As I was thinking of how to express my thoughts on how I attack a defense with the running game, I thought that it might be best to break down, in separate posts, the different phases of how I utilize run plays in NCAA 06.
I contemplated on maybe doing a post on how not to abuse the speed button, or maybe write a something on how important it is to use leverage, numbers and grass to gain an advantage over the defense.
There are dozens of run concepts in 06 that were intentionally designed to do something different than the other run concepts.
But after 10 years of playing 06, I have discovered that all run plays in this game go by the same principles.
Whether you are running triple option from I-Formation Twins, a HB tackle from Ace Normal, to the infamous HB direct from the Gun, all of these plays carry the same philosophical weight that can make each concept successful.
This is why I decided to show you how I view a run play as a whole.
From your pre-snap reads to the point where your HB is greeting the safeties with a smile, let me take you on a journey that by the end of this lesson, you will know how to attack any defense with any run concept 06 has to offer.
I will show you two examples that will cover the very basics that carry over to every other run concept: how to attack a man and a zone defense.
For both examples I will run the same concept: the HB Slam from I-Formation Normal against a 4-3 Cover 2 Man.
The HB Slam is my favorite run concept from under center.
It is a quick hitting play with just enough freedom to let you take it between the tackles or break it to the outside. It is basically two plays in one.
How to Attack Man Coverage
As always, my first pre-snap read is to read the CBs to see if the defense is in man or zone.
In this case they are playing man.
My next assignment is to read the defensive line and the linebackers (the box) to see if either unit shifts in any way.
This determines which direction I want to run to.
When reading the box, the defensive line is more important than the LBs.
Defensive lines are ruthless in 06, especially on Heisman Difficulty.
If the line does not shift then read the LBs next.
Thankfully in 06 you can flip which way to run to by pressing triangle/Y and the pressing the left or right button on your directional pad to which side you want to run to.
Now I’m not one of those players who is so hardheaded that they refuse to run to a particular side because of either the strength of your offensive line is on one side or that you always run to the strong side of the field.
This is what reading the box is for.
Run to where they ain’t, or even better, run to open grass.
You will notice the LBs have shift to the right side of the field.
Do yourself a favor and run to the left!
This idea may sound obvious but it will save you a lot of frustration if you run to the side where there are less defenders.
The last decision you have to make about the box is to locate impact players within it.
If all is equal and no shifts were made, then run to the opposite side of where the impact player is located.
Impact players are ruthless and it’s best to just take them out of the play altogether and run in the other direction.
If all is equal and you come across a team that has more than one impact player in their box, then use your best judgement and run where it gives you the best advantage, preferably away from the impact lineman.
So in this situation I decide to run to the left.
As soon as your tailback gets the ball, the LBs are and always will be in hot pursuit of their assignments.
Notice how all three LBs are unblocked as soon as my HB gets the ball.
This is when your lineman, tight end, and fullback must block effectively in order to get maximum yardage out of the pay.
Thankfully my center was able to take out the MLB and my fullback being able to lock up the ROLB.
And remember what I said earlier about running away from impact lineman and LBs?
The Gators’ impact LB is useless on this play since I decided to run in the opposite direction.
This next principle is ultra important:
When running the ball against man coverage, you need to run outside of your tackles and towards the sideline, most of the time.
Notice the CBs and your wide receivers.
In man, the CBs are taught to follow their assigned man.
In this play, and all other run plays, your WRs are taught to run Go routes and to take the CBs with them.
Even though I am not a fan of using the speed button all the time, it is worth using when running to the outside against man, for obvious reasons.
Here is a nice view of your WR doing his job and taking his defender with them.
This is why I want you to think “horizontally and to the sidelines” against man coverage.
Look at the huge void your WR makes.
Now all that is left for you to do is take on that FS with a special move of your choosing. Make him look silly if you can.
Before we dive in to the zone stuff I want to bring to your attention another tip that can make your run game better.
You can also use motion to your advantage.
Here is an example of how open grass is in your favor, especially against man.
I decide to motion WR#1 to the left side.
The only shift shown here is a pinch by the LBs.
It is still a balanced box.
Even though their impact LB is on our right side, we have our TE there as well so I call this even on both sides.
But look at all of that beautiful green grass on the right side.
Now where do you think I am going to run in this situation?
Correct blocking aside, run to the right and have some fun.
This image makes an interesting point that is worth noting.
Remember that the defense is in Cover 2 Man.
But notice how the FS stays back like you would expect him to, but what is the SS doing?
He is chasing you down.
In 06, the SS is designed to pursue the ball in man coverage on a run play, even if the play is cover 2.
The opposite is true if you run to the FS side which was shown above in the great 3rd person perspective.
The FS stays back until you get within 10 yards of him.
Again, notice on this play how the FS is still in cover 2 mode, which it technically his job anyways.
I still want you to run where there is grass but also keep in mind how both safeties act differently in this situation.
How to Attack Zone Coverage
This is when we really start having some fun.
Here we are facing 4-3 Cover 2 Zone while still running the HB Slam.
In this play the defensive line has decided to pinch and even though the ROLB creeps up to the line, the LBs as are in their normal position.
In this situation I want to run to the right side.
Even thought their impact linebacker is on that side, I still have my TE over there and I will have more field to work with.
Here is the most important thing you need to know about running against a zone:
Always try to stay vertical when running against a zone while hardly using the speed button, if at all.
Notice how, luckily, my Oline was able to open a nice hole down the middle for both of my backs.
More importantly, notice the two OLBs.
They are in “zone mode”, no different than the two safeties.
If you try to take the ball horizontally against a zone, you can’t out run the defenders since they will be waiting for you.
This is why I want you up the field most, if not all the time, against a zone.
This image here further proves my point.
Look at OLB #47.
He is still in zone coverage trying to bowl a strike while I pass him.
Part of this is due to staying with his responsibility.
The second is my use of the speed button.
When I run against a zone I rarely, if ever, use the speed button.
Sometimes in 06, the speed button acts as trigger to defenders that they must pursue the player with the ball.
Besides, all of your cuts, jukes, spins, etc. are much more effective if you don’t use the speed button.
As I mentioned above, sometimes you really need to use the speed button against man coverage since more often than not you have to outrun defenders to the outside, but not in this case.
One yard later and the OLB finally sees me but it’s too late.
My HB is already on his way to dance with the safeties.
Now some of you might think this is a glitch in the game, but I can assure you it doesn’t happen all the time.
A lot of it has to do with the defender’s awareness and also their vision.
Notice how #70 has the MLB locked up but were both blocking the view of the OLB.
You may come across a situation where you need to bounce it to the outside against a zone like in this play.
I took this image to explain how CBs act differently during a run play while they are in zone.
Remember how the CBs will follow their WRs in man coverage?
Since they are in Cover 2 Zone here, the CBs are taught to stay in the flats.
This causes them to sometimes get wrapped up with the receiver in front of them.
Sometimes, if you have big, tall WRs with decent blocking skills, then you might see the CBs go flat on their back which is always fun to see watch.
However, you might see this…
Sometimes the CB will break free or even knock down your receiver.
In this case, the CB was able to break free and get ready to do some damage on my HB.
Thankfully, I decided to cut it up the field and take him out of the play altogether, sound familiar?
By now I hope you understand how different it is to successfully run against man and zone coverage.
You have to think and act differently to both situations, especially on a much broader level.
Now I know we didn’t go over how to handle blitzes, other personnel groupings, different run concepts, etc., but the principles I have shown you here work across the board for any run concept you use in this game.
In the future I will give special attention to other run concepts like your various under-center options and spread stuff, but the foundation of your running game starts here.
- Read the corners to identify coverage
- Read the box (DL and LBs) for shifts to determine run direction
- If you want, motion an eligible man to see if you gain any advantage or grass
- Snap the ball
- If MAN, think horizontally with some speed button when necessary
- If ZONE, think vertically with little to NO speed button
What are some of the principles you use when running the ball in 06?
Perhaps you have done it much differently than me but were to still successful in pounding the rock.
Please share your thoughts below.