Three man combos, for or against?

Here at Keystone College, like a lot of college football teams our base run play is inside zone. Being a new program which automatically means we will have all freshman offensive lineman, we have to keep things simple. Within the zone combo, understanding what steps to take, when to give help or double, and when to move to the second level are imperative. Playing a good amount of four down teams it is vital that we have a sound front size zone combo that is simple for the players to sort out. That being said we run a three man combo to the play side of inside zone (and variations) against an even front. The plus of the three man combo is that it allows us to sort out any different blitz, slants, and stunts while keeping zone integrity.

If we see the front side of an over front. If we were to three man combo this without and defensive line movement, the tackle would zone step to the defensive end, the guard would move to the defensive tackle and the center would check his play side gap, look to help, and move to block the mike linebacker. If we felt that the defensive tackle was a stud, or at the request of the guard, they could work for a double team to the mike linebacker. If the matchup was good for us, I would prefer for the center to give help on his way to the second level. By help I mean striking the defender on the way up with your hand, mainly aiming to turn his hip away from the play to give the guard the advantage in moving and sealing the defender. I have seen guys clinic that they have their tackle go man on with the defensive end (or C-Gap Defender) and that a play side center and guard combo, and in this situation is works. Both he three man combo and the other combo will work. The defensive tackle slants to the A-Gap, and the guard gives help as the center takes him on, the guard moves up to the second level to intercept the blitzing linebacker, and the tackle is locked on with the defensive end. The guard will have to make a call to signify the guard stunting to the A-Gap, but the handoff should be smooth. Now where I like the triple is when there are full line slants/stunts and edge pressures.

For example, in the three man combo this is a relatively simple blitz to pick up. The guard and the tackle both make the call that signifies a defender slanting away from the play, which will alert the new uncovered lineman that there will be a defender to replace the ones who slanted, in this case the mike backer. My concern with the tackle not being a part of the combo with the center and guard in that he will stay on the defensive end, and going with the slant and allowing that mike linebacker to come free on the play side C-Gap. My other concern is defenders coming in the combo block other than what the combo accounts for. We know that in zone blocking that you still need to be responsible for what’s in your zone, no matter where it comes from (DB, LB, DL), but by allowing the pre snap count to include the defenders within the three lineman’s zones I felt it will cut down on the post snap surprises and allow them to be more sound in their zone rules. In my opinion the three man combo gives guys a wider combo area, which protects them against more pressures than a two man combo and a solo tackle.

By Dominick Guglielmo

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