History has a tendency to repeat itself. In football, that means something gets invented, iterations are formed, it gets tucked away for a while, and then it reemerges in a new form but with the same constructs. In this way, we can also predict how defenses will attempt to adjust, and how offenses will likely adjust to their adjustment. And this piece we are going to look at the history and evolution of the veer and belly run plays.
The Veer option is often credited to Bill Yeoman of the University of Houston, who began running the offense in the mid-1960s out of a split back formation. At its implementation it utilized a man blocking scheme. Initially, the main attack was with the dive with the FB while running an option to the outside.
The inside veer will read the DT first to determine the give to the FB or keep. The second read will be the EMOL; if he flares out to the RB the QB will cut it up field, if he commits to the QB then the QB will pitch the ball to the RB.
Quickly, defenses adjusted to this inside veer, and offenses implemented an outside veer package. This play reads the EMOL for the give or keep to the FB. If the DE commits to the FB dive, then the QB will keep. The second read will be the hang defender, and the QB will read him to determine if he keeps or pitches the ball.
Offenses then also incorporated counter, counter option, trap, and play action off of this look.
Because of its success, it began being adapted into I-Formation offenses and Wishbone offenses as well. This adaptation would become the basis of the Tom Osborne dynasty and his team's use of the triple option.
Eventually, many college and pro teams would switch to a zone blocking scheme while maintaining the veer principles.
Now teams are running both inside veer (often referred to as the midline veer) and outside veer from the shotgun and pistol, both with the pitch option and without. Offenses have grown to include utilizing a bubble option rather than a pitch man as well.
Eventually, teams started using the inverted veer (Note: previously we’ve been saying inverted veer for what will henceforth be known as the Power Read; Power Read is more in line with the “Read” nomenclature (for example: zone read is a zone play with a backside read) and also better describes the blocking scheme). This play inverts the QB and RB routes, seeing the QB shoot inside the DE with the RB attacking the edge.
And of course, the pop pass and sail concept are favorites to take advantage of teams cheating forward now as they were then.
The Belly play has its origins in the 1950s with former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd and his Old T offense. Around the same time, the Wing-T was formed by University of Maine coaches Dave Nelson, Mike Lude, Harold Westerman, and Tubby Raymond. Nelson and Raymond took it to the University of Delaware, where the “Belly Series” was completed by the early 1960s.
Early iterations utilized a man blocking scheme and a kick block by the RB…
Before the pitch portion was also eventually added.
At the same time, Counter blocking, and two types of fold blocking (termed Cross and Power) were incorporated, as well as a switch scheme and several other man blocking schemes (G kick and Counter OT, for instance).
By the mid-70s, Delaware had switched a mostly zone blocking scheme to run the Belly Option. And by the 90s were starting to spread the field and utilize jet motion for the pitch man.
Elsewhere, teams wanted to start utilizing the belly plays out of the I-Formation. First they did so with the FB, utilizing a pitch look to “kick” the DE (Note this looks a lot like the triple option and the veer play from the I-Formation).
Eventually, teams wanted to start utilizing this scheme but hand the ball off to the RB. To get the proper angles and timing, the RB typically received the ball away from the intended playside before intentionally cutting the ball back. Note that, by the 90s, zone running was fairly prominent, and this play works as a great counter to the inside zone. The movement of the offensive line looks like zone running, but is instead simply a gap scheme; likewise, the FB that typically seals the backside on an inside zone now is kick blocking the DE.
Just as the “Read” in the Zone Read and Power Read takes the place of a kick block by a FB, the kick block typically performed in the Belly run came be switched for a “Read”. So then spread teams started incorporating it into their schemes. And as was done in the I-Formation, they typically threatened inside zone but instead intentionally cut back.
And like the veer option, the play action plays from the original belly series was installed in the modern day spreads.
What you’ll notice is that in the modern day spread, the Veer and the Belly look an awful lot alike. That’s because, in theory, the two plays essentially converged to become the same thing. Why some call it Belly (Rich Rod) and some call it Veer (Urban Meyer) is essentially predicated on what offense they evolved from.
Note that some teams now call what was once the Inside Veer simply Belly, and the Outside Veer simply Veer. Some still differentiate based on having a kick block or not. In the end, both plays and series (Both the Veer and the Belly have become more than a play, and are now a series of plays) evolved into something similar in modern football.
What was old will become new will re-evolve, fall out of favor, and then return again. That’s the nature of football. So when looking forward, make sure to look backward.