Plagiarism in College Football: The Zone-Read Option
In college as a student, you are warned not to plagiarize or you’ll fail the course, or worse, be expelled from school. But in the college football world it’s a way to you’re your team afloat. Plagiarism in college football is a way to keep up with the Joneses. Right now the zone-read option is the latest ‘thing’ to be copycatted all over the country. Even the most casual fan has heard this term “zone-read” but doesn’t usually know what it means. I have taken on the daunting task of defining, and drawing the play for you here. In the fashion of coaches all across the US of A, I have pieced together this lesson from playbooks I’ve found online and have been given by other coaches.

Who runs this play:
Florida, USF, Texas, Ohio St, Miami (2007), Virginia Tech, West Virginia, etc.

Formations: It can be run out of a variety of shotgun formations, including 1 and 2 back sets, and 3-5 receiver sets, with tight ends and without. The key ingredient is having a QB who can make the read and a TB who has good vision to find the seam in the zone-blocking scheme.

The “read” in zone-read: The “read” is a term used by coaches/players to describe a key. On offense, reads are usually made pre-snap of a key or two for each play. On a slant, the key might be the CB playing soft and the Safety playing deep. In the double option, your key is the DE on the side you’re optioning to. The OT/TE will leave the DE unblocked and the QB reads him (coming up field at the QB = pitch, covering the pitch man (TB) = keep). Here the read is almost always based off the “backside” DE, or the DE opposite the side the running backs portion of the option is going to.

This is depicted here:


The key is the ‘E’ that’s circled. If he comes upfield at the QB the QB gives to the TB. If the DE boxes up and plays contain, the QB gives to the TB. If the DE chases the QB down the line, the QB pulls out and keeps.

The “zone” in Zone-Read: Zone-Blocking is a blocking scheme based on combo blocks (double teams) on the first level (Defensive Line). The lineman will “combo” or double team the front line, driving them to the right in the top play, and to the left in the bottom play. The TB, if given the ball, will then find a hole on the right side of the line, and attack the hole. Whichever lineman that can go up to the second level (linebackers) and block them will do so, and try to eliminate them from making a play (as seen in both diagrams).

Another look is here:
Zone Read

And here:
Zone Read

Other variations: A common play seen in the zone-read package is the one diagramed below. This is the “QB Counter” and is sometimes referred to as a QB Trap. The point of this play is to misdirect the MLB to the right (his left) and have the OT or OG (here it’s the OT) run a trap and block the WLB out, thus opening a large hole for the QB to run through at both the first and second levels.

Zone Read

Play-Action: A common pass play out of the zone-read is the play seen below. This play is a bootleg, where the QB fakes the handoff to the TB, and boots left, with the Y and J (slot) running a drag at 5 and 7, and the Z running a post at 7 to 10 and the X running a 10 and hitch back to 7. Sometimes the X will run a Go/Vertical/Burn (whatever it’s being called in that offense) to clear the CB out on that side.

Zone Read

Conclusion: Hopefully now more people can understand the zone-read, and why it is called that, the reads, keys, blocking scheme, counter off of it, and the PA pass as well. This crash course is given by a Coach, and stolen from other coaches, just like the play itself!