By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikeKKuchar



When defenses add safeties into the box it leaves an offense with two options: read him with an RPO or go right after him in the run game. One prominent SEC OL coach told X&O Labs he’ll choose the latter:  “If he wants to come fit let our back go one on one with that dude.” In an X&O Labs exclusive interview, this coach talks about why a numbering system slows down tempo offenses, how he implements key breakers in the H/Y off formations and what he does to handle back side 4i defenders in the odd front, all focal points of the insert zone study X&O Labs released in February. We wanted this perspective on how coaches were teaching the insert zone as it pertains to the following four contentious issues in blocking the inside zone:

  • The issue of using covered/uncovered principles vs. a numbering system in tempo offenses

  • Why changing the back’s landmark to combat defensive back gapping is flattening out the zone scheme

  • Implementing key breakers in the H/Y Off formation

  • What to do to handle the read side 4i defender in Odd front 

His thoughts on these topics are below:

On Using Covered/Uncovered Principles vs. a Numbering System…

“We’re more along the lines of what Joe Freitag (the offensive line coach at Monmouth College IL) is doing with just blocking fronts and not going to a numbering system. We don’t use covered and uncovered rules. We block what is in front of us, rather than saying ‘this guy is a minus one or this guy is a zero.’ Then when the ball snaps they move and it changes everything. You better be ready to play when the ball is snapped. You can’t overload your offensive line with too much information. You don’t want to over coach it.”

On Defensive Back Gapping…

“This is what people are going to see more and more of. Defenses are trying to fit everything like a 4-3 team with the safety being the front side fitter. You can either control that safety with an RPO or you can block the hats we are responsible for. My mindset is screw that guy. If that guy is going to come fit, we will let our back go one on one with that dude and see if he wants to be the leading tackler of the team. If he wants to be, then we will have our moments as well.

The other thing you can do is push to him with our coding like a gang call.  We did this against one program this season who was blitzing as soon as they got off the bus. We gang called everything and gap tracked it. The whole key with that is getting in vertical tracks after the first step. We would go lateral for six inches than press vertical. If you don't everything starts to wash sideways. Now the track of your line doesn’t match the track of your back. For us, we only have one landmark on our inside zone concept, which is the crack of the Center’s butt. In your study, North Cobb High School (GA) talked about not changing landmarks and that is like us. We don't want it to change. We want to be consistent regardless of the front. You change the track and it becomes like a mid zone and not an inside zone. If you’re going to be a B gap zone team, that’s a mid zone.  It’s a totally different concept. It’s not a vertical departure angle. We want to get vertical. I don't want the line moving laterally on inside zone. When you start pushing the line to that fitter from the top shelf that is the danger of it. It flattens out and it moves laterally on what should be a vertical push.”

On the Benefits of Using Same Side Zone Schemes…

“What I find most interesting from the study is what coaches like Tyler Bowen (now the offensive line coach at Maryland) are using to break keys in the Y/H off inside zone scheme. If you don’t want to use pistol formations, this gives you another option.”

On Handling the Backside B Gap Defender…

“Against odd front, if I have two 4i technique’s with no overhangs, I will double team both 4i’s and solo block the Nose with my Center. We’ve also tight arced the tackle and read him or whammed that defender. To wham him or to run the cut iso, which was also detailed in your study. It is a really inexpensive add to the zone scheme. This past season one team wound up blowing up the mesh point in our zone schemes so instead of running split zone we would run split zone but lock the backside and insert for the backside linebacker. You’re getting a hat for the defensive end right now without giving him an opportunity for him to blow it up. We have tags that will get us to that stuff.  You’re still running an inside zone concept you’re just adjusting. It’s simple. You can get it taught and understood quickly.”

To read the entire study devoted to all of these components, click on the link below:


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