Why would Darron Thomas take off running in this game while not before? This is a question we tackled last week, but the answers became even more evident against Arizona. We have examples of THREE positions on the defense being Zone Read in the this game while being introduced to a new play utilizing the strengths of a true freshman who looks to make a big impression this season! (And no—it is not De’Anthony Thomas)
We see how we are lined up to run an Inside Zone Read to the right, (In the video above) but this time we are going leave the Defensive Tackle unblocked, thus we will option or “Zone Read” him. He is determined to catch LaMichael James in the backfield and Darron Thomas is seeing this, thus the correct Zone Read is to let him chase the RB and pull the ball out.
Pulling the ball during the mesh by the QB occurs so quickly that the Defensive Tackle is still pursuing LMJ and Darron is running through a huge gap. Note the great blocks opening a massive hole for our QB to run through and get the first down! Zone Reading a Defensive Tackle is referred to as a “Midline” Option or Zone Read since the player being analyzed is usually near the center of the LOS by the time decisions about handing the ball off are made.
Let’s analyze a touchdown in this game where we now run an Inside Zone Read to the left and we will Zone Read the Defensive End. (See video above)
Darron is clearly Zone Reading the Defensive End this time as the DE is left unblocked. Note how our Right Tackle (Cody) has a bead on the LB, and how our center (Grasu) is preparing to attack the MLB. Look at how Arizona knows where the play is going and the defenders are gathering around the usual IZR gap we’re running to.
Since the Wildcats over-reacted to our left side to defend the IZR, it left a gap on the right side of the LOS and LMJ burst through it and scored before the DE could get over to contain. It’s a classic Inside Zone Read and over-reaction by the defense, while LaMichael did the rest making THREE defenders miss to score the TD! Oh Baby!
One defensive strategy used to confuse our blocking schemes and stop the Zone Read play is the use of “Looping” the LB around to the outside. (See the video above) Real coaching types have other names such as “stunts” or “scraping”, but I keep it simple as a “loop,” since that is what it resembles to me.
We are running an Inside Zone Read to the right and Thomas is Zone Reading the OLB as he sees how the “Loop” is beginning to occur. Since the LB won’t be in his usual gap, our QB hands off to the RB because that looping LB would take away the running lane outside for Darron.
It was a great read by Darron as the defenders “looped” themselves out of the play and LMJ is headed for a Touchdown! All of this is done in split seconds? Wow.
We have observed the Zone Reading of three different defensive positions in one game! (Defensive Tackle, the Defensive End and the Outside Linebacker) This is how Chip Kelly keeps Defensive Coordinators off-balance, while I’m sure the decision about who to Zone Read in a particular game depends upon the matchups we’re facing. Perhaps we primarily Zone Read OLBs in the LSU game in order to have hat-on-hat blocking on the LOS? It can get complicated taking into account the strengths of the defense we’re facing, the defensive schemes they’re employing, and the strength/health of our Offensive personnel in a given week.
It was the Arizona game last year when we unveiled a blocking strategy from the past against the Wildcats to offset the expected “Cover Zero” defense that Cal used so successfully. We had great success in 2010 using the Oregon Straddled Triple Option against Arizona and they were resolved to stop the explosion plays we generated against them by placing EIGHT in the box when we went to that formation this year. (See video above)
As the play begins we see an Outside Zone Read to the left forming, and the left RB in the original Triple Option formation becomes a lead blocking back! We have created a fullback on this play and we couldn’t have a better one than freshman Tra Carson! He is built like a Fullback/TE, yet he has the speed and moves of a RB and he is already making threats of destruction and slaughter to the OLB he has aimed his wrath upon.
We have superb blocks set by all the Offensive linemen, but Tra Carson (Yellow Arrow) has sped like a torpedo to this LB and the Wildcat knows what is coming and is getting set. We see a nice “splatter” as Carson put him on the ground while Barner speeds by.
Tra has the speed to be a pitchman on a Triple Option, or the IZR option for the same play. Yet this new play gives us the benefit of another blocker on the side we are attacking from a RB! What a tremendous way to fully utilize the talents of the newbie RB, while getting him in the game for valuable experience. (He was playing in the first quarter!)
What a fun game to see the different Zone Reading AND be thrilled with a new play!
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Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
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