Outside zone variant: The “pin-and-pull”

I recently wrote a post giving a very simple explanation of the outside zone and zone runs in general. One popular variant that I did not discuss was the “pin and pull” zone. The Indianapolis Colts use this variant quite a bit, as did the Minnesota Gophers back when they had Lawrence Maroney and Marion Barber under Glen Mason. This is a staple of the one-back, two-tight end offenses that the Colts use and was famously used by Elliott Uzelac as offensive coordinator for the Colorado Buffaloes in the early 1990s.

Here is a basic explanation. Generally, one way to think of it is that uncovered linemen pull; alternatively uncovered linemen “block back” to get a good angle and the covered linemen pull. Just depends how you teach it. Here are some sample rules:

The aiming point for the Single Back is one yard outside of the tight-end.

If the Center can reach the Nose he will make a “you” call to the strongside guard telling him to pull and block the middle (“Mike”) linebacker. The strongside tackle and tight-end will “tex” — i.e. an exchange: the tight-end blocks down while the tackle wraps around. The tight-end down blocks to prevent penetration; the tackle pulls and runs to reach the strongside (“Sam”) linebacker.

If the center cannot reach the nose he will make a “me” call to the strong guard telling him to block the nose and the center will pull to block the “Mike.” The strongside guard blocks down and to disallow the noseguard from penetrating. The strong tackle and tight-end will “Tex” as described above.


Below is a video of Penn State using what was, apparently, the pin and pull zone. (Courtesy of mgoblog.)

(Note that I could be wrong on identifying this as an example of “pin and pull,” as it could be a simple down or “G” scheme. Though the idea gets across.)

  • Marinelli

    I like a combination of pin and pull and trad. OZ. But Im a two back kinda guy. EMOL to playside is always assigned to stay on the playside DE whether his inside teammate is covered or not. If hes inside he will downblock (exam 7 tech), if hes head up or outside he will work to reach, if DEnd stretches he makes him a fan and takes him to the sideline. Fullback keys EMOL’s block on whether or not he will lead around or come underneath.

  • endersgame

    What are the reasons for running a pin and pull scheme over more “traditional” zone blocking?

  • Kevin

    Fast and big linemen. A center that can pull in that scheme is pretty good. Wish I had some on my team.

    For the 2 back guys out their (myself included), what are your thoughts about zone vs. iso blocking with a lead back?

    Can you do BOTH(effectively)?

  • brandon

    chris, being a Colts fan, this is right up my alley. can you or someone recommend me any additional reading on this?

  • RU Fan

    The video (PSU) is definitely a traditional down play.

  • Marinelli

    Kevin, we have gotten away from Inside zone, and have gone back to basing ISO out of two backs. We run outside zone almost 25% of all of our snaps. We will run it out of one back, two back, or even three back sets. God Smiled when he created outside zone.

  • Jmac

    Definitely NOT a traditional down play. Who blocks down? No one. Everyone but the pullers zone step playside. Zero doubles, zero kickouts, even FB leads to reach. Looks like the pin and pull.

  • Mgandsons

    we are a wing-t team and use the pin and pull scheme on the ride sweep(ex vs okie – fb to te wing side ride and wing blocks de and 5 tech-  tackle pull to corner, backside rb  given ball and is on the edge etcall other folks zone) – is there a play that hits inside  with the same type of  tackle pull as the durface read lbers are getting there quickly? 

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