Zone Blocking, Part I – Philosophy and Concepts by: Ken Wilmesherr Offensive Line Coach, Grossmont College It is important for

offensive linemen to learn to block through a detailed progression so they understand the overall concepts of the position. The zone blocking concept is an important element of Grossmont College’s running attack. In part I of this three-part series on our zone game, we will introduce our offensive line philosophy and the basics of the zone offense, emphasizing coaching points for offensive linemen.

OFFENSIVE LINE PHILOSOPHY The success of every team is based on the strength of the offensive line. Therefore, it is imperative that offensive linemen establish a presence. There are eight things we look for in an offensive lineman: • Toughness • Intelligence • Work ethic • Team player • Great feet • Great vision • Hip, knee and ankle flexibility. • Balance Offensive linemen need to be fundamentally tough and fundamentally sound in both the run and pass game. To be effective and fundamentally sound, offensive linemen require patience and many hours of hard work on and off the field. Offensive linemen need to understand that run and pass blocking are unnatural tasks and can be developed to a greater degree than any other phase of the game.

weight distribution and body balance. • The ability to keep their eyes open on contact. What it takes to be an effective offensive lineman: • Belief in what they see. self discipline. the easier it will be for him to cope with various situations.Successful offensive line play depends on the the mastery of the techniques required in the run and pass game. • Confidence in their body posture. communication. and the willingness to pay the price are part of being a respected offensive lineman. The more techniques an offensive lineman can master in the run and pass game. • Confidence in their footwork. • Belief in and trust of their technique. BLOCKING PROGRESSION . • Anticipation of stunt and blitz tendencies without guessing. Concentration. An offensive lineman’s success can only be brought about with tremendous work ethic and confidence in his ability in both the run and pass game. • Trust in their run blocking and pass blocking demeanor as well as confidence in their ability to master the techniques in the run and pass game. Trust their eyes.

Shooting the eyes allows for the lineman to make proper adjustments. Diagram 1. . Always work for quickness. Split • Vertical and horizontal. the punch is delivered up and through the defender (forklift the defender). Contact • On contact. confidence. .Lineman’s ability.Defensive structure.Offensive play and individual personnel. and leverage. • Time of domination. . Stance • Develop a good one. it is the base from which all action starts.A six-step sequence must take place for any block to be successful (See Diagram 1). Approach • This includes footwork. defensive personnel. and quickness. The punch is a matter of quickness. Everything is based on a lineman’s ability to beat his opponent to contact. • The splits should be smart and may vary with: . timing. quickness. eyes (shoot your eyes).

etc. On inside zone. demand It. slants. Follow Through • Follow through. Inside zone blocking is designed to get vertical movement on the line of scrimmage by creating double teams on down defenders while getting vertical movement to the second level defender. Zone blocking features co-ops. .• There are two types of leverage we are always after: pad leverage and hand leverage. Finish • Our goal is to drive the defender 10 yards and put him on his back. the zone concept dictates to the defense and can account for defensive actions after the snap. but rather an area or zone blocking scheme. unlock the hips. the whole defensive front is stressed. the double team on stretch will be short lived and evolve into a co-op block between the tackle and tight end. coach It. ZONE CONCEPTS The zone play is different than most other offensive plays because there is no specific point of attack. which consist of two or more adjacent linemen working together blocking defenders either on or off the ball in specific playside or backside gaps. it is sound vs. Because of this. • The finish: teach It. Inside and stretch is not a man blocking scheme. blitzes. stunts. while on stretch there won’t be double teams except on the edge between the playside tackle and tight end. As a result. Furthermore. On an inside zone blocking scheme. However. The zone play can break anywhere. Finish off the defender. all offensive linemen are working vertically through their playside gap. there will be double teams. so it is imperative that all linemen know that both playside and backside blocking assignments are crucial.

QUARTERBACK AND RUNNING BACK AIMING POINTS On the inside zone. . there is more horizontal push by the offensive linemen. By stretching the defense. The back will press the hole and cut back. The running back’s aiming point is the hip of the callside guard (Diagram 2). the quarterback steps at either 5 (zone right) or 7 o’clock (zone left).The vertical movement created by the offensive linemen and the double teams (co-ops) at the first level allows the running back to press the hole and find the crease allowing for a cut back. Stretch blocking is designed to stretch the defense by getting the defenders to move laterally. Thus. As the back stretches the defense and the offensive linemen push defenders laterally. Diagram 2. creating seams for the running back. offensive linemen are attempting to gain horizontal leverage on the defenders. Because of the horizontal push and the aiming point of the running back. the running back will puncture the defense as he finds the seam. defenders will move laterally across the field. The running back is reading the first down defender from the center out.

COACHING POINTS FOR LINEMEN • It is important that linemen know the proper vertical and horizontal splits in the zone concept. • They must understand the blocking area or zone. the back will bounce the edge to the sideline. . • They must understand the proper footwork for both an uncovered and a covered lineman. • They must understand the difference between being an uncovered or a covered lineman. quickness. the back will work upfield and cut under the defender. the faster the offensive lineman can engage the defender and use his size and power. If the edge blocker controls the defender. The tighter the vertical alignment. The running back is on an angle to the edge blocker (Diagram 3). and confidence level of your offensive line personnel and your offensive philosophy. The running back is reading the hip of the edge blocker. either the callside tight end or the callside tackle.On stretch. If the edge defender is not controlled. Vertical and Horizontal Splits Vertical and horizontal splits are determined by the ability. aiming points and hand placement on inside and stretch. • They must know the landmarks. the quarterback steps at either 8 (left zone) or 4 o’clock (right zone). Diagram 3.

Vertical splits are loose. Uncovered and Covered In the zone concept..g. depending on defensive structures and defensive personnel. which are designated by the down defenders’ alignment. A lineman is covered if he has a man on him. the down hand is on the instep of the center.A zone team will have deeper vertical splits because there are two-man or three-man (co-op blocks) schemes in which offensive linemen are reading and reacting to the defender while working to a certain target area. This allows for two steps in the ground before contact. we speak in terms of uncovered and covered linemen. Diagram 4. We maintain a minimum of 18 inches to a maximum of 24-inch horizontal splits. splits may vary on the play side and the back side (Diagram 4). The footwork will vary between uncovered and covered linemen. a linebacker). Being covered playside is defined as having a defender aligned in the playside shade or gap on the LOS (Diagram 5). However. and he is uncovered if he has a man on him at depth (e. .

Being covered backside is defined as having no defender in the playside shade or gap. . but having a defender head up or in the backside gap on the LOS (Diagram 6).Diagram 5. Diagram 6.

If both backside linemen are covered then they must man block (Diagram 8). or to the call side shade or gap on the LOS. Uncovered linemen will zone with the adjacent lineman to the call side. head up. . but is covered at depth by a second-level defender (Diagram 7). Diagram 7. Covered linemen will zone with the back side (away from the call side) lineman.Being uncovered is defined as having no defender either backside.

the backside tackle’s zone is from his nose to the backside guard’s playside shoulder. The backside guard’s zone is from his nose to the center’s play side shoulder.Diagram 8. For example. . Defining Zones Each lineman is responsible for a zone or area. the center’s zone is from his nose to the right guard’s playside shoulder and so on. However. the playside tight end’s zone is from his nose to the sideline (Diagram 9).

and armpit) of the first or second level defender. the uncovered lineman works to the second-level defender. Offensive linemen want to rip the far landmark. . If the near hip comes to him. an uncovered lineman is reading the near hip and chasing the far hip of the down defender. Aiming Points The landmark for covered and uncovered linemen is outside the bodyline (playside hip. knee. he takes over the block (Diagram 10). Landmarks. On the inside zone. If the down defender’s hip disappears (color goes away).Diagram 9.

On the back side of zone we can also use cut and scramble blocks. The landmark for stretch is the outside the bodyline (playside) hip of the defender. The aiming point is the play side (outside armpit) of the defender. The scramble block is performed mostly by a backside lineman to stop penetration and pursuit by a defender. Hand Placement Inside zone: The covered lineman needs to keep his playside arm free while doing a one-arm bench with the backside arm. The uncovered lineman will one-arm bench the down defender’s near breast plate with the playside arm and keep the backside arm free. Punch the playside breast plate of the down defender.Diagram 10. It is important for a lineman to not chase a scrapping linebacker because he is usually replaced by a slanting lineman. The uncovered lineman will “piggyback” the . The covered lineman will squeeze with the uncovered lineman creating a double team to the second level defender.

The entry level of the funnel is the elbow and the ribs. By ripping the funnel. and blitzes. . the lineman needs to stay square. stunts. Keep the outside shoulder free.covered lineman to be in position to handle slants. this will keep the defender from holding or grabbing the offensive lineman. The offensive lineman is trying to get his backside arm through the defender’s playside armpit (rip the far target). The end of the funnel is the arm pit. When ripping the funnel. Stretch: All linemen will rip with the backside arm (ripping the funnel).