Football 200: YOLO Ball in 2023?

Welcome to another edition of this haphazard intermittent series of amateur football stuff. I like to call it Football 200 because we BSD consumers are clearly a cut above in terms of our gridiron knowledge. Earlier posts talked about things like the difference between a read option and a run-pass option, and today we are going to look at another type of "option" and what role it might play in Penn State's 2023 run at 15-0 or GTFO.

Get your pencils sharpened, notebooks open, we're learning about option routes.

An option route is the organized football version of the backyard "get open" play. Instead of running a specific route come hell or high water, the receiver has, well, options on what he can run based on the coverage. Teams have been doing this for years, but it was the Air Raid guys that really perfected it, and nowadays you'd be hard pressed to open any playbook and find a page that doesn't have some kind of read built into the routes

Drive Concept

"adjust", "convert" get the idea

Typical adjustments to a route are made against man vs zone coverage. In the now ubiquitous Mesh play, the receivers running shallow crosses will either "sit down" in open space against zone -or- keep on running against man. Another typical call is for a receiver running a deep route to either bend his route to the sideline (fade) if there is a safety in the middle, or break into a post if the middle of the field is open (this was a JoMo staple).

Now, that all sounds easy enough, but imagine for just a second you're a QB. You could have up to 5 eligible receivers going out for a pass, but instead of only having to remember their 5 routes, you also need to know all their adjustments. Five routes turns into 15 or 20 really quick, and that's only one gets messy when you're facing large, angry men who want to smash you while you try to figure all this out. Sometimes it works out like poetry in motion, but other times you fire a fade ball over the head of a receiver throttling down on a comeback route (and get called for intentional grounding by a clearly-not-homer-at-all SEC ref crew). So how do you simplify all this?

The "deep choice" concept.

Remember when RGIII threw for like ten million yards and 50 thousand touchdowns in college? When every Baylor highlight was a YOLO bomb to a receiver streaking untouched into the endzone? Ever wonder how they did that, even against soft Big12 defenses? Deep choice, that's how.


The idea, like most strokes of genius, is stupidly simple. One guy runs deep and gets open. The other guys basically stand around and do nothing (I'm serious, watch the "route" from #4 at the bottom of the screen here). You line up, spread way the hell apart, and whoever draws single coverage gets tagged as the active receiver and runs the deep choice route. The guy next to him runs a little 5 yard hitch just to occupy any other defender nearby, but he's not getting the ball unless the defense totally forgets about him. The deep choice guy can pick from any number of routes; straight "go", fade, post, or if the defender is racing backwards determined not to get beat over the top - just slam on the brakes and run a hitch.

This makes the QB's life much easier too. He has one read, just check the leverage of the defender and let it fly. Not to diminish anything RG3 did in college, but its not some rocket science Bill Walsh-progress-through-five-reads-type stuff here - it's about as close to backyard football as you're going to find on a D1 field.

Like all good football ideas, this one quickly caught on, especially around the Big12. Josh Heupel was the OC at Oklahoma in 2011 and must have taken notes in the booth when Griffin threw for 479 yards and 4TDs as the Bears upset the 5th ranked Sooners. Heupel is now the head coach at Tennessee, and if you watched the Vols do fun things like beat Bama this year, then you saw lots of deep choice routes.

One other guy that took notice during his B12 days was our own Mike Yurcich, and if you watch some of his games with Mason Rudolph and James Washington at Okie State, they ran plenty of deep choice as well.

In the past two years at PSU, however, we haven't seen a ton of this play. There are plenty of reasons you could speculate as to why - like not having a gang of WRs capable of getting open downfield, not having tackles that can be relied upon to block 1 on 1, and last but not least not having a QB with good deep ball accuracy. Sean Clifford did a lot of things better than he got credit for, but one area that could probably have improved was connecting on those YOLO balls. But, as of this date, a lot of these "not havings" have disappeared. Two new WRs portaled in, some combo of Fashanu and Wallace/Shelton have the edge protection locked down, and as some of you may have heard there will be new starting QB next season.

Does this mean 2023 will see Yurcich return to his Big12 roots and Drew Allar will rain down touchdown passes like a shock and awe campaign? I hope so, but I surely don't know, I'm just a fan using this posting feature on BSD. Maybe MY keeps running the T formation, maybe the offense is largely unchanged from the Clifford days...but, there are some clues as to what might be in store. In ForTheBlogy's breakdown of portal addition Dante Cephas, they mentioned his tape from Kent State was exciting but somewhat limited in one regard - he generally lined up outside the numbers and either ran a go route, or checked down to a comeback based on coverage...again if you watched the Vols at all this season that should sound familiar. And as for Malik McClain, there isn't as much info on him, but if you scroll back up to that Baylor link and look at the play called "slot choice", then watch this clip, we might have another hint as to what Yurcich has in store for this fall.

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