Hartselle Tigers (15-0) 5-A State Champ
A curl or option route has to be packaged with some sort of route combination where you threaten the flat (defender). All routes combinations are packaged. Receivers don't just curls or option routes just for the hell of it.
The formation the offense is running it out of (3x1, Twins-Flex, 2x2, etc.) combined with the coverage the defense is playing determines the read by the quarterback. Coach Roushar at Michigan St. has his quarterbacks operating from under center a significant amount of time, making these route combinations tied to the quarterback's drop. (3 or 5 step) This concept obviously varies if you're an Air-Raid, Run-&-Shoot, or any other type of spread offense where you have your quarterback playing from the gun. The quarterback's drop isn't what your synchronizing with. They then become pre-determined reads.
Quality defenses are fairly good at disguising coverages and weaker defenses don't always play good technique within the coverage.... which is why it's best to go with an MOFO/MOFC read. It eliminates the variable of poor technique by the defense or disguised coverage pre-snap. Once the ball is snapped you'll see the rotation.
Against 2-high/MOFO we like to run fade/out (3-step), or fade/flat. If you run it out of trips (3x1), you have the #3 run a skinny post and hit the fade in the honey hole of the Cover-2 which is outside the numbers about 10-15 yards deep.
We'll also run mesh (5-step), or curl/flat (5-step) reading the high safety to that side and have a middle of the field seam stretch from the #3 in an attempt to split the safeties.
If you're a spread or 4-verts offense, you'll do the exact same thing on the option routes that you would from a conventional set.... the option to bend for inside verts or break out for outside depending on the defender's leverage. It's up to the receiver to make the adjustment.
Against 1-high/MOFC, we like stops (3-step) with the option to go vertical based on the leverage and depth of a specific defender. You have the choice here to read linebackers or just run past them and read only the highest defender... the safety in the middle of the field.
Once again, a curl/flat except with a 5-step drop with a middle of the field seam to occupy the high safety. You can also run Switch (5-step) front side routes where you have 3-verts from the middle of the field to the bottom of the numbers. This is the coverage where you run comebacks, comebacks, and more comebacks.
If a defense likes to blitz you out of that situation, you'd run slants (3-step). It could be a slant/slant, slant/shoot in 2x2, or slant/slant/shoot in 3x1.
If you're getting 0-coverage you're going to package the slants same as above, or run fade/out, mesh, switch. Again, it all depends on what type of offense you run, but you want to package slants here any way you can get 'em.
Cover-4 you're going to run Spacing.... if the defense commits to not getting beat deep or in the vertical seams, you need to make a living off of stretching them horizontally (see Art Briles at Baylor, etc.)
If you've played or coached football beyond the Junior Varsity level, you understand that 4-verticals is the weakness and way to attack Cover-3. You're going to hit the seams here... or curl/flat. If their flat defender is aggressive, hit the curl route. If he's well coached and disciplined, take the flat route until his instincts override his coaching.
Cover-2 with man underneath gives you plenty of time to run a lot of double moves, etc. since the defense can only rush 4 and dropping 7 into coverage. This changes if you're weak up front or they have an elite pass rusher or two. That's when you hit 'em with screens and draws.
The touchdown B.J. Cunningham scores here against Wisconsin is on an option route tied to the 5-step drop by the quarterback. They're running it out of their Twins-Flex formation. From the endzone angle you'll clearly see the flat defender (Sam linebacker here) jump the flat route by the TE Brian Linthicum who was flexed out. As I mentioned previously, you have to package option routes with a threat to the flat.... you don't just run curls. When the ball isn't on top of Cunningham as he completes his stop route, he's required to work the zone based on how the defenders are playing.
They're running one way, he's running the other... (then endzone angle starts at 2:43)