Mazzone Offense - Zone With Bubble

Bumped. - BN Eds.

Part I on spread philosophy.


The zone read is usually a staple play of modern day offenses that are looking to spread defenses laterally in order to run the ball (Urban Meyer, Rich Rodriguez, Chip Kelly-type offenses). You can find breakdowns and video clips of this stuff all over the internet - pretty standard. It's usually either the back heading to one side or the QB to the other. One issue teams have faced, when playing against athletes with freakish acceleration on edge, is that the read player is athletic enough to play both options, by showing the QB a "give" read and then running down the back from behind. The angle between the DE's two options above is fairly narrow.


ASU (and other teams, including Oregon, Baylor, Iowa State) ran a variant of the zone read with a bubble screen on the backside in order to spread the defense even further. The base zone read used by ASU last year wasn't the typical read of the DE, where the QB decides to either give the ball to the back or run it himself. Instead, Mazzone combined the handoff to the back with a quick screen to the outside - bubble or outside "key" WR screen. Mazzone forces the defender to declare towards either the back up the middle, or the bubble/key screen to the sideline, which can span a distance of 20 feet or more. Note how much wider the angle is between the two options.

Either way, the goal of the play is in line with Mazzone's base philosophy - remove defenders from the box to allow him to run inside. With 5 OL, ASU was typically able to handle 6 defenders in the box. Backside DE was sometimes left unblocked, and sometimes it was a frontside LB - not sure what his blocking rules are vs each front, but the RBs seemed to be cutting off a defender and then looking to get upfield.

*Note: Hard for me to say definitively what Osweiler was reading on each play, all this is just my best guess based on watching the TV broadcast, checking his actions vs what the defense showed, and what makes sense. The offense is more complicated than what I have below, including checks and adjustments made by the OL and QB depending on what they see (but not too complicated - 18 year old kids are able to learn this stuff).

Bubble Screen Basics

The bubble screen, as shown above, is simply an inside receiver taking a few steps back and to the side, and then exploding upfield as the ball is delivered. He runs behind a few WRs that are looking to get in the way of whatever defenders step up. It is only a good play if you have numbers advantage to the bubble side - against 3 defensive backs, this play should not work, as 2 will be blocked and the 3rd will make the tackle. The bubble by itself isn't a play you can rely on as an every down base concept, it's just meant as a tool to keep the defense from cheating towards one particular area of the field (like loading up the box with an extra defender), so you can get back to what you really want to do (run the ball inside).

ASU used bubble like under-center teams use the toss sweep or playaction pass - it's not an every-down play, not a consistent gainer, and it will only spring a big play when the defense is packed in tight in the box or they miss a tackle, but you need to run it every once in awhile if you have a numbers advantage to force the defense to respect the outside threat and allow you to go back to running your base run plays (dive, power, zone, whatever you run).

Zone Key With F Quick (Zone Bubble)

Mazzone combines his base inside zone with a bubble screen or another outside screen almost every time they run zone. The defense has to account for the perimeter every time - this inside zone + outside screen combo is called "Zone Key".


Above is one way to run it (keep in mind, these can be run from a variety of different formations - ASU did it with 2 backs, 1 back and twin WRs to each side, 1 back and trips to a side, etc). Instead of reading the DE, it's a read of the LB in space - the adjuster player that adjusts to the quick motion. Mazzone uses motion in order to reveal the defense's intentions. Someone has to adjust with the motion (if no one does, the QB should just throw the bubble immediately as there's free yardage out there). Against zone it's usually the outside LB to that side or a safety rotating down. Whoever shows up on the outside is the read player, who will either play the run or widen with the bubble.

Primary goal is always the dive, so the QB should hand off unless the read player bites on the run. If he hesitates, the QB should still hand off, as if the defender is stuck in space, he'll likely not be a factor vs the run anyways, whereas he'll still be able to make a play on the bubble. Again, the goal is to displace defenders from the box with the outside threat in order to open the run inside, they're not looking for a big play each time - 5 yards on the bubble is a win for the offense.


This is the same play vs a man coverage, where the LB on top of the motion runs across the formation to cover the bubble - sometimes, Osweiler skipped the read and just threw bubble immediately vs this look, as the motion back already has leverage outside and just needs one block by the WR.


Same play again, run to the other side vs zone. Due to the slot WR, the LB is already in space so it's an easy read.

Below are some more diagrams of the same concept from 2x2 with motion and 3WR and 1 TE package. They can run this from pretty much any formation/motion/personnel grouping that puts 2 or 3 guys to a side and the RB to the bubble side.



Zone Key (Flash Screen)


This is the same concept, but with a flash screen to a WR instead of bubble. It can also be run with motion, out of trips or 2x2. The read is the same for the QB.


Same concept out of 2x2 with motion - motion helps to identify the defender responsible for the adjustment as someone has to slide out - usually either a LB or safety. Against teams like Oregon that are good at disguising defensive responsibilities, ASU used more motion to help identify the read defenders. Against UCLA, they didn't do as much as we were pretty vanilla on defense and it wasn't hard to figure out who was responsible for the perimeter.

Cutups of Zone Key

Watch the little red circle. Keep in mind, this is one base concept - by itself, the play isn't that impressive. You'll notice that there are few big gains in the video, and more than a few 2 or 3 yard gains. This concept is not unstoppable by any means, but if run right then you have to concede another part of the field to stop it, and Mazzone goes after you when you do so with small wrinkles and adjustments as well as his other concepts.

Part I: Philosophy

Part II: Zone With Bubble

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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