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By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs


D3 Assistant Coach of the Year Nominee Jordan Neal of Hendrix College pairs its Inside Zone run concept with both a flare and now screen. The read is predicated off the apex player in run/pass conflict based off his reaction on the Zone scheme. Find out how it comes together here...

 



By Mike Kuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs

Twitter: @MikekKuchar

 

Introduction:

Hendrix College pairs its Inside Zone run concept with both a flare and now screen.  The read is predicated off the apex player in run/pass conflict based off his reaction on the Zone scheme. On the flare concept, the inside receiver is catching the screen (like bubble), while on the now concept, the outside receiver is catching the screen.  The offensive line blocks the five most dangerous defenders and the read is off of the perimeter force defender.  Here is a breakdown of each of those concepts:

FLARE:

    • When “Flare” is called, the INSIDE receiver is catching the pass.
    • Outside receiver “oozes” off the LOS towards the CB and blocks the most dangerous threat.

NOW:

    • When “Now” is called, the OUTSIDE receiver is catching the pass.
    • Inside receiver “oozes” off the LOS towards the CB and blocks the most dangerous threat.
    • Note:  If neither is called, receivers decide at the LOS who is getting the ball. Receivers assume we are running “Flare”. If CB is 5 yards or less, or if the wide-out gives a “Now” call, run “Now.” This takes practice!

Jordan Neal, the Offensive Coordinator at Hendrix College, spends a great deal of time educating the quarterback to make the correct read on this run/pass concept.  He emphasizes how much practice it takes to develop the correct read. Neal talks about the quarterback making a pre-snap “snap-shot” of what the defense presents before the ball gets snapped. His protocol for making the correct pre-snap read is below:

  • QB must take a “snap-shot” of the front to determine what the DL/LB configuration is. Is it a 4-2 box? Is it a 4-1 box? Is it a 4-3 box with straight man behind it? Is it some sort of odd front?
  • The next thing after identifying the box configuration is to see what we call the next “puzzle-piece,” which is the secondary configuration.

“We teach our quarterbacks to understand that if it is a 4-2 box, then he must immediately find the alley or force player to the side where his post snap-read is,” said Neal. “That guy (most of the time we are referring to the weak-safety, or the safety on the boundary side of the football field) can either be in a cover-two or cover-four alignment, or he can be walked up closer over the #2 receiver in an invert relationship with the CB which signifies cover-one or cover-three. If that weak-safety is deep, then the quarterback knows the outside linebacker on that side is his read key. If that safety is walked down over #2 and he is taking away the numbers and leverage advantage to that side, then the quarterback reads the defensive end on that side. At this point, the play just becomes old-fashioned Zone Read where the QB either hands it off to the running back or pulls it and runs the edge on a QB keeper. Everything works in conjunction because the tackle takes a snap-shot of the box and decides to block either the DE or the LB based on the box alignment and the QB is going through his progression as well. Receivers and the rest of the OL don’t have to do anything different at all from situation to situation.

“If the quarterback sees an odd front, we teach him to understand that versus a 3-4 configuration, the secondary alignment can only be a Cover-two or four look,” continued Neal. “Once the QB has made this determination, he knows that we have five offensive linemen that can take care of the five guys in the box, so we can always give the ball on the Zone. But his post-snap read progression now is based on the alley player to that side, same as outlined above in an even front configuration. If the QB all of a sudden sees a 3-3 stack configuration, we teach him to check out to another package of plays.

“Once the quarterback knows who his read key is, I am teaching him a few different things, but I try to make this as simple as possible,” Neal told us. “If the read key (lets say in this case it is the OLB) is in a position to take away leverage on the throw, then we give the football to the running back on the run play. If the read key is close enough to the box, and the quarterback likes the leverage and spacing to make the throw, then he chooses to throw it. We tell our QB if he is going to be wrong, then he needs to be wrong handing it off instead of wrong throwing it. We prefer the QB to hand it off and take our chances making a few yards, and perhaps breaking a tackle and making a big play. We believe it is extremely difficult for an OLB to be in position to make a tackle in space on a receiver and get himself into position to make a tackle on a running back too. The key is to get your QB to understand that whatever the read key does is wrong. If the QB believes this, he will have confidence making the decision to give the ball and be satisfied with whatever result we get running the ball, and being confident that when he does decide to throw it we have good leverage to make a block with one receiver and space enough to do something with the ball in space. All of this read protocol must be considered in light of the down and distance. If we only need one yard to make a first down, and we can hand the ball off to make that yard, then the QB must disregard the alignment of LBs and DBs and simply give the ball to the back. If we need four yards, and the quarterback sees four yards of ground that we can cover on the perimeter, then it is up to the QBs discretion to choose to put the ball on the edge. This is not an exact science. The quarterback must get a feel for the mannerisms and the level of anticipation of the defensive players. The only way to truly achieve mastery is through film study and reps.”

Here is a breakdown of their QB progression:

PRE-SNAP READ SIDE:

  • Side away from the back is the pre-snap side.
  • “Sight” read the number of players present and their general alignment.
  • #1 – Check width and leverage of the “alley” player.

–        If he is splitting the difference between the wide-out and the OT, forget about it. If he is any closer…

  • #2 – Check depth and width of nearest safety.
  • #3 – Check depth of CB.

–        If it looks good, catch and throw. If not, turn to the other side and go through check-list.

POST-SNAP READ SIDE (1):

  • Same side as the back is the post-snap side.
  • “Sight” read the number of players present and their general alignment BEFORE the snap.
  • #1 – Check width and leverage of the “alley” player.

–        If he can make the tackle on the perimeter throw, chances are, he can’t tackle the running back too.

–        Therefore, anticipate giving the ball to the back. Otherwise, trust the post-snap read.

  • #2 – Check depth and width of nearest safety.
  • #3 – Check depth of CB.

–        If it looks good, then allow the read to take place post-snap. TRUST IT!

POST-SNAP READ SIDE (2):

  • #1 – Snap the ball and put it in the belly of the running-back.
  • #2 – Eyes on the “alley” player throughout the entire exchange.

–        If he is squeezes tight enough to the box that we can get the ball out to the perimeter and play a 2 on 1 game 

–        against the corner or a 2 on 2 game against the corner and the safety, then pull the ball and throw it.

–        If he expands to a point where he can make the tackle on the perimeter give it to the back.

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