Texas A&M Football: 5 wrinkles to help the Aggies’ struggling offense

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Zone read

The way to build most offenses is to find that one play that is going to be your teams “bread and butter.” The way I’ve best heard it explained was, “3rd and 3, championship is on the line. What do you call that your guys best execute?” Usually it’s a simple play that has lots of variations on it. My high school had 32 base, a generic zone read that we ran probably 30-40 percent of the plays during games.

For the Aggies, and what I’ve seen, it’s much of the same. An inside zone run to whichever running back is in the game. Everyone blocks it slightly differently, but it looks something like this

It’s built around double teams moving defensive linemen, then one of the offensive linemen moving up to block linebackers. The running back can pick his hole, and must be patient, as moving 300 pound men can take a second or two. You may notice that the defensive end (Star on the DE) is unblocked. That sets up the counter to that play, where the QB can pull it. We’ve seen this a lot, with one memorable example being Trevor Knight‘s game winning TD against UCLA last year.

Attack the edge with the speed option

The point of these two is to make the defensive end wrong. No matter what he does, he is wrong. Another good way to read the end, without running into the teeth of the defense, is a speed option. Oregon used to run these what felt like every other play.

In it, the line blocks zone, steps playside and ignores the defensive end. The quarterback attacks, or runs at, the defensive end’s inside hip and forces his hand. Meanwhile, the running back runs what’s called a “pitch path,” a few yards outside of, and behind the quarterback. If the end looks to tackle the quarterback, he pitches it to an uncovered back. If the end goes towards the running back, the quarterback keeps the ball and cuts upfield to gain yards.

Can you imagine if Kellen Mond and Trayveon Williams can run this effectively? Get two speedy guys to the perimeter and let them make plays. It’s an easy read with practice, and one that Mond has surely ran in practice before. It can get him into a rhythym, and if the receivers block, can be deadly.

Respond to the defense

The other nice thing is what this sets up. The defense sees the running back take steps outside, and begins to except a speed option over to that side. What they don’t see, if Mazzone times it right, is the guard and tackle pulling to make this play turn into a counter the other way to gash the defense. Every play has a counter, and there is always a counter to that counter. Football is contact chess, and strategy plays a huge role in deciding who wins games.

Just these three plays, and all of the variations based on fronts, defensive schemes, and blitzes, even personnel, can fill up an entire playbook. This is a simple look against a simple nickel (five defensive backs, a nickel is five cents) defense that tends to be shown against spread teams.

You’ll also notice that the safety is unblocked. That’s okay. Any coach will tell you that a defense that has a safety leading the team in tackles in is trouble. These concepts can be shifted depending on what the defense does, and are usually cornerstones in offenses. I haven’t seen much speed option in the Aggie offense, but I think it is a wonderful wrinkle to add. We do run counter and inside zone, but those can be helped by adding in some speed option plays.