Published Friday, October 11, 2013 AT 10:16 AM / Updated at 10:55 AM
Big Red Breakfast: NU’s Garrison embraces return of the option
Doug Thomas Omaha World-Herald

Old-school option football has gained a bigger place in Nebraska’s offense with the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong, and one person pleased to see it is NU offensive line coach John Garrison.

The option was a staple in the Husker offense when Garrison started at center under Frank Solich and Milt Tenopir in 2001 and 2002.

Some big option plays, including Ameer Abdullah’s 43-yard touchdown run, helped the Huskers run for 335 yards on 50 carries in last week’s win over Illinois.

“It’s great to see the option. Anybody else excited about that?” Garrison asked a crowd of about 190 Friday at the Big Red Breakfast at Omaha’s Ramada Plaza Hotel and Convention Center. “Getting Tommy back there brings a different piece to the puzzle for us.”

It’s the option, Garrison said, that allowed vintage Husker teams to run the ball even against defenses that loaded up near the line to stop the run. If the Huskers had seven blockers and faced eight defenders near the line, the quarterback would read the unblocked defender and either read or pitch.

And if the defense crowded the line with nine players, the quarterback could fake the option and throw downfield.

“There’s something about the option,” Garrison said, “that gives you big-play opportunities.”

Rolling up big yards might be a challenge in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Purdue. Garrison said the defensive front seven is the Boilermakers’ strength.

But they bring a 1-4 record into the game and were gashed for 388 rushing yards in a 41-10 loss to Wisconsin.

“If you never looked at any of the records and just looked at defensive clips, you’d think, ‘Boy, this is a good defense,’” Garrison said. “I think their front seven is really good.”

In Purdue’s secondary, Garrison saw “probably the hardest-hitting safeties we’ll see.”

“These guys will come up and lay the wood on you,” he said. “Now in doing that, they’ll also come up and miss you. But there will be some big-time hits. Guys have got to be able to protect themselves, protect the ball.”

About Doug Thomas

Doug Thomas edits and writes stories for the Omaha World-Herald. He has worked at the newspaper since 1986 and filled roles such as Husker football writer, health and fitness writer and assistant sports editor. You can reach Doug at 402-444-1058 or doug.thomas@owh.com.