Variations of the power option play

By Ted Nguyen | Posted 9/22/2017

The power option play is one of the most popular plays in football. Although it has been around for a while, Cam Newton made it famous in his national championship run at Auburn. He even brought it to the NFL when the Carolina Panthers made their Super Bowl run.

Power is simply a man blocking scheme with down blocks from the playside blockers with a pulling guard from the backside. A fullback is usually responsible for kicking the end man on the line of scrimmage out.

When spread teams run it, instead of blocking the end man on the line of scrimmage, they’ll read him.

The quarterback, Newton, is reading the end. If the end goes outside to play the tailback sweep, then he’ll keep the ball and run the power concept.

If the end crashes down to play the power, Newton will hand the ball off like in the second part of the clip.

This play works well for Newton because he has an unusual skill set for a quarterback. Scrambling QBs usually cause havoc with speed, but Newton is a power runner, which is why he is able make the power option work in the NFL.

Ohio State’s quarterback, C.J. Barnett, fits the mold of a classic scrambling quarterback at 6 feet tall and 205 pounds. He might not be able to take the punishment of inside running play after play. In order for them to run the power option consistently, they have to “invert” the options.

In its season opener against Indiana, Ohio State ran an “inverted” power read, in which the quarterback runs the sweep part of the option and the back runs the power part of it.


The first difference between the regular power read and the inverted power read is that the back lines up on the playside and slightly behind the quarterback instead of on the opposite side and even with the quarterback. This alignment allows the back to run downhill toward the playside, which makes him the power option of the play.


Barnett turns towards the playside and should read the contain player. If the contain player crashes, he’ll keep the ball and run the sweep part of the option. If the contain player stays outside, Barnett will hand the ball off.

The end and linebacker do a gap exchange so the linebacker became the contain player. Barnett sees that he stays outside, so he hands the ball off. Because the end crashed the ball so hard, the pulling guard blocks him, which works out perfectly for the offense.

The concept works and the offense is able to get a hat on a hat. The result is an explosive run play. The inverted option fits the personnel of this team better because Barnett has the speed to be a thread on the sweep, while the back is a better inside runner than Barnett.

I actually saw the inverted power option run at Oregon when Chip Kelly was there, so it could actually outdate the more common power sweep that Newton ran. Regardless of the time of inception, it is a play that fits what more teams have at quarterback and running back than the one team that has Cam Newton on it.

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Follow Ted Nguyen on Twitter at @raidersanalysis

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