Here’s a strategy to help running backs improve vision on the outside zone play

By Keith Grabowski | Posted 9/17/2015

Teaching the outside zone play looks simple, but understanding the specifics and then setting up drills to work the different scenarios are complex tasks that can pay big dividends on game day.

Many young running backs miss holes because they do not understand how to fix their eyes to get a read.

Many coaches make the mistake of thinking vision is just an innate talent.

The truth is that vision can be developed – just like any skill.

Here are the different scenarios running backs can face on an outside zone run and teaching points for each:

Tailback read and reaction No. 1: Blocker reaches defender

In this scenario, we expect our tailback to have a specific reaction to this read along with a technique that we called “press and dip,” which allows the blocker to secure the reach block.

The running back should:

  • Get on the inside hip of the blocker
  • Keep this relationship to get the defender to commit inside
  • Dip inside and let the blocker get his inside number on the defender’s outside number
  • Get back outside and on track to the next blocker or up the sideline

Tailback read and reaction No. 2: Color shows on outside half of blocker

In his scenario, the blocker is losing the reach, and opposite color is starting to show on the outside half. The tailback is instructed to use a “press and cut” technique.

In this case, the running back should:

  • Cut up north and south
  • Get back outside and read the force

Tailback read and reaction No. 3: Unblocked defender on your track

The final scenario is when an unblocked defender is on the tailback’s track. Either the blocker missing his block or got beat.

Now, the technique is “cut” with the idea of getting back to the line of scrimmage and minimizing a loss. Account for what to do if the cut brings the tailback back into space.

  • Immediately cut north and south to get what yards are available
  • If space opens up, look to get back outside

Here is some video of different scenarios:

After discussing these scenarios with running backs and walking them through them, reinforce this information by setting up drills during individual and group periods.

It is important for players to understand the coaching points on each drill and understand their purpose.

So at our practices, the tailback drill list for stretch plays are:

  • Dip
  • Cut
  • Read drill: Climb levels
  • Read drill: Color showing
  • Read drill: Color flashed
  • Read drill: Mix up scenarios