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

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

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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