Concepts for Defending the Option

by Scott Cramer
Defensive Coordinator
Verona Area HS
Verona, Wisconsin 


When defending the option, we focus on a few concepts outlined below that we feel give us the best opportunity for success.

  1. Force the ball to move horizontally as long as possible.

  2. The first concept we teach our players in option defense is to defend the option from inside out.  The dive is the shortest distance to the goal line, so we want to eliminate that first.
  3. Stay out of the “minefield.”


    We want to stay in phase and essentially build a fence at the line of scrimmage. To this end, we use the visual cue of a minefield when talking initially about the option to our Defense. We define the minefield as the area from the heels of the offensive line to an imaginary line one yard behind the offensive linemen’s heels, extending from sideline to sideline.


    We feel that playing in this area creates seams in the Defense, but is not enough of an attack into the backfield to force quick decisions. Therefore, we try to stay on our side of the minefield in base technique where we try to recreate the LOS at the heels of the Offensive Line, or play on the Offense’s side of the minefield when we blitz or stunt.

  5. Overlap responsibilities

    Instead of assigning one player to each phase of the option, we give defenders landmarks to pursue to, creating overlaps in our defense. In this method, we have a player on the inside half of the dive, a second player on the outside half of the dive and inside half of the quarterback, a third player on the outside half of the quarterback and inside half of the pitch, and a fourth player on the outside half of the pitch. Using this philosophy, the “minefield” concept is important. The 3rd defender assigned to the outside half of the QB and inside half of the pitch must be very patient and pursue to the pitch directly down the LOS.

  6. Vary alignment of the Defense

    We feel that an Offense’s blocking responsibilities are disrupted at the high school level when an Offense faces a team that shows several fronts and coverage disguises. Our emphasis on fundamental techniques on Defense allows us to use a variety of fronts without changing technique. Once we identify who the Offense wants to option, or leave unblocked, we try to cloud blocking assignments through the use of pre-snap shifts and variation of defensive personnel.

  7. Alter the Quarterback’s reads.

    As mentioned above, we try to disrupt an Offense’s blocking assignments through use of multiple fronts and pre-snap shifts. Similarly, we attempt to alter the Quarterback’s reads through use of slants and stunts on the Defensive Line. We use a variety of stunts between Defensive Linemen, creating uncertainty on QB reads. A simple two man stunt between an End and Tackle often is enough disruption to causing a Quarterback to hesitate, which in turn allows the Defense time to pursue to the point of attack.

  8. Disrupt QB rhythm
  9. Lastly, we believe that, regardless of the number of shifts, slants, or stunts we use, a good option team will find its rhythm if a Defense does not change the pace that decisions need to be made.

    Historically, we have found that edge pressure variations have been effective in causing disruptions. We’ve done this using:

    • Inside slants by the D-Line with OLB/Safety pressure off the edge
    • Inside slants by the D-Line with Cornerback pressure off the edge, or
    • X stunts between the Defensive End and OLB/Safety.

In conclusion, we have used these core concepts as a basis for our plan when defending an option team. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you have.

Scott Cramer

Listen to Coach Cramer discuss this article on the Coaches Corner Volume 4 podcast with CompuSports Radio Host John Anderson

About Coach Scott Cramer and Verona HS

Scott is the Defensive Coordinator and Linebacker coach at Verona Area HS, Verona WI. Scott has served on the staff of Head Coach Dave Richardson since 2001 and was named Regional Assistant Coach of the Year in 2007.

Prior to that, he served for two years as the Defensive Line coach at Whitefish Bay HS in Whitefish Bay, WI on the staff of Head Coach Joe Wieland. Scott began his coaching career in 1992, serving as a Defensive Assistant on the Staff of Head Coach Kip Cramer, his father. Coach Kip Cramer is a member of the Wisconsin  Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.


Scott played at Grafton HS and later at Western Michigan University where he played Defensive Back.   

Verona High School has enjoyed a great deal of success under its current staff, and has been a perennial Conference Champion, State Playoff participant, and State Finalist.


2009 Conference Champions 2009 WIAA Division 1 State Quarter Finalist

2008 Conference Champions 2008 WIAA Division 2 State Finalist

2007 Conference Champions 2007 WIAA Division 1 State Semi Finalist

2006 Conference Champions 2006 WIAA Playoff Qualifier

2005 Conference Champions 2005 WIAA Playoff Qualifier

2004 WIAA Division 2 State Quarter Finalist

2002 Conference Champions 2002 WIAA Division 2 State Semi Finalist

2001 WIAA Division 2 State Quarter Finalist

Scott has provided his personal contact information to Option Central to pass on to our Members who have questions or want to talk Defense, or football in general.