Outside Zone - Why It is the Best Run Scheme in Football

Most offensive coaches have a favorite run scheme in which they believe. More and more offensive coordinators are relying on the outside zone as their number one run scheme. Former Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is now the offensive coordinator at Baylor. Grimes has coached for many years in a lot of different offensive schemes at many different schools. He is a strong believer that the outside zone should be your number one run scheme. In a recent post spring practice press conference, Grimes talked about his belief in the outside or wide zone play.


“The wide zone is something that I believe in. I’ve been fortunate to have been in a lot of different offensive systems and the wide zone is one that has been the most consistent play in the NFL for the past 20-25 years," Grimes said. "There are reasons for that, some of which are it is a play that is versatile with different formations and personnel groups and is something that is very consistent and allows you to stay on schedule and doesn’t allow for a lot of negative yardage plays and keeps you on schedule as an offense and a play caller.”


Grimes talked about the offensive line and running back skills necessary to have success with the outside zone.

“It’s something that I feel like, as long as you have guys that are coachable and athletic you don’t necessarily have to have a guy that can completely dominate a three-technique in the B-gap or a nose guard or a running back that runs a 4.3 forty. You have to have guys that can move their feet, that can be coachable, and that can move fast.”



Here are some thoughts on why many offensive line coaches love the wide zone play.


1) You do not have to have dominant offensive blockers. Linemen can use quickness and technique on defenders to get them sealed or stretch them wide.

2) The play can be run out of many different formations and personnel groupings, with or without tight ends. Teams can use compressed sets and use receivers to block at the point of attack as well.

3) It can be a great play under center or in the shotgun.

4) The outside zone is a great downhill running play from under center or in the pistol. Teams that have that strong or quick runner with vision will enjoy the possibilities that the play provides. It can be that physical "ram it" play that everyone likes to have in their offense.

5) In the gun with a half back set left or right, you can create RPO reads and throws to the backside.

6) You can use the scheme with other plays like speed sweep.

7) The play action pass game and bootleg game off of the outside zone can be tough on a defense.

8) Creating offensive looks as though running outside zone right and then running counters left with tailbacks and quarterbacks adds to the misdirection of the offense.

9) The outside zone can outflank the defense at the point of attack, or stretch the defenders and cut back through a playside hole or even a hole on the backside of the play. The play has the ability to hit in a number of holes.

10) The basics of the play never change. The offense gets better and better at the outside zone as the season goes on. Make the defense put in extra practice time to stop this play. Each week, the offensive coaches can create new formations and personnel groupings to run the wide zone.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have made the outside zone the staple of their offense for years. Here is a great video of their offensive line coach Brian Ferentz discussing the basics of the Iowa Outside Zone play. The Hawkeyes call it "The Slant".