It’s All About the Option
By Russell V.
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The formula for success in the Southern Conference seems to remain the same – if you run a variation of the option offense, you are bound to find success.
Like any other sport, football is a constantly evolving game. Years ago, defense and solid run games ruled the land. Then came the pass-happy spread offense. Now, the option offense is making a comeback, thanks to the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson in the NFL. But while the rest of football continues to change, the formula to win has long been established in the Southern Conference: play solid defense, run the ball well – especially if it is some form of the option – and you will find success.
Just look at the list of conference champions – since 1997, the SoCon title has been held by at least one team that has run a variation of the option offense. Last season, the top four teams in the conference all ran the option. Seeing a pattern?
And the option offense is still quite effective – Georgia Southern (399.36), Wofford (349.69) and The Citadel (300.64) all ranked in the top four in the country in rushing yards per game in 2012.
Georgia Southern and The Citadel run the classic triple option and have had tons of success with it. It is well documented how the Eagles struggled when they ditched the triple option offense under Brian VanGorder and Chris Hatcher – during that four-year span, the team went 34-32 and failed to make the playoffs once. Coach Jeff Monken was then hired and brought back the triple option as the Eagles returned to the playoffs in his first season. Coincidence? I think not.
The Citadel for the past decade has been, at best, a middle of the road SoCon team. Coach Kevin Higgins made the switch to the triple option in 2010, and in 2012, they reaped the benefits of it. The Bulldogs finished with a 7-4 record, including going 5-3 in conference with victories over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, while barely missing a playoff berth.
Speaking of the Mountaineers, they have enjoyed their best success running the spread option offense. Appalachian State has consistently been ranked among the top offenses in the nation thanks to their balanced attack. From the duo of Armanti Edwards and Kevin Richardson to Jamal Jackson and Steven Miller, the run game has long been integral to the team’s success, a large reason for the back-to-back-to-back national titles that the team won.
And then there is the Wofford Terriers, who run a hybrid of the triple and spread option offenses and have long had success with it. Since 2002, only once have the Terriers had a losing record – back in 2009 when the team suffered a slew of injuries. During that time, the team has also made the playoffs six times. Is it all because of their option offense? No, but it would be foolish to say that the offense did not play a major part in their success.
So while the game continues to change and progress throughout the years, the formula for success in the Southern Conference seems to remain the same – if you run a variation of the option offense, you are bound to find success.