Blocking the Sprint-Out Pass: Full Zone

15 Jul

In blocking the sprint-out pass, we’re thinking that you should use a scheme that works with your run game.  Its primary goal should be to quickly get the QB beyond contain and into the perimeter where he can threaten the defense.

Full-Zone is one way to block the sprint-out.  So is Turnback.  But the most common way to protect a sprint-out is to Hinge which is routinely called Turnback protection but isn’t.

All are area blocking schemes and all are simple to teach.

Full Zone

“Full Zone” is short-hand.  It means everyone on the line is using zone blocking techniques and stepping laterally in the same direction.  Put more simply, everyone is reaching to the playside.

The most common rule is that each lineman is responsible for the defender in the playside gap between his nose and the shoulder of the adjacent playside lineman.

Zones using Gap Rule

Some coaches, however, will broaden the boundaries of an OL’s zone of responsibility by using a “nose-to-nose” rule.  The linemen block the defender aligned between his nose and the nose of the adjacent playside lineman.

The nose-to-nose rule makes more sense to teach middle school OL since they may think to leave a DL shaded on an adjacent OL untouched because, technically, he’s not in the gap.  Cutting down the splits would help as well.

Zones using Nose-to-Nose Rule

As with any blocking technique, the first step is critical — particularly when zoning a sprint-out pass because we’d argue that you need to teach two different first steps based on the alignment of the defender.

Versus a defender shaded on the OL or in the gap, a lateral step makes sense where a bucket step doesn’t because you wouldn’t want to give up ground to a hard-charging DL.  You’d want to shut him down right now, so a lateral first step — what we’ll call a reach step — to the playside to cut him off, rather than catch him, followed by a slide step to regain balance and power, is needed.

Imagine a kick-slide maneuver except it’s step-slide and sideways towards the defender’s playside armpit.

Reach Step - Full Zon

Now where a bucket step makes sense is if the defender is aligned wide in the OL’s zone of responsibility.  Say, for instance, that he’s shaded inside on the adjacent playside OL.  In this situation, we’d argue that, from a geometry stand point, the bucket step isn’t needed to gain ground as much as it’s needed to improve the OL’s angle of intersection with the defender.

Bucket Step - Full Zone

The problem with a bucket step, though, is what foot to step with next?   Imagine, if you will, an OL angled at a 45 and his feet splayed in a wide base.  You might think he would need to slide step to regain his balance and power.  If he does that, though, he won’t gain any ground.  It will now take him two more steps to engage the defender and that’s one step too many; one step too slow.

The way to speed things up is to crossover with the backside foot once the playside side foot is dropped at a 45 degree angle and rooted to the ground.  The crossover step will close the distance and, on the third step, the OL will engage the defender.

2nd step = crossover to gain ground

With either first step technique, the aiming point is the defender’s far armpit.  The OL punches that with his playside hand and between the numbers with his backside hand.

Once engaged, he rapidly steps-and-slides — without bringing his feet together — and presses to get his playside hip beyond the defender; the goal being to get between him and the QB.  Failing that, he should flatten him out.

There are many rules explaining what to do next f there’s no contact on the first step-and-slide but what will be easier for a middle schooler to remember and execute is simply to hinge to the backside and run off any defender seeking to rush through their zone of responsibility.

Those favoring full zone protection talk about its simplicity in allowing the QB to get to the edge quicker and either deliver the ball or pocket it — meaning run with it.

When teaching this technique, the OL can learn it using a step-by-step progression — sort of like learning how to dance.  You simply number the steps and call out the numbers, having the OL step in unison to the numbers.

For example, 1=reach step; 2=slide step; 3=no contact or blitz, hinge. They can practice on air and, if you have the time and the numbers, they can practice against a defense using stunts and blitzes.

When teaching a full zone scheme, remember that the key block belongs to the playside tackle. He must not over-extend his reach step and slide.  And he must not chase the contain defender and leave a gap between himself and the playside guard.

Remember too that the playside blocks are always more important than the backside blocks because the QB needs to be attacking the edge right away.

The principal concern with a full-zone scheme, though, is that there are open gaps for the defense to run through.   This can be countered by cutting down your splits, thus decreasing the OL’s distance to their blocking assignments while shrinking the QB’s distance to the edge.

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