Mickey Plyler's Blog for June 28

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Offensive Lineman Week-The Zone Blocking Scheme

Clemson switched to more of a zone-blocking scheme when Rob Spence became the offensive coordinator. I am not a coach and don’t claim to know all there is to know about schemes. Also, it is difficult to communicate these schemes without a chalkboard or a way to draw it up for you, so bear with me as I try to give some insight into the zone-blocking scheme.

Offensive linemen used to be responsible for a single defender and backs would be assigned to run through certain holes. For example, each back was given a number as was each designated hole. Odd numbered holes were on the left side of the line starting with hole between the center and left guard and even numbered holes were on the right. A “24” call would mean the back labeled number two in the scheme would run through the four hole (between the right guard and right tackle). A “48 sweep” would be the four back heading to the eight hole around the outside of the tight end on the right side.

In zone blocking, the offensive line blocks as a group in certain areas rather than being responsible for blocking a single man. In this scheme they block areas. The back does not have a designated hole to hit. Instead, he waits and reads the blocks and then cuts to daylight.

In the zone scheme each offensive lineman has a target that they have to aim for. For example, the guard may have the outside hip of the defensive tackle as his aiming point. The offensive linemen have to be able to move horizontally while keeping his shoulders square. One way they achieve this is they start in a two-point stance which the Tigers used every offensive play last season.

There are two basic running plays in the zone scheme (inside zone and outside zone stretch.) Since there are only two basic plays then the offensive line gets repetition against all fronts and all blitzes. In the old days of Coach Ford, the Tigers took very few plays into each game. His philosophy was it does not matter what we do, it only matters how we do it. That can be held over today with this scheme as the offensive line get the same repetitions over and over again. This gives them confidence that they can block the play the way it was designed and are not having to think too much during the game. This is important today because of all of the defenses the offensive line sees each week.

Because the offense limits its number of plays, it can run them with many different formations to get the defense in different looks. Spence uses formations to gain leverage and sometimes can simply out number the opponent in the running game.

There two basic plays in zone blocking scheme: inside zone and outside zone stretch.

Inside Zone

In some cases the guard either teams with the center or the tackle to create a double team in their respective area.

The guard or tackle can sometimes leave the double team and reach for the next level defender (linebacker). Which player leaves the double team is based upon which way the initial defensive lineman moves. For example, if the guard and tackle are doubling the defensive end and the defensive end goes up field and stays outside, the guard then gets up field to engage with the linebacker. If the defensive end rips to the inside, then tackle releases and gets to the linebacker. In either case the back reads the end and then reads the linebacker at the next level. The back must stay patient and then accelerate when the block is made.

Inside zone schemes create cut back lanes after the back appears to get downhill.

Outside zone stretch

On this play the linemen simply try to block their zone but also create a seal to allow the back to get on the edge before he has to cut back. This play has linemen reaching more and getting down the line of scrimmage more. Both of these plays allow for play action but the outside stretch allows for a great bootleg package because of the flow of the defense. Once the defense flows too hard with their backside pursuit then the QB can pull the ball out and bootleg to opposite side. Often times the tight end can become very involved in this package. The threat of the play action also keeps the backside from pursuing and can in turn help the running game. It is a lot easier to run the ball when you don’t have to block as many people.

Some of you know much more than I do about these schemes and I hope I did not butcher the translation for the others. However, since we were talking about the offensive lines this week I thought it would be fun to do a little chalk talk without the chalk.

SEC Offensive Line Rankings

I have received several e-mails from readers saying they did not enjoy the SEC analysis for each position on the blog. I do them for the radio show but I will not publish the in-depth notes and simply give you the rankings for each position on this format. If you want to keep the SEC in-depth please let me know through the e-mails.

Here are my SEC offensive line rankings:
1.    Arkansas
2.    Auburn
3.    LSU
4.    Alabama
5.    Georgia
6.    Tennessee
7.    Florida
8.    Vanderbilt
9.    Kentucky
10.   Mississippi State
11.   South Carolina
12.   Ole Miss

Depth Chart Movers

Finally, today let me give you eight freshmen or red-shirt freshman that will not start fall camp on the two deep but have the best chance to move into it and get some playing time in 2006. The seven are: C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Thomas Austin, Barry Humphries, Jamie Cumbie, Rickey Sapp and Richard Jackson.

Please excuse the typos and grammar. Also, please visit our sponsors, Tom Winkopp Realtor and Developer, Mr. Knickerbockers, George Coleman Ford and Brad Hughes Allstate Agency. It is there patronage that keeps the blog free. If you are interested in great advertising opportunities on the blog contact me at mickeyplyler@hotmail.com.

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