Defending The Zone Read



I received a few email requests to talk about defending the Zone Read so that will be the topic of the day.  First I think we must define what the Zone Read is.  It is basically a simple option football theory done from the shotgun.  The traditional method involves the QB reading the C Gap defender, although the play has morphed into so much more.  The play wants to put a defender in conflict by reading him and choosing a course of action based on the conflicted players reaction.  In theory the "READ" player should never be right.  An option team that spends their time focusing on option style plays will be able to get a QB to read the conflicted defender correctly about 75% of the time. The beauty of option football is the QB becomes the "11th" player for the offense making the numbers game equal on both sides of the ball.  With traditional under center offenses where the QB hands the ball off to running backs technically the defense is playing 11 vs 10 in the run game because the QB will only be a threat on bootlegs or waggles. The other enticing part of option football is forces the defense to play sound, and discipline football with a lot of emphasis put on individual defensive players executing their individual assignments.  It is a way of trying to slow a defense down and not let them play with reckless abandon.

As a defensive coordinator you can try and dictate who will carry the ball in the option game.  When you are dealing with a "PRO I" tailback with the QB under center you know he is gonna have the ball 30 times.  Think about it, everybody knew guys like Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, and Earl Campbell were going to have the ball 25-35 times a game.  Best you could do was load the box and try and get extra numbers in the run game.  The interesting thing about defending the Zone Read is you can dictate who you want to have the ball.  The first thing you should always determine is who is more dangerous with the ball the QB or the RB?  The next thing to consider is are they double option or are they triple option?  And the last thing to consider is Do they have any passing concepts tied to the reads?  You usually will not have to worry about the passing concepts when talking about the defensive end, but in today's offenses your second level LBS will get read as well with passing concepts tied in.

The first thing we teach our defensive ends is to "squeeze and pop" off of inside releases by the offensive tackle.  What that means is he will take the air out of the inside release and close the gap between him and the offensive tackle.  He will do this with his hips square to the LOS.  Your end will see the QB mesh with the TB and at that point he pops back outside to play the QB.  Your LBS will handle the zone along with your other D Lineman.  The next thing we will do is "bend and chase" our defensive end to the side we have the open B Gap.  Now the end will physically turn his shoulders and chase the inside part of the zone or the TB.  He is essentially cancelling out the B Gap vs. an inside release by the offensive tackle.  You will now have a LB or Safety or Corner responsible for the QB on the Gap Exchange.  The reason I mention the Secondary players is because you can get them involved with the QB if you know it is only double option.  Depending on which way you have the front set, you can predetermine some line games that will change the reads for the QB as well.  Keeping the reads dynamic and multiple for the QB makes his job harder in the read game.  The only issue is it also makes things harder on your defense when there is more involved.  If all else fails you can always try bringing pressure.  Zone pressures are much safer vs athletic QBS.  If you are going to use pressure make sure you have a "spill blitzer" and a "contain blitzer".  The spill player handles the zone portion or inside part of the option and the contain blitzer handles the QB or outside part of the option.

I hope this helps you understand the zone read game a little better and gives you a few ideas to slow it down.  Remember at the end of the day it is better to outplay your opponent instead of out thinking them.


What is Your Philosophy

How Do You Approach the Game


I would like to switch gears a little bit today from schematics to philosophy or approach to the game.  I am going to go through some questions that I think help shape the mindset and mentality of your football program.  For me I have always tried to get my teams to resemble my characteristics as an athlete/coach.  I am a very energetic, high wired coach that tries to instill that attitude in my players throughout everything I do in my program.  I want us to be up tempo in everything we do, playing with as much self confidence as possible.  The best players and coaches in any sport have a self confidence that is borderline arrogant.  The difference in the two is the respect you show your opponents and the game itself.  If you want to be successful you have to have a belief in your own abilities.  If you ever enter a competition with self doubt your opponent already has a leg up on you.  How do you eliminate self doubt?  You try your best to cover every scenario possible and be as prepared as you can possibly be.  A lot of people talk about "outworking" other people.  The truth of the matter is you may never know if you have outworked someone unless you know exactly what it is that they are doing.  I never know how my opponent is practicing, training, or preparing for a game or a season so I have to do everything i possibly can to believe I am outworking them.

Now the questions I am going to cover today are very simple in nature, but should give you a better idea of the type of coach you are.  Do you take a lot of risks? Do you play close to the vest with every decision based on percentages? Are you offensive or defensive minded? Do you play an attacking style or a conservative bend but don't break style?  Do you always make the same decision at the coin toss?  Does your opponent affect your decision making? After every season I like to go back and look at the decisions i made and see if my team really reflected my personality.  There are always going to be teams and players that force you to adapt your thinking a little bit but in general who you are as a coach should always stay consistent.

Now Think About Why You Do Things
After looking at some of the questions I posed in my video segment the next question you have to answer is Why do you do things the way you do?  For some people I am almost certain the answer is because its what they know or have always done.  I do not like to think that way because I feel like that is when you allow yourself to get stagnant or deny your own growth.  There is nothing wrong with a set way of doing things especially when you are getting great results.  The question I ask is How long can it last?  Will you be able to adapt when the game changes or your players change? 

My goal with this particular Blog is to go around the North Florida area and talk to different coaches that have been successful and see how different the mindsets and mentalities are.  I want to start bringing other coaches in on the topics I have been talking about and get some different perspectives.  Guys can try and kick each others teeth in from August until December, but we all know from December through July its time to share, learn, and grow.  Hopefully some of these questions spark some curiosity into your own programs and your own mindset.