Run Game Concepts vs. Defensive Movements

May 9, 2014 | Offense, Run Game

By Justin Iske - @justiniske

Offensive Line Coach

Fort Hays State University


Editor's Notes: Justin Iske begins his fourth season on the coaching staff at Fort Hays State in 2014. Iske coaches the FHSU offensive line and serves as the team’s strength coach. In Iske’s first three seasons at FHSU, he has coached seven All-MIAA selections on the offensive line, led by two-time second team selection Hawk Rouse in 2011 and 2012 and second-team selection Mario Abundez in 2013. The Tiger offensive line helped produce an average of over 2,000 rushing and 2,000 passing yards per year in Iske's three seasons. Iske came to FHSU after two seasons at Northwestern Oklahoma State University where he was the offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and offensive line coach. His 2010 team won the conference championship and led the conference in rushing offense, sacks allowed and kickoff returns.


One of my pet peeves about clinic presentations has always been that coaches discuss the running game versus base defensive fronts only. Obviously in game situations, the defense isn’t going to sit in their base defense all the time. We must realize that defensive coaches and players watch film, too. And they are going to adjust what they do both pre and post-snap to try to stop what we do best. The purpose of this article is to discuss blocking three base run schemes against defensive movement (slants/twists/blitzes/etc.)

At Fort Hays State, we break down our running game into three base categories:

  • Zone Runs (Inside and Outside Zone Plays) – On these running plays, each offensive lineman is responsible for his playside gap.
  • Box Runs (Inside Zone Plays) – On these running plays, the o-line is responsible for all players in the tackle/tight end box and each offensive lineman is responsible for his backside gap.
  • Gap Runs (Power / Counter Plays) – On these running plays, the frontside o-linemen are responsible for their backside gaps, we are pulling one or more backside o-linemen and we will hinge the backside tackle/tight end.

In teaching our run game as a limited number of concepts instead of individual plays, we are able to have a diverse ground attack with multiple backfield actions with limited teaching of footwork, hand placement, and other fundamentals for our guys up front. Depending on our personnel at quarterback, running back, and receiver; we can adapt our run game with various reads and combo plays as well.

We teach assignments to our o-line and tight ends similar to a matchup zone concept in basketball. Our goal is to get double teams on down linemen when possible while still being gap sound. All defensive fronts are grouped into five basic categories:

  • Split (four down linemen / two linebackers in the box) Diagram 1
  • Stack (three down linemen / three linebackers in the box) Diagram 2
  • Over (four down linemen / three linebackers in the box) Diagram 3
  • Okie (three down linemen / two linebackers in the box) Diagram 4
  • Bear (both guards and the center are covered by a down lineman) Diagram 5


In addition, we use four differen base calls to classify front movements.  They are as follows:


Our center will make a front call on every snap. Based on the front call, we know who will be working in combination with who up front. However, any threat to our gap will override our base assignment.


Zone Concepts

The inside zone concept has always been the first thing we put in every fall and spring. We have several zone concepts with slight change-ups by certain personnel but they all fall under the same teaching; we are responsible for our playside gap. This is true whether we are running an inside zone concept (base block technique) or an outside zone concept (reach block technique).