders.

It is a great asset to have wide receivers and running backs that can block. It means they can create holes in the defense.

Backfield Players That Can Pass the Ball

Lastly, you need players that can throw the ball accurately. It’s a significant aspect of the game in the Triple Option since it involves a lot of throwing. You need a team with good throwers and outstanding wide receivers.

A good pass will easily throw the defense off balance and help you gain yards.

Popular Triple Option Offense Plays

There are various triple option offense plays that teams have used for years. Let’s look at a few popular ones.

Midline Sweep

This is the first triple option offense and one that exploits the right side of the field on the line of scrimmage.

It works with the offensive linemen working together to create holes in the line of scrimmage. You’ll see them coordinating and shunting their plays right and left to open gaps on the right.

This play might seem easy to defend as the play appears to come from the middle. However, that’s not the case. You’ll have three running oppositions starting from a QB. There is then a center runner and a side runner that he can pass the ball to whenever he wants.

The wide receivers will make short safety plays while making themselves available for the QBs should they be forced to pass.

Crossover Chaos

This is one of the most complex triple option offenses to play. It’s one of the most deceptive plays that will for sure baffle defenders. You need to practice it several times before attempting it in a game.

Play starts from the offensive guards that squeeze and drag opposition defenders inwards. This helps open channels to the left or right. At the same time, offensive tackles will help open the channels further by pushing outwards.

football quarterback holding the ball

The play runs from the QB and the two runners. Let’s call them runners A and B. At the right-hand guard, you can have a dummy player running through the center. This play gives the QB options on where to pass the ball on either side of the field.

It’s an excellent smash play when the attack is at least 5 yards to the end zone.

The Flexbone Formation

We also have the flexbone formation that sets the QB behind the center and a fullback on the back right side. Play can then start with two small running backs just behind the offensive tackles at the scrimmage line.

It is a great play that allows the offense to run broad lines and stretch defenders at the line of scrimmage.

You can play the Flexbone triple option in different plays. Some of the best ones include the flexbone roll-out and flexbone pass-out.

Triple V Pass

This is another deceptive triple-option play that tricks the defense into a play run. However, it ends with a pass helping the team gain valuable yards. The move sees the ball thrown over the safeties, who bite in a fake run.

Different players will know the roles, from the offensive linemen to the wide receivers. 

Triple Option Offense FAQ

Why Doesn’t the Triple Option Work in the NFL?

The Triple option does not work in the NFL since almost every player in the NFL is world-class with top speed. It’s a play that requires QBs that are faster than defenders, which is hard in the NFL.

Even some of the best offensive players in the NFL don’t use the triple-option offense.

What College Teams Run Triple Option?

The Army Black Knights, the Air Force Falcons, and Navy Midshipmen are some of the college teams that run the Triple option.

How Old Is the Triple Option?

The triple option is over 6o years old, having been invented in the 60s. The Longhorns would then use it to win 30 straight games from the start of 1968.


The Triple option offense is a pretty popular play even though it’s not effective in the NFL and some college games. However, it remains one of the best offensive plays for youth and high school games, helping confuse the defenders and open holes. 

What’s more, the offense is relatively easy to teach with a lot of deception.

Related Article: Want to know what a Wing-T Offense is? Read this guide as we break down the formation on who should use it, how to set it up, and its pros and cons.

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