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The Washington Huskies are using this cool variation of the read option play

We’ve seen a lot of plays that are similar to this in some ways, but the little details make this one look hard to stop.

How Washington can fool defenses to set up the option

Washington Husky Football has a cool play, and Stanford had no idea how to stop it.

Posted by SB Nation College Football on Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bud: So Washington ran the option to pick up two first downs against Stanford. Its QB, Jake Browning, isn’t necessarily a dangerous run threat, but the way they ran this play was pretty cool!

Richard: Honestly, the first time I noticed the play, I thought it was kinda dumb. The time they did it in the red zone, they called a timeout and then ran it. It simply looked like an option to the short side of the field, and those are typically bad, but this is really unique.

Bud: Yeah, I thought it was a broken play at first. And the way they block it isn’t all that tricky; it’s just smart. Watching the QB and the running back, Myles Gaskin, we’re seeing an initial step that looks like zone read. Watch as the edge defender to the boundary steps forward, believing it to be zone read or some type of zone run with a read element.

Richard: The kicker here is that this is a run to the weak side, instead of the strong side. The formation is strong right (more linemen to the right of the center than to the left), so the numbers dictate a run to the right would be more prudent, because you have more blockers. Typically on zone read plays, the back-side defensive end (the DE away from the side the offensive line steps toward) would be the player being read by the QB.

Here, the RB will follow the OL to the right, while the QB will read this circled DE before deciding whether to give it to the RB or keep it himself:

Against Stanford, the Huskies flipped that around and read the play-side defensive end. When the Huskies ran this play to the left, their OL stepped to the left, with the left defensive end being the one read.


Another time, they stepped to the right, and the right defensive end was the read.

Bud: So some of the brilliance here is in countering one of the zone read’s typical responses: having the backside DE stay home to play the QB, with the weakside linebacker playing the RB.

Defenders should be reading the steps of the blockers as well as the QB/RB action, but the response to those zone read steps are pretty intuitive these days, and while the offensive line is clearly not blocking like a traditional zone read, the QB/RB steps make the defenders freeze for a second. Once they realize this actually isn’t zone read, but a speed option with a pause, its too late.

Richard: Exactly, and this benefits the play-side offensive tackle more than anyone. Blocking is all about angles. The slight delay means the LBs aren’t immediately flowing to where the play is going; they have to hold for a second, because theoretically, the play could still be headed between the tackles. This delay buys the play-side tackles enough time to get to the second level, and by the time the LB is ready to flow, there’s a lineman there to seal him off.

Once the play gets outside the tackles, Stanford doesn’t have any bodies before the line. My guess is this is not a play devised to be a home run. UW ran it twice on third-and-1, when the only goal is to keep the drive alive.

Bud: So let’s talk about how neat this is. I have never seen this run. If I’m a lineman, knowing we’re running this on short yardage, I love that the guy I am blocking is hesitating. All I have to do is get a piece of him.

Have you ever seen this before? I have not. It’s vintage Chris Petersen, changing one little aspect of a play to mess with a defense.

Richard: I haven’t, no. The true beauty of it is that even if the Cardinal had seen it on film, the extra split second it takes them to process what’s going on is the thing Washington wants.

Bud: This would also be quite dangerous with a truly mobile QB, and could also make your zone read more favorable. Washington’s OC said this:

How soon until we see other teams copy this?

Richard: I’d put it in next week if I were a coordinator, primarily because this isn’t some time-intensive install process. Everyone has a zone read play; this is simply a variation of it. You don’t need to overhaul anything to get this in.

Bud: Great, more scoring is coming. Hooray four-hour games.