How to Defend the Triple Option from a 4-Down Alignment

In this article, I will discuss multiple ways of defending the Triple-Option Offense in a 4-down front, a 6-1 look, and with pressures.

The 4-down front your team can be multiple because of the pressure that you can bring, but you will still have Dive, QB, and Pitch players, regardless.

We call our 4-down front “Maverick.” It can look like a 6-2, depending on the alignment of your overhang players, who are 2×5 off the Wingbacks. These overhangs need to be Strong Safety types, because they need to be able to play in space.

In the base Maverick, our DEs are in 4is and DTs are in 2is, and they are the dive players. We have two Inside Linebackers in 30s, and they are ready for the QB.

If you open up to the direction of the linebacker, that player will be a QB player and the other Linebacker will hit the dive.

Note, if you are facing a team that runs Counter-Option, you really need to drill the correct read for your Inside Linebackers. The overhangs are 2×5 off the Wingbacks and are Pitch players, again with Counter-Option. If they get Wingback motion away, they are blitzing to take on the Counter-back with their inside shoulder to force the play to the inside.

We play Maverick out of Green (Cover 3), where the CBs are outside leverage playing the deep third. The FS is the bonus player—he is at 10 yards depth, flat foot, and reading the QB. If he reads run, he will help QB-Pitch late; if he reads pass, he gets to the middle third. Also, against Counter-Option, if we get the Wingback motion, we will lock the CB to the motion-side because of the blitzing Overhang.

How to Defend a Triple Option Offense with a Great Receiver

If you are seeing a stud WR in this offense and need to double him, we will run a cover we call “Brown.”

In this coverage, we will double that WR with the CB and FS—the CB will have outside leverage and the FS will rob any inside route.

The backside of that will be man, as well, with the Overhang on the Slot and CB on the other WR. The overhang will also be to the Brown side to lock, up as well. The diagram below will show you that we can line up in Maverick to the basic Flex-Bone Attack.

If we get Unbalanced Slot Over, we will bump out the overhang. If we get a TE in, or the Wingback on either side becomes a TE, we will just have the overhang play a 9-Technique with the same option responsibility.

Pressures to Help Defend the Triple Option

The next progression in Maverick is to install the pressures to help make the QB think about his read.

In our base Maverick front, he has been seeing the same read consistently. Now with our pressures, we can make him think and that is usually when the turnover occurs.

The first pressure we will install the Double Bomb, which means we are blitzing both Inside Linebackers into the B-Gaps, and they become dive players. The DEs will move from their 4is, rip outside to become QB players, and the overhangs are automatically pitch players—Overhang Counter-Option rules remain the same.

The great part about this pressure is we can run Bomb to a single side, as well. We run Field Bomb to the wide side, and Boundary Bomb into the short side, depending on the tendency of the team we are playing.

Below, is the diagram of how we run Double Bomb against the Flex Bone. The Secondary in either Double, Field or Boundary is locked up to that side or with Double Bomb, we turn into Cover 1.

In the event you are playing a Flex-Bone team that likes to use a TE, Slot on the ball, or Split back veer team, there is another stunt that we used that was successful against the run.

We called it our Viper Stunt; we exchanged gaps between the Viper and the DE to the 3-man surface. The Viper would slant first, become a dive player, and the DE would wrap around the outside and become a QB player.

Again, we are trying to make the QB think, hold the ball, and then put it on the ground.

In the diagram below,, we show you how we ran the Viper Stunt and played Cover 0 behind the pressure. It is imperative that you teach the DL that this is an automatic pinch call so the rest of them are Dive players and cannot be washed down the line of scrimmage.

Loading the Box to Defend the Triple Option

Now, we will look at the change-up to the Maverick front which is Bubble. I learned this front early on in my coaching career from Coach Cahill and Coach Price—it was something that they had learned from some college visits that they had made in the early 2000s.

This front is Cover 0 with everyone having to execute their job and responsibility. The only time you will go to Cover 3 is if you get the unbalanced slot—we will be switching from Bubble Black (Cover 0) to Green (Cover 3).

The intention is to switch up the QB’s read, make him think, hold the ball, and turn it over. This is still out of your 4-down front and you always make a Lucky call.

The Ends are in 5-Techniques and can stand up—they use their inside hand to make contact with the Offensive Tackle and their responsibility is the QB. The DTs are in a 3-technique and shade on their respective offensive lineman. They have dive responsibility and cannot be washed down the line of scrimmage.

The remaining two Inside Linebackers will line up in the open A- and B-Gaps and play Dive along with the 3-Technique and the Shade. Your best player will play the S Super-Mike at 8 yards and he will play all three responsibilities: Dive, QB, and Pitch. This player is usually your Mike Linebacker or a Strong Safety, and they need to check all three responsibilities.

The Secondary’s responsibility is man coverage and the Safeties are locked on the Wings. If the Wings go in motion, the Safeties will go with them, but the coaching point is they have to stay on their inside hip and do not over-pursue.

The CBs are on an island and need to play great man technique not to get beat inside or deep on a pass. Below is a diagram on how we play Bubble and how to line up against the Flex-Bone.


The Triple Option is a tough offense to defend no matter what your base defense is. You must have a solid plan and you must practice for it a little bit all year.

Use this 4-down front alignment to defend the Triple Option this year and bring the pressure.

This article was originally published in Headsets: Volume 1, Issue 5.


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