The Urban Meyer Ohio State Offense: Base Run Game

By Ross Fulton on February 28, 2013 at 2:30p

I spent the last two weeks looking at the philosophy that animates Urban Meyer and Tom Herman's offense. Now I will turn to the run plays that Meyer uses to implement that philosophy.

As noted, the inside zone/gap scheme run game is the core of the Ohio State offense. If an opposing team plays the Buckeyes with their base defense, OSU will run the football until a defense overcompensates. The rest of the offense then works to prevent a defense from overcompensating and/or takes advantage when a defense does so. 

The following is not an exhaustive list. Rather, it represents Ohio State's primary run plays off which everything else is predicated. 

Tight/Inside Zone Read

If there is one play that undergirds an Urban Meyer offense, this is it. It is a play that OSU may run in some games as often as every other play combined. 

Meyer's inside zone is a quicker hitting and more aggressive play design than a typical inside zone play. In some ways it resembles a dive play. The offensive line will take an aggressive half step to the play side. If a lineman is covered (has a defensive lineman over him), he is responsible for blocking him. If uncovered, the lineman combo blocks to the play side with the nearest covered teammate. The uncovered linemen will work to the defensive linemen's playside shoulder.

The,n one of the two linemen combo blocking will come off onto the linebacker in their area. All the while the offensive linemen must work in tandem and keep their eyes upfield. If the defensive lineman over the covered lineman stunts toward his uncovered counterpart, the covered lineman will pass him off to the uncovered lineman and go upfield to block the linebacker. If the linebacker immediately blitzes, the uncovered lineman will block him and each lineman is responsible for his individual blocks.  

The halfback aligns offset a half-yard behind the quarterback. He aims for the backside leg of the center when the play is toward the tight end:


And the front side leg to the open side:


In both cases, Ohio State wants the play to hit the A-gap bubble inside the 3-technique and cut back from there against overpursuit. This again underscores the north-south nature of the play.

The quarterback reads the backside defensive end. He thus accounts for the unblocked end. If the end's shoulders stay square, the QB gives. If he comes down the line, he keeps.

The Buckeyes also runs variations off the play. They can have the backside H-back fold block on the alley player.

The QB can also run a midline read of an interior defensive lineman.  


Counter trey

Counter trey is the first of the block down, kick out and fold gap blocking schemes that OSU employs. This is the same blocking scheme that is ubiquitous in pro-style offenses. Meyer's counter trey can be run by the halfback with a QB read, but the primary method is QB counter trey, featuring Braxton Miller.

The Buckeyes run the counter trey in one of two methods. The first is off a jet sweep fake to the halfback.

The Buckeyes will alternatively run it as a single wing play, with the halfback as the lead blocker.

In either case, the blocking scheme is the same. This reduces practice time for the offense while still managing to give defenses different looks.

The playside offensive line down blocks to the inside gap. They will again combo block through the defensive linemen to the backside linebackers. The backside guard pulls and kicks out the defensive end. The backside back — whether an H-back or halfback — then leads through the hole on the playside linebacker. 


Power may have defined Jim Tressel's offense, but it is also a staple for Urban Meyer.

Power uses largely the same blocking scheme as the counter trey. The playside offensive line again blocks down, with the backside guard pulling and back leading. The only difference is the guard and back exchange assignments. The H-back kicks out the end while the pulling guard pulls into the hole. 

OSU can also run one-back power to the tight end. In that situation, the tight end base blocks the outside linebacker while the guard still folds into the hole.

Meyer runs the play to the side of the halfback's alignment. The halfback will take a false step and then aim for the playside C-gap right behind the pulling guard. This complements inside zone in that if a defense begins slanting away from the halfback it plays right into the power blocking scheme. It also makes Dave a quick-hitting play. The Buckeyes will generally feature it in short yardage and run-first situations.

Inverted Veer/ power read

Inverted veer, or the power read, is the Buckeyes' other primary read play. As the name "power read" implies, the play employs the same blocking scheme as power. The line blocks down with the backside guard pulling and leading through the hole. The only difference is rather than kicking out the end man on the line of scrimmage, the offense accounts for him through the QB read.


"Inverted veer" refers to the back action. On a traditional veer option play, the halfback dives at the front side C-gap. The QB either gives or pulls and attacks outside. Here, however, the halfback takes a sweep path. If the QB keeps, he aims for the C-gap, following the pulling guard into the hole.

In contrast to zone read, where the default is to give, here the play works best when the quarterback keeps. The goal is to stretch the linebackers horizontally, allowing the quarterback to cut inside them. However, if the defense squeezes down, the quarterback must be prepared to give.

The Buckeye offense gets a two-fer. Inverted veer gives a different look to the defense, but the blocking is the same for the offensive line, cutting down learning and increasing repetitions. It also forces a defense to be honest pre-snap vis-à-vis Ohio State's halfback alignment. It is run from the same pre-snap look as inside zone. But it attacks the front — rather than backside — defensive end, increasing defensive end hesitancy.

These four plays constitute the core of the Ohio State run offense. This underscores that Meyer's base offense is the same inside zone and power plays as pro-style offenses run, with the employment of the QB run threat to give the offense better arithmetic. Next week I will examine the run game accouterments.  Those plays both build off the base schemes and work to prevent the defense from overplaying the above plays.


Comments Show All Comments

boojtastic's picture

Today, I learned what inverted veer means.
(The more you know!)

yrro's picture

I finally understand the difference between Power and Counter Trey! Knowledge is exciting.

I_Run_The_Dave's picture

I also just figured out what Inverted Veer actually means :)
Also, I hope our opponents never discover this website.  Don't want them to figure out all our tricks!
Ross, you are the best thing to happen to Ohio State football since...  well, Urban Meyer?  

d5k's picture

Not downplaying Ross's analysis, but if they need this website to understand at this point then I like our chances.  :)

Ross Fulton's picture

Yes, I'm in an internal debate as to whether I like the term 'power read' or 'inverted veer' better...


Do you all think 'power read' is more descriptive?


TNBuckeye1421's picture

Im going to go with Power Read... great read Ross! I love watching Dave actually work.
Bollman called and said this is walrus poop.

woofermazing's picture

How about Dave Read or Dave Read Option, for the sake of tradition.

Buckeye_TilIdie's picture

Good read I love learning about the x and o's of the game.

Punks jump up to get beat down.

razrback16's picture

Awesome write up. Thanks Ross.

JYBUCKEYE's picture

Nice job Ross!!  I was a football coach in the high school ranks.  I was brought up in the Wishbone and the old Wing T.  I landed a job with a coach who ran the spread, and absolutely love this offense.  

NEWBrutus's picture

I frequently see Chris Brown (Smart Football) mentioning the increased use of "packaged plays."  Is this something you see Herman/Meyer incorporating more in the future as Braxton and his supporting cast improve?  Perhaps we are doing this to some degree already.
While wrinkles are added and slight adjustments are made, there isn't a whole lot of "secrecy" in what Meyer is trying to do.  The key seems to be having the right players to make it work.  Your QB has to be a legitimate threat to run the football.  Face it, if a guy like Greg Frey were a qb in this offense, it wouldn't strike the fear of god into opposing coaches. Yet I have a feeling we were only scratching the surface of what this offense is capable of doing. 
As always, fantastic work.  By the way, I too learned something in these last three pieces.

omahabeef1337's picture

Looking forward to Ross's response, but I think they did? Trying to remember when. I can't think of a specific play.

Ross Fulton's picture

I spent a few weeks last summer looking at packaged plays.  OSU did some sparingly. The one that most sticks in my mind was Michigan. Braxton pulled the ball from Hyde on power on the goal line to throw and took a sack...


Which gets to my point, which is that packaged plays obviously require good decision-making from the QB. Braxton's decision making was inconsistent last year, so you can see why this would not be a huge part of the O. But yes, as he matures, I expect this to be a greater part of the O going forward.

NEWBrutus's picture

Ah yes, the decision making of young Braxton....How many yards/points were left on the field due to incorrect/poor reads during the year last year.  Early on it seemed like he had trust issues with his backs, and refused to give the ball when he should have.  Then it seemed like he gave when he shouldn't, and at times he still tried to take the entire load on his shoulders and do far too much.  
If Braxton is able to make a significant and consistent improvement in his decision making the prospects for this offense are down right scary exciting.  If he makes strides in the decision making and in his throwing fundamentals.....Oy vey!  The whole season, I watched and just kept thinking to myself, this guy is just getting started.  
So bullish on the buckeye O.

Smanpoint10's picture

You just had to use the play where Braxton embarrassed the Cal player haha

Hovenaut's picture

Another great "chalk talk".....way to break it down.

I admit I hated the spread when it first arrived, I believed it was too reliant on the pass. Grew up listening to my father/uncles/older cousins speak of three yards and a cloud of dust, and watched the Cooper teams run the power I with (especially with Pace and George) success.

Wasn't impressed with what I saw with the RichRod years up north, and was still skeptical about what and how Meyer would be bringing to Columbus.

A year in, I'm all in on the game plan, I love that the offense incorporates a power run game.....just not our father's power run game. Big fan of dual threat QB's and the possibilities the athleticism brings across the board.

Really pumped to see this offense on all cylinders....its going to be awesome.

Thanks again for the write up....keep 'em coming!

yrro's picture

To me, the biggest thing is "is the offense too reliant on one player?"
A good system of offense with a good line will still function, just not as well, without having exactly the right upper classman athletic quarterback. When your offense is "let Denard Robinson run around all day until he breaks a long one", that's not sustainable. It requires a)at least a sophomore or junior Denard and b)  a healthy Denard as well.
That's why I am so happy that we got our power run game going with Hyde well at the end of the season. Braxton as home run threat and decoy to keep defenses from stacking the box? Awesome. Braxton as the only player who can move the chains down to down is much more concerning to me. Eventually he will be stifled or injured, and then what?

Ross Fulton's picture

I agree that this is the weakness of the 'spread.' It requires the right type of QB and good decision making...


However, at this point, every offense short of Tressel-ball asks a lot of the QB.  IMO it is easier at the college level to find a good athlete to run the spread then it is to find a guy that can sit in the pocket and read 5 WR progressions. The NFL has difficulty finding 30 of those guys.

BrooklynBuckeye's picture

Is it just me or does NCAA Football by EA not include zone reads and inverted veer? Those are far more prevalent in college football than the traditonal navy/nebraska triple option. I would even think Madden would include zone read this year. Silly point, but if I'm gonna use the Buckeyes I wanna do it properly, with Ross as my offensive coordinator.

omahabeef1337's picture

There's lots of zone read, but only a couple IZR. There's no IV because I don't think they could do it well.

sirclovis's picture

I believe they have a few plays similar to an IV where the slot/H reciever comes into motion like a Jet Sweep and you have the option to keep or give the ball.

omahabeef1337's picture

I think you're still reading the backside end, though. The closest I've seen are veer plays out of the pistol. Those are the only playside read plays I've seen in the game.

AGL's picture

Thanks Ross,  Good stuff.


cinserious's picture

In that H-back kickout, you can see Zach Boren's got some wheels to go along with that nasty-ass upfield blocking.  Braxton could've followed him for another 20 yds.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Phillips.449's picture

One of the reasons I like reading Ross's stuff this offseason more than last is the fact that the examples have actual buckeyes running the plays!  Nice Job as always Ross!