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How Ohio State will contain Army’s Triple-Option Flexbone Offense

Army boasts the second best rushing attack in the nation.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

It’s going to be extremely tough for the nation’s worst statistical pass defense to let up over 400 yards through the air against Army.

Why, you ask? Well, the Black Knights have only attempted 10 passes and completed two of those through their first two games — both of which they were victorious. Let that sink in. Their starting quarterback, Ahmad Bradshaw, is 2-for-10 passing for 17 yards through two games.

But on the other hand, Army ranks second in the nation in rushing offense, at a whopping 417.5 yards per game. The reason why Army’s stats are so skewed in one direction is because they run the triple-option offense, also known as the flexbone.

Why Army runs the triple-option flexbone

There are a couple of reasons as to why Army and the rest of the service academies run this offense. First, it’s tough to recruit the star recruits to these schools. Sure, one or two players get drafted almost every year now to the NFL, but they still have a post-graduate military commitment that they have to complete, which turns the big time athletes off from these schools.

Second, If you’re a top offensive recruit in the nation, this type of offense is not going to showcase your talents. You aren’t throwing the ball 20-plus times per game if you’re a quarterback, you aren’t running the full route tree as a receiver and you’re not going to ever be in pass protection as a lineman. The smartest, most physical and most disciplined athletes are going to play in this offense.

The offense also suits their depth chart. As one can see below, the offensive line is undersized on the left side of the line, but they work extremely well as a group and are very disciplined. They seem to constantly be on the same page.

Quarterback: Ahmad Bradshaw 5’11”, 205 lbs

Running Backs: FB (or B-Back) Darnell Woolfolk 5’9, 235 lbs; A-back Jordan Asberry 5’9, 195 lbs; T-back John Trainor 5’11, 195 lbs

Wide Receivers: Jermaine Adams 6’1, 215 lbs; Camden Harrison 6’2, 195 lbs

Offensive Line: LT Rick Kurz 6’2, 285 lbs; LG Joshua Boylan 6’2, 280 lbs; C Ben Holland 6’2, 295 lbs; RG Jaxson Deaton 6’4, 310 lbs; RT Brett Toth 6’6, 305 lbs

How Army runs the triple-option

The triple-option is drawn up exactly how it sounds. There are three options on the play:

First option: The quarterback can hand the ball off to the fullback (or the B-back). Similarly to when Ohio State is running the inside zone and you see J.T. Barrett holding the football in the runner’s stomach, the quarterback for Army is making a similar read on the edge defender. If the edge defender crashes down towards the quarterback, he’s going to hand the ball off to the B-back.

Second option: The quarterback can keep the ball and pitch it to the trailing running back. After pulling the ball from the B-back, the quarterback will run parallel to the line of scrimmage, with the far running back trailing him and the other running back used as a lead blocker. If the edge defender decides to take the quarterback, the quarterback will pitch it. Defensively, there needs to be a “fill” player (typically the safety) coming downhill to track the running back.

Third option: If the quarterback sees a defender caught in the middle or leaning towards the running back, he’ll keep the ball.

What’s the key to stopping Army’s triple-option?

One word. Discipline.

“It's purely discipline-assignment football and then you have to physically do your job once you do your assignment, but if one piece is out of place it's a potential big play,” Greg Schiano said.

Ohio State has the disruptive and extremely talented front seven to completely dominate this game on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, their secondary won’t be tested, although it would make sense for Army to air it out a little more than usual.

Expect the “Rushmen” to dominate the smaller Army offensive line and Larry Johnson to utilize a 10-plus men rotation throughout the afternoon.