By George Penree,
Offensive Line Coach
Utica College (NY)
Editor’s Note: The following clinic report was written by Utica College (NY) offensive line coach George Penree, a post he has held since 2007. In 2010 Utica broke more school-records including points in a single game (78), pass completions (231), passing a receiving yards (2,742), passing yards per game (274.2), total offensive yards (4,007), total yards of offense per game (400.7), and all purpose yards (5,049). Coach Penree will be happy to answer any comments or questions by leaving them below.
I would like to thank X&O Labs and all the great coaches who have influenced me over the years. I would like to discuss how we at Utica College teach the inside and outside zone using three-person groups, which is something we do once a week for a ten-minute individual period (five minutes for inside zone and five minutes for outside zone).
Before getting into the actual drills, a few things must be understood. The inside and outside zone blocking concepts are based on the teaching that in any inside or outside zone play there are "covered" and "uncovered" linemen.
- Covered linemen are those that have a defender in an alignment directly across from them.
- Uncovered linemen are exactly that, they do not have a defender aligned across from them.
I talk to my players about the different covered alignments a defender can have. The defender can either align to the play side (the side the ball is being run to), or backside (the side the ball is being run away from.) The covered lineman will first diagnose if he is covered play side, or covered backside. The uncovered linemen’s universal rule is to work with the next covered linemen to the play side. They have to diagnose what alignment the defender is in on the covered linemen they are working with. The covered lineman will make the call. If the uncovered lineman will look to the play side to identify the player and technique he is using. Once our guys understand these alignments, they then perform the technique best suited to block defenders in the different alignments.
I use these tables to organize all the techniques I have to teach in meetings and practice. It also gives our guys the ability to quickly recall the technique best used to block the defenders aligned across from them.
The table below explains the four situations we encounter on inside zone.
|Covered / Uncovered||Play side / Backside||Technique Used|
|Covered||Play side||Drive Block|
|Covered||Backside||Stab and Demeanor|
|Uncovered||Play side||Check and Climb|
The table below explains the four situations we encounter on outside zone.
|Covered / Uncovered||Playside / Backside||Technique Used|
|Covered||Backside||Reach, Stab, Climb|
|Uncovered||Play side||Reach, Check, Climb|
|Uncovered||Backside||Reach, Run, Takeover|
Blocking Technique Coaching Points:
- Get helmet on play side number of defender.
- First step is the lead step, so set distance - landmark outside number.
- Second step is the power step. The backside leg should get back underneath shoulder pads (regain leverage).
- Engage with defensive lineman with inside hand placement.
- Gradually climb the block. Start low and finish high.
Stab and Demeanor Block:
- Step with play side foot, pick it up and put it down.
- Second step is a "crotch step." Drive back side foot through midline of defender (splitting his crotch).
- Inside arm should engage somewhere near play side number. Keep elbow tight and tucked to your body.
- Have good demeanor, knees inside ankle, ankle inside feet; duck walk defender back by keeping outside arm free in case of widening linebacker.
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Check and Climb Block:
- Take lateral step with play side foot, but shoulder should be squared.
- Get back side foot to shoulder pad (regain leverage).
- Get eyes go to near gap.
- If no first level defender in gap, duck walk to second level.
- First level defender: drive block through back side number of defender.
Lateral Drive Block:
- Take lateral step to close gap by keeping shoulders square.
- Second step comes back underneath shoulder pads (regain leverage).
- Use two hand drive through backside number of defender.
- Climb the block.
- Aiming point is play side shoulder
- First step - depth and width step. Loose ground, but gain width.
- Second step - predicated on how hard DL fights towards ball
- If DL is even with OL - (stack the feet) take backside leg, don’t crossover, point toe at end zone, bench press with outside arm and torque him back inside.
- If DL widens - crossover and run, so head to get to play side shoulder
Reach, Stab and Climb Block:
- "Hold defender up" so uncovered player can reach him.
- First step - get depth and width on play side foot and put inside arm on near shoulder pad; shock (stab) defensive lineman with inside hand and work to second level defender.
- If second level defender is head up, our lineman will block him; otherwise look backside. Don’t chase second level players over the top.
Reach, Check and Climb Block:
- Same footwork, but no stab.
- Uncovered lineman is reading the near knee of defender.
- If near knee comes at us - work reach block.
- If near knee goes away - climb to second level.
Reach, Run and Takeover Block:
- Uncovered lineman will run laterally to get his head on the play side shoulder of defender.
- Once head is on play side number, execute reach block technique.
We use simple rules to determine if you are "covered" or "uncovered." In most cases, if there is a defensive lineman across the LOS from you then you are "covered." If there is no defensive lineman across from you then you are "uncovered."
But we do have two exceptions to our covered rule:
- A center with a backside shade technique will be uncovered. The backside guard knows that he is responsible for the shade.
- A backside tackle with a five-technique will be uncovered. This player will be taken care of with a fullback or tight end.
Determining Play side or Backside shade
We never use the terminology "inside" or "outside" shade when talking about our zone concepts because we feel our zone concepts mandate that we all work together in the direction of the play when exiting the line of scrimmage. Our guys know that based upon the play direction they are covered or uncovered either to the play side or backside. For example, if an offensive lineman is covered and the ball is going to his right, and there is a defender on his right side. If the defender is aligned on the left then we are covered on the backside.
Our uncovered players work with the next covered lineman to the play side whom are either uncovered to the play side or back side based upon the alignment of the defender on the covered lineman. This is important to determine because it dictates what kind of technique our linemen use to block their combinations.
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Once our linemen have an understanding of alignments and the techniques used to block them we separate into 3 person groups. These groups are not based on position because I feel that every lineman must be able to play every position. The interesting fact with zone blocking schemes is that the techniques are relative to each lineman regardless of their position. From our 3 person group I have 2 linemen on offense and 1 on defense. I align the defender to the outside of the lineman to the right or the left based upon play. I have the offensive lineman get in their proper stance, alignment, and split. I will have multiple groups going at the same time working on the same technique. I give the cadence, and on a pre determined snap count, the offensive linemen execute their zone combination techniques based upon the alignment of the defenders. There will be a total of six scenarios that we work below.
Scenario 1: Inside Zone to the Right/Left (Covered Play /Side/Uncovered Play Side)
The covered lineman executes a drive block while the uncovered lineman executes a check and climb technique. He is checking the "near knee" of the defender. If that "near" knee goes up the field then we climb to the second level for the linebacker. Once the blocks are accomplished and we have a good finish, they quickly rotate clockwise and get back on the line for the next drill and we repeat.
Scenario 2: Inside Zone to the Right/Left (Covered Backside/Uncovered Backside)
The covered lineman, who has the backside shade, executes a stab block while the uncovered lineman executes a lateral drive block. The covered lineman posts up the defender and drives his hand through the inside number of the defender. The uncovered lineman uses lateral footwork and drives through the outside number of the defender. The two lineman combo together in a hip to hip fashion for a few yards and finish the blocks. Once finished they will rotate clockwise and get back on the line.
Scenario 3: Inside Zone to the Right/Left (Covered Backside/Uncovered Backside) Head Up Alignment
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We treat any head up alignment in our zone combinations as a backside shade. Our techniques would be the same as if the defender was truly inside of us.
Scenario 4: Outside Zone to the Right/Left (Covered Play side/Uncovered Play side)
The covered lineman executes a reach block while the uncovered lineman executes a reach, check and climb technique. He is checking the "near knee" of the defender. If that "near" knee goes laterally away from him then he climbs to the second level for the Linebacker. He wants to remain patient before his climb and make sure the covered lineman has him reached. Once the blocks are accomplished and we have a good finish, they quickly rotate clockwise and get back on the line for the next drill and we repeat.
Scenario 5: Outside Zone to the Right/Left (Covered Backside/Uncovered Backside)
The covered lineman executes a reach, stab and climb block while the uncovered lineman executes a reach, run and takeover technique. The covered lineman wants to remain patient before climbing and allow the uncovered lineman to take over the block and reach the defender. Our uncovered lineman that is coming off will reach the backside player and make a "you, you" call alerting the covered player he can climb. Once the blocks are accomplished and we have a good finish, they quickly rotate clockwise and get back on the line for the next drill and we repeat.
Scenario 6: Outside Zone to the Right/Left (Covered Backside/Uncovered Backside) Head Up Alignment
The covered lineman executes a reach, stab and climb block while the uncovered lineman executes a reach, run and takeover technique. The covered lineman wants to remain patient before climbing and allow the uncovered lineman to take over the block and reach the defender. If the defender were to go to the play side then the covered lineman would execute a reach block and the uncovered lineman would climb to the second level. Once the blocks are accomplished and we have a good finish, they quickly rotate clockwise and get back on the line for the next drill and we repeat.
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For coaches that want to implement the pods method, I can’t stress enough the fact that they need to work the individual blocks first. We work our one on one block techniques on chutes and bags first before working with a partner in the pods drill. If a covered player doesn’t know how to block a defender on his own, the uncovered player can serve no purpose. Again, thanks for your attention and please feel free to contact me with questions below.
Questions or Comments? Coach Penree has agreed to respond to your questions or comments. Please post your question or comment below and Coach Penree will respond shortly.
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