RB's High on Zone Blocking

Offensive line coach Mark McHale's changes in the offensive line blocking schemes are earning a good review from the running backs. Lorenzo Booker, Leon Washington and freshmen Antone Smith all share an optimistic view on the results zone-blocking will produce this season.

In the halls of the Moore Athletic Center, or at the tables in the team mess hall, whenever offensive line coach Mark McHale sees a running back he checks to make sure they're keeping up on their studies.

"He's always talking to us," RB Leon Washington said. "‘Hey, those zone blocking schemes, read your technique and do your reads."

Just like the players on the offensive front, Florida State's running backs are learning and settling into this redesigned blocking system. Constant updates from the players are a must, since a strong and reliable running game will be the foundation to building a successful campaign this season. So far, the reports out of the backfield are promising.

"Our yards per carry are way up," RB Lorenzo Booker said. "Big run percentage is way up. There's just a lot more big runs and the plays are more high percentage. At the same time it makes our job easier, and the defenses job harder."

According to Washington, McHale's scheme should also minimize the number of plays that result in negative yards.

"Last scrimmage I only had one run for a loss," Washington said referring to the first scrimmage of the fall preseason. "I had some other really good runs and none of the other tailbacks really had any losses. With this blocking scheme that we have we rarely lose yards. A really bad run is a yard and a half gain. That's what we want going into the season, every run we have there's positive yards. The blocking scheme has been nothing but a plus."

The fit seems right. Zone-blocking is meant for a quick-footed ankle-breaking running style, Washington said. Before the snap, the tailbacks have an idea where the crease will come. They attack that opening, isolate their keys in the secondary and make the proper shift.

Added freshmen RB Antone Smith: "Zone blocking is sliding into position for that cutback. Once you get that cutback, you're basically gone."

It also gives the running backs a chance to rely on their vision.

"We're able to run with our eyes more and that's really what you should be doing as a tailback anyway," Booker said. "That's why we're here, because we have good vision. That's probably the most important attribute a running back can have."

Smith says the changes McHale has introduced help assuage the complicated transition from high school to collegiate football. There's already enough areas where Smith needed to adjust. In his Pahokee days, it was simple - if no one came on the blitz, Smith hit the open field. Now when the ball is snapped, Smith has a few more things to think about.

"First you have to block," Smith said. "Then pay attention to what's going on with the linebackers. You have to know what routes you need to run. There are a lot of things you have to look out for."

But in each practice, that is becoming more natural. The same goes for the rest of the tailbacks as they learn their part of the new system.

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