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Film Study Extra: Gaskin to the House

More about zone and power runs than you ever knew you needed to know

Washington v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

You’ve asked, we’ve answered. Don’t expect us to take requests every week. And no, we won’t play Freebird for our encore.

Below is Myles Gaskin’s long touchdown run to break the backs of the Colorado Buffaloes, and put a game that was already decidedly over, decisively out of reach.

The very basics: There are three primary types of zone runs. The inside zone, which is between the tackles. The outside zone, which is just outside the tackle box. The “stretch” play is the widest, heading well outside of the box and toward the play-side receiver. A “power” run is designed to hit a specific hole hard. A “zone” run is sometimes referred to as a “one-cut-and-go” play - the running back reads as his blocking shield is formed, finds his hole, and makes one cut into the hole (or in the hole) and gets upfield. There are many variations of each type of run. Against Arizona last year, we saw Lavon Coleman utilize a cutback out of a power run for huge success (gifs #1 and #4).

For the interested, here is a fantastic breakdown of zone blocking schemes. If nothing else, read the part near the top of the article about footwork and the step chart. Understanding that will give you the ability to see what type of zone play is being run by an offense simply by watching the first step of the offensive line. The other key point is that zone blocking is highly-coordinated in terms of the offensive line and the footwork used; when it works, the ballet is easy to see.

Other great reading on zone blocking: (basics, similar to the first one) (more dense) (this one is a little heavy on how to coach offensive linemen in the zone scheme, but still good information. Don’t ignore it just because it’s duck-centric either; fishduck provides some great information)

On to the breakdowns:

1st and 10:

If you read the first link in this article and at least made it through the part about footwork, you should be able to tell what this play is by watching the offensive line’s first step - it’s a “C” step from the article, or lateral, which tells us that this is an outside zone run (contrast that with the first gif in the Rutgers film study from earlier this year, where the first step is forward (“A”) on an inside zone run, or the backward step in the last gif here on the stretch).

Starting with the offensive line and tight end, and working from left to right: Will Dissly is trying to reach around the defensive end to “hook” him to the middle (very difficult to do based on the end’s alignment), but the end is reading the play Dissly’s first steps and widening, so Dissly adapts and uses the end’s momentum to push him all the way outside and out of the play. Trey Adams is uncovered, so he goes straight to an inside linebacker to seal him off from the play before continuing up the field (he’s mostly just going to “brush” the linebacker) but ducks his head at the last minute and mostly misses. Jesse Sosebee has a difficult block to make here, since the defensive lineman is shaded outside, requiring Sosebee to really move laterally before sealing the tackle off. The tackle loses his balance due to a little hand yank from Sosebee and spins himself out of the play. Coleman Shelton is uncovered, so he heads straight to the inside linebacker on the back side of the play, but also misses. Nick Harris has a reach block similar to Sosebee’s, and does a nice job. Kaleb McGary is supposed to “brush” the defensive tackle over him and work upfield (as that defensive lineman has little chance to impact the play due to how far away he is), but the tackle grabs McGary and holds him (a similar event happened in the Rutgers game), and McGary is noticeably upset as he pursues the defender.

On the outside of the play, Brayden Lenius is cracking back on the strong safety. He makes a very nice physical, sustained block. If there was no tight end on this side, he’d be responsible to make this same block on an outside linebacker most likely, which is obviously a much more difficult task. From the top of the screen, Quinten Pounds has a long, long way to run to get to the free safety (who pursues Gaskin into the end zone). The hustle is there, but that’s a tough block to make.

Jake Browning is under center on this play, and he reverse pivots away from the play side after getting the snap. He’s got to hustle to get the ball in Gaskin’s hands five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Gaskin gets the ball and flows (as opposed to “running as fast as he can”) laterally with his blocking, looking for an alley. He finds it as Dissly is clearing his defender toward the sideline. He plants his foot and turns upfield with the quickness. At that point, it’s a matter of the blocks being successfully executed (they mostly were), speed (yup), and a few missed opportunities from a defense that was out of juice as Gaskin takes it the distance.

From this angle, you can see that Trey Adams gets just enough of a block on the linebacker (#32) to keep him from getting a hand on Gaskin. You can also see the really nice effort from Brayden Lenius.

2nd and 6:

Here’s the power run we featured in the main film study to contrast the TD run. You can see Nick Harris coming around to introduce himself to the outside linebacker, who was intentionally left unblocked for just that reason. Gaskin hesitates at the snap to ensure the timing is right between Browning getting the ball and then handing it off to him. But once Gaskin has the ball, he’s shot out of a cannon straight up the field.

Former Husky Drew Lewis (#20) might as well have just given Gaskin a high five instead of attempting an arm tackle; it would have been equally effective in slowing him down.

Zone blocking is nice and effective, but defenders that have to absorb shots like this from offensive linemen with a head of steam on power runs tend to lose their will after a while. That is especially true when the scoreboard isn’t in their favor. It’s a more physical brand of football (as the name suggests). The power run package was largely untouched in the first three games this year, but was on full display on Saturday against Colorado. That’s certainly not to suggest that it was the reason for the run game’s success. It wasn’t the only thing that was better, as the zone blocking was far more efficient against the Buffs as well. The power provides a very nice compliment though, and it’s fun to see big men hit smaller men.

As Bob Rondeau would say, “Touchdown, Washington!!!”