Thursday, September 26, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Wisconsin's Use of Two RBs in a Single Formation

Wisconsin has found a creative way to get both running backs – Melvin Gordon III and James White – on the field at the same time. Being two of the better RBs in the country, having only one of them on the field fails to maximize a lot of what the offense can bring to the table. Against Purdue, Wisconsin ran jet sweep motion with an inside zone look from the RB several times to threaten the outside and the interior with their two RBs. They also did a few other things. In this article we are going to look at what this play concept brings to the table, along with two important plays that Wisconsin has run off of it already, and one play you can expect them to run against OSU if they start getting behind the chains and the Buckeyes start pinning their ears back.

Inside Zone

I'm drawing up this in a ace double wing, but these plays were also run out of your standard ace formation and a balanced solo formation. We'll get to those later. But the inside zone and the end around can be run from any of them.
Note that the blocking is away from the jet sweep. This puts the linebackers in a bind. Because the end around is already up to full speed, that player can attack the edge without the help of much blocking. Now, the inside zone in its own right is a perfectly fine play. To top it off, the backside LB will likely be tasked with stringing out the jet sweep, but part of the inside zone is the cutback to the backside A gap. With the backside defensive end attempting to shoot up to make the jet sweep gain depth and the backside LB tasked with stretching the play out, the cutback lane for the inside zone is wide open if the other LBs do their job to get playside. But if they hesitate, the inside zone will gash them for big chunks of yards.

End Around


As you can see, it looks exactly the same as the play before. In fact, I just changed the arrows on the defenders, because the look is exactly the same down to the blocking scheme and everything. I discussed this a bit previously in the inside zone section. But the backside LB will be tasked with stretching out the end around. But he is also responsible for the backside A-gap when defending the inside zone. He is put in a quandary.
If he doesn't stretch out the end around and Wisconsin gives, then it's going to be a huge play as the whole defense is sealed inside and White just needs to beat a safety. If the LB attempts to string out the end around but it ends up being an inside zone give and Gordon cuts it back in the designated cut back lane, then he is quickly into the second level and onto the safety with one man to beat between him in the end zone.
To counter this, defenses will start to put more defenders in the box. But Wisconsin has some answers for this.

To read what else Wisconsin will do out of this formation, and how they'll use both players as decoys to pick up big gains, follow the link.



  1. Wisconsin does a great job of complimenting their bread & butter. It doesn't seem like Michigan has gotten to this point in their new system. Do you feel that's a product of them still trying to get their base plays going consistently or do you think the offensive staff needs to do a better job at it?

  2. I think it's a complicated answer and I think it's a bit of both. I have no doubt that Michigan would like to have a bread and butter play. But it could be that with the lack of push on the interior they simply aren't comfortable with a lot of running plays besides zone stretch (which still has been hurt by the interior line play).

    Now, you could also question if they aren't getting better at a bread and butter type play because they are spending too much time trying to find a quick fix or mitigate the issue, rather than properly trying to fix the issue. So I think it's probably a little of both to be honest.