Inside Zone Play

Joel Cockley:  Running Backs Coach
Mount Union College, Ohio
2009 Cleveland Glazier Clinic Presentation Notes

  • No substitute for good players, and developing good players.  
  • Base philosophy - make every play sound.

Inside Zone

  1. Align the QB at 5 yards.  
  2. Used to align the RB at 5 1/2 yards and behind the Tackle - but the play always went front side.  Now, the back aligns at 6 1/2 yards and behind the Guard.  
  3. Open with the Right Foot.
  4. Aiming Point is hip of the Center.
  5. Back moves as soon as the ball is snapped, takes an open step for timing.
  6. Take a pre-snap read on who is defending Backside A-Gap.  If it is the nose (anywhere between a weak shade and a 2i), peak at him.  If the nose stays or crashes hard inside, hit the backside B-Gap.  
  7. QB has to come off hard to hold the BS Defensive End.  If the End tightens, and the nose closes down, there is no cut back.  
  8. If the nose is frontside, there is usually no cutback. Now read the 1st man past the center.
Nose aligned to front side

Inside Zone From Under Center

Now the first read becomes the butt of the guard, but he still checks for the Nose.  Normally he will stay front side from under center.  The QB boots away every time.

Do not read the 2nd man on the front side (DE).

QB in the Gun

One-back set in 3x1 or 2x2 set, QB has a read on the DE.  
Decision:  Can he make the tackle on the back?  
If Yes:  QB keeps it. - IF there is no rolled down safety.  With a good, athletic QB, you also might like the 1-on-1 match-up wtih the Will Backer or the weak Safety.

The 3 Things the Back can do on the Inside Zone Play

1)  Bang It:  Straight ahead attack.  "Good Bang It!"
2)  Bend It:  Cut-back.  "Good Bend!"
3)  Bounce It:  Bounce it outside front side.  "Good Bounce!"

Coaching points tell the back that he did it right.


A good Running needs to know that he has to make one guy miss.

If the Center is having trouble getting the ball back to the center, move him up.  The window for error widens as you move the QB further back.

You only have to pull the ball once and the defense defends it differently.  

Offensive Linemen:  Wide splits.  Back them up vs. stunting teams, be on vs. other teams.  Inside Zone steps are nothing but a scoop step now, no body bucket steps.

If both teams are good, the Inside Zone doesn't become effective until the 2nd Quarter.  Get the linebackers flowing, running, slow them down.  

"Smack" - Blocking the Backside Edge on the Inside Zone Play

  • Blocker in edge position or off position. 
  • Smack tells him to block the backside man.  If it were "Flex Purple 4, 14 Smack" then the back comes across the center and blocks the backside end.
  • Inside shoulder block on the BS end.  
  • "Bad Smack" - catch him outside and slide off.  Use this technique for the bootleg.

"Lead" - Attack the Bubble





  • Lead the back up on the Will Backer.
  • Tackle turns out the End. 
  • Back can expect to cut back, BUT he still runs the play just like regular Inside Zone.

"Box" - Back on Outside Backer

  • When you get lots of stunting and slanting to take away the Lead play.  
  • Block that front side Defensive End.
  • The RB can now expect to 'bounce'
  • If you line the back up in the 3, he can step and read the end.  if the end goes outside, hec an come back inside.
The Running Back is still running Inside Zone no matter what.  He might know what all of these tags mean, but to him it really doesn't matter.  he makes his reads and uses his vision.

Other Points

  • A walked down safety eliminates the QB read, he is going to give it every time.  
  • "Zone at the Line" call, QB calls 14 or 15 Read, he runs it to the shade side.
  • if you don't have a good TE to attack, flex him out to walk the OLB out of the box.
  • The alignment adjustment (back behind Guard, 6 1/2 yards) was stolen from West Virginia

Designing Your Offense

  • Players - Know your Players first.
  • Formations - Put them into Formations to use their talents.
  • Plays - Design plays around that.  
This is the philosophy at Mount Union.  Not a system, or a scheme - it is Players, Formations, Plays - P.H.P.

Game Plan:  Study how many plays you get.  In High School it is probably not more than 60.  Then decide how many touches you want your best players to get.  If you want 25 touches for your back and 15 for the WR, you don't have many more plays to come up with.  

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