Double Load Power Read from 12 Personnel

By Mike Kuchar with Pete Jennings
Head Coach
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Twitter: @PeteyBananas



Utilizing a power read from a three-man surface has its advantages: you’re able to widen the read defender a gap further and you’re able to get an extra blocker (the tight end) on the perimeter for the QB pull. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh head football coach Pete Jennings spent several seasons as the offensive coordinator at Division 3 powerhouse Wisconsin Whitewater, so the A-gap power was a major staple in his arsenal. The problem was, he didn’t have an athletic enough quarterback to run the power read element.

That all changed when he took the job at Oshkosh which had a good amount of tight ends on the roster. He had an elite athlete running quarterback, but couldn’t get him on the edge on zone read. So, he started looking at different ways to affect not just the defensive structure but the individual technique of defensive players. So, Coach Jennings merged his teachings of power with a read principle and did it out of 12 personnel with the intent of getting an additional hat on the perimeter to block for the quarterback pull and get his athlete in space.


“Force the Log:” Backside Guard Technique:

Defensive ends have become better at surfing to take away the frontside A gap and retracing back to a QB pull on the play. “If you don’t have an elite quarterback, that would be a problem,” said Coach Jennings. So, rather than read the end, he decided he would block him with the backside puller. As noted in the video, Coach Jennings teaches a shuffle pull technique for that backside Guard. And having him get a piece of that C gap defender has been a major advantage against squeeze and spill defensive ends. “Now he sees the down block from the Tackle which forces him to squeeze,” said Coach Jennings. “This forces a pull read by quarterback and how you’re out on the edge with the QB just like zone read. We’re forcing the technique of the defensive end. Something he’s been taught to spill since eighth grade. We use this technique against him.”


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Speed Sweep: Ferris State’s Complement to Jet Read

By Mike Kuchar with Sam Parker
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach
Ferris State University (MI)
Twitter: @CoachParker



Having majored in the Jet Read for most of head coach Tony Annese’s tenure, the staff at Ferris State needed a complement that could easily push the ball to the perimeter. But rather than build in traditional outside zone schemes, the Bulldogs wanted to stay true to its roots as a gap scheme team. So, the answer was using a speed sweep with a false pull. But run game coordinator Sam Parker and the offensive staff will complement the speed sweep with its traditional power read scheme based on the look they are getting from the defense. “The entire point of running outside or sweep is to stretch everyone and if you have a threat of a box run with it, that’s when you get the efficiency you need,” he said. “You get the false key with the pull. We are always going to threaten defenses with an A gap run element.”


The Advantage of Cluster Formations:

Since most of Ferris State’s jet read scheme is presented using condensed formations, it made sense for the staff to build its speed sweep around the same design. According to Coach Parker, it helped in disseminating whether or not there were numbers to the field for the speed sweep or numbers in the box to run the power read. “We look at how well they handle aligning to cluster formations,” said Coach Parker. “Can they take the perimeter sweep to the field off the table? If they do, we look at running power read back to the boundary.”

For example, since so many defenses at that level are field rotation defenses, if there are any additional numbers to the field, the call gets adjusted to power read back to the boundary. It’s an easy adjustment by the quarterback.


But Coach Parker did mention he’ll live with running the scheme to the field if he can get it run on a field corner in space.


In order to do that, both the receivers and the back need to be in constant communication on who to block on the perimeter. “We will either crack the EMLOS with the receiver or handle him with the back,” he said. “We let those guys communicate it.”

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Minnesota Duluth QB Run Package from Heavy Personnel

By Mike Kuchar with Chase Vogler
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach
University of Minnesota Duluth
Twitter: @CoachVogler



Minnesota Duluth is in its third year of developing the quarterback run package, but it may be indisputable that this season was it’s strongest. The Bulldogs leaned on quarterback runs to generate over 240 yards per game on the ground and its quarterback had many of those by himself. The Bulldogs QBR package is versatile enough to have rules for every front and often times Coach Vogler trusts his quarterback to make these changes at the line of scrimmage. We’re going to dive into the Bulldogs two most efficient QB run schemes- the zone read bluff and G lead- and why they have been so efficient.


Zone Bluff Concept:

Duluth is traditionally a 12 and 13 personnel outfit, so it made sense to keep those heavier groupings when designing the complementary QB runs. When Coach Vogler designs his zone read principles, he chooses to use tight ends to block on the perimeter for the quarterback keep. And instead of using tight zone blocking, the Bulldogs use the mid-zone variety and read the C gap defensive end. The running back is taught to track the inside foot of the play side Tackle. “We used to track the inside foot of the Guard, but it was too tight,” said Coach Vogler. “We wound up banana-ing the path.”


Double Swipe Principle:

One of the innovations that Duluth uses in its zone bluff concept is a double swipe concept- having two blockers block for the QB on the pull read. It’s helped in generating over 14 yards a game this season on the concept. Modeled after what Utah was doing, there will be two blockers at the point of attack for the quarterback. One is a jet motion element and one is an off-line tight end. “When you present jet motion and a swiper you are going to freeze linebackers,” said Coach Vogler. “It’s difficult for defensive ends to see the ball through all that movement. But the ideal snap point should be on the backside Tackle.”

These players are responsible for both the force defender and the -1 defender in the count, but Coach Vogler and his staff will vary their responsibilities. So, he had to be deliberate in teaching which blocker was the lead blocker and which was the wrapper- or what Coach Vogler calls the “fixer.” Duluth is a huddle, longer verbiage based operation so these words are all communicated in the play call.

  • “Plane” Tag- This tells the jet motion man there is no mesh to the QB; the motion clears to the other side of the formation.
  • “Jet” Tag- This tells the jet motion man he will mesh with the QB and is part of the read element of the concept. These are clearly used in jet read concept, which although they are part of the offensive menu at Duluth, are not detailed in this clinic report.
  • “Brake” Tag- This tells the jet motion man there is no mesh to the QB; but he is in a block scenario on the edge to block for the quarterback on the pull read.


While the terminology is one thing, making sure both blockers handle their correct responsibilities is a whole other teaching point.

For example, if the tight end is aligned to the side of the read, he will block support while the jet motion man is the “fixer.”


If the Tight End is on the backside of the read, the motion man is on alley support while the tight end is the “fixer” blocking the second threat.


Coach Vogler will also build in “crack” calls which tells the single receiver to cracking on the perimeter. This means the motion man is on support (or first threat) while the tight end is the fixer, who will usually block the -1 linebacker to the side of the read or the Will linebacker.

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Bryant University’s 11 Personnel Duo Concept

By Mike Kuchar with Steven Ciocci
Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator
Bryant University (RI)
Twitter: @CoachCiocci



When Bryant University (RI) moved into the competitive environment of the Northeast Conference, the offensive coaching staff had to decide on what run concepts they wanted to hang their hat on. And despite being a traditional inside/outside zone outfit, they knew they needed to build something different to win against a higher level of defensive lineman. So, run game coordinator Steven Ciocci felt the Duo scheme- which provided for more double teams at the point of attack- would be the answer to win in the trenches. Reading backside linebackers was an easy ask for an athletic running back and adding it to their eleven-personnel menu gives them the option to run it strong or weak.

While Coach Ciocci and his offensive staff treat Duo differently than inside zone, he does consider it to be a mix between true zone and gap schemes. “The play side will look like zone because of lateral double teams and not horizontal double teams,” he said. “But if you treat it like inside zone, you may lose the physicality of the play.”


We are going to take an inside look at how Bryant built its Duo scheme, starting with the count system.

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High Safety Inverts in Odd Spacing

By Mike Kuchar with Cody Baethke
Defensive Coordinator
Coe College (IA)
Twitter: @CodyBaethke



It was three years ago when Cody Baethke decided to incorporate interior drops from his safety who is responsible for playing hook defenders. But, it really took shape this season when Coe College boasted one of the top returning safeties in the country at the Division 3 level. So, Coach Baethke decided to get him tied into some box run fits at the second level. He termed it “Slip,” which tells the strong safety to insert “inside” to replace the blitzing linebacker. Most times it was the Mike who became the fourth rusher in Coe’s Odd front presentation.


At Coe, the safeties don’t flip. So a different call, say “Flip,” can be made to alert the Free Safety to replace the blitzing Will linebacker.


So, essentially the safety knows which is rotating down based on the call. “We tried to do more ‘Flip’ this season because our Will was the better blitzer of the two,” said Coach Baethke. “But we would billed it based on game plan as well against teams that used swipe concepts. So, we would call the backer away from the TE to do be the pressure defender and it worked well against those schemes.”


Front Movement:

The first level movement pattern consists of a cross dog between the Nose and blitzing linebacker. The Nose is responsible for “RAC-king” or ripping across the Center while the pressure defender (Mike or Will) works opposite him.


At times, Coe will move the Nose to A gap or just align him there. And in pass situations, it would make sense to keep the Nose away from the side of the pressure because it helps with pass rush integrity. Coe often plays with two 4i technique that are responsible for the B gap in the run game. If pass develops, they are asked to make the trip into the C gap for contain. Coach Baetke calls it a cross technique.


Naturally, the linebackers are given the freedom to read out of pressure against any pulls or keys way. This allows him to be an extra fitter to the side of the run.

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Teaching the “Blade” Technique in Cross-Dog Pressure Patterns

By Mike Kuchar with Bill Nesselt
Defensive Coordinator
University at Albany (NY)
Twitter: @BillNesselt_UA



Albany terms all of its six-man pressures as four-legged animals. So, “Mutt” indicates the cross-dog pattern that this report is focused on. And while they can play it with any coverage the Great Danes have had the most success pairing with “Hot” (3 Deep, 2 Under) zone coverage. It’s consistently been their top pressure and its versatility lent itself to be utilized on any down and distance and any field zone. Coach Nesselt credited the success of the scheme to the ability to have two outstanding defensive ends who were able to box the run back inside to the interior pressure. “When we have defensive ends like we did we try to keep them on edges,” he said. “A lot of what we were doing was keeping them as upfield rushes on the edge and getting them into one one-on-one scenarios with offensive tackles. Because of this, we were able to get free hitters with the second blitzer.”


Front Structure:

Albany is an Even-front outfit, but where the 3-technique is set is inconsequential to this pressure pattern. He will always be a B-gap rusher to clear the interior gaps for the cross-dog pattern but he can be set in the following locations:


  • To the Back: “Toby”


  • To the Boundary: “Bench”


  • To the Field:


It can also be paired with both Over and Under fronts. But Coach Nesselt did talk about the challenge of getting into these locked fronts if the ball is in the middle of the field, particularly against Tempo operations in the CAA. “In these situations, we will do more of setting it to or away from back so that linebackers and secondary don’t get rotations messed up,” he said. I’s important that both hot seam defenders (the Field Nickel and boundary safety in Albany’s scheme) get on opposite sides. Back 7 have to be on the same page.


Front Technique:

Before getting into the coverage and pressure specifics, it’s important to note that there several techniques associated with the front in this pressure. The first of which is the play of the edge defenders in this system- which are the field and boundary ends. Because they are edge defenders, they are taught to be in “loose” alignments at the line of scrimmage so they are in a position to box the ball back inside.


“Our defensive ends are taught to hammer everything back inside so we try to keep everything between them with this pressure by trying to create layers,” said Coach Nesselt. “If the front six don’t make the tackle we are expecting the hot seam players to. If they don’t then we have the middle of the field safety and two third corners to finish it off.”

Against gap scheme runs, they are box defenders who will hammer pullers to squeeze the ball back inside. And against any read option these defensive ends are quarterback players but are taught what Coach Nesselt calls a “Pogo” technique on the mesh. Once they see bare hands from the QB they can fall in and be an extra hitter on the ball.


The interior Nose and Tackle are taught what Coach Nesselt calls a “Take Two” technique, where they are asked to play vertically through the B gap. In the pass game, they are pure B gap vertical rushers. In the run game, their responsibility is to try and draw two blockers to free up the interior gaps for the cross dog.


The “take two” is a production point in Coach Nesselt’s weekly grading system. “Our Nose isn’t going to make a ton of plays unless they are getting vertical up the field,” he said. “If the Nose Guard doesn’t take the combo we don’t get the free hitter running through. A to B technique.”

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Torque Technique on Gap Double Teams

By Mike Kuchar with CJ Westler
Head Coach
Pleasant High School (OH)
Twitter: @CoachWestler



Some coaches prefer to group Duo with gap scheme family runs while others, like Coach Westler, choose to pair it with inside zone. Over 50% of the run game at Pleasant High School consists of the Duo play and Coach Westler and his staff try to make it look like inside zone as much as possible. In order to do that, he teaches the play side Tackle to work with the Center in identifying the Mike linebacker. But like most schemes, all double teams work to the backside linebacker. “We tell the tackles that if you don’t know what to do, work to whomever the Center tells you to,” said Coach Westler.

The Mike linebacker is identified in every play. The Center’s rule is to identify the first defender head up to the play side of the Duo scheme. That tells the play-side Tackle to work to the identified Mike while the Center works to the next linebacker in the box. The running back is taught to track the backside leg of the Center and press the line of scrimmage. “We tell him that if linebackers are making tackles that is on him,” said Coach Westler. “He has to press the LOS and draw the linebackers to our linemen. We are not always good enough to block linebackers in space.”


How those linemen work the correct technique to block the second level is the focus of this report.


Double Team Technique:

First thing- Coach Westler doesn’t talk much about covered or uncovered principles in combination blocks. And he doesn’t talk about vertical double teams either. “With our RPO game, we don’t want five yards of vertical movement because we don’t want to get downfield,” he said. Instead he relies on a couple of specific techniques to get the first level moved to generate space in the Duo scheme.

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Transitioning In and Out of Even to Odd Looks

By Mike Kuchar with Darian Dulin
Defensive Coordinator
Towson University (MD)
Twitter: @DarianDulin



The following is a true story. When I first got the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in the early 2000’s like many coaches I was searching far and wide to find as much information as I could about my defense. And my defense was based on the 4-3, quarters structure scheme. Naturally, I was picking up any piece of information on that topic. The internet was not the viable source of coaching information that it is now, so most of my research came in the form of written reports in publications like American Football Monthly (which I subsequently wrote for later) and the monthly AFCA send-out.

One of these articles was written by the then-Tarleton State defensive coordinator Darian Dulin. His language made sense to me and I could tell by the way he conveyed his subject matter that we were very similar in our teaching progression. I had no idea how to get to Tarelton, but I know I needed to get there. So, I made it my mission to find a way to reach out Coach Dulin. He invited me down to stay with him and learn his defense and the rest is history and too long a story to be translated here. Fast forward over 20 years later and Coach Dulin and I remain good friends. So when he got the job as the DC at Towson- only 170 miles from my home- I was thrilled both for him and for the potential to learn more about his scheme.

I worked with Coach Dulin before. His scheme has since transitioned from stagnant four-down looks to more Odd structure pictures such as the ones he used when he assisted in winning the Division 2 national championship at West Florida back in 2019.

So when I visited with him during his first spring there, we sat to talk about how he plans on transitioning from four-down to three-down fronts in preparation for this football season.


Towson Personnel:

Towson bases out of a 3-4 with a lot of 4-2-5 principles and like many Even/Odd hybrids, the Will linebacker is more of a rush linebacker, who will play on the line of scrimmage. The Will and Nickel are edge defenders and are interchangeable and are more safety types than linebacker types. The Mike and Sam are the two interior backers. Towson plays with a field end (Freak) and a boundary end (Basher) and wants them to be in the 285-300-pound range. Linebackers play off the flow of the back and are taught to stack the down lineman in front of them on run action.


Front Strength Indicators:

What’s interesting about Coach Dulin’s system is that he calls everything by technique number. So, if the first term is “5” that tells the first-level player closest to the indicator to align in a 5-technique. It’s a number system where the first number is based on the offensive indicator which can either be the back or the tight end. Coach Dulin will code these terms by using a “Rip or Liz” call if the indicator is the Y. Consequently, he’ll use a “Roger” or “Larry” call if the indicator is the running back. These indicators are predicated on offensive tendencies and can change each week. These numbers represent the technique that’s associated with the call.

For example: “5” represents a five-technique on the outside shade of tackle, “4i” represents an inside shade of the tackle and “1” represents an outside shade of the Center. Coach Dulin starts his installation with using field/boundary alignments in the beginning but needs eventually to be adjustable to the surface strength.

So, a “4-1-5” look with the back as the indicator tells the defensive lineman to the back to align in a 4 technique, with a one-technique and five-technique away from him.


If an offense is same-side power-oriented, it makes sense to use a “4-1-5” check to the back because he’s away from the tight end and it allows for a defender to spill the down block of the Tackle.


If an offense is more G/Y counter-oriented, the “4-1-5” check away from the back is useful because it allows the five-technique to spill gap schemes to the perimeter.


There are two main principles that Towson operates out of when it comes to terming its fronts:

“Load” Check- This means the front is “loaded” to the indicator (Tight End or RB). This tells the front to move one full man over. For example, the Nose will align on the Guard not the Center.

“Edge” Check- This means the front is “edged” to the indicator (Tight End or RB). This tells the front to move one technique over. For example, a three-technique can become a 4i technique to the indicator side.

“Down” Check- This tells either the Will or Nickel to come down on the line of scrimmage. This is used against 3-man surfaces.


Any 3-man surface will always overload the back. And a “Y-Off” formation is counted as a three-man surface check to Townson and will be treated as such. This will also be applicable in Pistol formations, where the back alignment is not an issue. In off-set formations, it makes sense to have the running back be the indicator.

Let’s take a look at how these fronts are formatted based on the indicator.

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Detached Y Rule Variations in G/T Counter

By Mike Kuchar with Sam Gregg
Offensive Line Coach
University of Southern Mississippi
Twitter: @CoachSamGregg



It’s important to note that while keeping the tight end on the field side can equate numbers to block field pressure, there are mechanisms in the Southern Miss offense to check tight zone away from over-rotation by the defense. But in any “call it, play it” scenarios,  the tight end is asked to identify the extra defender play side and account for him. While this report is centered on the role of the tight end, we wanted to give some insight into some subtle differences on how Southern Miss teaches the concept positionally.


Center Backside Hand Technique:

The Center back block can be an issue against any form of pressure, so Coach Gregg and his staff spend a good deal of time teaching him to use a backside hand technique to help the backside Guard on his pull. It’s something Southern Miss used a great deal against Florida Atlantic’s Odd defense it a bowl game a season ago. “We try to catch him in the B gap and depending on how good that Nose is we will use that backside hand technique,” said Coach Gregg.

And against 4i techniques that are so prevalent in Mint fronts, Coach Gregg teaches a shuffle technique for the Center on the back block. This allows him to keep his shoulders square and stop any penetration.


Backside Pullers:

As the first puller, the backside Guard has to be able to identify any Nickel pressure. Essentially, he has two rules: if he identifies Nickel fire he blocks it.


If there is no edge pressure, the second puller (backside Tackle) is taught to do what Coach Gregg calls “wrap the box,” and slingshot around to handle defenders inside out.


“We let the play side Guard read through it,” said Coach Gregg. “If he knows he has a front side double team his eyes go right to the Nickel. If the Nickel is not firing, we wrap the box and I gain a blocker. That’s easy practice and you can drill that. You can jump in 12 Personnel and do the same thing and have another tight end pulling.”

If you run the G/T counter it’s important to keep the correct depth between pullers because of potential pressure or spill techniques at the line of scrimmage. Because of this, Coach Gregg talks about one puller being on the line (Guard) and one puller being off the line (Tackle) so that they can react to what they are seeing. “The Guard needs to be in the line to force the kick or log,” said Coach Gregg. “When the Guard pulls, we don’t log the defensive end. The defensive end logs himself. That backside Tackle has to have space.”

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Building Tracer Inserts into Duo Runs

By Mike Kuchar with Brian Scott
Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator
Tennessee Tech University



Like most coaches, Coach Scott teaches the backside as the play side in Dou runs because chances are that is where the ball is going to end up. It’s a gap scheme mentality at New Hampshire where the play is built off massive double teams on the backside. And bringing these tracer elements across to insert on the backside (albeit play side) helped protect the play from defenders who would either “plus” their leverage or bring defenders across the formation. “Teams have started bringing the corner or safety across with him but that is a long way to go to make the play,” he said. “And often times our back is better than that corner or safety.”


RB Mesh and Reads:

As in most Duo schemes, the ball carrier will still read the backside linebacker at the point of attack, but at New Hampshire his aiming point is the inside leg of the play side Guard. While Coach Scott will use both offset and Pistol alignments, the play is most efficient from under center mesh points because it sets up the play-action elements that are shown below.


Offensive Line Push Rules:

One of the premier coaching points that Coach Scott teaches is how to identify the point linebacker to the backside of the concept. New Hampshire builds in certain calls based on whether or not defenses are back gapping the play. The benefit of bringing a tracer as in insert blockers is it allows the offensive line to make push calls to account for defenders on the backside. But when second-level defenders start to see that post-snap motion, they may trigger and back gap the play. This is why Coach Scott teaches his offensive line firm rules based on the location of the backside linebacker. “If there is a linebacker is in the A gap we use a plus call because he has more of a threat of back gapping,” said Coach Scott. “If he is in the B gap, we don’t plus it out.”  This is tagged into the play call so that players know where they are bringing that defender from.


Backside Hinge Technique:

One of the more interesting coaching points that Coach Scott teaches is a hinge technique by the Tackle on the backside of the concept. Similar to a technique he would use on the backside of true gap schemes, it allows him to cut off the B gap from any penetration. It helps him be more physical than having him use a pass set as other programs do.

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Using Post-Snap Movements to Defend Inside Zone

By Bob VanHoesen
Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach
Hudson Valley Community College (NY)
Twitter: @CoachRVH



In our program we believe that defensive line post snap movement (slanting) can be an effective way to limit our opponent’s ground game. Keeping our defensive line “on the move” can have a disruptive effect on the blocking schemes of opposing OL. In addition, post snap line movement also allows us to utilize more athletic DL and still be effective against the run. Our defensive line post snap movements are organized into three categories: full line, partial line and individual. These three categories give us a variety of answers to limit an opponent’s running attack. This article will focus primarily on our basic full and partial line movements.


Base Alignment

Our “base” even front (against 11 personnel) is a “G” look with a 9-3-2i-5 upfront. (Diagram 1) We like the 2i technique with our nose because we feel that this gives him a better chance to react to any combination blocks involving the center and the guard. We will occasionally have our nose aligned in a 1 tech but that would only be when we feel he has a physical advantage over an opposing center.


Our philosophy against the inside zone is to take away what an opposing RB does best. For example, if an opposing RB is a natural cutback runner, we want to force him to commit to his original aiming point. We will take away his cutback lanes by using post-snap movement. We feel that by making the RB “play left-handed” we can gain an advantage. In addition, we also believe that post-snap movement can have a negative impact on the execution of opposing OL. Most OL that we face use what we perceive as “covered/uncovered” rules on the inside zone. They want to have “their two” block “our two”. Meaning 2 OL work in concert to block the down linemen in front of them and also have responsibility for a second-level defender. We believe that post-snap movements (slants) can help us dictate which OL will climb to the second level. The object here is to give our second-level defenders more favorable matchups and to have some measure of control over our opponent’s scheme of execution.

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William and Mary’s Triple Option Build-Ins off Outside Zone

By Mike Kuchar with Mario Acitelli
Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach
University of William and Mary
Twitter: @CoachAcitelli



The genesis of the idea occurred in 2021 when the William and Mary offensive staff felt they were getting too much pressure off the backside of the Tribe’s most efficient run concept, the outside zone. That and linebackers were finding ways to create run-throughs so the play could not get started. “When you run the scheme as much as we do, linebackers are going to push so your angles get shaky,” he said.

So, he and the William and Mary staff spent the entire off-season digging deeper into how to solve the problem. They tinkered with Nakeds but that didn’t give them the solution they needed. They wanted to keep the ball on the ground. “You can’t run wide zone with no backside edge control consistently,” he said. “Defenses will adapt by pushing second-level defenders. You have to build controls in to handle that.” The answer took shape in the form of pure triple option concepts on the backside. It made sense. It’s been done before off the inside zone, so why not off of the outside zone? The wide zone action lends itself to read defenders not being able to “surf” and play both the quarterback and the dive. Plus, it made things easier for skill players who are used to doing those things. Last season, William and Mary played 132 snaps with two quarterbacks on the field.


We’re going to dive into how the staff at William and Mary builds these triple option concepts off its wide zone run play.


RB Aiming Point: Why Pistol Works Better

William and Mary have been a Pistol operation for the last couple of seasons, which essentially contributed to backside edge defenders being able to run down the play. So, when devising these read elements, Coach Acitelli thought it best to stay in gun alignments so that the quarterback could see the read. “The hardest part in sidecar alignments is that the back is not in line with the Center which is an invaluable coaching point to run the play successfully,” he said. “You can get backdoored in Gun by the backside linebacker. If the play is in Pistol or under Center, the linebacker cannot backdoor you and make the play.”

This is why the read element works best in sidecar alignments. He did mention that the offensive line has to be more square in the sidecar than in Pistol. “If you are uncovered (lineman) working to a second-level defender in the sidecar, you can’t be as wide,” he said. “You have to tempo yourself. That is a hard thing to learn and understand, so it took a lot of reps.”

We’ll dive into those read elements shortly. But first, these are the base ways William and Mary run the outside zone. It’s important to note that different terms are used to call the play to the three-surface side vs. the two-surface side.

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UCONN’s Quick Game Controls off Wide Zone

By Gordon Sammis with Mike Kuchar
Offensive Line Coach
University of Connecticut
Twitter: @CoachSammis



Everywhere Gordon Sammis has been, the wide zone has been his most efficient concept. A true Alex Gibbs disciple, Coach Sammis installed the wide zone at VMI, William and Mary, and now UCONN. And walking into the meeting rooms at Storrs it’s clear that offensive line culture is built off this concept. There is signage that reads loud and clear:

“If you can’t run outside zone, you can’t play here. If you don’t like outside zone you don’t belong here. If you don’t execute the outside zone, we won’t win here.”

“We are going to get our PHD in the wide zone play,” he says. “It’s the one run in my mind where I don’t necessarily need to block the box and be okay. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. He can be a runner or a statue because we will cut the backside guy free and our aiming point should help us win.”


RB Landmarks:

In true Alex Gibbs style, the play side tight end (or ghost tight end in a two-surface formation) is the aiming point for the ball carrier. And the emphasis is getting to the aiming point. “We talk about not losing ground with your feet because the back will get scared,” he said. “Once you get the ball start getting downhill right away and run the outside edge of the hole. We call it ‘riding the wave.’” The ball carrier still reads the number one (defensive end) to the number two (next adjacent defensive lineman inside) defender.


Simple Box Count System:

At UCONN, the emphasis in the scheme is blocking people, not gaps or areas. “We declare the front first and then everything off of the backers in the box,” he says. Once the front is declared it’s all about the plus-one backer or the minus-one backer and everyone knows their rules from there. The Mike is always declared as the play side of a two-linebacker box and the middle of a three-linebacker box. Anytime there is a plus one to the play side it’s considered the closed side, and the tight end is asked to handle that defender. “We care about the point but we are working as independent contractors from the front side to the backside,” he said. “Backside guys know that we can never make a combination call to Mike linebacker. If the Mike linebacker is backside, we should be in a man situation.”


Methodologies in Attacking Odd Looks:

UCONN has created different names for the wide zone, particularly against Odd, particularly on the backside where the Tackle had to alert the tight end whether to fan or not. “We had to get that related to the Tackle in a tempo system and we had more missed assignments on the backside than anything else,” said Coach Sammis. This is why the point is on the front side against Odd, because that linebacker is the play side of two.


If the backside tackle has man on or man outside, so they don’t sift and anytime the minus one is wide, they will just man block the backside. “It helps against defenses to the boundary because we got leverage on the backside,” said Coach Sammis. “If the Tackle was to the closed side he knew he had to sift. If it was open-sided, he could full reach. He didn’t need to hear the call. He just knew.”


This is why the outside zone became a great boundary-side run against Odd looks because defenses put their smaller defenders to the boundary, who may be a hybrid linebacker or rush defensive end, which allowed UCONN to get their bigger blockers on these types.


“No Fly (Motion)” Zone:

According to Coach Sammis, the issue with jet motions is that it presents a four count to the open side of the formation. Second-level players bump and the box count gets construed. “You’re presenting a picture and then you’re taking a blocker away at the point of attack,” Coach Sammis told us. “If they start rolling 3 strong or 3 buzz you’re going to be short a blocker.

We no longer can block a hat for a hat. Again, we don’t want to double to an area. We want to go to people. If that motion causes us issues with LB’s falling into the box play side, I don’t want to live in that world that week. I want them to get the safeties to rock and roll. Then we can bring that fly motion and run it the other way. We don’t want the minus one to become the Mike. We don’t want to screw with the box.”


Backside Blocking:

Before getting into how UCONN controls the backside of the wide zone scheme, it’s important to note that they no longer treat the frontside and backside the same. They used to but wound up torquing defenders right into the ball against ball carriers who were reading one to two on the play side. Now, it’s purely cutoff blocks only.

Now we will get into the various tags Coach Sammis and his staff will utilize to control the backside of wide zone.

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Florida State’s Two-Match Coverage with Invert Principles

By Mike Kuchar with Adam Fuller
Defensive Coordinator
Florida State University
Twitter: @CoachAdamFuller



As long as Adam Fuller is the defensive coordinator at Florida State, the unit will be a split safety defense. It’s how he cut his teeth from his days as the DC at Tennessee Chattanooga up through Marshall and now at Tallahassee. But when he got to Florida State two years ago, he had to find change-ups to play man-match defense with quarters principles. So, he devised a concept where corners can be over-the-top halves defenders, allowing safeties to be match players underneath. Essentially, it’s a two-man coverage concept with invert principles. It’s similar to robber but it’s true match coverage, where the removed defender on both sides (the Nickel and Will in Florida State’s system) are going to route disrupt who they are aligned on, but are responsible on route matches from inside out. According to Coach Fuller, it became a good way to handle inside and outside smash routes and was an easy answer to defend those shake routes that are so prevalent in Empty formations.

Remember, it’s based out of split safety rules- so that field side and boundary side play independent of one another. The Weak Safety and Field corner are the deep halves defenders and everyone else switches responsibilities. Where it differs from true Cover 5 (two-deep man under) principles is that the Mike linebacker becomes the Nickel, the Nickel becomes the corner, the Free Safety becomes the Mike and the field corner becomes the Free Safety. Or, as Coach Fuller put it more simply: the field corner has the outside half and everyone else has the in and up of the next adjacent receiver.

Still sound confusing? We’ll go into depth below:


Base Rules:


Boundary Corner:

We’ll start at the boundary where the boundary corner will have all of number one. This is not different than traditional two-man concepts where the boundary safety (Buck in FSU’s system) can help with everything vertical. The boundary corners main rule is to force the route back inside.


Buck Safety (Weak Safety):

In this coverage concept, the buck is an extra defender who will play off the release of number one to the boundary. He’s taught to bounce, slide, and help defend the vertical of number one. He can be no further than two yards outside the hash.


Part of the reason why this coverage is advantageous is gives the opportunity to have the Buck play over the top of any smash routes into the boundary.


This is his traditional rule against single-width formations. Against any double-width formations into the boundary, the weak safety will operate in the same way as the field corner, which we will explain below.

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Lead Draw Footwork and Varying Mesh Points on Backside of Duo

By Mike Kuchar with Sean Devine
Offensive Line Coach
Villanova University (PA)
Twitter: @devine_sean



Like most Duo operations, Villanova terms the front side as the back side as vice versa. The play is meant to wind back. But in order to shore up the front side, there can be no penetration on the backside. And against Odd fronts, that can become an issue. That’s why Villanova coach Sean Devine teaches lead draw footwork and lead draw timing. “It’s much more suitable to build a wall on the backside by presenting pass protection,” said Coach Devine. “We did it against Odd fronts with the 4i because of movement. The Guard and Tackle are responsible for those two defenders. And you can pass those guys off better.”



Villanova makes its identification very simple. The Center counts to three outside in from the backside and will block number three. That is the defender he is working toward. If he’s covered vs. Odd, he calls for help with Guard and the Center always steps opposite of his help.

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