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lake erieBy Gerald Hazzard - @CoachHazzlec, Offensive Coordinator, Lake Erie University

Lake Erie University finished the 2013 season as the second best offense in Division 2- averaging 551 yards per game- and it did so by meshing the inside and outside zone to create a full-field zone concept. In doing so, the Storm averaged 7.8 yards per carry in the zone scheme and converted on 71.2 percent of third downs. Offensive Coordinator Gerald Hazzard details his full field zone concept in this clinic report.


By Gerald Hazzard - @CoachHazzlec

Offensive Coordinator

Lake Erie University

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lake erieEditor’s Note:  Assistant Head Coach Gerald Hazzard joined the Storm coaching staff as the offensive coordinator in January 2007. Hazzard was the first assistant hired by Mark McNellie. LEU finished 2013 as the second ranked offense in Division 2 averaging 551 yards per game. Hazzard coaches the quarterbacks and has produced 18 all GLIAC performers in 4 years. A 1999 graduate of North Olmsted High School, he was a three-year varsity fullback and linebacker. The Cleveland native and his wife, Emily, married in June 2007. The couple resides in Painesville with their children Gerald IV and Lucy.


One of the first questions I always get asked is “What do you run in short yardage and goal line situations?”  I always answer quickly that we do what we do best, and that is run zone.    This past season we converted 35/46 short yardage situations when we called a zone play.  Note:  for us, a short yardage situation to us is 3rd and 4th down with 1-3 yards to go, or running a play from the 3 yard line in. 

No matter what offensive system you use, I am firm believer that in critical situations you should always call the plays that you execute the best.  The zone is “what we do best” because we make it that way.  We spend 20 minutes a day working our zone concept with our linemen so it has to be what we do best.  We believe so much in zone blocking schemes that it encompasses about 75% of our run game. In addition, we make sure that the zone play gives us a few options to get the 3 yards that we need to move the chains. 

Here are a few of those concepts (some of which will be looked at later in the report):

  1. We are a read zone team, but we have the added dimension of incorporating a pitch guy anytime our QB pulls the football.  This can come from the slot or a second or third back.
  2. We run a “full field zone” as opposed to the inside or outside zone.  This concept allows the RB to take the ball anywhere from outside the 9 technique to the playside or outside the 5 technique to the backside all based on his two reads at the snap of the ball.
  3. We teach our linemen that we don’t need to drive the defense vertically on short yardage plays, we just need to make creases.  If we make a crease the RB just needs to hit the hole and fall forward and chances are we will move the chains.
  4. We will add an additional running back to lead the play if needed.  These aren’t traditional fullbacks, they are tailbacks that understand how to run the play as if they had the ball allowing them to read the defense and lead the back to the right hole in our full field zone.

QB ID’s and Reads in Zone Read

Our quarterback is also a key component to making our zone option work.  We are looking for quarterbacks that are great leaders and competitors.  The ability to run is an added bonus to the scheme but we can get away with someone who makes great decisions and may not run as well.  We run the triple option off of the vast majority of our zone plays. 

Another technique that we focus on with our QB’s is their arm extension.  During the read we want our QB to have his arms fully extended and we tell him to make his decision off the back of the tailbacks helmet. We want the QB to be very patient making his read.  The tailback will at some point cross his line of vision during the mesh of the play.  We want the QB to make his decision when the tailback has gone by and he can see the back of the tailbacks helmet. 

Coaching the TB to Read the Zone

The last major component of our zone option scheme is the tailback.  We are looking for speed, durability, and a guy who is a playmaker.  Size is not a big factor for us at this position.  Our current starter is only 5’7” 175lbs, but he rushed for 1,500 yards and had 24 touchdowns this past season.  Like the QB we back our tailback up.  He will align in the “B” gap with his toes at 6 yards to give him the maximum amount of time to read what the defense is doing.  Before the snap he is responsible for identifying the first down lineman past the center counting a half shade. 

Using this technique we are able to truly take advantage of what the defense gives us.  If our tail back is on his reads we will bounce our zone, cut it back, and hit all the interior gaps throughout a game. We tell our tailbacks to never fight the pull.  The decision to give or pull is completely in the hands of the QB.  On his fourth step he should be making his decision on what hole to hit.  On the fifth step we want our backs to be “shot out of a cannon”.  I want them to hit the hole as hard as they possibly can.  If they make a great read but are hesitant we will not get the yardage we should.  If they make a poor read but accelerate off the fifth step we still have a chance to make a play. 

Coaching the Pitch Player

We will bring our pitch guy from every single angle that we can dream up.  If he is backing up we tell him to take 3-4 steps back (will vary by kid and we don’t over coach it) and be patient.  One of the hardest things to get a kid to do is sit still on the football field.  They are not used to that.  We want him to use a 5 x 2 relationship with the QB (meaning 5 yards wider and 2 yards behind him).  We will also coach him to stay with the QB no matter where he goes.  If we send him in motion we tell him to use “controlled speed” so he does not get too far out in front.  If the motion carries him thru the backfield we want him to run thru the “heel line” and on the snap of the ball get into 5 x 2 relationship with the QB.

To see video of Lake Erie’s full-field zone read concept, click on the link below:


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  • The offensive line technique in the full-field zone concept including footwork, strike points and hand progression.
  • The back side Tackle’s rules and adjustments in the zone read including the “no one to veer to” rule.
  • How he teaches the QB to identify dive and pitch reads based on various defensive structures as well as the “rail-road spike” and “ripping the zone” post-snap footwork.
  • The ball carriers full field read in the zone and how to train his eyes for cutback.
  • How he’ll vary his pitch players based on formation, which can even include a backside X in trips sets.
  • Plus 37 clips of the full-field zone read concept from many different formations.

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