Michigan Football: Playbook X's and O's -- Let's Talk a little Zone Blocking

Posted at 6:00am — 2/25/2008

Michigan Football: Playbook X’s and O’s — Let’s Talk a little Zone Blocking

There have been questions raised about how Michigan’s blocking will differ from last year. We are told that West Virginia is a zone team and that will be different from what Michigan did last year.

When all we have heard for last two years is that Michigan has been employing zone blocking. What gives? The skinny is that there are two types of zone blocking, outside zone, or stretch blocking, and inside zone blocking. Michigan employed outside zone last two years, West Virginia uses inside zone scheme. The two schemes have some things in common, but many more differences. The breakdown based on how they are similar and where they differ.

How the same:
Both types of zone have the same rules. In addition, there are only two rules. Rule #1 is you are either covered or uncovered; rule #2 is work for a double team. That is it. Another similarity is both schemes have all linemen step in the same direction. If you are running 32 zones, all linemen step to the right, 33 zone all linemen to the left. Both also employ a short first step to side you are blocking. In addition, position of helmet is huge, although you position the helmet is in different spots. Both also employ the punch to slow down angling linemen and allow your teammate to get to proper place. In both styles, you also teach your linemen to sprint or run full speed once you achieve the double.

First difference is the Offensive linemen first step. In stretch blocking linemen step at 45-degree angle to line of scrimmage. In inside zone linemen step flat to the line of scrimmage. The 45-degree step is used because in stretch blocking it is important that the linemen get vertical so they push the defender or stretch the defense to the sidelines. This 45-degree step usually means that the feet end up heal to toe. With inside zone, you step flat because preventing penetration is paramount. This means that linemen feet are in line with each other.

Second difference is aiming point of the linemen. In stretch blocking the linemen aiming point is the far arm or armpit of the Defensive linemen. With inside zone, the aiming point is the center of the defenders body. In stretch blocking your goal is to cover the far number of the defender. Inside zone, you trying to cover the defenders body not get the far number. When executing the stretch block your helmet needs to just above the far number, with inside zone your helmet needs to be right below the chin. If you do not have proper helmet location performing the key difference will be almost impossible. The key or better-stated biggest difference is how you move the defender. With stretch blocking, you are running or pushing the defender to the sidelines. You are literally trying to stretch or gain separation in the defense. With inside zone, you trying to move the defender vertical or move the line of scrimmage backwards.

Moving line of scrimmage backwards allows the RB, or QB to cutback through the backside seam for big yardage. This is not blocking, but key to understanding the difference in blocking knows the RB’s course. In stretch play RB’s aiming point is inside leg or hip of TE. If there is no TE, most teams call it ghost TE and use same point. With inside zone, the RB’s aiming point is inside leg of play side OG. This allows the RB, or QB to cut through either play side or backside A and B gaps. That makes this scheme tough to defend. If you backside defenders to not maintain gap integrity, they give up big chunks of yardage. Think ASU and Oregon last year. These are major similarities and differences.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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