Tony DeMeo

My Journey with Triple Option Football

My Journey with Triple Option Football

 The triple option has been a major part of my experience as a college football coach. As a head coach, it has always been the focal point of our attack. In 1975 as a first time head coach I installed the Wishbone and had a great turnaround year. We’ve been tinkering with it ever since and it has evolved constantly over the years.

My first exposure to the triple option was the University of Houston teams under Bill Yeomen. I was interested in how the were scoring so many points.

So I read everything I could find on the Split Back Veer. My favorite book was Homer Rice’s book on the Veer & the Dropback Pass. He was at the University of Cincinnati at the time and had great success.

In 1969 the University of Texas installed the Wishbone and won the national championship in their second year using it. I loved watching James Street operate like a street magician. Darrell Royal’s Longhorns dominated the Southwest Conference until he retired in 1976.

When I graduated from college I decided to really learn the ‘Bone by visiting the University of Texas during their spring practice in 1973. Coach Royal was kind enough to sit in on their meetings and shared everything with me.  I not only learned the x’s & o’s  of the Wishbone  but more importantly learned how to teach it.

In 1975 I was named head coach at Iona College and ran the vanilla Wishbone just as I learned it from the UT staff. We were picked to finish last in the conference but surprised everyone with a 3rd place finish. We were very conservative (about 8 passes per game) but controlled the tempo of the game. 

In 1976 I decided to incorporate the dropback pass into our attack. I remembered how Homer Rice threw the ball effectively while running the Split Back Veer and figured why not combine the dropback pass from the ‘Bone. We installed a simple dropback pass and the offense really took off.

We also broke the “Bone and used multiple formations (Twins, Pro, etc) and added motion out of the backfield to get in those sets. But the triple option still remained the core of the offense. We won the conference title that year and the Multi-Bone was born

After our success with the pass in ‘76 we wanted to open the offense more  in 1977. I got to know Wing T guru Ted Kempski (Tubby Raymond’s OC at the University of Delaware. He sold me on the concept of flank control and the power of a sequential offense. Also by using the Delaware short motion we could get into one-back sets. We also added the Sprint Pass to the offense and really became a balanced option team. The result was an undefeated season and a conference championship. We set numerous scoring and total offense records  and the offense seemed to have the qualities of Coach Royal’s Wishbone, Homer Rice’s Veer, and Tubby Raymond’s Delaware Wing T.

In 1979 I joined Harry Gamble’s staff and learned a lot about the Wide Veer from the ‘Bone and the drive series. Coach Gamble had been a Split Back Veer guy before going to the ‘Bone so I got new insight from him. While at Penn I studied Joe Restic’s Multi- Flex Offense that he was running at Harvard. He used a ton of formations and confused everyone in the Ivy League.

In 1981 I was a head coach again at Mercyhurst College and ran the Multi-bone with a lot of success. I had read Tiger Ellison’s book on the “Run’n’Shoot and added some of his Trips package to the mix. We also added No Huddle to the offense which gave the defense one more thing to deal with. We also came up with a boot off 3 step drop. The idea was throw the hitch if it’s there if not boot away. We ran that concept with all our 3 step patterns. We also stole the “Sally Play” from Delaware and that proved to be our best counter.

We had great success at Mercyhurst and the offense grew in balance and simplicity. We actually were even 50/50 run/pass yardage by my last couple of years there.

The offense basically stayed on that course until 1999. We had added Mid-line option which I learned from Greg Gregory at Army and Bob Noblitt at Air Force. We also tweaked the offense from year to year based on our personnel.  Basically the growth occurred because of better teaching rather than more X’s & O’s.

In 1998 we had trouble picking up a double A gap blitz with our big on big pass protection. So as a band aid move we went to the Shot Gun in long yardage situations. This made us too predictable for a coach who had always been known as being unpredictable. So I decided that in the spring of 1999 we would run the triple option from the Shot Gun. After 12 horrible practices that spring the light bulb went on during the 13th  practice and this has been the core of our offense ever since.

The Shot Gun Triple was the center of the Triple Gun Offense which replaced the Multi-Bone Attack that I had run for 23 seasons. It is more explosive, more flexible, and more effective. It is very adaptable to the talent available and is a simple offense that relies on the ability to teach details. We run a few plays many ways. I truly believe it’ not what you know – it’s what you can teach.

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Take Care & Always Pitch from your heart

Tony DeMeo