Triple Option: The Rocket Toss

By Terry Donovan

As a triple option team, we set out to run our inside veer play as often as we can. Inside veer and midline, along with a couple of zone blocking give and follow plays account for 60 percent of our offense.

We have averaged more than 300 yards rushing per game for four straight seasons. This year, we averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

So, we do these things well, and everyone we play knows it.

Teams will bring extra players in the box to counter our offense. So even with the proficiency we have running the ball, when we are forced outside, we have to be able to make teams pay on the perimeter. One of our best plays to do this is the Rocket Toss.

The Rocket Toss is an outside play where we want our A backs (wing backs) to catch the ball at full speed one yard outside the tackle in order to leverage the defense, which is trying to take away the run game inside. This sounds simple, yet we need to rep this to get our A backs to trust the play and not want to cut the play up before gaining leverage.

We typically run this play when we can no longer get four yards on a give read to our fullback. During games, we have a coach who is watching the dive and pitch read. If the pitch read has his shoulders turning in every play, we will toss it outside of him.

The Rocket Toss is also our best way to beat the blitz. Any time we get the A and B gaps plugged, we feel we can run this.

Our rules are, starting from the outside:

  • The playside wide receiver has the deep defender. The corner has to stay on him or we will throw the ball over his head. If the corner plays the run hard, the receiver and the A back could switch jobs, but someone has to pick up the corner and account for him.
  • The playside A back runs the circle on the alley player. This means he will arc to a point just outside the overhang linebacker. If the overhang crosses his face, he blocks him. If not, he keeps going to safety, and the guard will block the overhang.
  • The playside tackle takes an outside release on the 5 technique, placing him in the B gap and blocks the playside inside linebacker. Since we put the 5 technique in the B gap with the tackle releasing outside and tight, we do not block the defensive end in our spread formation.
  • The playside guard pulls to the alley player. He will read the A backs block and block the overhang linebacker if he is still in the alley. If the linebacker drifts outside and the A back picks him up, the guard keeps going in the alley and gets the next run support player to show.
  • The center, backside guard and backside tackle scoop and get vertical to pick up second level players.
  • The backside wide receiver takes on a diagonal to cut off a defender.
  • The backside A back leaves early in the count, drop steps, aims at the feet of the B back, then goes horizontal. While getting to full speed, he catches the pitch from the quarterback and continues outside at full speed with the landmarks of hash, numbers, sidelines.
  • The B back goes opposite the call and fills for the backside scooping linemen.
  • The quarterback reverses out and tosses a firm knuckleball to the A back, then boots out away from the play.

This is the play out of the flexbone spread formation.

We like to be able to do the same plays out of different formations – just like many of you do. Below, we look at it out of a double tight formation.

This has been great for us as it tightens the defense up even more and allows us to get outside quickly.

For this formation, most of the assignments stay the same except:

  • The playside receiver, who becomes the tight end, now blocks down on the C gap defender.
  • The tackle now pulls around the down block but still has the Mike.

The guard and playside A back have the same responsibilities as the do out of spread. A runs the circle on the overhang unless he crosses his face and the guard has the alley defender.

Here is the double tight formation.

The other formation that we love this play is in heavy. When we need an answer, we get into an unbalanced set.

Because we can still run to the nub side, some teams don’t completely adjust. When this happens and they are trying to stop our triple option, we will toss the ball and with the extra receiver we really gain a numbers advantage here.

Here is the rocket toss out of heavy.

The rocket toss is a great weapon to get the ball out on the perimeter and into your playmaker’s hands when the defense is not allowing to gain yards on the triple option. The key for this outside play is the A back must be a full speed when he catches the ball to get to the corner.

Terry Donovan is the Offensive Coordinator for Kasson Mantorville High School in Minnesota and a USA Football Master Trainer. He also is director of youth football and coaching development in Kasson, Minn. He has served as a U.S. National football team coach at numerous events and with a variety of ages.