Why the Inside Zone Scheme is All You Need

Inside Zone Scheme Running Back

 

How many times has this happened to you?

You call a run play in the game and you know it’s going to work because you’ve watched a year’s worth of film on your opponent. You come out in a certain formation expecting the defense to give you that look you’ve been craving because you know the perfect play to gash them with.

But, what’s this? The defense didn’t do what you thought they were going to do. Now you start to sweat. Do you run the play? Call something different? Call timeout?

Screw it.

You’ve called the play. The kids have to deal with it. You did an okay enough job teaching them throughout the week. Who cares if it is against a front you only talked during Thursday’s walkthrough. The kids are smart enough. They will adjust.

The quarterback calls the cadence. The center snaps the ball. The quarterback hands the ball off and the running back gets stuffed two yards in the backfield.

Does that scenario sound familiar to you?

Because it does to me. That’s happened way too much to my liking. So I’ve decided to do something about it. What have I done? I’ve gone to using one running scheme.

What running scheme? The Inside Zone.

Why You Should Only Run the Inside Zone Scheme

Inside Zone is simple if you commit to it.

The reason is simple. Your kids will rep the piss out of it every day and get great at it. They will practice against every front, every blitz, every stunt, and everything a creative defensive coordinator can throw at you.

I know my kids did.

We repped the inside zone against the Under Front, Over Front, Bear Front, Over G Front, Double Eagle Front, Odd Front, Stack Front, Okie Front, American Fire Zone Front, Wag the Dog Front, Double Mike A Gap Super Blitz Front, and Super Double Power Eagle G Over Burning It All Down Front.

You name the blitz and/or stunt and our guys knew how to block it.

Why?

Because we did it every freaking day in practice. Individuals – Inside Zone drills. Team Run – Inside Zone blocking. Inside Drill – Inside Zone blocking. Team Tempo – Inside Zone blocking. Team – Inside Zone blocking.

Reps. Reps. Reps. Reps. Reps. That’s all my guys did in practice. Shoot, my guys blocked inside zone so much that they were taking their steps and shooting their hands while they were getting ready to go to bed.

And isn’t that the major secret about being successful on offense? Getting enough reps so your players can feel like they have mastered it?

Why You Won’t Stick to Inside Zone Scheme as the Only Scheme

I'm Smarter Than I know about Inside Zone

Because you think you’re smarter than you really are.

That’s right, I said it. And you know it’s true. How do I know you know it’s true?

I’m the same as you. I always had to have four, five, or six running schemes because I thought I was smarter than I was. Hell, I knew the blocking schemes and adjustments against everything the defense did. So why shouldn’t my players, right?

Wrong.

You eat, sleep, and breath football. Your players eat, sleep, breath other things – video games, food, getting laid. You know, things that really matter.

Don’t believe me? Turn on your film and count how many times you blame the kids for missing a block.

News flash buddy. It isn’t the kid’s fault. It’s yours.

How do you Block Your Inside Zone?

How to Block Inside Zone

There are two schools of thought on blocking the Inside Zone – Vertical displacement or Horizontal displacement.

Vertical Displacement is were you focus on double-teaming the down linemen into the laps of the linebackers.

Horizontal displacement is where your guys are blocking the down linemen left or right and letting your runningback make the play.

Which one do we use?

Horizontal displacement. Why? Because it is super easy to teach. All my guys have to do is step to the direction the play is going and protect their gap for three steps. If someone shows up in that gap within three steps then that’s who they block. If someone doesn’t show up in their gap in three steps then they climb to the next level.

It’s that simple.

Blocking Inside Zone Against an Over Front

How to block inside zone against an over front

 

PST – He has a defender over him. He takes three steps to the right while asking himself, “Is there a defender in my play side gap?” Most of the time that five technique will stay with him because he is taught not to get reached. So on the third step, the tackle will stay on the block.

PSG – He does not have a defender over him, yet he is still taking his three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is there anyone showing up in my gap?” If the five technique doesn’t spike inside or a linebacker shoot into the gap then he will work to the second level.

Center – He has a shade on him. Doesn’t matter. He will still take three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is this shade attacking my gap?” If the answer is yes then he will be pushing the defender to the right. If the shade spikes across his face by the third step then he will work up to the second level.

BSG – He has a three-technique on his backside. Doesn’t matter because he is asking himself, “Is there someone in my play side gap?” He is taking three steps to make sure no one shows up. If someone shows up within those three steps then he will block him. If no one shows up in three steps then he will work to the second level.

BST – He has a defender in his play side gap. Doesn’t matter however because he is asking himself “Do I have anyone in my play side gap?” He will take three steps to the right while checking his gap. If that three-technique stays in the B gap then the tackle will wash him out. If that defender does something strange and goes away from the B gap then the tackle will work up to the second level on his fourth step.

Blocking Inside Zone Scheme Against an Under Front

Blocking Inside Zone Against Under Front

 

PST – He has a defender over him. He takes three steps to the right while asking himself, “Is there a defender in my play side gap?” Most of the time that five technique will stay with him because he is taught not to get reached. So on the third step, the tackle will stay on the block.

PSG – He has a three-technique in his play side gap. Doesn’t matter because he is asking himself, “Is there someone in my play side gap?” He is taking three steps. If that three-technique stays in his gap then he will block him. If that three-technique spikes into the A gap then he will move to the second level.

Center – He doesn’t have a defender in his gap. Doesn’t matter though. He will still take three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is anyone showing up in my gap?” If the answer is yes then he will lock onto that defender. If the answer is no by his third step then he will climb to the second level.

BSG – He has a shade on him. Doesn’t matter though. He will still take three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is this shade attacking my gap?” If the answer is yes then he will be pushing the defender to the right. If the shade spikes across his face by the third step then he will work up to the second level.

BST – He has a defender on his outside. Doesn’t matter however because he is asking himself “Do I have anyone in my play side gap?” He will take three steps to the right while checking his gap. If no one shows up then the tackle will work up to the second level on his fourth step.

Blocking Inside Zone Scheme Against an Odd Front

How to block Inside Zone Against an Odd Front

PST – He has a defender over him. He takes three steps to the right while asking himself, “Is there a defender in my play side gap?” Most of the time that five technique will stay with him because he is taught not to get reached. So on the third step, the tackle will stay on the block.

PSG – He does not have a man over him, yet he is still taking his three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is there anyone showing up in my gap?” If the five technique doesn’t spike inside or a linebacker shoot into the gap then he will work to the second level.

Center – He has a defender on him. Doesn’t matter though. He will still take three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is this nose guard attacking my gap?” If the answer is yes then he will be pushing the defender to the right. If the nose guard spikes across his face by the third step then he will work up to the second level.

BSG – He does not have a defender over him, yet he is still taking his three steps toward his play side gap. He is asking himself, “Is there anyone showing up in my gap?” If the nose guard doesn’t spike inside or a linebacker shoot into the gap then he will work to the second level.

BST – He has a defender over him. He takes three steps to the right while asking himself, “Is there a defender in my play side gap?” Most of the time that five technique will stay outside of him because is the quarterback player. However, if the five-technique tries to cross the tackles face then he will wash him out of the play.

Spicing Up the Inside Zone Scheme with Tags

Spice Up Inside Zone with Tags

I know what you are thinking. Coach, this is all well and good, but defenses will be able to stop our run game because we are only RUNNING ONE FREAKING SCHEME.

In the immortal words of Lee Corso, “NOT SO FAST SWEETHEART!”

We are going to use something special. Something sexy. Something that makes the inside zone look different to the defense yet makes it super simple to the offense.

What am I talking about?

Tags. Hot, sweating, sexy tags.

What are tags? These are little keywords that tell one player to change his assignment without messing with the rest of the players.

LOCK TAG

Lock Up the Backside of Inside Zone

The first tag we add to the inside zone scheme is our lock scheme. This only affects the backside guard and tackle.

How?

By having them lock onto their defenders. It’s simple: the tackle is always locked on to the man head up to outside of him. The backside guard is only locked on if he has a man head up to outside of him.

Blocking a 3 and 5 technique with Inside Zone Lock Tag

Example 1: The guard has a guy head up to outside of him. Therefore he locks on.

Inside Zone Lock Tag against a shade and a five-technique

Example 2: Does the guard have a man head up to outside of him? Nope. So he does his normal inside zone steps.

Inside Zone run scheme with a lock tag against an odd stack

Example 3: Same thing in the odd front. Nobody head up or outside of the backside guard, so he does his normal steps.

This tag is amazing because now you have turned the Inside Zone Scheme into an RPO. You will have the slot wide receiver run a three-step hitch. The quarterback is reading the backside linebacker. If the linebacker fills, then he will pull the ball and drill the hitch. If the linebacker drops then the quarterback will hand the ball off.

Simple as that.

CAP TAG

Inside Zone Scheme with a Cap Tag

This tag utilizes an H-Back. Yes, I believe you need an H-Back to be able to run this scheme right and be efficient.

(Yeah, I said it. Are you happy now? Jerks.)

What the CAP tag does is tell the H-Back to cross the formation and kick out the defender that is in the C-gap.

Inside Zone Run with a Cap Tag

You can get creative with this tag. You can tag it with your quick game, dropback game, or screen game. This tag also allows you to change the person you want to read on your RPO. You can read a linebacker, a safety, or a corner. The possibilities are endless.

RPO off of a Linebacker

RPO run off of a linebacker

RPO off of a Safety

Reading a safety for a RPO play

RPO off of a Corner

Reading the Corner RPO off of Inside Zone Scheme

SLICE TAG

Inside Zone Scheme with a Slice Tag

The last tag is a counter to the CAP tag. When you use this tag you are telling the H-back to fake the CAP block and go straight to the flats.

The quarterback will now read the C-gap defender for his give or pull read. If the C-gap defender runs up the field, then the quarterback will hand the ball off. If the C-gap defender crashes down the line of scrimmage, then the quarterback will pull the ball and throw it to the H-back.

Inside Zone Scheme with Slice Tag

Notice how nothing changes for the offensive line. The only players doing something different is the H-back and the wide receivers. This play is devastating to the defense. They tend to forget about the H-back being a passing threat. I love to call this play when I’m in the Red Zone.

There You Go

Inside Zone There You Go

That’s how I use Inside Zone as my only running scheme. I believe it’s the most versatile scheme in all of football because of all of the tags you can incorporate into it. This scheme lets you call plays fast, let’s your kids be confident in knowing how to block every front, and lets you score a crap ton of points fast.

Please let me know if you do anything different. I’d love to hear from you’ll.

Until next time coaches, let’s continue to Master the Spread, Score Points, and Have Fun!

Leave a Reply 17 comments

Coach Fares - April 29, 2018 Reply

Coach how are you handling the odd front with 4i alignment by the tackles?

    Coach Ron McKie - April 29, 2018 Reply

    Coach Fares,

    We’ve done two different things. One – we’ve washed the 4i down since he is inside the tackle. This keeps it simple for our tackle because it follows his rules. He has someone in his play side gap so he must block that man.

    The second way we’ve done it is by arc releasing the tackle. This makes the 4i the read man. Got this idea from Georgia Tech and Navy.

Steve Chapman - April 9, 2018 Reply

Coach just want to say I love your content, on here and your YouTube channel. I’ve never coached inside zone, we’ve always run more of a man power down hill scheme. We are looking to make a switch, how do you teach and drill the inside zone. You convinced me to switch with the ideas of tagging to o-line and simplifying the run game.

    Coach Ron McKie - April 10, 2018 Reply

    Coach Chapman,

    Thank you for the kind words coach. It means a lot to me. Good luck on changing to the inside zone. What kind of tags are you looking to run?

Jeff Oresik - March 30, 2018 Reply

Appreciate the minimalist approach. What were you player’s initial reaction when you told them there is only one running play? How do you handle game situations when one of your lineman is mismatched? There is some flexibility in your system where a tag or play direction changes the defender they’ll block, but there are some limitations. Either your center can handle a zero tech or you’re in trouble.

Coach Knotts - February 9, 2018 Reply

Describe the 3 step footwork of the OL. Thanks.

    Coach Ron McKie - February 17, 2018 Reply

    Coach Knotts,

    I’m not smart enough to reinvent the wheel. We do the same steps Alex Gibbs teaches. If you would like me to send you everything I have on his teaching I can.

FootballLeavesClues - January 19, 2018 Reply

As a fan of the sport you site does a good job helping me better understand football. A question I have is if you feel one concept is enough in the run game, what about the pass game. Can one concept be enough there as well? If so what concept would it be? If more are needed how many?

    Coach Ron McKie - January 19, 2018 Reply

    Thank you very much for the kind words sir. It means a lot to me that you take time out of your day to read and leave a comment on my blog. I do think you could use one concept for your entire passing game. That’s going to be the subject on my next podcast.

Alonzo Coley - January 18, 2018 Reply

What mis-direction do you use.

    Coach Ron McKie - January 18, 2018 Reply

    Coach Coley,

    First, thank you for taking time out of your day to read my post and leave a comment. That means the world to me.

    I don’t have any misdirection. I know I should have something in, but I don’t. I need to do better with that.

Jason English - January 17, 2018 Reply

Great stuff!

    Coach Ron McKie - January 17, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for the kind words Coach English. And that’s for taking time out of your day to read and comment on my blog. It means a lot to me.

Jeff Nations - January 17, 2018 Reply

I am looking for RB drills, that mimic game sits, that will allow the RB’s to work this concept in the spring to help with reading the open gap. I am a GAP scheme guy through and through, but I like this as a change up to our Counter/Power game. Any thoughts or links to drills would be appreciated.

    Coach Ron McKie - January 17, 2018 Reply

    Coach Nations,

    First, thanks for taking time out of your day to read and post a comment on my blog. That means a lot to me. Coach Mike Rowe has a couple of YouTube videos on some running back drills. Here’s one of his that I really like:

    https://youtu.be/5IvivmIHs3M

Erik Becker - January 16, 2018 Reply

Well done buddy!

    Coach Ron McKie - January 17, 2018 Reply

    Thank you coach. And thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my blog. Means a lot.

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