Mid/Outside Zone Case 2: OL Pre Snap Reads & Rules

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

By Mike Kuchar - @MikeKKuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs


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In this case, we will present various pre-snap identification systems that coaches are using to teach their lineman who to block in the middle and wide zone run concepts.  Since defenses will stem, move and shift pre-snap, it’s essential that the offensive line knows exactly who they are responsible for by the time the ball is snapped.  While some coaches talk more about “running your track” on the wide zone concepts, others are more concerned about identifying defenders on the first and second level.  Below we present the base rules for the middle zone/wide zone run schemes and the adjustments coaches make to pre-snap movement. 




Defensive Identification Systems



According to our research, 33.3 percent of coaches teach their players to identify defensive fronts by concepts, such as an “Odd” or “Even” distinguishment.  30 percent of coaches teach them to identify them by both numbers and names while 13.3 percent teach them to identify defensive structures by numbers.




Identification by Numbers



At Western Connecticut State University, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Drew Owens, relies on the count system to teach his lineman who to block based off three different fronts- 42 Over, 42 Under and 34.  Owens believes that most fronts will fall into one of those structures below. 





Owens described his count system below:


Zone Scheme Counting

  • As an offensive line we use a count system pre-snap in our zone schemes
    • Our center will identify the point and the point or “zero” is where we build from
      • Center Blocks 0
        • Zero in our zone schemes is the first defender head up to playside the center
      • Guards Block 1
        • First man playside and backside of the zero
      • Tackles Block 2
        • Second man playside and backside of the zero
    • This is a pre-snap identifier for our OL
      • The type of zone called gives the OL their technique and departure angles from the LOS


Identification by Structures

At Eastern Carolina University, offensive line coach Brandon Jones talks to his lineman about blocking the middle zone against only four different kinds of fronts- Nickel, Odd, Stack and Even.  Since the Pirates are mainly a 10 personnel team, the box is using clean enough where the lineman can make one of four calls.  Below is how he blocks the play based on the front.

Nickel= 4-2 Box (four down linemen and two second level players)


Odd= 3-2 Box (three down linemen and two second level players)


Stack= 3-3 Box (three down lineman and three second level player)


Even= 4-1 Box (four down lineman and one second level player)