Mid/Outside Zone Case 1: Personnel & Coaching Ball Carriers

Jan 21, 2015 | Offense, Run Game, Wide Zone Run Concepts

By Mike Kuchar - @MikeKKuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs


Please Note: We've included a lot of video in this case report, it may take a few minutes for all the video to load on your computer.  Thank you.



In Case 1, of our special report, we will present our research on the varying personnel groupings and entry points most utilized in the outside zone and middle zone scheme.  In any zone concept, the aiming points of the ball carrier can be just as important as the actual blocking schemes themselves.  We’ve found that many offensive line coaches, such as Alex Gibbs, coached the running backs just as hard as they coached the offensive line.   When referencing the zone schemes, we’ve heard many coaches talk about “let the running back make you right” which essentially means the onus of the success of the play relies on the ball carrier making the right decision at the point of attack.  If that’s the case, then it’s essential to discuss the importance the ball carrier has on the scheme. 

When conducting our research on the wide zone scheme, we did find it not to be as popular as tight zone concepts.  In fact, according to our research, 50.5 percent of coaches only utilize the wide zone concept between 0-25 percent of the time.   Yet, 43.8 percent of those coaches said they averaged between 5-6 yards per carry on this scheme.  So we asked around to find out why coaches are not using the scheme as much. 

Before we start addressing the specifics of the wide zone concept, it’s important to note that there are various play concepts that can be devised from the wide zone blocking schemes.   Some of these concepts include, but are not limited to…

  • Jet or speed sweep
  • Speed Option
  • Toss Sweep
  • Stretch Scheme (one back)
  • Boss concept (two back)

Editor’s Note:  This special report is focused solely on wide zone and middle zone run concepts which require tighter aiming points than inside zone.   It will not include perimeter gap schemes like the pin and pull concept that may be common perimeter run concepts.  Insider members can find more information on the pin and pull concept by accessing the following reports:

Monmouth University Pin and Pull Scheme

Formationing the Shotgun Buck Sweep


The Case for Pin and Pull

There have been various situations where coaches would prefer to use a pin and pull or man blocking concept rather than a full zone.  One of the more common examples would be against an Over defense with a wide three-technique and a tight six-technique head up the defensive end.  Longtime NFL offensive coordinator Bill Muir used what he termed a “bingo” call against teams that would have a wide three-technique that couldn’t be blocked by the Guard.  The Tackle would just come down and the Guard would pull around.  “When we made that call, there was no cutback,” said Muir.  “It was an off-tackle stretch scheme.  I have the players the option and when you trust the judgment of the players, I allowed the onside Guard to determine if it was a three-technique against an Even front or the onside Tackle vs. a 5-technique in an Odd front if they were unreachable, they can make a call and we would go into the scheme.  This could change during the course of the game.  I gave them responsibility because it was their decision. “  Muir did tell us that against some fronts with a quicker Shade Nose he didn’t like the stretch scheme because the Center couldn’t reach the shade Nose.  “All of a sudden the back reads the 5-technique and cuts it back right to the shade Nose who is there to make the play.” said Muir.   


Reader Responses on when to use Pin/Pull Schemes

Some other coaches chimed about the certain circumstances they choose to use a pin and pull concept rather than a full zone principle.

“We will use Pin and Pull concept against a three-technique and a five-technique front side.  It’s a cross block technique.”- Mark Staten, Michigan State University 

We will use the pin / pull concept when we feel the c gap defender is too wide for the tackle to reach block. We also use this technique in our TE/wing and bunch sets where the TE's man is too wide to zone block effectively.” - Terry Kent, Downers Grove South HS, [email protected]

“We use Pin and Pull with Tight End against a 5-technique or 7-technique.  We will also Pin and Pull vs. a 6-technique with a TE/Wing.  If we see a base 4-3 or 3-4 we use zone concepts with Stretch rules.” - Kenneth McClamrock, Concord HS, [email protected]

“Against odd fronts we will use our stretch technique to avoid opening large windows for LB's to run through.” - Tony Neymeiyer, Baldwin Wallace University, [email protected]

“Against a defensive line that is better than us, it gives us angles to pin and pull so we use the man concept.” - Tim Halverson, Mount Horeb/Barneveld, [email protected]