Michigan Wolverines: The Ingredients to Success — Offense
Rebuilding Michigan Football — Offense — See, Step, Read the Compass, Two Peas in a Pod, and Hands-on Learning
When blocking the inside zone, players cannot simply go up to the line and look at someone and set sail. One way to think about zone responsibilities is to introduce a concept of working as “two’s. After figuring out if the assignment is front side or backside, which should be automatic, players need to understand not only their assignment, but also that of the player they are beside. In addition, a blocker needs to initially and immediately determine if they are covered or uncovered. Now after figuring out the side of the play and the defensive coverage, many zone blocking schemes employ a concept of directionality.
The side of the play and location of the defenders, relative to the blockers, determines the step. There are many variations; still a handful of steps can easily wrap up a discussion of step technique. An excellent resource is to dial up articles describing the Steeler’s inside zone blocking assignments. There will be times that old-fashioned straight ahead blocking, drive blocking, will be used, as in any offense. This is termed base blocking and may end up being the assignment of one particular blocker in the pod (twosome) scheme. It is just a short forward jab step straight into the defense.
The block most fans are familiar with is the 45 degree angle used frequently in the inside series to get in the way of a playside defender.
Fans have also heard of a type of block that involves opening up the foot 90 degrees to move laterally. The attempt is to beat a defensive lineman, who is playing straight up, to the edge on an outside zone play. If defenses cheat, counters, inside zone plays, or backside cuts by a running back knowledgeable with a zone scheme can wreak some havoc.
The compass continues with a further six-inch footwork drop past the lateral line of 90 degrees. As one would suspect this is used for beating a defensive linemen outside when he is shading the offensive lineman.
The deepest step is a straight back 180-degree opening of the hip and foot to the playside. In baseball the technique is called swinging the gate and is used by outfielders to open up and get that first step back on the hard line drive hit straight at a fielder. Fans, and coaches, have called this football technique stepping in the bucket. It is an easier way to quickly get to the outside if uncovered.
Two peas in a pod:
This refers to inside zone blockers working as a team within a buddy system. Not only do both players need to know the other’s assignment and read, but also both need to work as a pair, in tandem. The footwork must be synchronized, as eventually contact and blocking will become a two-on-two battle. In this zone scheme, one blocker will probably eventually go to the second level, potentially to take on a linebacker.
It is a very good thing that offensive linemen were given much more leeway in the use of hands several decades ago, or else inside zone blocking would never exist. In this scheme the feet are critical but so is the use of hands. After the footwork, contact will eventually occur, either instigated by the defense or the offense. The position of the hands becomes critical. The angle of the block and the use of hands create leverage. Running backs read the block and the position of the blocker.
Inside zone blocking is different from lining up toe-to-toe and knocking someone five yards backwards on their backside. However, it can be just as effective. The blocker must add more skills to insure positive yardage plays. After contact and hand placement, the lineman next must literally peek at the next defender and be ready to make hand contact with him.
So, while zone blocking may simplify choices and decrease breakdowns, much must be done to master the system besides gaining the needed physical strength and specific skills. Some systems rely on finesse, some on power, and a few on both. The suspicion is that Michigan one day wants to be good at both.
Next up will be a short discussion of the individuals that make up Michigan’s line.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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