Post #2 in a Series of Blogs on Gun Triple Option Concepts: Guest Blog Mark Grounds, Head Football Coach at Jacksonville High Scool, IL

Mark Grounds, Jacksonville High School, Illinois

In 2018 at Jacksonville High School, we went full tilt back to our triple option roots after more than a

decade of success as a single back spread team. During our “Spread” decade we still incorporated option

principles like zone read, zone midline, and power read. The beliefs in option football and its place in the

foundation of our program never left.

My first year at Jacksonville high school was 2001. Our school enrollment was 1265 students. The

next 15 years our community lost numerous well-paying blue-collar jobs as business either closed or

moved. Our 2018 enrollment was 925 students. In our conference the last 18 years has produced 13

state champions and 3 runner-up finishers. To compete with our size and athletes we have always felt

we needed to be a little different. All the teams in our league have become spread teams running the

same core plays. Most of the teams we face have superior depth of athletes so defenses don’t have to

change game plans week to week. We needed to be different again so after our 2017 season in which

we lost all 5 Qb’s in our program to season ending injuries by week 3, we made the decision to put the

spread genie in the bottle and return to being a full-time option team this past season.

Why the short gun Split backs

We started researching the short pistol flexbone that Ferris state and schools like Muskegon,

Michigan began using years ago. I was intrigued by the ability to run option football along with our

successful elements of our passing attack from one back sets. There were three issues I had when

putting this in that I couldn’t get past. The first was the pre-snap motion. We had a young team and a

young staff and the motion and tendencies presented from the flexbone gave us a lot of moving parts.

This made it difficult to have the efficiency we needed to have success.

The second problem that the short pistol flexbone presented us was the fact we had several true

tight end types and needed to feature a 3 man surface. This meant we have the ability to run my favorite

two plays in all of football which was outside veer and g-scheme belly. Both of those plays hit way too

slow from a fullback spot. These two plays along with not having presnap motion was why we decided

to run our triple from a split back set.

The third issue was why not go under center. In our town we fought the fight to get basketball kids

out. If the ball was still being snapped from the gun we were still spread, right? This was a cultural battle

I didn’t want to fight again if I didn’t have to. Besides, I feel there are some advantages of running

option from the gun.

Advantages of Short Gun Veer

  • Versatility-you can run from multiple sets featuring one, two or three backs

  • Its downhill- you don’t have to teach the getting away from the LOS, mesh and get back into the LOS. QB receives the snap and works to the line.

  • The speed of the veer is quicker than zone read and not much slower than under center veer.

  • Short QB can see the field.

  • You get to pitch phase more.

  • Passing angles are better.

  • Screen game is easier.

  • You can feature more designed QB runs.

  • You can play athletes at offensive line due to the ability to throw and run screens.

  • It is an every down, end-zone to end-zone offense.

  • Gives zone pass defenses and the triple is built in blitz control.

  • Featuring the triple give true play action potential which is tough for traditional spread teams.

  • Athletes and fans see it as spread.

Disadvantages of the short gun veer

  • The snap is the most important part of the entire equation. A bad snap can ruin the entire timing of the play.

  • The QB must see the snap instead of feel the snap from under center. This momentarily takes his eyes off the dive read.

  • You lose some deception that an under center offense can use.

  • QB sneak is not at your disposal.

QB depth

      The QB has his heels at 3 ½ yds. from the center’s heels. This is the starting point. If you can be closer be closer. IF you need to back up, back up.

RB depth and alignment

      RBs should have their heels at 5 yds. from the football, not 5 yds. from the center, or the QB. They align with their crotch on the inside leg of the guard.  Two or three point stance can be used. I like the 3 point because the RB’s can stay low, and it gives a little deception to the defense.

Offensive line splits

     Our base splits are 2 ½ yds between all the linemen. We recess off the ball. Adding width based off the play such as trap or midline isn’t a big tell or deal. We have messed with really wide splits and closed down the splits to 6 inches. It’s all based on what the ability of the linemen are.


The Center Snap

     When putting this in we first went to the two handed snap that Ferris State taught. The ability of the center to move laterally made us go back to our single hand, dead ball snap. The center grips the tops of the ball with the laces to the QB’s throwing hand. He flips the ball with his hand hitting the middle of his body. IF he is scooping left he must step while snapping which has his hand hit the right inner thigh. The opposite technique will be used on scoop right.



The Triple option Mesh from the Short Gun

     A real point of emphasis for us this year is the QB working back into the line on the mesh. Our Inside Veer is a ride and decide mesh. Ferris State teaches to pivot. We did that but the dive read can play both. We worked towards the line more on our success full reads. Our Outside Veer mesh is a point read where we turn and run at the read key. Our QB’s ran too flat instead of meeting the Rb closer to the line. This flat approach also allowed the defensive end to see the mesh better and play both. The following film depicts the problems with not working into the line.



In 2008 we were still running veer from the gun but aligned deeper so we had to work towards the line. This is what we really started to emphasize and it helped us.

Base Plays of the Short Gun Split Back Veer

  • Inside Veer

  • Outside Veer

  • Trap

  • G-Belly

  • Counter

     We will run other plays but I will focus on these two triple option plays as well as our three main complementary plays. I think these complementary plays are important if the QB is having trouble reading, as well as it give them a mental break being able to hand the ball off. Trap is our a-gap complement, belly our b gap complement, and counter is our c-gap complement.


Inside Veer

QB- Pivot and ride, read first man on or outside the offensive tackle for dive, pitch off the first man who shows outside the dive read.

Dive back- aiming point is inside leg of the guard. Hug the double team. Hash marks, numbers, sideline.

Pitch back- 1x5 pitch relationship

Line- O.I.L. block. (On, Inside, LB)


V. 50 Front open side

V. 50 Front open side

V. 50 Front Tight Side

V. 50 Front Tight Side

V. 40 Front

V. 40 Front


Outside Veer

QB- Turn and run pointing the ball at the offensive tackle. Work downhill. Read EMOL for dive or keep,

Dive back- aiming point is inside middle of the offensive tackle. Hug the double team. Hash marks, numbers, sideline.

Pitch back- 1x5 pitch relationship

Line- O.I.L. block. (On, Inside, LB)

V. 50 Front

V. 50 Front

V. 40 Front

V. 40 Front



This is a great complementary play and gives us the power essence to our offense. It’s a true block down, double and kick play. The QB and Rb mechanics are exactly the same as OV for us. You lose the deception of reversing out in the gun but it’s still an effective play.

V. 50 Front

V. 50 Front

V. 40 Front  (we skin the cat tight around a 6! Or 7 tech defender to the ILB. IF our TE can down block the defensive end in c-gap, our guard will pull around tight for playside ILB.

V. 40 Front (we skin the cat tight around a 6! Or 7 tech defender to the ILB. IF our TE can down block the defensive end in c-gap, our guard will pull around tight for playside ILB.


In our trap we will only block two people on the LOS. The center picks for the puller and the guard kicks out the b-gap defender.

QB- open opposite the trap like running inside veer. Hand ball off and pivot playside and carry out counter option fake.

Dive back- aiming point is inside middle of the offensive tackle. Follow the pulling guard. Cut off the down blocking OT.

Pitch back- Rocker step. 1x5 pitch relationship

Line- All besides the center and pulling guard climb to first lb. inside your alignment. Get downfield!!

V. 50 Front

V. 50 Front

V. 40 Front

V. 40 Front


Counter Trey

Counter is run from a cross buck action. It is our C-gap complementary play. This play and the nuances of who and how to block can be debated. It wasn’t a great play this last year because of our size and speed of our offensive line. Counter trey and our trap are much more effective when we have athletes that can move and climb.

V. 50 Front

V. 50 Front

V. 40 Front

V. 40 Front



Going back to triple option as our base gave us a chance to win games with a young team. We started 14 sophomores last year and a true freshman the last game. If we were a spread team that threw the ball I don’t think we win a game. Going into this year with 19 returning starters, these are our point of emphasis:

  • Athletes up front. Don’t sacrifice size for athleticism

  • Work meshes downhill to the LOS

  • Run only what you can practice every day

  • Play action!!


If you have any question contact me at Thanks for the opportunity to discuss what we do.

Mark GroundsComment