WHAT IS THE ZONE-READ OFFENSE?
The Gophers' zone-read offense has dozens of variations and options, but the basic premise is this:
Receivers are spread out far enough so defenders have to make it obvious who, or what area, they are covering. The quarterback comes to the line of scrimmage, usually in a shotgun (5 yards behind the line) or pistol (2-3 yards behind) formation, and looks for the free safety to determine how many defenders are in "the box," or the area roughly 5 to 7 yards in front of the line, between the offensive tackles. If the defense has seven or eight players there, the quarterback will signal to the offense that he plans to execute the passing play called in the huddle.
If five or six defenders are in the box, the quarterback sticks with a running play. When the ball is snapped, the offensive linemen leave the defensive end on the back side (away from the play) unguarded. The tailback moves in front of the quarterback, who puts the ball in his stomach while watching the unguarded defensive end. If the end stays in place to guard that side of the line, the quarterback releases the ball, and the tailback follows his blockers. If the end "crashes," or runs into the backfield to catch the tailback from behind, the quarterback pulls the ball out and runs in the opposite direction, toward the space the defensive end has just vacated.
The quarterback can also use that option with the tailback as "play-action," faking the run and waiting for the defense to commit to it before stopping and throwing a pass.