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How to Teach the Option Route

Posted by Alex Kirby on

When teaching players how to run option routes of any kind, it’s important they understand the principles invoiced, as well as the fundamentals.

When adjusting route concepts, the receiver will base his decision off of the defender (or defenders) in his portion of the coverage.

This means that a player at the receiver position is not responsible for reading the entire coverage concept, and he doesn’t have to see the entire field. The only thing he has to be able to do is keep his eyes trained on a specific area of the field in order to make that decision and adjust the route accordingly.

In the No Huddle No Mercy Offense, Coach Liotta uses a couple of different kinds of option routes:

1. Vertical Option Routes - There are a few different versions of this, including the Deep Choice Concept.

2. Quick Choice Option Routes

    This offense uses a lot of “no read” quick game concepts, and this is the only route where the quarterback and receiver are being asked to make any kind of adjustment or read on the run. In other words, it’s not a screen or an attached concept to a run play, or anything similar.

    Before we go any further, this segment is taken from the No Huddle No Mercy Offense series available HERE.

    Click the link to see even more preview clips, or keep reading or watching the video to learn more about this topic.

    Why Run Multiple Adjusting Route Concepts

    Gives Answers vs Varied Coverage Techniques - Simply put, Coach Liotta doesn’t care about the coverage the defense is running, and neither do his players. These plays allow the offensive players to get open no matter what coverage is called.

    Players Never Truly Feel They Will Be Covered - If you asked the players on Coach Liotta’s team what route they want to run, it would almost certainly be “choice” because they feel like they are always open against anything the defense throws at it.

    Must Take Time to Drill Daily - Coach Liotta goes into more detail on practicing the No Huddle No Mercy Offense in another video, but if you’re not practicing it the way that’s recommended, it’s going to be hard to get the number of reps needed to get good at this play.

    Adjusting Pass Route Design and Implementation

    Everything the Defense Does will be Wrong - This comes not just from the design of the play, but more importantly from constant repetition of the concepts. When your players hear this and start to improve on the routes, they’ll start to believe in it, and the end result will be a much higher level of confidence.

    QB and WR must be on the same page - More than just confidence, repetition in practice creates a shared awareness between the quarterback and receivers, and the ability to see the field in the same way. This is essential to the success of the play, and with continued practice a quarterback and the receivers will be able to simultaneously find the same weakness in a defense.

    This is a big reason why Coach Liotta no longer uses the “Routes on Air” period in practice that so many Air Raid offenses use. In a game, you’re not going to be throwing against air, you’ll be throwing against coverages, specific defenders, and leverage. When you’re running the kinds of option routes that make up a big part of this offense, you need as many reps against a defense as you can get. 

    Players need to be able to identify the kinds of looks they’ll see in a game, and get used to beating them. Not only that, but they need to be doing this against defenders who are moving and reacting to stop them. If you have a small roster, this may be difficult for you, but you should try to avoid throwing against barrels or dummies in practice as much as possible, and get real reps against human defenders.

    Coach Liotta explains more about his process for coaching the quarterback HERE.

    Use “Locked Concepts” in conjunction with Adjusting Route Concepts - A lot of people have a misconception about the Run and Shoot Offense, which is where Coach Liotta took a lot of these foundational plays from. Just because you have a lot of option routes within your pass game, doesn’t mean you don’t also have more conventional “locked routes” that don’t change against different defensive looks.

    Teaching Progression on Every Play



    Coverage Keys


    Alignment Stance Keys and Read

    These four things take no special talent whatsoever from your players. Every player on your roster is in complete control of knowing and executing where he’s supposed to line up, what his stance should be, knowing the coverage keys to look for, and understanding his responsibility before and after the snap.

    As Coach Liotta says, it doesn’t matter if you’re the worst player on the team or an All-State player, you can do those four things. 

    What you do after that is your ability.

    Tips for Adjusting Concepts

    Coach Liotta also shared some tips that will work for any adjustable routes, not just the quick choice route we’re talking about here.

    Drive past undercoverage before decision - When it’s a down the field route, we don’t put landmarks on where we’re breaking on these routes. You have to get through the second level coverage, whatever that depth may be, and get to a position where you’re threatening the third level (the deep coverage).

    Don’t get pre-occupied with yardage on a break - Speaking of depth, there is no set yardage depth Because that’s just not how this works when you’re trying to break open down the field. This is especially true when you’re running an option route from the slot because there are a lot more “moving parts” to a defense that you can’t avoid the way you can when you’re lining up on the outside.

    Speed off the ball - Break the Defender’s Leverage - This comes back to defeating the undercoverage like we just talked about. The faster the receiver can get off the ball, the faster they can get clear of the second level defenders and force that quick decision.

    Get in behind the LB/DB - “Don’t let him feel you”

    One of the worst things you can do is allow the defender to get his hands on you, and affect your path as a receiver. Coach Liotta is always working on the fundamentals of staying free of the defender, including teaching skills like slapping hands away and related items.

    If a defender can get his hands on you, he can hold you, or just force you to re-route where you don’t want to go, so avoiding contact and getting behind him is very important.

    Want more?

    Shawn Liotta goes into even more detail with the No Huddle No Mercy Offense HERE.

    No Huddle No Mercy