What if Notre Dame gave the triple option a try?
The 2016 college football season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is not exactly going as planned. Through nine games, the Fighting Irish sit with a record of 3-6. Last week, a loss to the triple-option attack of the Navy Midshipmen punctuated the struggles. With Army next on the docket, another triple-option offensive team, it begged the question: how would Notre Dame's struggling offense fare running the triple option?
The triple option succeeds because it creates misdirection and unwinnable defensive predicaments. A defense doesn't know where the ball is going or which ball carrier to key on. When it is being executed correctly, there are no pre-snap changes or audibles that need to be ran through; it is all about reads and reactions to how the defense comes off the ball. The offense isolates specific defenders, reads what they do, and then makes the proper pitch or keep depending on what is left unguarded.
It stemmed from Don Faurot's take on a fast break in basketball where a defender can't make the right choice if the offense reacts correctly. It's win-win for the team with the ball.
This Would Work
The triple option would work for Notre Dame for a couple of reasons. First, it has a talented and smart quarterback in DeShone Kizer. The main reason a triple-option attack would fall apart is if the quarterback can't make the correct reads quickly enough.
Kizer, an elite talent at the position is a very capable runner himself. As is backup Malik Zaire if Notre Dame chose to rotate in even more options. The triple option relies on bodies. Navy last week had nine different players carry the ball; it ranks fourth in the country in rushing on the season.
The Irish have those two quarterbacks, leading rusher Josh Adams, as well as 2014 star rusher Tarean Folston. Young Dexter Williams has also been good in his sophomore season. Wide receivers C.J. Sanders and Chase Claypool could also be given more touches out of the backfield with this playbook. The only thing Notre Dame would need to find is a player to fill the fullback spot that is so vital as the first hand-off option.
This Would Not Work
Adams, with his combination of size and power, is probably the back best suited for that first option, but he's also the best back on the team and someone the coaches would want having the second option (with the third being a QB keeper) to break big plays. Notre Dame's personnel doesn't exactly line up with a triple option...which makes sense. The roster was not recruited to run it.
That goes for Kizer as well. Though he is a capable runner, he is also a very talented pocket passer, something that is almost completely wasted when a team runs the triple option. Not only would it put Kizer in harm's way; it would also waste his best asset and what has him primed for the NFL.