This is the second piece in a series of film breakdowns of Ohio State's core offensive plays leading into the Hokies' matchup with the Buckeyes on September 6th. Additionally, I've slowed the video down to half speed to make following the play easier.
In my last post I highlighted how Ohio State merged basic gap blocking rules with the idea of a single wing "quarterback". Ohio State's quarterback is extremely talented runner Braxton Miller who serves as a primary running threat. On the Buckeye QB counter trey, linebackers must account for the running back going one way, the quarterback running the opposite direction, and then the quarterback countering and following two lead blockers back to the original flow of the play. Add in the possibility of the quarterback throwing off that run action, and it's a nightmare for a linebacker to read and defend.
The counter-step of quarterback freezes those linebackers because of the threat of two bread-and-butter components of the Ohio State offense: The Inverted Veer and the Power. Both are very familiar offensive concepts to Virginia Tech fans, as Scot Loeffler was very heavily influenced by Urban Meyer's system while serving as the quarterbacks coach at Florida. This week, I will focus on Ohio State's inverted veer, which TKP's friends at Eleven Warriors noted Ohio State calls the "Power Read" (power blocking + QB read).
The power read, along with the inside zone, are two primary read option plays that Ohio State runs where, depending on how the defense plays, either the quarterback or the running back could get the football. The power read poses an additional challenge to defenses because it incorporates similar blocking concept as the Buckeye counter trey.
To the side where the run action is going, the linemen all block the same rule: gap-down-linebacker. That means the lineman steps with their inside foot to the inside gap. If a defensive lineman is in the path, the blocker drives him inside. If there isn't a down lineman, the blocker continues on the same path to the linebacker. The back side guard pulls to the play side to give the offense a numerical advantage at the point of attack. He'll aim to go between the space where front side tackle and guard used to be, but can adjust depending on if the defensive end crashes or widens.
This is an option play, so the offense leaves the play side defensive end unblocked. The quarterback takes the snap, buries the football into the stomach of the running back while taking a belly step play-side. If the defensive end widens out to take away the sweep, the quarterback keeps. If the end crashes inside, the quarterback gives the ball to the tailback. Ohio State also usually aligns a tight end to the play side, flexed back like an H-Back. Usually the tight end will veer release outside the defensive end (influencing the end to widen out) and then goes into the secondary to block a safety.
Let's take a couple of looks at the base power read. Here, the defensive end widens out, and the pulling guard turns up to the inside. I don't think Buckeye QB Braxton Miller makes the correct read here, as he should have kept the football.
Here is the same play call, but the defensive end stays inside. The pulling guard passes by the end and goes on to the outside. The end, frozen by the quarterback fake, can't get outside to stop the tailback on the sweep.
Coach Meyer can also change up the blocking depending on the defensive personnel, defensive strategy, or to demonstrate a different look to create confusion. One technique is to have the guard kick out the defensive end. This usually happens to combat a scrape-exchange by the defense. To summarize what Mason previously described, a scrape-exchange features the defensive end abandoning read responsibilities and crashing hard inside, while the outside linebacker (or defensive back) stunts away to take away any wide runs. A defensive coordinator can call this stunt as a way to cross up the quarterback. The quarterback reads the end crashing, and he would hand off to the tailback on the sweep. The outside linebacker would be wide, unblocked, and awaiting the tailback.
To combat this defensive adjustment, the guard can trap block the defensive end. l am not in the film room, so I am not entirely sure if this adjustment is called by the offensive staff, or if it represents an adjustment in the scheme at the line of scrimmage called by the quarterback, or the play side offensive tackle. When executed properly, the end gets kicked out, and the linebacker has vacated the space inside to scrape out into the flat. As result, a big seam should form inside the trap block, as diagrammed here.
Here is an excellent example of Ohio State executing the trap. The Iowa defensive end crashes hard to the inside. The inside linebacker flies hard to the left flat to take the space vacated by the end.
The right guard pulls across and kicks the end out. The linebacker has vacated the space. Miller keeps (even though the end crashes) and a cutback lane opens for a nice game.
Here's another example.
Another strength of the power read is that the offense can use a wide variety of formations. Adjustments can be made for short yardage situations (where the quarterback is the most effective ball carrier). Other variations can adjust based on defensive personnel and tendencies. One variation even includes a second running back. The back aligns to the play side and serves as a second lead blocker on the play.
With the defense focused heavily on Miller as the primary running threat, the lead halfback can seal the outside linebacker inside. The end gets frozen on the quarterback fake, and speedy Ohio State scatbacks like Ezekiel Elliott (8.7 yards per carry in 2013) can slip outside.
The final compliment to the power read is play-action off faking the read. Against Iowa, the Buckeyes ran variants of the power read nearly a half dozen times on their first two series. Slowly, the secondary became familiar with the backfield movement and started to creep up. Immediately following the tailback run highlighted above, Meyer's staff felt that the defense was conditioned to attack the power read backfield motion and they attacked deep with play-action. The secondary completely breaks down against a simple post off play-action.
The power read is one of the primary plays that Urban Meyer uses as part of his core running game. As I highlighted above, the blocking schemes stay the same for multiple variants of power read, and the read is complemented by the power play. The power read also works as a meat and potatoes dependable four yards and a cloud of dust play, yet it's tendency to stretch the defense and make it tentative creates seams for big plays. Finally, Ohio State runs it with so much frequency and success that the defensive safeties can start to creep up when they see the power and power read run action, leaving receivers wide open down the field. This combination, coupled with an incredibly talented quarterback running the system, makes a defense play very tentatively. The Hokies can't stop the Ohio State offense playing tentatively.