Linebackers are too good and well coached these days to give them the same look every time. See how Coach Gower is changing up the picture for the edge to create an advantage for his offense. Read the report...
By James C. Gower
Offensive Line Coach
Tomball Memorial High School (TX)
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Zone read is no longer the new thing. Over the past 10 years, defenses have done a good job of catching up with the play and forcing offenses to look elsewhere to steal yards. While I still feel the zone read is a play that can consistently get your offense a consistent four yards per play, I think that offensive coaches need to add more wrinkles to slow the defenses recognition of the play. The “Wrong Way Inside Zone” has been our main wrinkle and this article will go over multiple ways you can incorporate it into your scheme.
Wrong Way (Inverted) Inside Zone
The Wrong Way Inside Zone is simply inside zone blocking with the RB and QB exchanging responsibilities. In the normal inside zone, the RB is the inside running threat and the QB is the outside running threat. Conversely, in wrong way inside zone, the RB is now the outside running threat, and the QB is the downhill, inside running threat.
A key to getting your 4+ yards per play on this concept is to get your backs to the second level. The way we coach this is telling our offensive line, “Men do not make plays in our backfield. Take care of the men, then the boys, and then the ladies.” Men are defensive linemen, boys are the linebackers, and ladies are defensive backs. Therefore, we spend a lot of time on these combination double teams. We have to know the defensive lineman is secured before we get off to the LB. If we’re unsure, we stay on him and let the RB take his chances with the LB. If the LB makes the play, we’re more than likely gaining something. If a defensive lineman makes the play, we’re probably suffering a loss of yardage.
When I came to Tombull, I analyzed their inside zone concepts from the year before and they only ran it 56 times for 149 yards (2.66 avg). Eleven of those 56 plays were negative yard plays (19.6%). No wonder they only ran it 56 times all year. As I analyzed the film, I saw a lot of offensive linemen bypassing defensive linemen to get to LBs only to have the defensive linemen making plays in the backfield. The first thing I corrected when I became the offensive line coach was to “take care of the men first” philosophy. This past season, we ran inside zone 161 times for 1,021 yards (6.34 avg.) Though we ran the play 105 times more in 2016 than they did in 2015, we only had 6 negative yard plays (3.7%). Were there times when we could have gotten up on a LB and didn’t? Sure there were, but preaching the mindset that no one was going to make a play in our backfield made it our dominant play.
If you are running the wrong way inside zone, it is essential that you have the QB hit the correct aiming point. I teach play side foot of the center (A gap) as an aiming point. We teach them that if nothing is in the A gap, hit it, and go. If something is in the A gap, cut back behind it, and get up field. We would prefer to run it weak so that we get two good double teams. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing an even or an odd front.
The main reason I like running the wrong way inside zone is it gives the defense another look that they probably haven’t worked on very much. While we can keep the overwhelming majority of our bread and butter play the same, we have given the BSDE a completely different look than he is used to seeing. It’s hard for him not to jump out and play the RB coming toward him which allows an offense with a good running QB a great opportunity for him to run behind the big boys. We also like this when the secondary is over rotating to our Trips side to play our pre-snap bubble. In 2012, because the way Texas City was over-rotating in the secondary (Diagram #7), we opened the second half with the wrong way inside zone and took it 51 yards to the house. It changed the tide of a very competitive, 21-21 game. We ended up winning 49-28.
This is really a change-up to what we do as our base inside zone. I think the more you do it, the more reps the DEs will get against it that week in practice. If it’s used as a wrinkle not a staple, you’re likely to catch someone off guard and get a big one with it. If you use it too much, they will dictate who they want to have get the call.
To study game film of these concepts, click on the video below:
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- The blocking rules Coach Gower will use for the wrong way zone against both even and odd fronts.
- What Coach Gower tells the RB as to not muddy the read key for the quarterback.
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- Plus game film on all these concepts.
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This suggestion is only a sample of what you could do. However, the key to being a good offense is first having an identity. At Fort Bend Marshall, Houston Madison, and now, even though we aren’t a tempo/no-huddle team, inside zone is who we are. Teams know what your bread and butter play is, and they will do anything they can to stop it and get you to do something else you’re less comfortable doing. Your job is to have ways to protect your bread and butter. Simple wrinkles like wrong way inside zone will help you in this regard. Wrong way inside zone changes the picture for the backside DE.
Meet Coach Gower: Coach Gower has spent six of his 19 years coaching as an offensive coordinator including four years at Fort Bend Marshall High School. While there, the Buffalos had a class 4A top 5 offense (total yards/rushing yards) in 2012 while going 13-1. The Buffalos were 33-13 in the four years he was at Fort Bend Marshall. This past season, Coach Gower took over as Offensive Line Coach at Tomball Memorial High School where he helped increase offensive productivity by 25% (2722 yards in 2015 to 3402 yards in 2016). He also assisted in reducing the number of negative offensive plays from 19% to 14% while running 114 more plays in 2016 than in 2015.