Coaching Class: Stan Drayton

I realize it’s been a while since the most recent coaching class update. That’s for a few reasons. First, between classes, group work, homework, and looking for a job (anyone hiring a soon-to-be-graduate in marketing?!), I’ve been busier than a bee. Second, the lectures had lacked much to write about that would really be interesting. That was, until Running Backs Coach Stan Drayton gave his lecture.

Coach Drayton’s lecture was by far the most informative I’ve had all semester. He broke down a handful of techniques he teaches, such as how to carry the ball. You may have noticed that OSU running backs carry the ball almost vertically, rather than at an angle. This is the technique taught here. It begins by “clawing” the nose of the ball between the index and middle finger. Then, hold the ball against the arm and chest, keeping the wrist directly above the elbow. Finally, lock the elbow against the body. This makes it difficult to punch the ball out from behind, as well as making it near impossible for the ball carrier to fumble when hit head on: the force of the other player hitting the ball carrier presses the ball back into the body of the ball carrier, making it difficult to drop the ball.

The play that Coach Drayton broke down for us was the inside zone play. If you’re not familiar with the zone read play, here’s a quick breakdown.

  1. At the snap, the quarterback looks to the unlocked defensive end
  2. If the defensive end comes more upfield, as to cut off the outside run, the quarterback gives the ball to the running back
  3. If the defensive end comes more inside, the quarterback keeps the ball and runs outside

So, let’s go through a play together, shall we?

Here, we have a zone read from this year’s game versus Cincy. Watch #5, Tight End Jeff Heuerman on the far side of the offensive line. He fakes a block on the end, and gets downfield to block, and lets the end run free. The end runs upfield, and JT hands the ball off to Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot’s target point is the back hip of the center. Which hip depends on the side on which Elliot lines up. The backs always go opposite where they line up. In this instance, Elliot’s target is the back right hip, because he lines up on the left. The line gets a great push and opens a hole so wide a truck could have gone for 7 yards, too.

Now, what if that hole isn’t open? That’s where the cutback comes in. If the play side A Gap is closed, then the running back cuts back to the backside A Gap. If that is closed, he cuts back to the backside B Gap, and so on, until a running lane is found. Watch this run by Carlos Hyde in the Orange Bowl last season.

The play side A Gap closes, so he cutsback horizontally to find the backside A Gap, wide open, for a nice gain.


Coach Drayton answered one of the questions I had always had about the zone read play, as well. The running back does not look at the unblocked player, rather, he focuses on his target. I had always wondered how the RB knew he was getting the ball. Turns out, the quarterback simply applies a small amount of pressure to the gut of the running back to indicate that the running back should take the ball. When the running back does not feel that pressure, he knows he isn’t getting the ball.

Now you’re equipped to watch the game this weekend and impress your friends by telling them where the play will go before the snap even occurs! Go Bucks.

Oh, and Penn State likes to call this week #OhioStateHateWeek. It’s so cute.


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