My name is Kyle McElvany. I just finished my second season as the Offensive and Defensive Line Coach at Swanton High School in northwest Ohio. This past season was our staff’s second year in Swanton as we are attempting to restore the proud tradition that the program once held. Although our record (3-7) may not indicate that we have made progress, as a staff we feel we are certainly making tremendous improvement. This was our first year utilizing the spread offense. We used multiple formations out of 10, 11, 12, and 21 personnel with 90% of the time being in the shotgun. Despite a slow start that made some of us wonder if the choice to go to “the spread” was worth it, we ended up with a 1200+ yards passing and team total of 1300+ rushing yards. I do not claim to be an expert on the inside zone or offensive line play, but my intention in writing this article is to help those coaches who may be thinking about installing or have already installed this play.
• Why I like the Inside Zone
Taking into account the types of kids I had up front and the talented tailback that my team had coming back, I wanted a play that was simple for the linemen, and was the best way to get our tailback the football. After watching several DVDs, going to many clinics, and meeting with a few college coaches, I was convinced that the Inside Zone play was the signature play I wanted to feature in our offense. One of the reasons I was attracted to the inside zone was because of its simplicity. No matter what front the defense lines up in, if the lineman follow their rules and play aggressive, we should never have a play for negative yardage. The teaching of the footwork to the Quarterback and Running back were also very easy to implement. Another reason I like the Inside Zone play is because it can be run out of multiple formations without any sort of rule changes. It can be just as effective in a 2x2 shotgun formation or a double-tight, 1 back under center set. Also, the naked play action off of the inside zone is a weapon in itself. Even without a strong quarterback, the play action pass off the inside zone can be very effective and is fairly simple to teach.
• Offensive Line Coach Needs to Be Creative
In order to get good at the inside zone, your offensive line coach needs to be an effective teacher. Just like the teacher in the classroom, you must find a way to reach every single kid on your team. Be creative! Some of the teaching aids I used included power-power presentation, video clips of various high school and college teams running inside zone, position group manuals, walk throughs, chalk talks, and even having them stand up during position group meetings and explain the concepts to me. At the end of pre season practice, I quizzed them on the various techniques and schemes we had installed. Also I recommend filming practice sessions as much as you can, not only for you to review, but for the players to see themselves on film.
• Repetition is Key
During pre season camps, and two a days, my goal was to rep the inside zone at least 40-50 times a day whether it be in group sessions or team periods. This requires a well-organized and up tempo practice to accomplish this amount of reps. Sometimes we reached that goal, sometimes we did not. Since we see an odd front about 70% of the time during the regular season so until the second week of two a days we practiced against some type of odd front.
Also, I recommend you or having another coach, coaching up the scout team, especially the linebackers, because if you do not, they will just stand there and be blocking dummies. I feel that if you are going to run inside zone, than it needs to be your base play. You cannot just “date” the inside zone play, you must marry it. While it can be a great play, if it is not repped often, and against various fronts, it will probably fail to be productive for your team. As for the actual teaching progression I used for this...