TCU’s inverted veer option

daltonyReader Jay Miller passed along some great info from TCU’s victory over Clemson. Clemson’s defense this year has been stout, holding Georgia Tech’s flexbone below their averages and then completely crushing Boston College in one of the best defensive performances in recent memory. (Clemson held BC to 54 yards for the entire game.) Against TCU, however, in an otherwise solid defensive effort the Tigers allowed TCU’s quarterback Andy Dalton to rush 19 times for 86 yards, many of them on key conversions. After the game, Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele appeared flummoxed — or at least very caught off guard — by one spread-option variant in particular that TCU used:

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton found almost all of his success on the ground on Saturday by employing a new play that the Clemson coaching staff had not seen on film, and Dalton seemed to run almost at will through the line of scrimmage and beyond. . . .

Steele said that the play with Dalton carrying was really the only play the Tigers had not seen on film as they studied the Horned Frogs last week.

“They ran just one play that we hadn’t seen on film – but it was a good one,” he said. When one reporter asked Steele why the zone read was giving his defense so much trouble, Steele explained the difference between a true zone read and what Dalton was running on Saturday.

“Not to get too technical, but on the zone read, the quarterback fakes to the running back going this way and the quarterback goes the other way,” Steele said. “What they were doing was faking zone read one way, the quarterback would step like he was going this way but they would pull the guard and chase it the other way. It was a new look. We got over there and drew it up, got it adjusted out, but we were doing it on the fly and adjusting it on every call.

“I don’t know if it’s just luck or if they are just that smart, but there were a couple of those calls that we really needed something to happen and we didn’t. The ones that were base defense calls against, we got it stopped. But the ones where we were trying to have some pressure and make something happen, we maybe should have just left those calls alone and just base defended it. “

Clemson linebacker Brandon Maye said the play was causing trouble because of TCU spreading receivers across the field.

“They were spreading us out and forcing us to play one linebacker and forcing that one linebacker to play two gaps,” Maye said. “All you can say is they did a good job scheming us up.”

I’m going to disagree with the description of the play as a variant of the zone-read, though all of these plays fall within the same spread option family. Indeed, this is a play I’ve seen Florida and Urban Meyer use before, though the pulling guard is a nice wrinkle. I call it an “inverted veer.”

In the typical veer play from a spread set, the line blocks down and double-teams the defensive linemen on up to the linebackers. They leave the defensive end unblocked (except when they run midline veer, in which case it is a defensive tackle) and read that man. If he steps down for the runningback, the QB just gives the ball and steps around him. It is just the old first-read of the triple option adapted for spread sets.


But TCU ran a variant, one I’ve seen other teams use. They just “inverted” the runningback and quarterback: The runningback runs a sweep or outside zone action laterally. If the defensive end takes him, then the quarterback shoots up inside the defensive end. If the defensive end sits for the QB, the runner should be able to hit the corner. Remember, the defensive end is often the hardest guy to block, and especially so when you want to “reach” him to seal the corner.


In that way I disagree with the characterization of the play as a fake-zone read where the QB then runs back to the other way. You can see the runner is taking a wide angle. That said, I don’t know what TCU’s read was, but this is a play I’ve seen at least for a few years. And again, Meyer uses it at Florida with his fast runners heading outside and Tebow, the better inside runner, going inside. Below is video of TCU using it against Clemson. (Again, thanks to reader Jay Miller.)

Finally, the one wrinkle TCU has is the pulling guard. I think that was just designed to get better blocking at the point of attack, though TCU had them so crossed up he didn’t even end up blocking anyone. This scheme has a lot of similarities with how teams block the shovel play.

I suppose the reason Steele and Clemson had so much trouble with this hinges on what his linebacker’s reads were. I take it they were reading the quarterback and thinking backside with the zone read. If they read the pulling guard, for example, there wouldn’t be an issue with where the play was going. (This is one reason the veer blocking works so well, because the line steps one way and the play hits the other. The pulling guard can give this away.) It is just like on the famous counter trey play: if the linebackers read the pullers there are no issues with stopping it (though they may be weak to some other play), but if they read the fullback blocking away they can get crossed up.

It’s all a cat-and-mouse game. Point in this one to TCU.

  • Rob

    If the guard had been a bit faster, that play goes the distance. He needed to beat the QB to the safety.

    I think the QB did the smart thing in not waiting on the block, but in other situations, he probably should.

  • Hokiefan

    Did you watch the Virginia Tech/Miami game this past weekend? If so, did you notice the Hokies do anything schematically different vs Miami that the two other teams didn’t try earlier this year? Or do you believe Va tech just executed better than Miami?

  • Hokiefan: Funny you should ask. I just sent a thing in to for my weekly bit. I didn’t do a ton of film or diagrams but my breakdown is there. Should be up there shortly.

  • This play is similiar to the wildcat formation ‘power’ with a QB wrap feel to it.

  • DrB

    Yeah I had cut that clip and put it on YT with the intention of writing a blog like this one this week, at least now I dont have to.

    TCU ran about 12 zone read plays total, and that variation was only run about 3 of those times. It just came as a surprise late in the game and got them a crucial first down.

  • Hokiefan

    Great read on EDSBS.

  • Ian

    How do you think that TCU will deal with a frontside DE/LB exchange scrap. Similar to the one used to slow down the Zone Read play. Do you think that the Pulling Guard could still fit on the frontside backer and or do you think the RB would be too wide for that to work? Interesting play, but I think you might be limited to 2 high teams so your 3rd Wr could fit on the exchange backer in the case of the give.

  • Very great stuff Chris, as always. Lets see if Utah or BYU pick up on that and must now watch for that play.

  • Duke

    Squeeze and scrape with the DE/LB could be tough to this, but would a DC really be willing to use that technique to the sidecar side to stop the true zone read AND away from the sidecar to stop the Inverted Veer?

    Even if they were willing, would they be able to do it with only 6 in the box?

  • formerlyanonymous

    With the defense on that play/video, does the motioning of the slot receiver key the safety (or NB) to blitz? And does his blitz act as a scrape, therefore making the MLB to roll right initially? It seems like the MLB took the step to the backside because of the blitz before the snap. Was this possibly to take advantage of Clemson blitzing the S/NB every time there is motion out of this set?

    And, having not seen this game and each of the plays, was this ever not a keeper? It seems like the QB doesn’t read the playside DE in this video. If the DE sees it coming, he should be able to make the read on the hand off, no? It seems like if a team knew this was an option, the play would be slowed down quite a bit.

  • Homyrrh

    What are you using to diagram sets and plays? Is that just Paint or Photoshop or something similiar? And the EDSBS read was great; it really was pathetic how hard ESPN was short-sightedly selling some type of rejuvenated, 1980s-esque ‘Canes team when, even at the most fundamental level, all they did was edge out FSU on the last play and beat a clearly overrated Georgia Tech team.

    Of course the “Beamer basically said fuck it, we’re going after Miami” line was priceless and a great cater to the profoundly entertaining EDSBS audience.

  • MTK

    A reminder to all of us: don’t forget where we came from…make sure your team knows how to recognize and react to the basic veer option…even as you prepare to face the modern zone-option. Other than than pulling the guard (which is not necessary by the numbers here), this is basic stuff, and TCU executed well in this example. Great article Chris.

  • Co-ach

    Spread Offense says:
    September 30, 2009 at 2:03 pm
    This play is similiar to the wildcat formation ‘power’ with a QB wrap feel to it.

    Save the kick from the FB. In essence, the QB read replaces the kick out.

    This is a great variation, and I can see us implementing this in the near future.

  • Mitch


    That’s just Power out of the wildcat. They’ve spread the formation out, but it’s the same play.

  • Clint

    Really I think it is more af a variation of what some teams do by having the QB read the backside 1 technique on the outside zone play. Same principle, if the 1 tech chases the rb on outside zone then the qb replaces him. TCU’s variant is a nice wrinkle

  • Co-ach

    After speaking with another coach on staff, I wanted to ask you guys how you feel about a trap on the 3-tech to compliment the power look. It is seems sound up front. You still wouldn’t have to block the PS End. The trap look would also get a blocker on that Will. The trap is probably more of a predetermined pull though

  • Grammar Police


  • Duke

    I for one like the trap idea, Co-ach.

    Secondly, I’ve looked at this again, and I don’t think he’s reading the front side end. The QB’s eyes are straight upfield, not on the end where the read would be. This is starting to feel like a Dave (Power) play, with the sidecar’s sweep action acting as an influence to replace a kickout block. If so, it’s a heck of a creative way to run power if you can’t kick out the DE.

  • Clemson Chuck

    And it doesn’t hurt that TCU has receivers who can hold blocks. An underrated aspect of the old Broncos teams that used to pile up the rushing yards was they had receivers who could block. Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey were terrific blockers.

  • delgadog

    I think the dolphins did this in the third qtr versus the bills. It was the play where ronnie browm got to the goalline but didnt quite score.

  • Mr. Dean

    Hey Chris! Great stuff as always. I was just curious, we here a good bit about TCU’s defense. I would like to find out more about their offense. Would it be possible for you to do a breakdown of TCU’s offense and what they like to do?



  • sparkey

    What is meant by the term “sidecar?”

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  • tog

    Chris, I have been toying with the dash and flash ideas and adding them to other things like power-where the read is now what did the kickout look like? did it get dug out? then give to the dash/flash guy, is there a good kickout? then qb undercut. It kind of turns it into a variation of the old counteroption, at least in my mind.

  • daniel tyler

    Okay this might sound like a dumb question, but is there add another wrinkle into this and make it triple option? Would this be effective?

    If you hand off to the back, what if he were to take an angle not as wide, but still to the corner and have the slot receiver go backwards and become the pitchman. Maybe I will have to diagram it to show you what I am talking about. If it is truly inverted zone read, and the qb and rb change the roles, have the qb read the elmos on whether to hand it off or go up the middle, if he hands it off, have the runningback make the next read.

    This way, you could have triple option football originally lined up with an empty backfield, with the qb as the up the middle threat.

    Id like to hear someone else’s opinion on this

  • Daniel Tyler

    thats kind of the basic idea of what im trying to say. Im not good at diagraming things on the computer and tinkering with the blocking, so i just changed up something i found on scribd

  • JOE B

    You can do a ton of stuff off this basic concept. You can use the Y as a pitch man, you can have him run the Bubble, you can go from single back and orbit motion the back side receiver and option off the OB. Think of all the things you can do on the back-side of the Zone Read and run them on the front side.

    This concept is also really effective out of the Pistol.

  • Raustin84

    it’s a QB power play off of sweep action. The pulling BSG, wrapping in the hole, makes it QB power. The play side DE is your read.

  • May I ask what’s the difference between Midline option and the inverted veer? And how many option style out there?

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