Saturday, December 16, 2006

Plenty of options for Poly football

There are two words pass-happy football fans never want to hear:

"Triple option."

Rumors of triple option at Cal Poly have been circulating around campus since the tail end of the 2006 season when the Mustangs' passing game struggled to get off the ground under second-year quarterback Matt Brennan.
Since the season ended, I've heard a number of people close to the program joke about a possible switch from a spread option to more of a triple-option approach.
I laughed off what I thought were tongue-in-cheek comments and figured it was just that ... a joke.
But after finding out former Righetti High star running back Ryan Mole was transferring to Cal Poly from Sacramento State, I realized this might not be a joke after all. With backs like Mole, James Noble and Fred Hives II in the backfield, the Mustangs might be headed in that direction.
For those who aren't familiar with the triple option, here's a good explanation by ESPN's Bob Davie.
Basically, the scheme is built on a two-running back set that gives the quarterback three options: keep it himself, get it to the fullback, or pitch it to the slotback. Notice that passing isn't mentioned as one of the options.
The triple option made headlines earlier this week when Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry, considered the authority on the triple option, resigned after 23 seasons.
Running DeBerry's latest edition of the triple option, Air Force ran the ball 660 times and passed just 146 times in 2006 (running 82% of the time). By comparison, Cal Poly's spread option ran 475 times and attempted 174 passes (already running 73% percent of the time).
Cal Poly actually tinkered with a two-back set against North Dakota State late in the season, with Hives lining up at fullback and Noble moving to slotback for the first time. It was a unique formation the Mustangs have rarely used in head coach Rich Ellerson's six years, but one they broke out shortly after learning Mole wanted to come to Cal Poly.
Coincidence? I guess only time will tell.
After the season, I asked Ellerson if there was a chance Cal Poly would utilize the two-back set more in 2007, or if any other changes were in store for the Mustangs' offense. Here was his take, two days after the season finale with Savannah State:
"In this system, there are certainly some things that we want to get into that right now we're not doing," Ellerson said. "But what we've done, and what we do well, that's still the foundation of anything we'll go to in the future."
In other words, wait until spring ball and find out for yourself.

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