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IMG 0481By Ben Malbasa, Head Coach, University School (OH)

Add power and technique to your inside zone play with these simple off the line techniques for the Y.


By Ben Malbasa
Head Coach 
University School (OH)
Twitter: @BMalbasa

Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report.



IMG 0481Those of us who run variations of the Spread offense are well aware of the potential drawbacks of this offensive approach. They include a lack of physicality at the point of attack, the difficulty for defensive units when they face power-oriented teams, and the inability to run the ball with a lead in the fourth quarter among others. While my experiences have taught me that these criticisms are not without merit, I believe that the benefits of an up-tempo, wide-open approach have always outweighed these occasional frustrations.

During the past two seasons, we have utilized a slot-style tight end (some would refer to him as an “H-Back”, and we call him the “Y”) in order to have the flexibility to create additional gaps for the defense to defend, and to make our running game more multiple. This has addressed some of the issues listed above and provided more options for us in all facets of our offensive game.


Choosing this player is an important part of allocating offensive personnel. The ideal Y in our system is strong enough to successfully kick out opposing ends, fast enough to threaten the deep middle of the field, and skilled enough to be an effective pass catcher. In other words, our Y is a hybrid of a fullback, tight end, and inside receiver. If we have a player who fits this mold, we consider ourselves especially fortunate because it means we do not have to change personnel to alter our formations. If such a hybrid is not in your program, our objectives in the run game would dictate playing the linebacker or fullback type in the role.

Base Inside Zone Scheme

Like many Spread teams, our base run play is the Inside Zone and the Zone Read has been part of our first practice installation plan every season. In our version of Inside Zone, we teach our back to aim for the near hip of the center and read the back side A gap. If it is open, he explodes through the hole; if it is closed, he bends back to escape through the back side B gap (Diagram 1). Our running backs and quarterbacks practice the mesh and read almost every day, and we position a defender for the running back to read while attacking his aiming and escape points.


To see cutups of the base Inside Zone read concept, click on the video below:

Variations of Role of Y in the Inside Zone

Utilizing an off-the line tight end has not changed our approach to the Zone Read, but it has given us many more tools in the toolbox for attacking the defense.

First, it has given us a go to run play that does not involve a quarterback read. We call this “Slice” and it requires our Y to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage (Diagram 2). This makes the play a version of the split zone creating a huge advantage for us. Defensive ends now have questions: “Is the offense reading me, or will the offense trap me?”


To see cutups of the base Inside Zone slice concept, click on the video below:


Skip and Slam Concepts…

Join X&O Labs’ Insiders (an exclusive membership-based website) and get instant access to the full-length version of this clinic report including Coach Malbasa’s Skip and Slam concepts from the Inside Zone. Here’s just a small list of what you’ll find in the full-length version…

  • Coach Malbasa’s Inside Zone “Skip” concept including blocking rules, techniques of the Y and game film.
  • Coach Malbasa’s Inside Zone “Slam” concept including blocking rules, techniques of the Y and game film.
  • How Coach Malbasa uses bags and one-man sleds to teach the varying blocking techniques of the Slot Y and how much time he spends on it daily.
  • VIDEO: Watch video of these concepts in live game situations.

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Having the ability to Read, Slice, Skip, and Slam utilizing our Inside Zone run scheme has given our run game much greater versatility while also preparing our defense to face a variety of looks. I hope you will be able to find a way to use something from this clinic report in the upcoming season.

Meet Coach Malbasa: Ben Malbasa teaches English and coaches football at University School. He and his wife, Christi, have four children. A graduate of John Carroll University, St. John's College, and Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Ben practices law part-time in addition to his work in education.




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