How Will Ohio State Defend Against Navy's Triple Option?

Chip MinnichCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 15:  Jarod Bryant #2 of the Navy Midshipmen runs the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 15, 2008 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Concern over how Ohio State will defend against Navy's triple option offense has been on the minds of Ohio State's defensive coaching staff. The average fan simply thinks Ohio State has superior athletes, and thus will win the game easily. If only it were that simple when it comes to playing the game on the field.

One of the negatives for a speedy defense, such as Ohio State's, is the triple option can effectively neutralize the speed. For linebackers such as Ross Homan or Austin Spitler, Navy will actually try to run right at them with option plays, forcing them to commit to one ball carrier or the other.

Here are some basics as to how the triple option works:

1. The first option is the fullback. The quarterback will read the defense—if the defense is coming up field too quickly, the quarterback can hand it off to the fullback for a quick hitter up the middle of the field.

2. The second option involves the quarterback. The quarterback can fake the handoff to the fullback and run himself. OR

3. The third option involves the slotback. The quarterback can keep the ball, and then force the defender to commit to stopping the quarterback or the trailing slotback. If the defender keys on the quarterback, the quarterback will pitch to the slotback. If the slotback is chosen by the defender, the quarterback can turn upfield and run himself.

Oh, I almost forgot. The quarterback can still throw the ball downfield, just like in other offenses around the country.

How does a team adequately defend against the triple option? By playing good assignment football.

Let me start with defending against the fullback in a triple option. Ohio State's interior defensive linemen and middle linebacker (Brian Rolle) will want to key Navy's fullback. Ideally, the interior defensive linemen will keep the center and guards off of the middle linebacker, freeing the middle linebacker to literally mirror wherever the fullback goes.

The defensive ends will want to shut down any possible off-tackle plays from the triple option, and also need to stop one of the options, probably the quarterback keeper. This will free up the outside linebackers to defend against the slotback.

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? Here's something else to keep in mind—while Navy seldom throws the ball, creeping up the secondary to assist with run coverage will leave Ohio State very susceptible to play-action passing. While I would expect Ohio State's cornerbacks to play up on the Navy receivers, the safeties need to remember not to overplay the run.

While I would be ecstatic if Ohio State came out against Navy and shut them down from the onset of the game, I am not anticipating that happening. I do believe it will take until the second quarter, and possibly the half, for Ohio State to have figured Navy out. Hopefully, Ohio State's defense has learned as much as possible from its recent intersquad scrimmage and will be able to effectively defend against Navy's triple option on Saturday.