Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Simple OL/Dynamic Backfield- Add Some Funk to your Spread Runs

Today the spread is all the craze, people want to see 4 WR's with lots of passing and explosive running. The staple plays for spread teams has been the zone read and the counter. Many teams that I have seen have tried to make living running these two plays. Installing the pair is not overly difficult, with enough reps, an O-line can become proficient at blocking multiple fronts for these two plays. We are going to look at how these two blocking schemes can allow you to run multiple plays that will give defenses fits. (Most teams run more than the zone and counter, I want to show how you can get more out of these two schemes.)

The goal for offensive coaches is to appear complex to the defense, but be simple enough to be good at what you do. The challenge for the run game is coordinating the O-Line blocking. The O-line blocking is not the focus of this post, you should be fine if you understand the basic rules of the zone and the counter. The focus here will be how you can get the most out of these plays. Since I will not be discussing the O-Line, the flexibility and innovation of these plays will come from the backfield.


The basic zone read:

Here the line is zoning left and the QB is reading the DE. If he comes down the line the QB pulls the ball and runs outside. If the DE runs up field the running back gets the hand off and finds a hole in the zone. This is a staple play and in 2x2/3x1 formations puts 5 blockers against 5 defenders with a 6th occupied by the QB. On paper this is a TD if the back can beat the FS one on one. The challenge with this play today is teams have geared up and practiced stopping it.


By keeping the zone blocking the same, what can be done to put pressure on the defense? As said earlier, make changes in the backfield. The easiest change is to flip the responsibilities of the running back and QB. By flipping the responsibilities, you have the back getting a hand off running outside if the DE decides to squeeze down the line and the QB finding a hole behind the zone if the DE runs up-field.

This can create problems for the defense especially if they are keying the back. Many teams that key the back put their DE on the QB. If the backers flow with the back and the DE runs up-field, the QB will be able to find a big hole behind the zone. The linebackers will have to adjust to this play by playing slower. When a backer has to slowdown and think more the Offense is at an advantage. This is difficult for the backers read even if they slow down. What options do they have, really? One, they can watch the mesh and attack once they see who has the ball. This is slow reaction and leaves them vulnerable to being blocked. Two they can key the line, this will flow them opposite the sweep of the back, so on any give they will be out of position. Even if the backers are prepared it will be hard for them to quickly identify whether or not the play is a regular zone read or a flip.

To make it even more difficult you can run the zone flip from fly sweep (pop sweep) Motion.

This creates the same situation but now with WR motion to get the defense flowing with the motion. Also, the WR has a back lead blocking for him. To go even further you can take this concept out of a 3x1 trips set and put pressure on the defense's trips adjustments.

From the diagram you can see it is difficult for the defense to overplay the trips side. This helps in two ways. #1 You can attack the trips side in the passing game more effectively, and #2 you can run the zone or zone-flip back toward the trips side from the same formation. Look at the diagram below and see how the zone flip toward the trips side is sound when the defense is conscious of runs away from the trips.

The defense is in a tough situation, where they have to pick their poison and play a guessing game. That is the situation an offense wants to put the defense in. Most defenses don't like to see empty formations, especially with running quarterbacks. The zone flip can be run out of empty formations to any of the 3 WR's behind the LOS.

Accounting for the formations and the potential ball carriers (and the passing game) makes these wrinkles to the zone read a problem for defensive coaches.


The other staple run play in the spread is the counter. In this post I will look exclusively at the Counter GT. The GT is similar to the zone concept other than it is designed to predicate the area the ball will go and uses more angle blocking as oppossed to double teams. The basic GT play is as follows:

Like the zone the DE is the read. If the QB gets a give read the running back takes the ball and runs inside the kick-block and behind the seal block. The QB keep is intended to keep the DE honest and allow the RB to run behind the pulls.


The counter flip works exactly like the zone flip with same back field movements and reads. The only change is the O-Line.

The QB and running back have flipped responsibilities. Now on plays where the DE runs up-field, the QB keeps the ball and runs between the kick-out and seal. To make this play even more difficult for the defense throw in the same WR fly sweep motions

Again this is tough for the linebackers. Regardless if they are reading the back or the linemen, they are going to get conflicting keys. The Fly sweep action is one way and the line pulls are in the opposite direction. Again the backers have to guess or wait until they know who has the ball. Again, advantage offense. It is great out of trips too.


Some people might argue that it is hard to time-up and teach the QB to read on the fly sweep motion. This could be the case for some schools. However, even if you could not teach the reading part, you can still dictate who gets the ball by the play call, and the defense will still not know who is getting the ball.

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