An offensive scheme in football that uses three backs in a misdirection running play to provide the offense with multiple options for running the football.
The Triple Option is typically used in the Wishbone, I, or special “veer” formations that utilize a tight end rather than a third back. The scheme is based on the option run, in which the quarterback has three options for delivery of the football during the course of a play, usually in the form of three other backs.
As an example, in the “flex formation” (variant of the Wishbone) version of the Triple Option, the quarterback sets one of the halfbacks in motion to the opposite side of the line. As the halfback begins to pass behind the fullback, the quarterback takes the ball from the center and either hands the ball off to the fullback or fakes the handoff. If the fullback takes the handoff, he runs the ball up the center of the line. If the handoff is faked, the quarterback runs parallel to the line of scrimmage and either turns up field or pitches the ball to the halfback.
The Triple option forces defenses to plan their defense against a potential fullback run through the center of the line, while protecting against an outside rush by the quarterback or halfback.
As schemes and athleticism have grown, the Triple Option has evolved beyond the run in some cases, sometimes involving play-action passes or offenses reverting to traditional blocking schemes after showing the option. The Triple Option remains most popular at the college-level, as quarterbacks are not usually as developed at passing, being players who would more likely be used as running backs in professional football.