Tom Herman's Coaching Clinic Part III: The QB Run Game

By Ross Fulton on June 3, 2014 at 1:15p

The third topic of Ohio State offensive coordinator's Tom Herman's April coaching clinic – after examining packaged plays and the play action passing game – was the quarterback run game. 

Why Have a quarterback run game?

The Buckeyes' quarterback run game serves two strategic purposes. First, it provides Ohio State with an additional run blocker. By its nature, the defense has a one man advantage against the offense – the ball carrier's counterpart. In a pro style offense, if the quarterback hands off, the defense gains a two person advantage.

HERMAN'S HEAD: Run-Pass Combinations | Gun Pap Play-Action

Ohio State's quarterback run game eliminates this additional unblocked defender. By using the quarterback as the ball carrier, the offense gains an additional blocker. The Buckeyes can use traditional I formation plays even while spread with three wide receivers, with the quarterback as the tailback and running back as lead blocker.

Second, the quarterback run threat provides a method to get the halfback outside the tackles on jet sweeps. To put it differently, the QB run game inverts the responsibilities of the Buckeyes' base tight zone read. Now it is the quarterback who threatens between the tackles with the tailback on the edge.

Today I'll cover the first aspect of the QB run game – direct snap, lead runs. The Buckeyes have two such plays they regularly rely upon: QB Counter Trey and QB Outside Zone.

QB Counter Trey

Counter trey employs the same gap blocking scheme as power. In so doing it has the side benefit of reducing practice time.

The front side offensive line blocks down, with either the halfback or h-back kicking out the defensive end and the backside guard pulling and leading through the hole. The quarterback takes a false step and then follows his lead blockers.

Counter Trey

Ohio State runs QB Counter Trey in one of two ways. The first is as a direct snap play, where the Buckeyes use the halfback as a lead blocker. In so doing the Buckeyes can spread the defense with four wide receivers and still execute two lead blocks.

The second methodcombines the two purposes cited above. OSU uses the H-Back as the second lead blocker and the halfback runs a jet sweep away from the counter trey action. The QB can either keep or give to the jet sweep.

Outside Zone (QB Sweep)

The other ubiquitous lead quarterback run used by Ohio State is a lead outside zone. As the name states, the offense blocks outside zone.

The offense line takes a lateral step towards the call. As with any zone play, the line seeks to create double teams on the defensive linemen. If a linemen is covered he will punch the defensive linemen with his arm that is away from the call, seeking to hold that defender until his uncovered counterpart reaches him and establishes a double team. The covered linemen will then release to the second level linebacker. The halfback leads on the strong safety or first defender to show.

Putting the Ball in the Hands of Your Playmaker

Both plays are a simple way to get the football to the quarterback with lead blockers at the point of attack. It should come as no surprise that Urban Meyer and Herman have heavily relied upon these plays with Braxton Miller.

This was especially true in tight spots with the game on the line. When in doubt, Meyer and Herman have put the ball in Miller's hands with run plays. No example is more famous or infamous then the unsuccessful last drive against Michigan State. On third down, the Buckeyes ran counter trey. Then most remember the failed outside zone on fourth and short.

Failed outside zone

Although these plays left a sour taste for many it should not diminish the continued importance of the schemes to the Buckeye offense. While Meyer and Herman will likely be chary in their use of Miller as a runner this season, when the game is on the line such plays will again likely be called upon. 


Comments Show All Comments

andretolstoy's picture

I would rather there just be a clinic on passing the ball.

-2 HS
nikolajz1's picture

With the weapons we have at WR and RB, we need a devastating passing game to make them even more effective, otherwise teams will continue to stack 8 in the box and dare Miller to throw the ball. 

cw823's picture

Exactly right.  Why can't be have a QB at OSU that can make every pass.  That can throw his receivers open.  I feel like I watched Guiton and saw the QB we should have.

+1 HS
andretolstoy's picture

I'll be happy if Brax hits 60% of his high percentage passes....

-1 HS
d5k's picture

Considering he was over 60% on all passes I think it is mathematically impossible that he wasn't over 60% on high percentage passes.  Or are you trying to project a massive regression in our QB's passing ability?  Honestly, I don't understand why so many fans hate having a talented runner at QB who also is an underrated passer.

+6 HS
ibuck's picture

Last year Herman wanted Braxton to complete 2/3 of his passes.

This year, he should put the goal at 70%.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

andretolstoy's picture

Shoot. I'd down vote myself if I could ...

ToetotheFace's picture

Well you better get used to running it, considering every Urban Meyer offense has had a heavy does of option/spread running as its bread and butter. Considering he has won multiple championships, and produced many top 10 offenses, I think it works.

+1 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Nice work Ross. I think once the coaching staff feels free to use the whole offensive playbook, these plays will not be counted on as much as in the past. But when they are used they will be so much more effective.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
Codeezy's picture

Dude if heuermans guy doesn't come off that block, miller scores. Spencer and Hyde cleaned their guys up. 

+9 HS
d5k's picture

Sometimes the numbers advantage quickly goes away when one guy gets off the ball in the direction of the play.  On one hand you could call it a missed block but on the other hand you could just call it a great get-off by Allen.  He also happened to take a first step to the sideline which was either a lucky guess or a tremendous read.

+1 HS
Codeezy's picture

Yeah you are 100% correct, just one of those  "what might have been" scenarios. And Allen made a great a read and his job is to push the play back inside anyways. He ended up taking the best path and made an all American play. 

+1 HS
Zimmy07's picture

Decker missed his block also, but even with that if Heuerman makes his block Miller probably does score.

DeepSouthBuckeye's picture

Great work as always Ross.

Couple things I noticed for the first time watching these videos.

1. In the play against Sparty in the B1G game, Hyde had one hell of a block. So did Spencer. If Jeff makes that block, Brax gets to the sideline and may score on the play.

2. I may have the understanding of the rules wrong, but in the video @ MSU, at the .11 second mark, it looks like we get away with an illegal chop block. (and dang near blows Hall's knee out)

Edit: Looks like Codeez thought the same as me, just a few seconds sooner.



Loving all things Buckeye from SEC country in Alabama.

"How firm thy friendship....O-HI-O"

+2 HS
whobdis's picture

I think way to many forget how effective these plays are 99 percent of the time and focus on ONE play against MSU. I know I've seen the play countless times and as many have mentioned if the blocks are made the play works. What I didn't really notice before was how far outside Braxton had intended to run. Easy to say now but if the cuts in(like he frequently does) I think he makes the first down easily. MSU D was very aggressive to the edge and and already had 4 defenders in the area when Braxton was just past the tight end (who missed the block). I hate running these to the short side of the field as well..though I understand the thinking


+2 HS
d5k's picture

When the average fan talks of just handing to Carlos on those plays, he is ignoring the fact that almost every Hyde run was a read or at least had the threat of Miller pulling it and running himself.  This at the very least created a hesitancy in the opposing front 7 that allowed Hyde to get to the second level more often.  The QB and RB running game has a symbiotic relationship in this offense.

I think when the passing game joined the symbiosis with packaged plays and more frequent play action shots, the offense really hummed at a level never seen before at OSU.

To some extent there was a tendency to fall back on QB runs as an "answer" to MSU's defense though.  But let's not overreact and throw away the uppercut to the jaw just because we are so awesome with the jab.

+1 HS
blocko330's picture

Ugh that last video - - Won't be able to get that play out of my head until our first live play come Aug30.

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

- TruthTeller

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

"Won't be able to get that play out of my head until our first live play come Aug30."

Or the last one on November 8th.

+1 HS
jonping67's picture

It pisses me off every time I see Heuerman's sorry ass block. Hyde and Spencer's block were spot on a Heuerman laid an egg.

+1 HS
d5k's picture

Or Heuerman should've just kicked him out and Braxton should've cut back behind the overpursuit.  There is a huge lane there if he did that.  But despite all his amazing open field moves, Braxton is actually not a tailback playing QB as some media types have said many times.

+2 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

I still think the biggest error was having Heuerman lined up in the backfield. Being lined up off the line gave the D lineman a head start on generating momentum. If he's lined up on the line, he's into the D lineman right after the snap, and has a much better chance of locking him up.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+2 HS
CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great breakdown Ross!  Love the Xs and Os info!

Go Bucks!

OSUBias's picture

What always confuses me is the focus on that play as what lost the B1G CHAMP game. We still gave up another TD after that. Even if that play succeeds and we score on that drive, we probably lose the game. That play didn't lose the game, our awful defense did. 

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

You have to consider momentum, tho. Sparty got the stop there, they had the momentum and rolled with it. We get that 1st down, and go on to score, WE have the momentum, and our D has a little extra juice. I would've like our chances if we had taken the lead there.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+1 HS
BuckInNashville's picture

Momentum ? Juice ? How about when the dominantly red clad crowd was in a frenzy after OSU scored 24 unanswered points,and appeared to be on their way to a BIG championship and national championship game ? D promptly gave up a score on MSU's next possession. 

I'm sure Chris Ash has scene the story of last season, and will re-design the defense to utilize the talent.

-1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Do you know HOW OSU was able to score 24 unanswered points and take the lead? Because the D flat out stoned MSU while the OSU offense went to work and put some points on the board. If you're going to rag on the D, and rightfully so, you also need to give them credit for when they did perform.

Momentum comes and goes, but during that 24 point run, we had all of it. Once we took the lead, the MSU offense put two scores on the board and seized it back. If we come back and score and take the lead BACK, nobody knows how that game would've finished.


“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

cbusbuckeye's picture

If Heurman holds on that play we get the first down and Dantonio has no choice but to give us another shot on 4th down. Hindsight is a b*tch