Really, this preview boils down to two simple words that can turn into something much more devious and troublesome for a football team. Triple. Option. They run the triple option out of the Flexbone formation, which lines up a single back behind the quarterback, with two "slot" receivers just outside the tackle and off the line of scrimmage, with another two wide receivers out wide.
This gives the offense four players on the line of scrimmage that they can motion around and utilize in the pass or run game. But with the way Wofford uses the Flexbone, it is all about that pesky triple option. So what is the triple option? It is an offense that was at its most popular in the 70's and 80's, and popularized by Air Force Head Coach Fisher DeBerry.
In actuality, the more modern day "Zone-Read" option is just an off-shoot of the triple option. The goal is to put a single defender in a position to be forced to guard one of two players and have the ball carrier read that defender and either keep the ball or pitch it. In the Triple option, there are actually two "read" points. The first is if the quarterback should give the ball to the dive back. If the quarterback keeps the ball, he then has another running back option out wide, and then also he can keep it again.
The play is very simplistic in its nature, but with more modern defenses and quicker lineman, the offense has been relegated to the fringes of college football. Now, just a handful of programs use it at the highest level, most notably the service academies and Georgia Tech. With this lack of wide spread followers, the triple option and its multiple formations of origin have obtained a new advantage; rareness.
With teams just not seeing this type of offense any more, it is much more difficult to game plan for and "coach" your guys up on how to defeat it. In the end, it comes down to disciplined and fundamental defensive football. Make sure you stick to the game plan of turning the play out to the boundary or inside to additional defenders, wherever the rest of your team knows where it should be going. You do that and tackle well, you still might have a few bust out for big gains simply due to the inherent advantage of making 19 and 20 years olds make a correct split second decision 50+ times in a single game.
But it isn't just the basic plays in the package; it is also the misdirection and the counters to the first play they show you. Those plays off of the plays are a staple of what Coach Briles does at Baylor. Think of it like the bubble screen off the zone read that some Baylor fans love and others hate. There is a reason the Bears throw that bubble screen. It is to setup the play-action plays deep off of that bubble screen, when the safeties are taking steps towards the line of scrimmage to help out on the short routes. That is when Tevin Reese goes streaking by them for a long touchdown pass.
In the end, the Terriers have the same end result in mind as the Bears do on offense. Simply make a single defender choose between a bad option and a worse option. Luckily for Wofford, they have done this very well at the FCS level for a long time.
The Terriers are coming off of a 9-4 record last year, before falling to the eventual National Champion North Dakota State Bison in the quarterfinals. They have played a power conference school the last two years, losing to South Carolina 24-7 last year and falling to Clemson 35-27 the year before. They return 5 starters on both sides of the ball and are currently ranked 5th in the preseason FCS Poll. To put it simply; this is a really good FCS team that runs a difficult to prepare for offense simply due to its scarcity.
5-Players to Watch
The Terriers lost their top two offensive ball handlers last year in quarterback Brian Kass and running back Eric Breitenstein. They accounted for over 2500 rushing yards combined and were two of their top three rushers. In the place of Kass appears to be two quarterbacks fighting for starting position. Sophomore Michael Weimer and junior James Lawson are both battling for the top spot and getting first team reps. Both Lawson and Weimer appeared in games last year, with Lawson having a slight edge in terms of playing time, and yards produced. Either will have to step up and run a disciplined attack with them at the controls.
Joining Weimer and Lawson in the back field will be a vast array of running backs. The Terriers have 13 halfbacks, fullbacks or running backs on the roster. The main threats appear to be half backs Cam Flowers and Ray Smith. They do return their top receiver, who had 17 catches last year in Jeff Ashley and seem to be involving tight end Zach Muller more and more in the game plan.
Defensively, they return their leading tackler in Mike McCrimon, a 6-foot-3 inch, 225 pound senior linebacker. McCrimon had 76 total tackles last year, to go along with 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. They also return their second leading tackler and top defensive back in James Zotto, another senior.
But in all honesty, the two "players to watch" that might mean the most to the Terriers aren't actually players. They are time of possession and confusion. They will have to control the ball and have long methodical drives to play keep away from the Baylor offense.
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