I-Bone Offense Part 1: Combining Three of Football’s Most Popular Offenses into One

An offense which enables a team to run three of football’s most popular triple-option based attacks from a single formation and which helped the Colorado Buffaloes win a national title in 1990 is the subject of a book from Coaches Choice.

“Coaching the I-Bone Option Attack Offense,” co-authored by Joey Lozano of Austin, Texas, and the late Dr. James R. Smith, a veterinary allergist from San Antonio, Texas, shows football coaches how they can run the Wishbone, Houston Veer, and I-formation option offenses from a formation that is a cross between the Wishbone and Power-I formations.

History of I-Bone offense

The offense was invented by Smith in the mid-1970s when he was a walk-on quarterback hopeful at Texas A&M University under the late Emory Bellard. Bellard invented the Wishbone offense while serving as offensive coordinator for the University of Texas Longhorns under the late coaching legend Darrell Royal.

While running the Wishbone as the attack team quarterback against the first-team Aggie defense during the week leading up to the Aggie’s annual Thanksgiving Day game against the University of Texas Longhorns in 1975, Smith determined the Wishbone was too predictable and lacked versatility, deception, passing capability and scoring potential. He set out to create an offense that would provide more passing capability, versatility, deception and scoring potential while always retaining the threat of the triple option.

Of particular concern to Smith was that in the Wishbone, a talented running back was limited to attacking only one side of the defense from option plays and sweeps. However, Smith felt that the threat of the triple option was still a powerful offensive weapon. He therefore set out to create an offense which would retain the threat of the triple option, but offer greater deception, versatility and passing capability, as well as enable a talented running back to attack either side of the defense on option plays and sweeps.

After several years of tinkering, Smith designed the I-Bone formation, a full-house backfield set which serves as the foundation of the offense. From this formation, a team can run all the option and non-option running plays of the Wishbone, Houston Veer, and I offenses, and with greater deception and versatility than is available from those offenses alone.

Colorado Buffaloes QB Darian Hagan won national championship in 1990 running the I-Bone Photo: Colorado Post

Smith also incorporated motion into the I-Bone so that the fullback, halfback or tailback could go in motion to either side of the field as a pass receiver, blocker or decoy, employing the passing attack off triple-option play action. And the use of the I-formation enables a team to put their best running back in the tailback position, enabling it to attack either side of the defense from option plays and sweeps. Such a tailback also can attack the off-tackle and middle areas of the defense.

Smith and Lozano met while both were living in San Antonio in the 1980s. After learning of Smith’s invention of the I-Bone, Lozano helped Smith develop his brainchild into a manual, with the goal of having the I-Bone published in book form.

Colorado Buffaloes won National Championship with I-Bone

In fact, the University of Colorado under head coach Bill McCartney, took the I-Bone and fashioned their own version of it with quarterback Darian Hagan in 1989, 1990 and 1991. Hagan executed the offense to perfection leading the Buffaloes to the national championship in 1990 running the I-Bone.

Although Smith died in December of 2001, Lozano continued his efforts to get the I-Bone published and made available to football coaches by writing articles for coaching magazines, websites and newsletters, and approaching publishers who might be interested in publishing a book on the I-Bone.

Those efforts culminated in late 2012, when Coaches Choice agreed to publish the book.

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