Gamecocks to use Zone Blocking Scheme in 2010; Let’s Explain It

Much has been made of the new offensive line coach Shawn Elliot as he inherits a line that has given up 30+ sacks each of the last three years so as you can see there is work to do. Successful line play at Carolina is the missing ingredient for a successful offensive strategy for the Gamecocks in my view.

In 2010, Carolina is blessed with a battle tested returning quarterback, a deep running back stable and options at receiver. What is needed now is an improved offensive line to allow the Spurrier offense to truly click as intended.

By now if you follow USC football and have read this blog. You know that USC has a new OL Coach, the 3rd in 3 years. The new guy, Coach Elliot, is bringing a new scheme for the offensive linemen that is called “zone blocking” and is known to use the “inside zone read” (more on that in another post) as his choice for running the ball as he did at Appalachian State University.

For today, I am going to give you a brief overview of “zone blocking,” just sticking to the basics as it can get complex but I feel Coach Elliot wants to keep this simple in 2010.

{More after the jump….}

Zone Blocking

In general, the idea is what you’d expect. The line is going to block an area and the way the opposing team defends will determine the way you block that area. The result should be opened running lanes for the running back.

Zone Blocking developed as a response to the increasingly athletic defensive linemen and basically to eliminate their penetration in the backfield. The more traditional style, “man blocking”, requires players to block a specific player which can prove difficult if the OL is over-matched which can be the case in the SEC with some nasty DE’s. So I for one am glad that a zone blocking scheme is going to be fully implemented by Coach Elliot.

Instead of blocking each lineman one on one, what if the entire offensive line blocked the defensive line, functioning as a unit? Instead of each lineman having to adjust to the pre-snap movements, stinting, and post-snap twisting and stunting, the offensive line adjusted as a unit? What if linemen worked as a unit instead of chasing around these freaks that teams were now employing at defensive tackle? Welcome to zone blocking; the thinking man’s way to block. Again, the entire goal is to eliminate penetration.

With zone blocking, the lineman will advance to their designated area, and block any player in that area in an attempt to “win” the zone. If the zone is initially empty, they will continue through their zone, possibly help out an adjacent lineman, or proceed to the 2nd level, (LB’s and defensive backs). You may find it useful to think of this in basketball terms, with zone and man defense. The concept is for two adjacent linemen to come off in unison and attack a defensive lineman to the play side. Unlike man blocking, where each player has an assigned man to block; zone blocking creates an initial double-team with two players blocking a single defensive lineman. This allows the offensive linemen to be very aggressive because they know they have help from their teammate. It is this initial team that creates movement at the point of attack, and from which the runner will make his read and find the developing hole.

Keep in mind that in zone blocking the Center is the “leader.” He calls the “play” for the OL, so USC’s TJ Johnson makes the call and it goes from the inside out (centers call guards, guards tell tackles what to do, tackles tell tight ends what to do. Thus, there’s a chain of decreasing responsibility). This type of scheme is more about smart football players than it is about big fat men winning one-on-one battles.

For a more thorough explanation of Zone Blocking, consult this link:

Football 101: Zone Blocking from ESPN’s Bob Davie

Watch these two videos…yes they are 9 mins each but you will be a smarter gamecock fan because of it….


Clear as mud now? Expect to see it beginning tomorrow.

About flounder

Two-time grad of THE University of South Carolina.