The focal point to any RPO worth its weight, is the run game. The main run schemes most coaches use in the spread offense is inside zone, power, counter, and a sweep. Using these four basic runs a coach can implement and tag RPO’s to any run. To be great at RPO’s I think it’s necessary to not overcomplicate run blocking schemes. KISS (keep it simple and stupid) is always the best practice.
This article is not about reinventing the RPO but to look at them from a different perspective. Field and Boundary reads. To look at some zone-read RPO’s, let first look at the inside zone blocking scheme from 20 personnel or 2 back gun.
Basic Zone Blocking Rules:
• Inside Gap (first rule is to protect inside gap)
• Head UP (head up is considered from inside shoulder to outside shoulder)
• Climb to LB
In the diagram above, inside zone out of 20 personnel allows an offense to block any and every front with the H-Back and offensive linemen from C gap to C gap. They also have the ability to use the M.D.M. perimeter blocking principles to block the run defenders in the D gaps. This means they are protected from defenses trying to get 8 players in the run fit. The importance of inside zone blocking is double teams. Double teams are important in order to stress the importance of vertical movement at the line of scrimmage.
Concept 1: Field Zone Read with Bubble
When it comes to reading the RPO, you can either pre-snap read the defense, post-snap read the defense, and if you have a great QB, both. To make things simple this is a basic field-side RPO.
As you can see in the diagram above, you want to push the OL towards the boundary, or weak side of the formation. The X receiver has the M.D.M. The Y will run a bubble versus any field blitz automatically. If there is no pressure he will run the bubble at about 75% speed. The steps the Y takes all depends on the coach. Some coaches tell the Y to backpedal while others what the Y to run an actual bubble. I like backpedaling but it’s up for discussion. The Z will block the first man to threaten the Y. The Z will never block the Sam LB because the Sam will have to play the QB. The QB will pre-snap read the Sam to see if he is blitzing and post-snap read the C gap player, which in this case will be the DE. The H back will be looking for the Sam LB (if he does not blitz) or the FS.
Concept 2: Boundary Zone Read with Go
In this concept, we will push the inside zone to the field. The Y WR is now responsible for the D gap to the field which is called the MDM. The Y can align as tight as he needs in order to dig out the Sam LB. The Z WR will block man on with the corner. The H-back has the same rules as the previous play but this time into the boundary blocking the scraping LB to safety. Now in this concept, the QB has no pre-snap read. He will post-snap ride read the C gap player, then attack the CB to throw the go. Like the field zone concept, we can also run this out of our two tailback set as well.
The one thing you have to keep in mind about the Go route is the OL are blocking upfield. The QB will not have alot of time to just run around and then make a decision. The Go route normally works best after the QB has kept it a couple of times and then the defense plays up, especially the CB.
Here are some clips of the boundary zone read RPO.
Hopefully, this article has helped start some new ideas about the RPO game and how to get athletes the ball in space. There are multiple ways to run an RPO, pre-snap reads, post-snap reads, field side, and boundary side. You can create an RPO off of any run. Just think about what will conflict the defense the most and go from there.
*All film clips used from Brent Dearmon. For more on this topic and a more in depth study, check out this book:
Dearmon, B., & Hass, J. (2019). The Zone Read [E-book]. In The Evolution of the RPO (pp. 40–46). Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-evolution-of-the-rpo/id1252092618
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