The offensive staff at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology (IN) is of the mindset that a true zone concept, rather than a pin and pull concept, is the most effective manner to handle the variety of fronts, stunts and pressures a defense may present each week. But within the concept of a full zone scheme, lies a variety of technique adjustments such when to use bracer step, and the distinction between shuffle footwork or skip footwork. The Engineers offensive line coach Brian White details these technique with a video presentation as well as how he handles play side 2i-techniques and backside A gap players that can cause issues in an outside zone scheme, which was a vital part of a rushing offense that averaged over 180 yards on the ground and an offense that averaged 42 points per game this past season.
By Brian White
Offensive Line Coach
Rose Hulman Institute of Technology
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At Rose-Hulman, our offense is predicated on running simple play concepts and executing them as fast as we possibly can. As with most Spread offenses, we also want to make the defense defend the entire width of the field at all times. This is one of the reasons why Outside Zone has become a staple of our offense. We can run this concept in one direction with a Run Adjustment, such as a Bubble or Smoke screen, in the opposite direction. While I will detail our “one word play packages” in another report, I wanted to give as much detail as possible in how we block the outside zone, one of our most productive play concepts.
Our Outside Zone is a true zone concept. The offensive line will be responsible for their play side gap. We feel that a true zone concept, as opposed to a Pin & Pull concept, is the most effective manner to handle the variety of fronts, stunts and pressures we encounter each week. We keep the blocking assignments simple for the offensive line, which allows us spend more time developing their technique. The offensive line will reach the defender in their play side gap. The first offensive lineman without a first-level defender in his play side gap will block the play side LB, as the next offensive lineman without a play side defender in his gap will block the backside LB.
Play side Reach Technique
A covered Offensive Lineman on the play side will execute a reach block. We call his first step a “Bracer” step. This step gains width and depth aiming outside of the defender’s play side foot. The second step will aim down the middle of the defender. Our striking surface is a “single under (palm facing up) one hand punch with the backside arm aiming at the defender’s sternum. The play side arm should remain free throughout the entire block. Once contact is made, the blocker must work to get his pads square to the line of scrimmage. If the blocker cannot reach the defender, he will then torque the defender outside by flexing his inside oblique and taking the defender past the Read Spot.
If the defender aligned in the blocker’s play side gap stunts inside then the blocker is no longer responsible for him. As the blocker takes his bracer step, he will stiff arm the defender to slow him up for the trailing offensive lineman. The blocker must keep his eyes in his play side gap to identify the defender who will play his gap. The defender can be a linebacker fitting or another defensive lineman stunting from the outside or inside.
Sometimes the defender playing the play side offensive lineman’s gap is aligned too wide for the blocker to take an effective Bracer step. In these cases, the blocker will shuffle laterally to cut down the distance between himself and the defender before taking his bracer step. The shuffle is used to threaten the defender as much as possible. We want to make sure we get that defender to stretch himself outside so that he cannot easily set a tight edge. After the blocker takes his Shuffle and Bracer steps, he will block the defender on whatever angle he finds him in. Ideally, he is still able to get a reach on the defender. If the defender has still set the edge, then the blocker must kick out the defender in order to widen the edge as much as possible.
Center Reach Technique
The center will use a different technique on a reach block than a play side guard or tackle would. In the instance where the center has a play side shade, he will use a 4 Step Shuffle. He will initiate the Shuffle by pushing off of the instep of his backside foot. The striking surface used by the center is the same surface used by a covered play side guard or tackle, a single under with the backside arm. Once the strike has been made, the center will use the same technique as a covered play side lineman. If we are running the play to an inside shade on a guard, the center will use a Skip step as described in the next section.
What You’re Missing…
Join X&O Labs’ Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and get instant access to the full-length version of this report. Plus, if you join today, you will receive up to 4 FREE books. Here’s a small sample of what you’ll find in the full-length version of this clinic report:
- The definition of the “Logo” which Coach White uses as the visual landmark for the ball carrier.
- 3 options Coach White gives his uncovered trailer in outside zone schemes including the “shove and snap” technique used when the covered lineman has control of the down defender.
- How Coach White teaches the Center to block a play side 2i-technique without soliciting help from the play side Guard.
- His “Cog” and “Tug” variations used against backside A gap defenders.
- Game clips on all these techniques.
To see game cutups of these concepts, click on the video below:
As I mentioned earlier, the outside zone is a critical part of how we ake the defense defend the whole field. It also gives us great opportunities to attack the defense as they move with play action and RPOs. Hopefully this gave you a few more ideas to make your outside zone more productive in the future. Thanks for your time and thanks to X&O Labs for giving me the forum to share with the coaching community.