Perhaps the most common running play in all of football today is what is known as inside zone. This is a uniform concept that you find in pro-style offenses like Michigan to Air Raid attacks like Washington State. In Eddie Gran’s offense, it is no different. In this play, the offensive lineman doesn’t block a specific person, they run a track. Whether it is left of right, the line moves in unison and this allows the running back to rely on their instincts. Once they get the hand off, the back makes a read and then takes off.
Whether it is Benny Snell or A.J. Rose lined behind to Terry Wilson in the pistol formation, this is a staple of the offense and it is used up to 15-20 times per game.
In the second quarter against South Carolina, A.J. Rose took a handoff and ran right behind Bunchy Stallings on his way to a 24-yard touchdown that would give UK a two score lead in the second quarter. This play was your typical inside zone running scheme and today we’re going to take you inside the film room to show you how this play is executed. When done right, seams are created for big plays.
In the second quarter, facing a first and ten just outside the red zone, UK comes out in the pistol formation (shotgun with a running back line up directly behind the quarterback). When in the pistol, the quarterback is four yards behind the center instead of six or seven. This allows the offense to get more of an I-formation look without having to go under center. Instead of the running back standing at the side of the quarterback, this formation allows the back to get some forward momentum before taking a handoff. That helps A.J. Rose build up some steam.
UK is in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) and this is a grouping they love to utilize. However, this time C.J. Conrad is not in the original tight end position of lining up next to the tackle. This time, the senior is lined up in a traditional H-back (kind of a hybrid fullback and tight end) spot which is directly behind the tackle. Since Conrad is to the left of the football along with two receivers, Kentucky has made the boundary (the short side of the field) the strong side of the formation due to five guys being aligned there compared to just three guys (right guard, right tackle, wide receiver Isaiah Epps) on the right.
At the snap, the entire offensive line except for left tackle E.J. Price takes a step to the right for the blocking scheme. Due to the formation, Kentucky has an immediate numbers advantage. South Carolina had shifted a linebacker and a safety/nickelback over to the right side of the formation to deal with C.J. Conrad and Lynn Bowden who is in the slot. This gives UK a “hat for a hat” as the center, right guard, right tackle, and wide receiver each have just one man to block. If everyone does their job a crease will be there for the running back if he makes the correct read.
There is the crease. George Asafo-Adjei does a great job driving out the defensive end while Bunchy Stallings drives the middle linebacker out of the hole. Usually on zone schemes, the guard will have to help the center with a double team but not this time. Drake Jackson engages the one technique (a defensive tackle that is lined up inside the offensive guard) and stalls him just enough for Rose to blaze right past him. The offensive line does their job and A.J. Rose makes the correct read and does it decisively. The sophomore running back gets downhill right away.
Next time you’re watching the Wildcats be aware of this play. It is one of the most common plays in Eddie Gran’s playbook and the Wildcats have been able to produce big plays from it all season. A.J. Rose provides more of a breakaway speed element to the offense and that gives the Cats opportunities for some explosive plays on simple runs. Add in a scheme advantage like this one and you have a great chance at getting the ball into the endzone.