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John Sexton, Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach, Central Catholic High School (MA)

Great drills are efficient, fast, and work the players on multiple levels. This Zone Bubble Drill does all that and more. Read about it here...


By John Sexton
Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach
Central Catholic High School (MA)
Twitter: @JohnSexton20

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As a Hurry-Up, Spread offense the inside zone run is our bread and butter. We feel we can run IZ into any front or any call that the opposing defense gives us and have a successful play. Our entire inside run game catalog and the majority of our perimeter screen game are predicated on our ability to run some variation of inside zone.

That said, we understand that it does not make sense to continue to try to run the ball into a loaded box. We must have a way to counteract defenses who have loaded the box with personnel to take away our inside run game. The perimeter screen game forces a defense to widen and remove players from the box. Once they remove defenders to play the bubble (or Hitch/Stay/Smoke), we go back to running the ball between the tackles. It’s a never ending cat and mouse game.

We made the decision 4 seasons ago to tag the bubble screen onto all inside zone runs and it has transformed us as an offense. Our inside zone now is truly a triple option football play:

  1. QB hands the ball to the tailback and he runs the ball
  2. QB pulls ball and runs it himself
  3. QB pulls ball and then throws the bubble screen out to the perimeter.

None of this is earth-shattering or revolutionary but it is effective if done properly. We just needed to find an efficient and effective way to practice these things. That is what this article is about.

Drilling the Bubble

They say necessity is the mother of invention and in this case it certainly rings true. As an offensive staff, we loved the idea of tagging the bubble onto these runs full time but at first we were having a hard time executing the whole play, particularly the bubble portion. It just wasn’t timing up well and we had to come up with a way to work on it and fix it. What we came up with is a drill that we have done 1-2 times a week for the last 4 seasons (more than that during preseason camp) and it has been an enormous part of our offensive success. 

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  • The coaching points for the quarterback on the zone bubble drill.
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We love this drill for many reasons. During this drill the tailbacks are working on footwork, mesh points with the QB’s, exploding toward the LOS and making 1 cut and getting downhill. Our X and Z’s (Outside WR’s)  are working our outside number blocking technique, hand placement and finishing aggressive blocks. The slots are working on their footwork running the bubble screen, keeping their eyes on the QB and their navel pointed toward the LOS, catching the football and making a cut off the outside blocks. The QB’s are practicing footwork, mesh points with the TB’s, reading the C Gap defender, reading the Flat defender, running the ball and throwing the bubble screen. If you have enough guys to run this drill on each side of the field and move back and forth between the two, you can get 40-45 reps in a ten minute period once your players get the hang of it.


Meet Coach Sexton: Coach John Sexton currently serves as the Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach at Central Catholic High School-Lawrence in Massachusetts. In the past four seasons under head coach Chuck Adamopoulos, Central Catholic is 39-6 with four consecutive conference championships, a state championship in 2013 and a state runner-up in 2015. 



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