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Clinic Talk: Miami Hurricanes Football Coach Mark Richt will run split-zone this fall

With backs like Joe Yearby and Mark Walton, except Coach Richt to run split-zone in 2016.

Mark Walton
Walton, UM v UV

With Sony Michel in the backfield, Coach Richt decided to run something that would get his bruising-yet-shifty running back through the offensive line and into one cut and go space. The play he drew up was split-zone.

Split-zone is predominantly ran with a FB/HB/TE as a wing, giving him an easy angle to sprint across the formation out of the way of the mesh (the handoff point between the QB and RB). Above, you can see what looks like a single receiver to your left, and twins to the right. Michel and an H-back in the ‘backfield.’

Why use split-zone? Split-zone is a great way to ensure your RB has a cut-back lane and doesn’t get blown up by a run blitz or pressure from a talented defensive line. With the SEC having so many speedy DL players, split-zone is a great adjustment to slow them down. One surprise block and a DE won’t come screaming up field. It works a lot like trap except you don’t have to pull a guard which gives the key away, instead split-zone is a false-key because the HB blocks away from the actual play.

As a Linebacker, you typically read the offensive lineman you’re over (C/G/T) and the near RB. In the screenshots above, if I’m the Mike or Sam and I see the H-Back running across the formation, I assume the play is going to the right. This is the “read” for the LB and his “key” is the flow of the h-back. This gives the LB’ers a false key and slows them down on stopping the run.

As a defensive front, you are normally assigned gap responsibilities. The LB’ers are assigned the strong A (to the TE or Y) and the weak B (to the RB or T). When a coach wants to scrape exchange, it means those gaps will change after the ball is snapped. As you can see below, the End crashes inside to the B, as the WLB works outside to the C.

The Defensive Coordinator calls a scrape exchange to screw up the QB’s read. Normally on inside zone read, the QB will read the backside defensive end away from the zone running play, as you can see in the diagram. This causes the QB to think he can keep and run when really the safety and linebacker will be coming down field hard to smack him in the mouth. Offensive Coordinators had to find a way to combat scrape exchange so they started running split-zone and split-zone read.

A quick glance at Split-Zone Read from 21 personnel with an H-Back

The purpose of Split-Zone Read is to give the QB a lead blocker to combat scrape exchange defenses. The H-back can hit the most dangerous man, the Will if he scrape exchanges, or work to the 3rd level (Defensive Backs) and block the safety aka alley player to that side. You can see below a GIF of a Split-Zone Read play my team ran in 2015 for much success.

Enjoy the video below that is a chalk-talk with cut-ups on Split-Zone, Split-Zone Read, and scrape exchange. Any comments or questions can be sent to my Twitter @IMFB_Blog.