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Film Study: Chuba Hubbard and the Dangerous Outside Zone

How a nuanced running play can spring No. 30.



Yesterday, a discussion came up in the Pistols Firing Slack chat about a specific play from OSU’s Texas Bowl matchup against Texas A&M. After this conversation, Kyle P. suggested I write a film study on this play. In turn, this gave me an idea for an offseason football series of posts. Starting with this one, I’ll cover successful offensive plays from last season and break down just why these plays worked for the Cowboys. I may also take a look at some blitzes and coverages on the defensive side.

Now, let’s get to the play mentioned above from the Pokes bowl game loss to the Aggies… the Outside Zone.

The zone running concept is something I’ve covered several times during the 2019 season, so you may have seen me write about it before. As a refresher, the terms Inside Zone (IZ) and Outside Zone (OZ) refer to blocking schemes that have the offensive linemen blocking specific gaps instead of a certain defender. If an O-lineman has a defender lined up in front of him, he blocks him. If he doesn’t, then he steps toward the play side and either helps double-team a defender or moves to the second level.

The main difference between the two zone concepts is on IZ, the running back is normally looking to run off the outside hip of the guard, as opposed to OZ, where the offense is looking to stretch the defense horizontally. See the two images below for further explanation.

Inside Zone (IZ)


Outside Zone (OZ)



In this specific play from the bowl game, we see the Cowboys line up in 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends). Quarterback Dru Brown and running back Chuba Hubbard are in the Pistol formation, with the quarterback in the shotgun and the running back lined up a couple of yards behind him.


Texas A&M comes out with a four defensive linemen front and has another four players in the box. With a stacked box like this, most teams would look to get the ball out to the perimeter to one of the two receivers to the top of the screen. However, most teams don’t have Chuba Hubbard.


After the snap, the Cowboy offensive linemen take their first step laterally towards the bottom of the screen and make their way to the sideline while pushing the Aggie defenders backwards. Hubbard sees the defense flow with the O-line, and right as he takes the handoff from Brown, he bends back across the formation.  See the video below for further explanation.


In zone concepts, the running back has three options:

• “Bounce” the play outside with the offensive line and look for space
• “Bang” upfield if there’s a gap between the linemen
• Or, as I mentioned above, “bend” on a cutback across the field

Hubbard’s patience and vision make him a dangerous weapon in the Zone running game. It’s why it was such a featured concept in former OSU offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson’s offense, and I expect it to be a key component of Kasey Dunn’s offense as well next season.

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