Film Review: Ohio State's OZ Pin and Pull BOB Read

Wisconsin utilized a one-gap 3-4 defense (and 2-4 Nickel package) this past season that forced a lot of teams to stagnate. This was done by having the three DL account for interior gaps, while keeping the inside LBs clean to crash down and scrape over the top. Meanwhile, the OLBs forced everything back inside to help. In theory this constricted the offenses the Badgers faced and forced them to play in a tighter area, which is an advantage for the defense. One of the proverbial ways teams adjust for this is by running what is known as pin and pull. The Buckeyes were well aware of that outside zone adjustment, and along with a change in the QB Read, saw them able to get to the edge of the defense for several big first half gains on the ground.

Pin and Pull
I’ve discussed pin and pull before, but will do so again briefly and why it is set up to work against a scheme like the 3-4 and likewise to a 2-4 Nickel package with similar principles. The pin and pull is a front side outside zone adjustment. The backside maintains its zone principles.

First, here's a look at how OZ is typically run in this situation.

On the playside of a pin and pull, any Offensive Linemen (including the Center) doesn’t have a man aligned in the gap away from the play is allowed to pull to the edge (an OL may still pull if there is a defender heads-up if the Offensive Lineman next to him can account for him with a down block). Meanwhile, any Offensive Linemen that has a defender lined inside of him on the LOS will simply down block, pinning those defenders inside. This is fairly easily done with only a single blocker, while the pulling OL in theory prevent the DL from immediately being able to shoot up field and into the backfield, but otherwise don’t have to worry about the first of defenders and can focus on blocking any defender that flashes up and through the first and second level and beyond.

In essence, this takes the DL completely out of the play while new gaps are established by the pulling linemen and must be accounted for by the LBs on the fly. This is also difficult for the LBs to read on the playside, as the OL flow now works against standard zone principles (often times, for instance, a down block by a TE is a key for the OLB to squeeze tight against the offensive EMOL, but that can leave him susceptible to being pinned or can leave open to being kicked or washed out if he’s expecting to be the QB’s read defender). The OLB can either be washed out of the play, pinned inside at the snap, or pinned inside by a pulling Lineman that blocks the first off color that flashes inside of him. This all depends on his pre-snap alignment and post-snap reaction. Regardless, the DL is now pinned inside and two new gaps are formed outside of them. The hardest block here is on the backside ILB, who is allowed to fast flow and scrape over the top.

BOB Read
You can see from the diagram above how reaching that backside ILB can be difficult for the BSG (back side guard). This block is made even more difficult if the backside DE is crashing inside and impeding the progress of the BSG to work to the second level.

So, an easy way to “block” the backside ILB is to option him. This is done with a zone read adjustment known as a BOB Read.

But the BOB read can also be attached to Pin and Pull

The backside ILB does have a play both on the QB and on the RB, but to make a play on the RB though, he must be instinctive and quick in his read and reaction and scape immediately when the ball is first threated to be handed off. Helping matters is that this isn’t a standard stretch or wide zone play, but is in fact a play designed to get the edge and seal the defense inside with the pin and pull adjustment. This means that the backside pursuit will have to get all the way across the field to make an impact (he isn’t there to simply handle the cut back), making the requirement for his read to come even more immediately. This quick choice and quick reaction puts this defender in a conflict. If he immediately turns and runs, the QB can keep and the read, despite being at the second level, is relatively well defined. If he doesn’t immediately turn and run, he has put himself in a position where he can’t make an immediate impact on the play and is instead only able to track the play downfield. This requirement for an immediate reaction helps the QB with this read because: 1) It is very easy for the QB to err on the side of handing off (after all, the pursuit still has to scrape all the way across the field to be a part of the play even if he does make this decision immediately); 2) The defender’s reaction must come very quickly, thus defining the QB’s read very early (and not forcing him to maintain a mesh or make a nuanced read).

If the backside ILB does scrape over the top, both first level defenders are blocked by the OL, and thus the QB should be able to read which hole has opened up and be free through the second level.

Crack Block
In addition to the pin and pull scheme and the BOB read, the defense is further sealed inside by a crack block on the edge. This serves to impede the flow of the LBs to the outside (or a charging safety who is sneaking into the second level), while simultaneously forcing a DB to recognize the crack block (rather than follow him in coverage) and then make a play in the run game. Typically, that’s a win for the offense.

Film Review

The Buckeyes ran this play at least twice in the first half against Wisconsin, and both times it went for big yards. On the first play, the Badgers lined up in their 2-4 Nickel package. OSU lined up in a 2x2 formation with a twins set to the boundary and a TE-Flanker combination to the field. The RB lined up at a depth even with the QB.

Before the snap, the Z-WR began to motion toward the center of the field, while on defense, the SS began coming down to bring a seventh defender into the box.

At the snap, there are a few things to notice. First, I’ve highlighted the TE block on the Wisconsin OLB. Note that he can’t seal him inside so has begun washing him down and further into the backfield. The OT, who nominally would like to get outside this block, realizes he can’t and begins working up field as he is taught to do in this situation (as an OT, you don’t want to gain more depth, just realize that block has washed the defender out and work to seal the rest of the defense inside by getting to the second level).

The second thing I’ve drawn is the crack block by the WR on the box safety. This box safety was intended to add another defender to the playside of the run, but he is now sealed inside with the rest of the defense.

Lastly, look at Jones’s eyes (or his helmet in this case, you can’t see his eyes) and you can tell where he is looking: directly at the backside ILB. While this read didn’t completely hold the LB, it did just enough as we’ll soon see. And check out the backside OT blocking the backside OLB at the bottom of the LOS in the event of a QB keep.

The ball has now been handed off and the backside OLB is chasing the play from behind. The CB is just now recognizing the crack and slowing down, but he hasn’t approached the LOS and therefore hasn’t constricted the hole or helped form a wall at the LOS. In fact, the two players highlighted are the pulling OL. One has cut the frontside ILB who was blitzing the play. The second is running clean with absolutely no wash and is coming downhill at a retreating CB.

By the time the RB gets to the LOS, he has beaten the backside ILB to the edge. The pulling OT has at least attempted to block the CB, and while the CB dodges this block, he is forced to retreat and his momentum is stopped. This allows the RB to get further to the edge, and eventually sees him pick up 15 yards.

Here’s the video of the play above

And here’s the same call from later in the game. Note, there is some weirdness to this second play, as it appears neither the TE or the PST knew the snap count. Some differences. This is a trips set to the field with the TE attached to the LOS as part of the trips formation. The slot receiver comes in motion and this time cracks the EMOL, which allows the TE to also pull (along with the PST and Center). Jones on this play is actually reading a safety that has come down to the second level (he's coming on a blitz) and makes the read fairly easy. The LBs, for their part, do a poor job getting caught in the wash. The NB is forced to set the edge on this play, and thus, another win for the offense and another 10 yard gain.

This is just one of the ways that OSU tried to make the game easier for Jones by taking the ball out of his hands in safe ways. By going to this play, the Buckeyes didn’t risk the OLB jumping a screen in the alley, didn’t force Jones to have to make the correct read on time in the screen game, but still worked to spread the field laterally. Likewise, by moving the read off the LOS in a play designed to get a quick read, they padded any mistake Jones may make in the zone read game (of which he made a few later). All this was a smart way to both attack the edge of the Wisconsin defense through scheme and make the game a bit easier for the new Buckeye QB.


  1. "On the playside of a pin and pull, any Offensive Linemen doesn’t have a man aligned in the gap away from the play is allowed to pull to the edge. Meanwhile, any Offensive Linemen that has a defender lined inside of him on the LOS will simply down block, pinning those defenders inside."

    Don't those two sentences mean the same thing? I don't get the difference...if a DL is lined up away from the gap, isn't lined up inside?

    1. Yes, it's the same scenario. If there is a DL lined up in the gap inside of you, you down block (pin) that defender; if there isn't a DL lined up in that gap, you pull to the edge.


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