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Inside The Play: Zone Read Triple Option

Since Lynn Bowden, Jr. took over at quarterback, we’ve seen Kentucky develop into one of the most prolific rushing attacks in college football. In this five-game run where UK has gone 3-2 in SEC play, the Wildcats are rushing for 298 yards per game and posting 5.8 yards per carry. Behind an offensive line that is flat balling out, it has been fun to see this attack develop into a hybrid version of option football.

One of the packages that has developed in the last two ballgames is something that has combined both versions of the offense we have seen this season. Using a 21 personnel look (two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers) UK has combined their bread-and-butter split inside zone runs with the speed option looks Lynn Bowden, Jr. has been effective running in previous games. The results in the win against Vanderbilt were obvious.

On this week’s edition of Inside The Play, we’ll show you the zone read triple option that UK has been running the last two games that combines two plays that have worked very well for the Wildcats.

On their third possession of the game, Kentucky had a first down on the plus side of the field directly after giving up seven points on a fumble. UK breaks out a split-back formation with tight end Justin Rigg lined up in an H-back type role. To defend, Vandy responds by placing eight players in the box with the free safety playing about 13 yards back. On the snap, Kentucky runs their traditional inside split zone action with Rigg heading directly for the backside edge defender. However, this play has a little twist.

The read option element is added in with the quarterback reading unblocked hybrid linebacker/defensive end Andre Mintze. He dives in on the run fake and the free safety is now down in the run action and caught by the wash. That leaves one defender left for two offensive players.

Safety Max Worship decides to take on the quarterback and that means an easy pitch for Bowden. The result is a big play for Kavosiey Smoke to create a scoring opportunity for the offense.

Kentucky gashed Vanderbilt with the look on their first touchdown drive and they went back to it on their next possession.

Similar to the play above, UK comes out in the exact same formation and Vandy has adjusted their scheme. The Commodores have just seven players in the box with the safeties showing a two-high look. Edge defender Andre Witze is lined up wide on the edge to prevent the inside run. However, he takes the bait again.

Bowden does a great job lulling the overhang defender to sleep by extending the mesh point and that creates a huge running lane. Josh Ali comes down and gets an excellent block on the safety. Corner Randall Haynie (No. 4) does a great job playing in between and Bowden makes the right read by keeping the football. The result is another big play.

Finally, its time to get to the give.

Later in the possession, UK goes back to the look but this time the tight end moves to the left side of the line. Vanderbilt responds by bringing a safety into the field who is likely coming on a pressure. Therefore, the Commodores have no one in the deep middle.

Lynn Bowden, Jr. recognizes the blitzing safety right away and makes the correct read. If right guard Luke Fortner is able to lock up the Sam linebacker this is likely a touchdown and the band is playing after a long Kavosiey Smoke run.

What started out as a small package in the win over Arkansas a month ago continues to grow with Lynn Bowden, Jr. gaining experience behind center. The coaching staff has been very open to the fact that the wide receiver turned quarterback has a very high football IQ and this is a big reason why the offense has been successful. Those words appear to not be empty calories as the package is growing and Eddie Gran is giving opposing defenses much more to defend.

With two games left, expect this package to continue to evolve. If you can continue to make the right reads on the triple option, it could open the opportunity for a big play shot in the vertical passing game. Add in the emergence of two redshirt freshmen at running back and this ground game could do some big things in the final two games of the season.

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Article written by Adam Luckett

1 Comment for Inside The Play: Zone Read Triple Option



  1. JPhelps
    12:53 pm November 19, 2019 Permalink

    See this post should have been titled, “Numbers don’t lie, Kentucky has real problems”