Inside the Playbook: The Pin and Fold Inside Zone Scheme

In an MGoBlog piece "Fee Fi Foe Film: Illinois Offense", Ace pointed out an interesting wrinkle that Illinois utilizes on the backside of their inside zone, which I call "Pin and Fold". I had seen this wrinkle previous in an article from Ian Boyd at least partially about current Iowa St. coach Matt Campbell, and I've also written briefly about it on my own. Now that it has appeared again, this time in the Big Ten, I have the opportunity to write a little more about it.

I'm on the record expressing my love for fold blocks already, but it's worth reiterating. I love fold blocks and they are drastically underused in current football. Particularly with the use of skip pulls, fold blocks can easily be incorporated into an offense and get second level defenders attacking incorrect gaps, as they anticipate the pull crossing the line. Whether it's a frontside pull on a FB veer dive, a fold draw (absolutely great way to get advantageous angels, sell pass, and fire out into a LB), or what I'm going to talk about today, the pin and fold backside scheme, fold blocks serve a great purpose and a great benefit for offensive linemen blocking.

Fold blocks (essentially all true fold blocks include a down block - "pin" - and then a fold; I use the pin and fold nomenclature to relate it to a pin and pull blocking scheme used as an outside zone variant) can be used anywhere along the LOS and really in a lot of interesting ways. Dating back to the veer playbook again, it was often used as part of the counter option, where an outside blocker would fold inside to act as a lead blocker for the dive against various fronts.

Dana Holgerson and Mike Leech would later utilize the same concept as part of their RPO package

Smart Football
The "G" play has been around for quite some time, and was used quite a bit by Miami during their dynasty years, both with the Tailback run and the Fullback Run (notice that all so far have been tags based on defensive alignment)

And now it's being used on the backside of inside zone plays at both Illinois and Nebraska, among other places.

Husker Chalk Talk

Now, it must be stated that there are two distinct plays here, and they can't necessarily be combined. There is a frontside pin and fold play, and a backside pin and pull play. If you are downblocking with the frontside guard, you are allowing the NT to prevent any cutback, so it doesn't make sense to combine front and backside pin and folds because the backside pull doesn't serve a benefit once you  fold playside. So let's discuss the rules of the two plays briefly.

Fold Blocks
Note that nomenclature will obviously be different for different teams. This is fairly typical verbiage for this though.

TUG = Tackle Under Guard

GUT = Guard Under Tackle

BUCK = Backside (Guard) Under Center

CAGe = Center and Guard (CAGE is often a Center and Guard Double so I would preferably stay away from this nomenclature and go with something like ChUG - Center Under Guard)

Double the 3-Technique Rule
You must double a 3-technique. Many teams try to run at B-gap bubbles (meaning there is no 3-tech center) when running tight zone, but as a hard-and-fast rule, if you are going to run at a 3-technique, you need to double him. As the B-gap is typically the aiming point for inside zone, any defender in that gap needs to be displaced. The goal of inside zone is vertical displacement, and if the run is stacked up in that gap, it makes it difficult for the RB to get an accurate read of the defense and make the appropriate cut.

Frontside Rules and Examples
The "pin", or down block, will start from the front side guard. The center will be the primary puller. The rest of the OL will perform their standard inside zone blocking schemes with one potential tweak.

There is an option to block down with the guard and fold with the Center. Typically, though not necessarily, this will be a weakside run.

The other option is to double the 3-tech with both the playside guard and tackle and run "Power C", where the center pulls around both down blocks and pulls to the LB. In this case, you need another frontside player, like a TE, to zone block to the DE.

The backside of the play will continue to use their standard Inside Zone blocking rules, as will any other blocker along the LOS.

This, again, is a frontside run. The RB's aiming point is going to work from the B-gap out, more similar to power than it is to Inside Zone (he isn't looking for the cutback because it won't be there unless the defense is drastically over playing it).

You see in the videos above that you can technically read the end and utilize a lead block elsewhere, rather than running a true split zone.

The benefit here is similar to the benefits of a Power run scheme: you are pinning the defense on the backside of the play with advantageous angles, which doesn't allow the defense to stretch the play horizontally; you are then adding to your playside numbers with the fold. The downside is that you largely lose the cut back that makes Inside Zone so difficult to defend.

Backside Rules and Examples
We're sticking with the hard-and-fast rule of doubling the frontside 3-tech. We want vertical displacement at the point of attack. The pin and fold is then going to come on the backside of the play.

The rest of the blockers on the LOS will follow their standard Inside Zone rules.

The RB again will aim to the frontside bubble (A-gap or B-gap). Now, however, he can follow his standard Inside Zone rules and Bounce, Bang, or Cut.

Husker Chalk Talk

This has the advantages on the frontside of your generic Inside Zone. On the backside of the play, you now are able to better seal the backside DL to the backside of the play to effectively widen that cutback lane by preventing the backside to work horizontally. Similarly, you can provide a bit of a false read for the LB, causing him to hesitate, and allowing the "fold" block to reach him before he works downhill (in this case, there are a few things the backside LB may be reading, but most likely he's thinking Power or Wrap, and therefore will start trying to work horizontally to correct numbers on the frontside of the play, thus widening the cutback lane further and giving an even more advantageous angle for the fold blocker).

The downside here is in the "pin" can't win his assignment. If the backside DT can get penetration he can take out two blockers, the pin and the fold blocker, and leave a free defender to the backside of the play. You also take away front the "vertical displacement" aspect of the play as your goal becomes to pin the defense on the backside rather than get movement.

The Pin and Fold works as a nice tag for your standard Inside Zone blocking scheme. Like anything else, it has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it's up to a team to determine when the appropriate time is to utilize these tags (personnel, defensive personnel, defensive alignment) and if they want to use them as play calls or simple tags. But they are nice wrinkles to have in your back pocket to spring a run with an inside zone scheme.


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