Stupidest Inside Zone

So one thing I have been doing a lot of thinking/soul searching about this off season is the Inside Zone play.  I have visited a few coaches, very well respected spread and TFS coaches and OL guys and they have all been shocked that we ran no IZ last year.

2 years ago we tried running IZ and OZ as our base… it was a mess… Varsity really sucked at it, with my JV at the time I kind of scrapped it and focused on a counter/OZ/trap/power.  I was helping coach the varsity kids and it seemed like once we split up their OL went to crap for whatever reason.

This past season I moved up to do the Varsity OL and the OC and I felt best with using a gap scheme… Block down and kick out everything.  Mid season we added a track/reach blocking OZ scheme (we called sweep) that we used for RB and QB sweeps.  We actually had decent success with it.

I recently got the OC job so as I am trying to narrow down our focus for plays in the future I have begun talking to other coaches.  One in particular has been urging me to use IZ, he made some great points… with a down and kick out scheme only, we have nothing to keep DTs honest… they can fly blindly up field and try to disrupt things, we don’t force them to maintain gap integrity or move laterally.

I also wanted something easier than the dive play we ran last year.  We would block the dive differently depending on the front, which I didn’t love because there was no set rules for them.  The fold block we often used on this was a quick trigger key for LBs and whenever we faced a good inside LB he would make the play.

So looking at how I plan to use my playbook I began strongly thinking about adding IZ back into the mix as one of our core 4 run plays.  The doubles we work daily would have a lot of carry over to the doubles we will use on our Counter and Power (Dash) schemes… just rotating to backside backer of course.

When I taught IZ before I did plenty of research, had all the lingo, the steps the uncovered/covered principles, blah blah blah and if anything I think coaches over coach certain aspects of it.  Looking back, our kids did so much thinking and wondering who has who…when to come off to LB? that we got no surge up front, no movement, either lateral or horizontal and there was always a DL in our backfield tackling the RB.

The 2 RBs we will have next year our scary shifty, if we can just get them to the LOS without getting touched I think they will find creases and pop some runs so I am now 100% for installing IZ on day one of spring ball… BUT I will be installing what I consider to be the stupidest, most dumbed down , easy (probably some OL gurus will say WRONG) way of teaching IZ.

I also want this to be something that can be run easily at the Freshman  and JV levels… simple rules and then build from there.

Because we are in spread… the only looks we ever really see inside are 4-1/4-2 or 3-2/3-3

A handful of teams have tried a 5-1 but this is what we will see 95% of the time.

For example sake I will say we are running IZ Right throughout the rest of this article.

So I have been drawing up IZ looks against different shades, fronts, and the system I have works out.

This is probably the wrong way to teach IZ … it’s watered down dumb but I think it will work for us because it is simple and we see a lot of fairly vanilla fronts.

Rule #1

  • If someone is anywhere in your play side Gap (or head up) you base block them.

Rule #2

  • If not then you are working to double. The guards are the key for the doubles.

In a standard 4 man front (whether they align 1-3, 3-1, or double 2s) the guard will be working with the OL to the backside

In a 3 man front, the guard will be working to double with the OL to his front side.

Center ID’s fronts every play anyway… 4-2 nic, 3-2 box , etc.  so there should never be any confusion on which way the doubles are working

What I must do a better job of this year is coaching the double teams, we WILL get hip to hip and stay on the double, I won’t allow us to even see a LB on any sort of IZ for as long as possible.
I did a bad job coaching the doubles 2 years ago and I know I will do a much better job of coaching it up now.  I got a great nugget on coaching the IZ double from someone on coachhuey… can’t remember right now who it was that said it but it was essentially, “The RB will bring the LB to you, don’t even think about stopping the double team until one of you can reach out and touch the LB”  Later in Summer when we progress to this that is exactly how I will teach it.

While we will always try to get a double I understand that if we run IZ

Which LB?
Now eventually a time will come when we have to push to LB… which LB do I have?  I started getting away from labeling LBs by name… Middle, play side, backside, front side, SAM , will, mike… it can get too messy.  I instead began numbering LBs… if running right we would start from right to left.

There has to be a relationship between the number of LBs inside the box and the DL… We can really only see 1 LB in the box (which essentially means they have to be in a 4-1, maaaaybe a 5-1 but rare).   A 2 LB system would mean either 4-2 or 3-2.  And finally a 3 LB system would likely mean 3-3 (a team could be in 4-3 but they’d have a hard time keeping those OLBs in the box vs our 4 wide)

So since we now have our backers numbered it makes it , IMO easier to identify who has who… No matter how you slice it…
Play side Double Team is responsible for #1 LB
Backside Double Team is responsible for #2 LB (If there is one)
Backside tackle would be responsible for running through B gap to #3 LB in a 3-3 stack look.

Carry Over to Gap Schemes
These rules are the same for our Counter/Power game… instead of saying push the double team to the backside LB on counter… We know a puller is coming to account for the #1 LB in either scheme, so we know we can push the double team/down block track play side to the #2 LB

Goal line/Short yardage
Now, if we saw some sort of goal line D with everyone in a gap, everyone sticks with rule #1… someone in my play side gap I base block em.  We would all block the man to the right and run our feet… I think a lot more base blocks and double team blocks will help establish the type of physical attitude I want from my offense and most importantly my OL.

This is where I feel most coaches way over do it… they are 16 year old kids… They get tired, they are gonna take false steps at times, they are NEVER going to be perfect at taking a 37 degree angle divided by Pi (r^2) /the defenders radius x -9.8m/s^2…. or whatever I have seen some coaches teach.  Most coaches teach 3 different steps in the IZ game, I have seen as much as 4 different steps… If my kid is thinking that much, how fast is he getting off the ball and how aggressively?  I don’t like it, call me stupid but I think less is more.

I want 2 steps… a Zone step and a double step.

Zone step if someone is head up/play side gap.  We will also zone step if I am working a double team to the play side…Step aiming at the DL far foot… looking to double.

Double step will be used if I have no DL head up/play side Gap and I am doubling with backside team mate (think RG vs a 1 tech… he knows he doubles with the Center on 1 tech)
IZ Right…6 inch step straight up field with Right foot (2nd step would be with left foot, left foot should bring you hip to hip with Center to push the double.

The same technique would be used by LT and LG on a backside 3 tech.  This technique would also be used by RT when doubling with RG on Counter/Power.

Well that will be my version of Inside Zone… I understand I am doing it a little different but I think that is the best way to teach it to my kids based on the looks I know we will see most often next year.

I am going to commit to being a great IZ coach this year because ideally I want to just run IZ, OZ, Counter, and Dash (power scheme)… I have been toying around with ISO and Dart schemes but I think this could easily take the place of those WHEN we get those doubles right.

IZ Gurus please don’t beat me up for making your pretty play ugly.  I am going to do some different things this year, the best piece of advice I have gotten this year was from a coach who actually encouraged me to fail… “Failing means you’re trying new stuff and learning on the fly… it’s your first year as THE OC… you might lose your team as many games as you win…but remember you were just 6-5 last year… you guys were way better, and you’re clearly going in the right direction…but at the end of the day you won 1 more game than you lost, your school has never won any sort of championship in football and losing games clearly is no reason for them to fire you otherwise plenty of their coaches would have been fired long ago.”

That stuck with me… I want to make my own brand of football… been a TFS client but I see myself splitting off from “those guys” in a slightly different path.

Well, here goes my journey in my first year as an OC 🙂


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