Zone Read "Midline:" A nice concept against 4-3 (MSU, Iowa, etc.)

Submitted by steve sharik on October 4th, 2010 at 10:45 AM

The zone read "midline" is a great answer to 4-3 chalk teams, especially Iowa.  Dantonio is a 4-3 guy, too, and I believe this would be a great series to run these next two weeks. I think it would be great against MSU if they play their safeties like they did last year. Their safeties keyed the slot receiver. If the slot ran a bubble screen route, the safety attacked it hard.


  • Zone blocking to the playside
  • Instead of reading the backside DE, the backside OT fan blocks him
  • QB reads the backside B-gap defender.  Sometimes this is a 3-technique, sometimes this is an ILB
  • If B-gap defender chases RB, QB pulls and runs downhill in B gap.
  • If B-gap defender stays home, QB gives ball to RB and the zone play has a numerical advantage.

Some 4-3 teams like to put their 3-technique away from the back.  If they do this, then the Mike is the backside B-gap defender.

If the defense puts the 3-technique to the back, then the 3-tech is the backside B-gap defender.

If the offense wants to get advanced, the QB will first read the backside B-gap defender for give/pull. If he gets a pull read, he will then move on to key the Will backer. If the Will tries to come inside to the B-gap, the QB will throw. If not, the QB will run.



October 4th, 2010 at 10:53 AM ^

Steve, are you suprised that Michigan hasn't run more speed option to this point? I know the offense is running startlingly well, but I did expect this play to be a greater part of the offense when a second year QB is at the helm.

Do you think it isn't being run because Rodriguez is attempting to get the running back to the inside, and Denard free on the outside [ which the Zone Read would do, but but Speed Option would do the opposite] ?

steve sharik

October 4th, 2010 at 12:22 PM ^

...if you notice, we don't run the triple option with a pitch, but rather a bubble screen as the third option.  I think pitching it requires an additional segment of individual technique to work on, both with the QBs and the RBs.  With the bubble screen, they are throwing a pass and don't need an additional practice period.

I would guess that triple option with a pitch and speed option add another skill to perfect and the coaches would rather keep things simple.


October 4th, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

While I don't cliam the knowledge displayed here by Steve.  I did notice the same same thing by the crashing safeties and not just with MSU.  I think we need to keep the focus and the gameplan on them stopping Denard on the ground and then they are very vulnerable to the skinny post route that burned ND.

In this game I think the pass will set up the run instead of the other way around.

All I have heard is how Sparty is going to tag Denard with Greg Jones, let them...the middle of the field is now wide open from 10 to 25 yeards deep.

I would like to see some play action passing to the TE in this game, this would be a new wrinkle and play right into the MLB's being over aggressive (as I think they will be).

My somewhat informed laymans opinion.


October 4th, 2010 at 11:00 AM ^

I recall an earlier thread that asked whether there was a way to option off the middle linebacker.  The general response was that it wasn't done.  Well, here would be a way.  There would also appear to be crushing pass plays off a fake of this as well.  Thanks


October 4th, 2010 at 11:05 AM ^

their read option on a regular basis?  I seem to remember reading that this is what Oregon did to USC and others as one way to combat the scrape exchange.


Thanks a ton for the good input!

Wolverine In Exile

October 4th, 2010 at 12:29 PM ^

one of the solutions to cheating safeties? Safeties cheat up, you fake the spread option read with Denard taking two steps to the line or a step to the bubble screen and slot receiver runs a Go route blowing past either nickle back, LB or strong safety.

steve sharik

October 4th, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

...should know something about the gun midline.  We ran it at Milford against his CC team in the 2005 playoffs.  The hole was literally about 5-6 yards wide.  Our starting QB tore his ACL juking the FS, who happened to be the first defender the QB met, about 25 yards downfield.

Blocking for us at RT that day was none other than MSU starting LG, Joel Foreman.  Foreman and Martin will tangle on about half of MSU's offensive snaps this Saturday.

B Ready

October 4th, 2010 at 1:40 PM ^

How capable is MSU of containing our offense?  It seems like they have personnel suited to handle traditional pro-set and power offenses.  But, I'm not sure if they have enough athletes that can succeed in space. 

ND was the offense that gave them the most trouble this year.  Last year, the 3 Big Ten rushing offenses that gave them the most trouble (in terms of yards per carry) was Penn State, Purdue and Illinois.  Or, in other words, 3 offenses that liked to spread defenses out from the shotgun on a consistent basis.

Similar to our defenses under Lloyd, I kind of wonder if MSU has players and a scheme that fits very well against traditional offenses.  But, once they play a spread team and/or a team with a mobile QB, their defense will get shredded.

Is there a chance that there is some validity to my theory, or am I just being a blatant homer?  Probably a bit of both?


October 4th, 2010 at 1:45 PM ^

I was lucky enough to attend a few practices during spring ball, and the coaches and players had this game red lettered even then. There are blitz packages and stuff on offense that they were running with MSU in mind, that have yet to see a game this year as of yet. This game means a lot to the staff, and the players. They want this one bad. I'll just leave it at that.

Offensively, I would bet that we would see some new things. I hope that they show the defensive sets that they were working on, but BWC's light not seeming to be clicking on all that fast may hamper some of that. I honestly feel that his lack of development, and the untimely T-Wolf injry is the cause of this rush 3 drop 8 stuff. They were playing with a lot more multiple fronts, and were a lot more aggressive in the practices that I attended.


October 4th, 2010 at 1:46 PM ^


That is super. Thanks Steve.

If it goes down like a lot of people think it will with State's D and we show no fear in picking them apart on early downs through the air, look out.  

It seemed like last year the primary gamble was to flood the running lanes and take that away on early downs.  That has to be their strategy this year too.  When we went to the air late in the game there were huge gains.

Their secondary could be worse than ours.  Rip off a couple pass plays on first down early on those cheating safeties this year? Do you see that happening?

It seems like fundamentally MSU thinks we are scared to spend the game passing and we'll try to revert to the run.

grand river fi…

October 4th, 2010 at 2:06 PM ^

Thanks Steve,

I've been watching a couple of teams (Oregon in particular) run this or a similar variation out of the zone read and have been hoping we'd see it.  Our run game is already deadly, the thought of a couple new wrinkles is very exciting.