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Previewing the Opponent Offense: The Citadel

Through a tin horn...

NCAA Football: The Citadel at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Great. Another FCS triple option squad.

The Citadel is not on the caliber of the infamous Georgia Southern squad that about caused Nick Saban to have an aneurysm a few years back. But they run that same dreaded triple option offense with a million cut blocks designed to wear down a defense both physically and mentally.

As a team, they’re averaging over 60 rushing attempts per game and 292 rushing yards per game. The average is good, at 4.8 yards per carry, but nothing special. You either have someone slogging it for a couple of yards up the middle or a running back taking a quick pitch outside and slipping around the edge for 5-7 yards on pretty much any given play, with the occasional play-action pass thrown in.

Quarterback Jordan Black is second on the team with 113 carries for 516 yards, and also leads with 723 passing yards... though 3 touchdowns to 4 interceptions with only 44% completion isn’t particularly impressive. However, he was replaced as the starter (I’m not sure if this is due to performance or injury... Info on the Citadel is rather hard to come by) the last two weeks by Brandon Rainey, who’s responded by gaining 187 yards rushing in his first game as a starter and following it up with a 217 yard rushing performance. In just two games, he’s already third on the team in rushing yards. He’s only thrown 8 passes in that time though, but efficiently got 88 yards out of them.

B-back Lorenzo Ward is a 210-pound sparkplug of a back that usually lines up directly behind the QB. In a normal triple option, he’s going to be the dive option. He does most of his work between the tackles and running through people. However, he’s got the speed to take toss sweeps and power options outside of the tackles as well. He has 160 attempts for 669 yards, and has only lost 8 total yards all season on stops behind the line of scrimmage. He has 7 touchdowns as well.

His backup is Clay Harris, who has performed admirably while Ward sat out due to injury some this season. Harris has 84 attempts for 335 yards.

At A-back, the diminutive Grant Drakeford is a 175-pound speedster who is generally the third option on a triple option. He’s a big play threat, gaining 371 yards on only 44 carries, an average of 8.3 yards per carry. He’s also second on the team in receiving, and averages 20 yards per catch.

Dante Smith and Rod Johnson are also sub 190-pound guys who man the other A-back spot. Neither have been all that effective though, combining their 56 carries for only 220 yards.

Any good triple option will have one good receiver. For the Citadel, that is Raleigh Webb. The 6’2” 205 pound sophomore leads the team with 368 yards and a couple of touchdowns. They don’t pass often, but when they do, Webb makes big plays. He’s averaging a ridiculous 23 yards per reception.

The top priority will be protecting the knees and ankles of defenders on outside sweep plays. This style of offense often gets defenders blocked in awkward positions. However, a disruptive nose tackle combined with relentless edge blitzing will often totally neutralize an option offense as long as the cornerbacks can hold their own against blocking wide receivers. Expect to see a lot of Saivion Smith, Pat Surtain, Shyheim Carter, and Xavier McKinney forcing running backs out of bounds just a yard or two past the line of scrimmage all day long.