Get More Out of Your Zone Scheme with the Fullback Zone Dive

One of my favorite plays from the two-back offense that we ran at the high school level was a fullback zone dive. This was a play that we used to complement our stretch play. Our version of the stretch play was a full line reach scheme in which we were trying to get the ball to the perimeter. The tight end would reach the defensive end or Sam linebacker, depending on the defensive front, and everyone inside would be on a wide track to reach the defender either head up or outside of him. This wide action would stretch the defense quickly and open up some huge seems for the tailback. This was a play which we used to set up our entire offense. Everything else worked because of the effectiveness of our execution on this play. Video of the play can be seen below.

In our initial installation of this offense, we maintained some of the plays from our previous system. One of those plays was the trap. What we found was the fullback zone dive became much more effective because it took away the pulling guard key for the linebacker. Because the tailback would still run his stretch course, and the quarterback would open like it was stretch, the fullback zone dive often hit as a cutback play and would gain big yards. Over the three years we ran this play, it averaged 7 yards and was 63% efficient (4 yards or better).

When we learned the fullback zone dive play, it was executed with an option fake after the hand-off to the fullback, but since we didn’t run option and stretch became our base play, we worked out the timing to add a stretch mesh after the quarterback handed the ball to the fullback on a dive.
In our teaching of this play we found a few keys to its success which we implemented into our teaching of footwork and extended into our drills.

Our blocking scheme was inside zone with the running back, in this case the fullback, aiming and reading off of the first covered offensive lineman to the playside. This gave us a proper stretch on a defender and opened up a running lane. This meant that the play could be run to with the three technique outside the guard as the aiming point and read, or the tackle with a five technique as the aiming point and read. We did not count a shade as the first down lineman. Whether it was the guard or the tackle, the running back would aim for the outside hip if the first was covered.
The read and footwork is illustrated in the still shots below.

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Very subtly handing the ball off to the fullback and continuing to fake the stretch with the tailback was effective in stretching the defense toward the sideline and opening up running lanes for the fullback. While on stretch, the quarterback was responsible to getting to the mesh point while the tailback was sprinting on his course. We told the tailback to slow up in order to create a mesh with the quarterback who is slowed down because he is handing the ball off inside. When done correctly, the fake was very successful in pulling defenders as shown below.

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Video of the above still frame explanation is below. The fullback starts on his course and sees his primary read aligned over the right tackle working to the outside gap. He also moves the linebacker to that side as well. He then makes his cutback planning to get behind the backside guard and center combo on the nose, but when the nose falls down, he jump cuts into a huge running lane. Because the tailback and quarterback carry out their fake, the five frontside defenders are pulled to the stretch fake and out of their run fits. The safety is in a bad position and even though he tries to put on the breaks, he can’t make a play on the dive. Great execution by all 11 offensive players creates a big play for the touchdown.

Currently, our offense has evolved to the point where our fullbacks are blockers and receivers and have the skill set of an h-back. If you have a big runner who is an effective blocker from the fullback position, this is a great play for goal line and short yardage situations. On this play the right tackle puts two hands in on the combo. We teach him not to go to two hands initially and stay square to be able to come off to the linebacker if the linebacker attacks the c-gap. Because his shoulders are turned, he cannot get the linebacker – #35. But the linebacker is on a course toward the stretch fake of the tailback and he cannot make the play on the dive. The fullback cuts behind the combo of the guard and tackle for the touchdown. Note: We don’t teach our line to cut like the right guard attempts. That is a mistake on his part. We never cut on inside zone.

In the next clip we motion the fullback in from the slot. We teach the offensive line to get movement on level one first, and then come off to the linebacker. We teach the backs to take great footwork and displace the linebacker. That’s what happens on this play. The linebacker moves into the B-gap because of the initial movement of the fullback and the stretch fake. the fullback presses his aim point and cuts behind the shade (his secondary read). The center and backside guard do a great job getting movement on the shade and create a huge running lane for the fullback.

The fullback zone dive is a great addition to any under center offense using inside and outside zone schemes. It allows for an effective play for attacking an overaggressive and heavily pursuing defense while allowing the offensive line to block a scheme that they are familiar with.