The Wide Zone Read: A Possibility for the Oregon Ducks?

Coach Eric Boles Analysis 17 Comments

Since Coach Mario Cristobal arrived in Eugene as co-offensive coordinator in 2017, there has been a single play to endure three different offenses. That play is the Outside Zone from the Pistol. Some of Oregon’s longest run plays in the last four years have been the product of that play. One thing that could make this version of the Outside Zone even stronger is the inclusion of a specific constraint play.

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The Wide Zone Read

This is where the Wide Zone Read comes into play. The Wide Zone Read has become a staple of the Appalachian State Mountaineers offense under head coach Shawn Clark. The Mountaineers are a team that major in the Outside Zone play from the Pistol, and the Wide Zone Read has served them very well as a counter to defensive pursuit. Coach Clark is from the Scott Satterfield coaching tree, and Coach Satterfield just happened to be Coach Cristobal’s OC at Florida International University!

The blocking scheme implemented in the WZR is the same as in the Outside Zone. Each offensive lineman takes an initial lateral step as they try to reach the defender in the next playside gap. The OL is looking to get to the defender’s playside shoulder, getting between this defender and the sideline. It is this lateral movement, and the reacting pursuit of the defense that works to open up the middle for the running back.

At the snap, the quarterback is tasked with reading the backside EMOLS (End Man on Line of Scrimmage) as he would with an Outside Zone Read. If the defender stays put, or gets wide, the QB will hand the ball off to the running back. The RB will take the ball directly downhill, hitting the hole where the backside A-Gap would be.

If the EMOLS decides to crash down on the RB, the QB will pull the ball and carry out the second, and maybe third option of the play. The most basic second option would be for the QB to run the ball off the backside. But, if this play became part of the Ducks playbook, Coach Joe Moorhead would have a variety of RPO options that can be paired with the run.

In the clip above, the quarterback hands the ball off and the RB hits the gap for a nice six-yard run. If the QB had decided to pull the ball, he probably could have picked up even more yardage, but the read is a little cloudy, thus he makes the correct decision. Can you  imagine this play with a Coach Moorhead favorite, an RPO where the tight end works the seam route, as another option?

The Wide Zone Read would match up beautifully with the Pistol Outside Zone already utilized by the Oregon Ducks, and would add yet another layer for opposing defenses to worry about. Watch for it this fall!

Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: Tom Corno

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David Marsh

A fun read. Thanks for the article Coach Boles.


Brilliant stuff, as always. Maybe MC should hire you as a consultant.


Good stuff Coach, thanks! I hope we see plenty of constraint plays for WZR as well as IZR built in to Moorehead’s RPO offense.

Mario needs to let Joe loose to keep defenses guessing, and stop with the consecutive pistol plunges in short yardage situations.


THAT is what I thought last year, and the year before that as well.

I liked the passing in the Spring game. College football is a passing league now – the pass creates for the running game.

IE: If you can throw the ball all over the field – no more loading the box. I think the running game will come back only when the passing game is top notch.


Anything with the RPO! As long as that acronym doesn’t stand for Run Predictable Option.

Jon Joseph

Another enlightening take. Thank you Coach.

ESPN, due to programming errors in the FPI rankings it released in May, recently released its revised FPI – 2021 Pre-season Rankings.

[Most of the world knew there was a problem with the initial release. One that had Mississippi State ranked as the 8th best team in the USA!

MSU’s revised ranking? 24. With 4 almost certain division losses, this IMO, is still too high. Lots of Leach love in Bristol.]

1.Bama – I’m shocked!
2 Clemson – usual suspect
3 OK – usual suspect
4 OH ST – usual suspect – the release noted that if Fields had stayed on board Ohio State would have been #1
5 UGA – lower than many I’ve seen that have both Bama and UGA in the final 4
6 A+M – cake walk OOC – should be undefeated when Bama pays a visit – game of the year?
7 Texas – HUH? 2 B12 teams in the top 7? No comprende.- I’m not sure Texas gets by Louisiana in the Longhorn’s opener
8 Notre Dame – the computer sees an L for USC and an L for Stanford
9 Iowa State – every player of note is back – big OOC game vs FPI #23 Iowa. Plays OK in Norman; TX + OK St in Ames
10 Miami – ? even if QB King fully recovers from knee surgery I think Bama blows out Miami in the opening game. Miami plays Clemson, UNC does not.

Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 30 –

12 OREGON – not as bad as Phil Steele at 19, but lower than most pre-season polls I have seen
21 USC – Steele has SC at 13
25 UW – Steele has UW at 9 !!!
29 ASU – does the computer take NCAA troubles into account?
30 Utah – Doubles down on Steele’s 15 ranking. My dark-horse team (+1500) to win the 2021 conference title. [Yes, I do have $ down. However, when the Ducks trip to SLC, I remain a passionate pal of Puddles!]

Chance for a Playoff Team?

SEC – 94% [31% to have 2 teams in the field.]
ACC – 82%
B12 – 81%
B1G – 63%
Pac-12 – 9% [NOT a typo]

SUMMARY – Computer in Connecticut clowns Conference of Champions.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The SEC has three times greater probability of getting two teams into the Playoffs, then the Pac-12 has getting one in.

Coming from ESPN….I’m shocked!

Shocking, is it not!

Another factoid today from ESecPN.

Results comparing recruiting over the last 4 seasons with a team’s record during the same time period.

Overachievers –

  1. Iowa State – 32-14 in the last 4 years despite never signing a top 40 class. Campbell to USC?

At 9 Utah is the only Pac-12 team in the top 10.

Underachievers –

  1. Arkansas – This is somewhat a reflection of the Hogs playing in the SECW.
  2. FSU – Jimbo left a mess behind. Few if any of his highly ranked OL recruits panned out.

UCLA at 5 is the only Pac-12 team in the top 10. This is largely due to the last class Mora brought in before Chip arrived.

Oregon is a slight underachiever. This calculus could change significantly in 2022 due to relatively low ranked class Helfrich brought in his final season, and the lousy record Helfrich posted in his final season.

In 2021 Oregon moved into the Blue Chip Roster (BCR) category. A BCR team has more than 50% 4 and 5* recruits on its roster. No team has won a BCS or Playoff title without a BCR roster.

Oregon’s recruiting ranking should soar in 2022. Will enough Ws happen to get the Ducks in the overachiever category? If not. Oregon could move way up in the underachiever category.

Note that recruiting and roster #s do not take into account transfers. Something that CBS, ESPN and 247 Sports, and others, are addressing.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Campbell to USC would be scary, and Trojan fans would love him and the return to a powerful running game in Troy. Yikes!

GREAT stuff as always Jon, and THANKS.


ISU wouldn’t let Campbell go without a fight. Plus that would also mean the USC AD being somewhat competent…given his hiring history so far that doesn’t seem to be the case which is great for us!

Jon Joseph

To date, I don’t believe that SC AD Bohn has hired a football or basketball coach?

Bohn came from Cincinnati where he hired Luke Fickell as the head football coach so, if there is a change, Fickell could be in play? However, Fickel is an Ohio State, Midwest guy, who may have zero interest in LA?

SC did just lose its women’s track + field coach to UGA. Arizona baseball coach is headed to LSU. $ talks.

You can certainly criticize Bohn for keeping Helton on, but Helton’s buyout is enormous. And he did blunder into a 5-1 record last season. And SC recruiting is definitely looking up. (BUMMER!)

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Fun stuff to ponder Coach, and THANKS for bringing it to us!


Watching a QB pull the ball and then having the option to run, or pass to a wide open TE sounds great.

I know that the version of the Pistol where the QB never runs doesn’t work. Many of us dreaded seeing a short yardage situation from that version. Seems like the closer the score, the less effective it became.

A starting QB that can pass, who actually is a true running threat, and has the ability to correctly read the key defensive players is very high on my wish list.

Once we find that QB, the Pistol will be a lot more of an offensive weapon. If there is not a lot of separation between QB’s competing for the starting job this fall, then I am a proponent of giving one of the younger QB’s the ball to start the season.