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The Midline and Counter Option


In this installment of the KSR Football Glossary we’ll take a look at two specific offensive plays that Georgia Tech will frequently call in the TaxSlayer Bowl: the midline and counter option. However, before we get started I must apologize in advance; detailing the option game can become wordy, complicated, and redundant.

Let’s take a quick refresher course by looking at the basic information of the flex-bone offense as well as a personnel diagram before diving into these plays:



— Offensive line splits (amount of space between OL) average 3 feet. Common splits in non-option teams are typically 2 ft.

— The A-Backs are running backs/inside receivers that also act as lead blockers as well as frequently going into motion to become the option play pitchman.

— B-Back is the ‘feature’ running back.

— The “Keep/Give defender is the predesignated defensive player that the QB reads then makes the decision to either give the football to the B-Back or keep in order to continue the option. This decision is based on the defensive player’s choice in either tackling the RB or committing towards the QB.

— QB also keys a “Keep/Pitch” defender in the second phase of the option. During this juncture the QB can either keep the football or pitch to the trailing A-Back. The pitch must have a backward trajectory.

— WRs are split out from the line to join A-Backs in a presentational threat of four vertical routes.

— Both receivers are on the line-of-scrimmage in its base formation alignment. Tech rarely deploys a TE.

— Strategic A-Back motions can, and at times will, give the flex-bone the same appearance and functionality of an I-formation offense. Tech can run a bevy of plays from this formation.



Midline Option Play

The first play we’ll dissect is the midline option. This play involves the entire backfield: the QB, B-back, and A-Backs. The B-back dives directly over the center or towards the shades to his left/right. The quarterback’s 1st read is to give the football to the B-Back. The QB’s keep/give read defender is generally the first defensive lineman to the directional side of the line-of-scrimmage. Remember, the Keep/Give defensive player remains unblocked which forces him into commitment to tackling the quarterback or B-Back.

If the Keep/Give defender commits to stopping the B-Back the quarterback keeps the football and runs up field to the second level. At this point a different defender will become the “Keep/Pitch” indicator which influences the QB into running or pitching the football to the A-Back.

Confused yet? Hopefully the videos will clear up complications a little bit.


QB give to the B-Back

 — A-Back motion to play-side to move into position to be pitchman.

— Notice unblocked play-side defensive tackle as he commits to the outside following the play-side guard freely releasing to the second-level linebacker.

— Backside guard immediately blocks second-level linebacker.

— Cut-blocks all over the field.


Quarterback keeper

 — Navy QB (same offense as Ga Tech) extends football into B-Back’s belly, reads play-side defensive tackle as he commits to tackle running back. QB pulls football and replaces defender that vacated running lane for a touchdown.

— A-Back motions to become pitchman. Play-side A-Back lingers in backfield to block linebacker.

PIC BY Fox Sports

PIC BY Fox Sports

Counter Option

The counter option is the most commonly used misdirection play within the flex-bone repertoire. It starts with faked inside veer action. The quarterback then changes direction to begin an option play that is led by a pulling guard.


Let’s take a look:

— QB opens to right to simulate a midline option or inside veer run. Right guard pulls to lead QB, backside A-Back becomes pitchman as A-Back aligned to the left acts as a lead blocker.

— Lead A-Back blocker cut-blocks second-level defender. This practice is commonly used.

— QB’s Keep/Pitch read becomes outside linebacker. QB pitches; A-Back scores a touchdown.


Here is another look at a counter option.

 — Same quarterback, pulling guard, A-Back, and B-Back action as above.

— Inside linebacker shoots the gap which forces QB to make pitch prior to optioning an edge, designated defender. Tech QB improvises for an explosive play.

— Again, notice cut-blocks by A-Backs, offensive linemen and receivers.


Two totally different option plays with the same intent: to maintain pressure, deception, and confusion on opposing defenses. Stay tuned to KSR for continuing X and O posts and further, more detailed flex-bone analysis.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

3 Comments for The Midline and Counter Option

  1. FatSparxxx
    8:15 pm December 12, 2016 Permalink

  2. Ridge Runner
    5:04 am December 13, 2016 Permalink

    Thanks again Freddie for the insight

  3. Bluehound
    11:24 am December 13, 2016 Permalink

    good stuff Freddie… thanks