Chris Ault: Pistol Inside Zone Basics
It’s official: The inside zone has taken over the game of football.
Look far and wide, but it’s increasingly rare that you’ll find a team at most levels of the game who doesn’t have it somewhere in their playbook, especially in college or the pros.
Still, there are holdouts. Maybe you’re one of them?
Don’t worry, Chris Ault, renowned creator of the Pistol offense, knows exactly how you feel.
As he talks about in the video below, he was never a big zone guy.
Now? He’s considered one of the foremost experts in the zone run game, especially the pistol inside zone.
After retiring as the head coach at Nevada, Ault now works as a consultant with the Kansas City Chiefs.
You may not be able to hire him as a consultant for your team, but he’s got a great video course over at CoachTube on the basics of the Inside Zone, and I highly recommend it.
For now though, let’s talk about what made him change his mind and embrace the inside zone.
Why the Pistol Inside Zone?
When you’re selling something to your team, you gotta have answers, not when things are going good, but when things are going bad.
Think about it, how many adjustments do you really need to make when your game plan is working flawlessly?
That never seems to happen for most coaches, so not only do you need answers, you need them to be simple and something you can fall back on in crunch time.
That’s where the inside zone comes in.
The zone is a reliable area blocking scheme. It’s something Ault and his offense can hang their hat on, and it gives them easy answers when the going gets tough.
Put another way, you need something that’s easy to fix.
All those fancy plays you drew up at the beginning of the week? They’re great until you’re stuck in the middle of the game with no adjustments, no progression in your gameplan, no way to fix anything.
The inside zone is the old reliable scheme that keeps running no matter what. Sure, it may need the occasional tune up, but you know it works against just about anything. That’s exactly the kind of foundational play that an offense, including the pistol offense, is built around.
Having answers doesn’t mean you’re reinventing the wheel each week, it means you’ve got a few things you’re confident in, and can run them anytime, anywhere.
It’s the little things that win football games
Nevada doesn’t teach their footwork exactly the same as some other teams.
They can get very specific with their aiming points, depending on the experience of the offensive line as a whole. They can be coached to aim for the inside number of the opponent’s jersey, the outside number, the arm pit, the list goes on…
When it comes to footwork, they teach out and up. Linemen should take a six-inch step out, then step up against the playside defender if he’s covering their playside gap.
What about an uncovered gap?
Ault teaches a “smash step” with the playside foot, which puts the linemen in a position to put power behind their second step and step through the defender.
You can break it down several different ways, but the bottom line here is that the footwork used in the inside zone scheme is dependent on where the nearest down defender is.
“Block the front first!”
Ault is constantly reinforcing the importance of getting the double team done right. He doesn’t want his linemen hurrying off to the second level to go chase after those linebackers in space. Instead, he’s coached up his players to keep pounding the double team and then deal with the linebackers if they come into their assigned gaps.
If they never flow downhill? Well, then the linemen stay on the double teams and move the defensive linemen down the field until the whistle.
Or, put another way, we’re gonna worry about the big guys across from us first. We’ll worry about the smaller guys behind them later.
How many times have you watch a play stopped because of a miscommunication up front?
It’s frustrating as hell because these are the kind of mistakes that are easily avoidable. Simple mistakes like these will add up over time if you don’t get them fixed.
The words used here leave no room for error. He didn’t say anything about a combo block, he said “we coach the double team.”
There’s no mistaking where his priorities are here.
So to wrap it all up…
The inside zone lends itself to all kinds of innovation and flexibility.
Chris Ault created a whole new way of moving the football, but it all comes back to how they use and coach up the inside zone play.
It gives you answers to just about anything the defense can throw at you, and is simple to teach to your big guys up front.
What’s not to like?
PS- Want more? Watch the whole thing here: Chris Ault Inside Zone Basics