Everyone's got their recruit they're over-excited about, but I've fallen hard for the first Don Brown potential dude, Joshua Uche. I figure I should explain why.
So we all remember this, right?
This is now run 100 different ways, with all sorts of guys to read and all sorts of places to attack. The idea is usually the same: leave an edge defender unblocked and read him off while the QB is holding the ball in the RB's breadbasket. It's "zone" because you're watching that blue circle, not the guy in it, since defenses will screw with you otherwise by having the end dive in and a linebacker appear or something. It's "read" because once you've ID'ed the unblocked defender, you watch to see if he's going to take the RB or the QB, then make him wrong.
Now that it's approaching 30 years old, defenses have had a long time to adjust to it. But like the option, or Power, or the Veer, or west coast passing route combinations, it's a good enough base play to remain a standard feature in most college offenses. That means every college team has to spend practice time learning multiple methods to stop it, and probably will as long as the sport lasts.
Don Brown's BC playbook was no exception, devoting over a tenth of the document to beating spread things. Today I'd like to introduce Brown's particular version of zone read defense, then zoom in on the vanilla zone read stopper play and what it means for the kind of player he wants at "End", i.e. the weakside defensive end. I don't want to get into all of the run fits and stuff, but since we just ran Josh Uche's recruiting profile I thought it would be cool to go over exactly what he was recruited to do.
ZONE READ STOPPERS
Every coach has his own tweaks, but strategies for defending the mesh (that handoff decision) usually follow along a few similar ideas:
1. Delay the mesh for so long that the rest of the defense can react, beat their blocks, and corral the ballcarrier.
- Pros: Doesn't use an extra defender/vanilla response.
- Cons: Hard to do, requires the rest of the defense to win blocks, extra time for play develop can also work against you.
2. Scrape exchange. Attack one or the other to force a fast decision and bring another defender (usually from somewhere he's not expected) to bring down the other guy.
- Pros: The paper to this particular rock.
- Cons: You're using two defenders, opening up scissors.
3. Blow it up. Send that unblocked guy right at the mesh point itself.
- Pros: Aggressive. Against college quarterbacks this may trigger all sorts of bad reactions. May give you a few extra opportunities to hit the quarterback.
- Cons: A good ZR team will calmly hand it off.
A lot of teams will have one they feature more than the others, depending on the abilities of their personnel and what kind of team they're facing that week. Like, if you're more worried about the QB running than throwing you may scrape them all day. If you're facing a true freshman 3rd stringer they just ripped the redshirt off of maybe blow it up. If the zone read is just a sideshow and the real threat is the RB you may go in with just the delay. If you're facing a team that uses the zone read as a big part of its offense you really ought to have all three, and different variations of them perhaps, so the offense won't know what's coming.
Of these, the delay is good ol' rock-on-rock.*
[After the JUMP: why Uche looks like he will excel at rock]