Chris Ault saw it coming from miles away.
As Colin Kaepernick took off untouched on a 56-yard touchdown sprint against the Green Bay Packers in last week's divisional playoff tilt, the former Nevada coach turned to friends and said with certainty: "That's Samurai."
The very same play Kaepernick ran to perfection at Nevada under Ault, the innovative offensive-minded leader who dreamt up the Pistol offense that Kaepernick's San Francisco 49ers have leaned on liberally down the stretch of the season. Ault stepped down from his longtime coaching post in December, but the scheme he invented has just begun to take hold in the NFL, and he doesn't expect it to vanish.
"The Pistol is here to stay," Ault told Greg Bishop in a must-read piece for The New York Times. "It's not like the wishbone. You'll still have guys like Andrew Luck who can drop back, throw the thing, sit in the pocket. But I'm going to tell you, he could run the Pistol. He'd be great in the Pistol. So would Aaron Rodgers."
It was Rodgers who said this week that read-option concepts -- all the rage in 2012 -- will eventually vanish, going the way of the Wildcat. That's up for debate, because a handful of quarterbacks thrived this season in the option, and defenses have yet to catch up.
A scheme like the Pistol requires the proper athletes to run it, and Kaepernick -- along with Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson -- look more like the future than a flash in the pan. Defenses might wise up to option concepts, but at a fundamental level, the Pistol creates a very real problem for opponents.
Kaepernick is a central chess piece in Sunday's NFC title game against the Atlanta Falcons because of threat he presents by land and by air when the 49ers roll with the option. What he did to the Packers last weekend was no fluke -- and almost predictable from where Ault sits.
"Every time he touched the ball (at Nevada), whether he gained yardage or not, you could just feel the electricity," Ault said. "Especially when we called Samurai. When he got outside the tackle, with those long, loping legs of his, well, they haven't caught him yet."
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.