The counter option is the primary misdirection play in the flexbone option offense. It is also one of the more complicated plays in the offense. The play can be broken down into two relatives stages. First, there is the inside veer fake on the backside. Second is the option phase on the playside of the play.
Before continuing, make sure you read the previous articles in the series on the Flexbone Option to understand the basics of the counter option.
The counter option is called upon when a backside defender, especially a backside linebacker, is continuously tackling the B-back on the dive phase of midline or inside veer. If this is happening, that means the defense doesn’t have inside linebacker help on the backside. The goal of the play is to fake inside veer to the backside to get the defense flowing one way, then run the pitch phase of inside veer to the other side.
Play 1: Here is the counter option from a broadcast view. Watch how the counter motion gets the entire defense to step to the backside off the snap. Even if only for one or two steps, those steps the defenders make allow the offense to get a jump on them to the playside. Since it will not be seen in future clips, watch how the split end at the top of the screen runs off the CB. The defense is probably playing man coverage, because the CB has his eyes on the split end the whole way. Rather than blocking him, it is easier for the split end to just sell a go route and take the CB with him.
For directional purposes, the backside is the side veer is being faked to, and the playside is the side the option phase is going to. It also helps to imagine that the offense is also running inside veer to the playside.
Against an odd front, the entire playside (tackle, guard, and center) will block inside veer. The backside guard will pull, and he will block #1, or the normal dive read on inside veer. If #1 runs upfield, the pulling guard will trap him. If #1 crashes down inside (which happens most of the time at the FBS level), the pulling guard will “log” block him and seal him inside. The backside tackle steps out to the backside to block the first man outside of him. His job is to make sure the play isn’t chased down from behind.
The split ends block just as they would on inside veer going to the playside of the counter option. The playside A-back twirl motions (helps create the pre-snap misdirection) and will block #3, or the run support defender, just like he does on inside veer. The backside A-back will run the pitch track just like inside veer, but he is not in motion. The backside fake between the QB and B-back will buy the backside A-back time to get into pitch phase.
The B-back fakes inside veer and then fills for the pulling guard. The QB opens backside just like it is inside veer and fakes with the B-back. He then swings his hips toward the line of scrimmage until he is facing the playside. He then works his way down the line and reads the block of the pulling guard. If the guard kicks out #1, the QB runs inside the block and it basically becomes a QB trap. If the guard log blocks #1, the QB will go around the block into the alley. After he gets past #1, he carries out the pitch phase of inside veer, reading #2.
Now let’s go through the counter option example as it develops.
Part 1: First watch the defense. Look at the two linebackers to the left. Right off the snap, they bite on the counter motion and FB step and run hard to the backside. This is exactly what the counter option is designed to take advantage of. Also note the left guard and center getting on their double team just as they would on inside veer. Next notice the right tackle setting up almost as if it was a pass play. This is to ensure the play doesn’t get ran down from behind, as the play does take some time to develop. Now take note of the massive hole the right guard leaves when he begins to pull. Finally, watch how the left D-end steps inside when the left tackle blocks down. This makes it harder to trap him, which is why the pulling guard is taught to log block him (seal him inside rather than trying to kick him out).
Part 2: The offense has now sold inside veer to the right, so it is time to run the option play to the left. Watch how the left inside linebacker traps himself when he bites on the misdirection and how easy of a block the left tackle has. The left guard picks off the other inside linebacker. The left D-end has stepped hard and flat inside as a good D-end should do. However, he steps in so hard that the pulling guard really doesn’t even have to block him (as you see the pulling guard pretty much blocks air on the play). Also note the B-back filling for the pulling guard and cutting the D-end that comes into that hole.
Part 3: Now that the counter has developed and the QB has passed the block of the pulling guard, he can now run the option phase of the counter option just as if it was inside veer. The OLB sees the QB coming and stays home waiting for him, giving the QB a pitch read. Then watch the left A-back make the final block on the safety clearing the path to the endzone for the pitch back.
Part 4: Here the whole play comes together.
Counter Option Against an Even Front
Play 2: Here is another clip of the counter option against an even front. One big difference between this play and the previous example is that there is a D-tackle much closer to the QB on the backside. It is too risky to have the B-back try to get to the D-tackle in time, and since there is no one over the center, he can help pick him up. Another difference on this play is that the pitch read plays the left A-back man and tries to jam him, giving the QB an easy lane to run to rather than pitching the ball.
This concludes the introduction on the counter option. Stay tuned for the next article on the Flexbone Option Offense, which will feature a breakdown of the Rocket Toss.