As we have seen with J.T. Barrett as the starting quarterback for Ohio State, the zone read has once again become a big part of the Buckeye offense.
In the standard zone read that most people are accustomed to, when the defensive end crashes, the quarterback is taught to keep the ball and if he stays put, to give the ball to the running back.
When the Buckeyes dismantled the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday however, they used a variation of the zone read, called the inverted veer by most.
In this play, the quarterback reads the defensive end the opposite way of the standard zone read. If the end stays, the quarterback is told to keep, and if he comes down, to give to the running back who is on a course outside.
The first time the Buckeyes showed this play against Michigan on Saturday, running back Ezekiel Elliott broke open for a 66 yard gain, but it wasn’t the only time Ohio State used the play to great success.
Ohio State came out of a timeout late in the first quarter in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2WR) and motioned tight end Nick Vannett from a slot receiver position in behind the gap between the left guard and tackle.
Michigan lined up in an offset 4-3 defense with the strong safety shading the other Buckeye tight end Marcus Baugh to his outside shoulder.
On any read play, the play side defensive end is supposed to be left unblocked so that the quarterback can make his read off of him. On this play however, the defensive end Chris Wormley, who appeared to be slanting down on the play, gets caught up in the traffic and is chipped by pulling guard Pat Elflein.
Because Wormley was chipped and had been leaning inside, Barrett makes the right read by giving the ball to Elliott.
Elliott gets by the first wall of defenders and gets two great blocks from both tight ends. The first, a crack block from Baugh on Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan, and the second from a pulling Vannett on the strong safety Dymonte Thomas.
After that, Elliott is in a foot race with Jarrod Wilson who finally drags him down inside the 10 yard line.
Run it again
Elliott’s big run set up the exact same play two plays later. After another timeout, the Buckeyes called the exact same play, just flipped to the other side of the field.
This time, it’s left guard Billy Price pulling, but because the read man (this time outside linebacker James Ross, No. 15) rushed so hard, Barrett is forced to keep the ball as Price kicks Ross out just in time. Picking up a block from Baugh, Barrett runs in for the first score of the game.
The Buckeyes ran the same play, out of the same formation throughout the game, as it was a large part of the reason Ohio State was able to manage 369 yards on the ground.