Guest Blog: Zone Option by Jeremy Reed
BIO AND BACKGROUND ON OUR GUEST BLOGGER, JEREMY REED:
Coach Reed is a 2004 graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Jeremy graduated with bachelors in Health/Physical Education, in 2009 he obtained his master’s degree in Sports Administration from East Central University. In 2014 Coach Reed was the FCA All State Coach for South Central Oklahoma. In 2015 Coach Reed guided Altus to the 5A State Championship, first in 44 years for Altus. During that year coach was awarded Coach of the Year by Daily Oklahoman, USA Today Oklahoma Coach of the Year, District Coach of the Year, and Oklahoma Coaches Association All State Head Coach. Coach Reed was a guest of FCA at the American Football Coaches Association National Clinic to speak about 3 Dimensional Coaching in 2017. Prior to running Flexbone his head coaching record was 13-17, since going to the Flexbone his head coach record is 37-19.
I appreciate the opportunity to share some of my thoughts regarding one of the hottest plays in the Flexbone offense, Zone Option. I have actively studied zone option since 2015. I was very intrigued how this play was changing the Flexbone offense and in return changing how defenses defended. For my research I gathered countless number of games to view, attended several practices, and spoke numerous hours to college coaches I respected to gain different perspectives. I accumulated a lot of information as you can expect. After reviewing all of the information and data I collected I formulated what I felt was a simple plan of overall scheme, install, and how to practice. Although some of the thoughts I'll share here today were original I must give the most credit to offensive staff members at the Naval Academy (Ivin Jasper, Mick Yokitis, Mike Judge, and Danny O’Rourke) and Head Coach Troy Calhoun at the Air Force Academy. These men have been very gracious to me for several years and I have the utmost respect for each of them. This past season we ran Zone Option ninety nine times, it graded out at 63% (+4 yards). By running this play we are now giving #1 in the option count a lot to think about throughout a game: Base, Trap, Reach, Veer, and getting ear holed. In my opinion this has greatly helped our other schemes.
We initially started out with four different tags to handle different fronts (4-3/6-1, 4-2/6-2, Odd) we would see. As time went on we have reduced to one tag and allowed our wide receiver, tackle, and playside A to site adjust when needed. Although all our tags were very good we feel that simplifying to one tag with site adjustments will allow us to be better at the overall concept of the play and will take less practice time throughout a season. Our staff is constantly looking for ways to eliminate things and simplify all our schemes, our philosophy is less is more!
Zone Option Rules
PST: Protect B Gap, Power Veer
PSA: Playside LB
BSA: D Motion, Stay Flat, Turn Up when QB Turns Up
WR: Block Down (“Compress”)
QB: Drop step, Eyes #1 to Pitch Key
Important Notes per Position/Technique
PST: When protecting B gap we found the more he tries to mess with #1 on his way out the harder it can be for our receiver to compress the edge, when tackle makes heavy contact with #1 it tends to make the tackle and receiver work against each other in the blocking of #1. Ideally we want the tackle to just slightly shave off #1 while he runs his track. Typically playside linebacker is scraping so he will pick up a scraping backside linebacker, if not keep running. If we receive a lightning stunt or B pop the tackle picks that up. Also depending on our personnel we will double a 3 technique on the playside if we feel the guard will have a tough time reaching him. This gets tremendous push at the point of contact and allows a clean edge. Again this is something I feel is based of your personnel. It fit us this year, hopefully in future we have guards that can fully reach a three consistently.
PSG: For us he gets to treat this play just like zone dive or triple with his rule. We really like that so we have no new teaching involved. Like mentioned above based off personnel this year we chose to double a playside 3 technique. This is done through communication at line of scrimmage with guard and tackle
Center: Very important to gain half of A gap as he scoops. This allows help for any cross face 3 techniques.
PSA: Responsible for playside linebacker, he will take a vertical step with his outside foot and stay tight to the receiver down block. Very common mistake the PSA will make is getting to wide on his path and allowing a linebacker to run underneath him. He must also be able to identify where #2 is so he can have a good idea where the down block of receiver is going to happen. When #2 is inside that will force his path to be slightly wider than if #2 is outside the receiver. Only special situation for PSA is if #1 is a 4i and #2 is lined up outside. At that time the receiver will give him a word that tells him to now take path toward safety, again not blocking a man but running a track and block who shows.
BSA: Very important to use D motion and get the pitch man out front of the QB. Also don't allow him to turn up field unless he sees the QB turn up. Be ready for the pitch at all times!
WR: His number one job is to “compress” the edge. We want movement toward the inside. When blocking a 4 or 5 technique he will step laterally and place helmet on ribs. Can't allow #1 to roll off or gain penetration. Must be able to identify #1 and #2 in option count. If #2 is outside see where #1 is, this will tell him to block down on end or go to playside linebacker. Must be physical!
QB: Drop step with backside foot, gather, and go. As he takes drop step get eyes on #1, we want him to see what is happening on the edge in case the block of #1 doesn't go as planned, that will give him a chance to adjust and get what he can in a bad situation. Once he sees the edge is blocked he then gets eyes to pitch key, in most cases is the corner. He will quickly see if he is a QB player (corner fire) or pitch player. That will tell him how the ball will be distributed. If it has turned into a QB run see the block of the B back.
B: The elimination of tags has made the job of the B much easier by not having to worry about being a B gap protector. As ball is snapped we don't want to take any false steps, first step should be at outside leg of tackle (last season was outside hip of slot, we are going to adjust this in 2018) and must run full speed, never stop your feet. His eyes go directly to D gap to identify where #2 is. The term we use for our B is the “eraser”. He is going to erase any opposite jersey on his path. Most of the time this turns into a kickout block, we work on him getting on upfield hip as he performs the block. If #2 is running to ptich the B will turn up and get eyes inside for any leakage, if none he will continue running path to usually block safety. Again we don't teach to block a man, we run our track and block who shows.
If you study all the teams that run Zone Option you will find that we are in the minority how we Base/Ace with our play side guard and protect B gap with our tackle. Many teams will full zone the entire offensive line. Although I see nothing wrong with this it just doesn't fit our personnel. If your lineman have great feet then I think that is a great way to go. One of the most crucial aspects is always having a B gap protector. For us we guarantee that with our tackle, if you choose to zone that obligation will fall on a playside guard or your B back depending on the front you are being given.
Our site adjustments are all based off of #1 and #2 in the option count. Anytime our receiver has a clear path to the defensive end who is in a 4 or 5 technique we will stay with our basic rules that are listed above. If the defense chooses to play a 4i the receiver will then need to identify where #2 is. If #2 is inside of him that will result in him blocking #2 down, if #2 was outside that would give him a clear path to the playside linebacker and our slot would adjust to running his track to most likely the safety (we don't teach block a man, we run a track and block who shows).
If the defense chooses to play a 4 technique and put #2 inside our receiver we will communicate our tag word that tells the tackle to zone (get nose in outer arm pit of #1) and receiver will down (“compress”) #2, playside A will stay with his rule to playside linebacker. If the defense chooses to play a 4 technique and put #2 outside we will stay with our basic rules listed above.
REMEMBER THAT IN SOME SCENARIOS THE ALIGNMENT OF THE DEFENSE WILL ALLOW YOU TO CALL A BETTER PLAY THAN ZONE OPTION!! I say that because although we have adjustments to all situations it doesn't mean that zone option is the BEST call for that scenario. Our job as coaches is to identify the defense/alignment and get our teams into the best play possible.
How We Practice
I believe you can choose to practice this scheme one or two ways to get the proper amount of looks at different scenarios. You can choose to put zone option as your fourth play of half line each day or you can have a 10-15 minute Zone Option Pod each week. I believe this varies on the amount of practice time you have. For us we had time to utilize a Pod situation. Early in the install we did Zone Option pod two out of three days, we made it a priority to be good at this scheme. Once we got comfortable with all our tags and schemes we reduced to having a 15 minute Zone Option Pod one time per week.
4-3 (3-2i), #2 inside
6-1 (2i-3), #2 outside
4-2 (Sh-5), #2 outside
50 (0-4), #2 inside
50 (0-4i), #2 outside
The purpose of the Pod situation is to give your playside lineman, PSA, WR, B, and QB all the possible scenarios they will see on a game night. We also play the secondary multiple ways according to what we are seeing vs our flex formation. We call the play with tag attached, if a site adjustment is needed that is done during this period. Early in the install we were able to do 3-4 fronts per Pod period, as the season progressed we were able to get 5-6 different looks during this time. Also as we got past the install period our coaches did a lot of stem before the snap to make our kids think and apply rules. I believe the scripts listed above are a very solid start to get things implemented. I do believe as you go along you as a staff must identify how your flex formation is being defended and adjust your script accordingly if needed.
This play has really helped our entire offense. We are excited for 2018 because we believe it will be even better due to us simplifying our tags. This is a great scheme but remember it's not the scheme that beats people, its the technique and details you use! Feel free to reach out via twitter @ReedFB or email firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of any assistance.