We received quite a few requests this offseason to feature more individual plays this season. Today we want to chat a little more about the inside zone rushing plays that have been featured at Clemson recently. Andre Ellington has flourished making the correct decisions when his number has been called the past two seasons, so expect to see more of this as the year moves forward.
The play that I want to talk about today is Ellington's 60 yard TD rush early in the North Texas football game. This is a basic play that set up easily to diagram and give everyone a good idea of how inside zone blocking works.
Clemson lined up in a standard Ace Spread formation. I cannot be certain of North Texas' personnel, but to eliminate arguement and simplify the explanation will say that they were in a base 4-3 set. Clemson's spread formation caused the two outside linebackers to line up head up on both of Clemson's slot receivers. It is also important to note that the Mean Green lined up with two safeties. At the snap of the ball, the OLB at the top of the screen blitzes, putting the safety on that side of the field in what looks like man coverage.
Clemson called an inside zone play, probably 31 since it appears as though the play was designed to go to the left side of the formation. A good reference for some zone plays Clemson likes to run is Dr. B's piece on 34/35.
From our post earlier about zone blocking in general, here is what we say about technique:
Simple and Basic Rules of Zone Blocking:
- Center is responsible for the playside "A" gap.
- Playside guard is responsible for the playside "B" gap.
- Playside tackle is responsible for the playside "C" gap.
- Backside guard is responsible for the backside "A" gap.
- Backside tackle is responsible for the backside "B" gap.The OL will need to immediately recognize who is covered and who is uncovered. If the lineman is uncovered, he will need to combo block towards the playside and one of the blockers will move to the next level. If the lineman is covered and his backside teammate is uncovered, there should be a combo block. If the lineman is covered and his backside teammate is covered the lineman should not expect help from his teammate.
Since this was an inside zone rushing attempt, the linemen wanted to establish "inside position" on the man that each was blocking up front. In this case, North Texas showed an even front with two two-techniques and two ends. The play is designed to go to the left side of the formation. At the snap of the ball, the playside offensive tackle needs to get inside position on the end and playside guard inside position on the defensive tackle. The center will look to provide a temporary double team (combo) on the with the playside guard on the defensive tackle. After a temporary double team on the defensive tackle (if needed), the center will go to the next level and block the middle linebacker. The backside guard will look to get inside position on the DT head up over him and the backside tackle wants inside position on the end to his side. The back will receive the ball and optimally run towards the 1.
On this particular play, the backside guard does not get inside position on the backside DT BUT the backside tackle does get proper position on the end. It should also be noted that MIKE is flowing towards the playside. The running back sees this before or during the mesh and makes ONE cut behind the backside offensive tackle (ensuring a seal) and breaks free from the backer coming off the edge, and accelerates through the hole. The rest of the play is pure athleticism.
Here is how this all played out in diagram form:
Here is what it looked like frame by frame:
And here is the video replay: