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The Midline Option: The Complete Guide

Posted by AJ Forbes on

Midline Option is a concept that has been persistent in its relevance, even as the traditional option offenses continue to fade.

Programs like Oregon and Coastal Carolina have used variations of this option concept in their respective systems. They’ve modernized it to fit the modern nuances that play-callers have introduced, but the principles remain the same. With all that being said, there is nothing like going against an under-center attack with a bruising Fullback and a dynamic Quarterback running through the heart of a defense.

What is the Midline Option?

Midline Option

Midline Option is an option play where the Quarterback reads an interior Defensive Lineman to determine whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself.

The play hits downhill to a dive back hitting the A-gap or if the QB keeps the ball, through the B-gap.

What are the Strengths of the Midline Option?

The primary strength of the Midline Option is that the offense doesn’t have to block one defender.

The adage goes “If you can’t block them, read them”. What makes Midline different from many other option runs is that, instead of reading an edge defender, the Quarterback reads an interior Defensive Lineman.

Midline Option is also an excellent compliment to any option offense that majors in inside and outside veer. Any defense that sees the twirl motion of the Wingback immediately defaults into the teachings of every option drill they ran that week. Linebackers attempt to flow and fill for the off-tackle Fullback dive and Quarterback keep, while Safeties and Nickels lock onto the pitch man. That same motion can be run with Midline as “eye candy” for the defense, meanwhile, the Fullback and Quarterback are running right up the gut.

What are the Weaknesses of the Midline Option?

The biggest weakness of the Midline is that it puts the Quarterback in a position to take a lot of hits.

It’s asking the Quarterback to run the ball into the teeth of the defense half of the time; therefore, play-callers need to understand that there is a risk that comes with calling Midline. Offenses that have it on their call sheet usually have a rugged Quarterback that can take those hits. 

Midline Option vs 3-4 Odd Front

Midline Option vs 3-4 Defense

LT - Reach B-gap defender

LG - Reach A-gap defender. Reach the Nose Tackle if he comes to, or reach the backside Inside Linebacker

C - Immediately work for vertical movement on the Nose Tackle

RG - Responsible for playside A-gap. Work for vertical movement if the Nose Tackle comes to, or climb to the playside Inside Linebacker
RT - Take the path of least resistance to avoid the first Defensive Linemen over to outside of the RG (the 4-tech in this case) and climb to the playside Inside Linebacker

TE - Block the playside edge defender. Establish and maintain inside leverage

FB - Run down the midline with arms creating a bubble for the QB to insert the ball. Allow him to either give or keep; don’t squeeze down on the ball right away. On a handoff, push the midline as long as possible, then find a crease

Left WB - Go into motion and burst flat at the snap. Give the illusion of Veer

Right WB - Insert inside of the TE’s block and search for first color 

QB - Immediately step off of the midline to provide a path for the Fullback while taking eyes to the first Defensive Lineman on or outside the RG as the dive key. If the dive key crashes toward the FB, keep the ball and follow the inserting WB through the B-gap. If the dive key expands or runs upfield, hand the ball off and fake the keep

X Receiver - Push for the near Safety

Midline Option vs 4-3 Even Front

Midline Option vs 4-3 Defense

LT - Block the backside edge defender. Establish and maintain inside leverage

LG - Reach the Nose Tackle as the Center works back for the left Outside Linebacker

C - Work back toward the Nose Tackle to widen the running lane for the FB. 

RG - Take the path of least resistance to avoid the first Defensive Lineman on or outside of him, and climb to the Middle Linebacker
RT - Take the path of least resistance to avoid the first Defensive Lineman on or outside of the RG, and climb to the Middle Linebacker

TE - Block the playside edge defender

FB - Run down the midline with arms creating a bubble for the QB to insert the ball. Allow him to either give or keep; don’t squeeze down on the ball right away. On a handoff, push the midline as long as possible, then find a crease

Left WB - Go into motion and burst flat at the snap. Give the illusion of Veer

Right WB - Insert inside of the TE’s block for the right Outside Linebacker

QB - Immediately step off of the midline to provide a path for the Fullback while taking eyes to the first Defensive Lineman on or outside the RG as the dive key. If the dive key crashes toward the FB, keep the ball and follow the inserting WB through the B-gap. If the dive key expands or runs upfield, hand the ball off and fake the keep

X Receiver - Push for the near Safety

Midline Option Variations

Now let's look at some common variations of the Midline option.

Variation 1: Flexbone Midline

Flexbone Midline Option

Most teams that run Midline do so from some variation of the Flexbone formation. The only difference between this example and the examples above is that there’s a Z to the playside instead of a Tight End. This spreads the defense out and limits the numbers they can commit to the box.

Variation 2: Midline “Follow”

Midline Follow vs 4-3 Defense

Midline “Follow” is a tag that can be used when an offense wants to get the extra yard. Rather than have the Wingback continue on his pitch path after the snap, he comes downhill and follows the other Wingback through the B-gap. He acts as an extra lead blocker for the Quarterback in the case that the Quarterback decides to keep the ball. This is a variation that programs like Army, Navy, and Air Force use in short-yardage situations.

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