No option; prep for Army's offense tough

It is always dicey jumping out of conference play to face an unorthodox offense, but that is what Rutgers will do this week when it plays Friday at Army. The Cadets run a triple-option running attack, which means assignment football is at a premium and can offset a physical edge in talent. Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano knows the problems the triple-option creates for defenses.

In Greg Schiano's bizarro world, where he trades his Rutgers digs for the comfort of being a high school coach, he may go with one of the most complex offenses to known.

Given equivalent or near-equal talent, it can cause enough havoc with a defense to be the deciding factor in a game.

It is the triple-option, and one Rutgers will face Friday when it travels to undermanned and undersized Army for its last non-conference game of the season.

"If I didn't have to defend this, I enjoy watching it,'' said Schiano, Rutgers' head coach. "It is definitely a science. There is no doubt about it. when I am all done and ready to go coach some high school, I will employ that offense. I think it is very good. It really is a joy to watch. ‘'

After trying a two-back pro formation under for a few years, the Cadets went back to their roots and opted for the option last season.

It didn't result in wins, and Stan Brock was fired after the 2008 season.

But feeding off the success academy counterpart Navy had with the option, Army hired Rick Ellerson, a veteran coach with a trple-option attack resume, to try and resurrect the program.

What it does for Rutgers this week is create nothing but an overwhelming headache when it comes to preparation.

"If you are not disciplined, it will make you look silly,'' Schiano said. "You have to put your eyes where they are supposed to be, and you have to have the discipline to keep them there.

"It is very tempting not to because everything is happening in front of you at high speed. You want to look because your nature is to find the football and go get it. If you do that against this offense, you are going to struggle.''

So far, it hasn't resulted in the rushing consistency and wins Army craves. The Cadets (3-4) are 109 th in scoring offense (17.86 ppg). They stunned Vanderbilt 16-13 in overtime Oct. 10, but followed it with a 27-13 loss at Temple on Saturday.

Army is running for 222.6 yards per game, led by freshman quarterback Trent Steelman (58.1 ypg), who is the decision-maker. He must read the defense, decide whether to hand the ball to the fullback, pitch it to one of the tailbacks or keep it.

"He seems to be a very good high-speed decision maker,'' Schiano said. "He is a tough kid. He has gotten bumped up a little bit and he keeps coming back for more. He got bumped Saturday. I am interested to see how he is."

But Steely certainly likes to keep it. He has rushed 117 times (and is 25 of 49 throwing the ball), which is more than double the carries as the next leading rusher, junior slot back Patrick Mealy (55.1 ypg). Stopping the fullback is integral to shutting down the option, which means handling Cadets junior Kingsley Ehie (44.7 ypg).

"Coach Ellerson comes in with a group of (coaches), and (running the option) is what they have done for years. That is what they do,'' Schiano said. "As you study them, which we have both in the offseason and now getting ready for them again, they are very proficient at what they do. They know how to do it as well as anyone and it is quite a challenge.''

Rutgers spent time in training camp and also during the bye earlier this season defending the option, and Schiano is hopeful the return to it this week triggers their memories.

"I hope that our recall from the bye week and from preseason camp, and from the spring when we did a little bit, as well as a great week of preparation …you hope you can get ready,'' Schiano said. "They do it every week. We do it one week a year. We are behind in that. We just need to hope that we don't do too much.

"Although, I think we are able to do a little more this year is use a little more of the principles we use in our base defense to use that a little bit more against Army."

One other trick is finding a capable quarterback to run the scout team and simulate Army's offense.

Schiano said receiver Quron Pratt could do some, but an ankle injury will limit his mobility. Also, freshman receiver Aaron Hayward will do some of the work.

"It is important that we try and get as good a look as we can,'' Schiano said. "You are never going to simulate it to the degree they do it because they do it every day. That is what they do, especially the skill guys.

"It's like us doing 7-on-7. We do that year round. They do these reads year round. They can do it in their sleep."


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