By John Sexton
Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach
Central Catholic High School (MA)
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:
- QB hands the ball to the tailback and he runs the ball
- QB pulls ball and runs it himself
- 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. Here is how the drill works:
We set up a center with a football in each A gap. We run the drill to both sides, alternating back and forth. You’ll need 4 scout team guys on each side to play the role of defenders: a C gap defender, a Flat defender, a cornerback and an Inside Backer who holds a bag that the TB can make a cut off of when he is handed the ball.
I stand behind the offense and give the C gap defender and then the flat defender hand signals. Basically, it’s either a crash or stay signal for the C gap defender and a crash or cover signal for the Flat defender. If I give the C gap player a Stay signal, he either stands still or comes up the field which tells the QB to hand the ball to the tailback. The QB carries out his run fake, the slot carries out his bubble and the X/Z blocks the corner. If I give the C gap defender a crash signal, the QB pulls the ball. The tailback still explodes into the LOS to hold the interior defenders.