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Mustang PlayBy Jeremy Darveau, Offensive Coordinator, Southwest Minnesota State University (MN)

Southwest Minnesota State University was among the top 20 rushing programs in Division II football this season and ran the inside zone on one out of every two rushing downs. But it’s how the Mustangs ran the zone scheme that was different, teaching its backs a “Cram” principle which gives a quicker back side cutback post-snap. Both the offensive line coach and running backs coach detail the scheme below.

By Jeremy Darveau 
Offensive Coordinator

Southwest Minnesota State University (MN)
Twitter: @CoachDarveau


Mustang PlayThere is a difference between having the Inside zone scheme cutback and teaching the Inside zone to cutback.  Southwest Minnesota State does exactly that when working with its backs on the inside zone.  The Mustangs mostly operate out of open sets in 10 personnel with an offset and depending on the front given, they will have their back read the back side shade technique, or even zero technique in order to ensure a cutback. In its simplest sense, Southwest Minnesota State will classify their fronts and reads based on the following (they will mainly have a read principle for the back side defensive end):

4-3 front with a zero Mike linebacker- ball carrier reads the triangle and can cut off the shade (Diagram 1).


4-2 front with two backers- ball carrier reads the square and can cut off the shade (Diagram 2). 


3-2 front with two backers- ball carrier reads the square and can cut off the base nose (Diagram 3).


3-3 front with three backers- ball carrier reads the triangle and can cut off the base nose (Diagram 4).


The key in the scheme is for the back to chase the hip of the blocker blocking the read. The footwork of the back is an open, crossover and plant with the shoulders getting squared on the third step.  According to running backs coach, Evan Eastburn, the ball carrier will press the spine of the Center against a zero technique and anticipate the back side Guard knocking the Nose off the ball and opening the back side A gap.   “We will work the back side Tackle up to the play side linebacker and many times the ball will cutback behind the Tackle’s block,” said Eastburn. 

Against Even fronts, Eastburn told us he will rarely read a back side 3-techinque, but will do so against a 2i or a Shade technique.  “Many times that backside Guard can’t reach a 2i technique, so the back must chase the inside hip of the Guard blocking him,” said Eastburn.  “He will need to plant that inside foot and get north to south quickly.  Because you’re teaching a back side read, it takes care of any front side movements and exchanges.” 

In order to do this, Southwest Minnesota State University offensive line coach Jeremy Darveau teaches what he calls a “wash principle” on the back side of inside zone. In order to do this, he’ll teach his backside Guard to back up off the ball in order not to allow up field penetration.  He’ll use a 7-8 inch bucket step for the uncovered backside Guard with a play side number aiming point on the Nose.  “We try to get our contact point with our third step,” said Darveau.  “We target the play side number but probably will not get there.  The Nose still has to honor that and try to maintain A gap integrity.  In these situations, we’ll be heavy with our inside hand and wash him down the line of scrimmage forcing the ball to cut back behind us.”

To see video of the “Cram” principle, click on the link below:

NOTE:  This report is part of a larger, special report on blocking the Inside Zone Play.  This report focuses on the drill work that offensive line coaches use to teach various fundamentals on the Inside Zone.  It includes over 40 drill from programs at all levels of football (NFL, Collegiate and High School) and can be found below:

Click here to gain access to this full Special Report in addition to the rest of the Insiders Library.


Meet Coach Darveau:  Jeremy Darveau is in his sixth season on the SMSU coaching staff in 2013 and will serve as the team's offensive line coach and offensive coordinator.  He was elevated to offensive coordinator in the summer of 2013.  The Mustang offense has never been more potent than it was in 2013. SMSU broke numerous school and conference records including total offensive yards, rushing yards and total points scored. The SMSU offense also produced a school first Harlon Hill Trophy finalist in Running back Tyler Tonderum. Darveau also oversaw an offensive line that produced three All-NSIC linemen as well as 2 All-Region offensive linemen and one All-American. During the 2012 season.  SMSU set a school record with 23 rushing touchdowns, while averaging 171.6 yards per game, ranking second in school history.  Running backs Warren Matthews (first team) and Gannon Moore (second team) both earned All-NSIC honors and finished their careers ranking fourth and eight respectively on the school’s all-time rushing list.  Darveau oversaw an offensive line that ranked sixth in the NSIC in rushing offense, while three offensive linemen earned All-NSIC accolades.




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