The Zone Read (or Read Option) has become a staple of many offenses throughout college football over the last few seasons. Run out of the shotgun formation, the quarterback (who is hopefully adept at making the proper read) will either hand the ball off to the running back or take off with it himself, depending on where the backside defensive end goes. (For newer football fans/gamers, the defensive end you must read is the end in the direction of the quarterback's play art.) This will help add a legit running threat out of the shotgun formation and keep your opponent on their heels when trying to guess what is coming next.
Here is what to look for: If the defensive end stays at home (contain), the quarterback should hand the ball off to the running back. If the defensive end pursues the running back, the quarterback should keep the ball himself.
What makes this play unique (and somewhat challenging to learn) in NCAA Football is that the user must make a fast decision. After hiking the ball, the user has a quick moment where they must hit X(PS3)/A(360) again to make the hand-off, while not pressing X/A will see the quarterback keep the ball.
This can be tricky to learn, so here are some tips:
1. Under Settings - House Rules - Gameplay Options, lower Game Speed to Slow or Very Slow. This will slow down animations during gameplay, giving you more time to learn how to make the proper read. Once you become proficient in your decision making, keep bumping up the Game Speed slider until you are back at your desired Game Speed.
2. Spend lots of time in Practice Mode. Call Zone Read or Read Option from a variety of formations and gauge your level of success. Some formations have a tight end in to block, while others may have the wide receivers on one side of the field, clearing the way (versus man coverage) for your quarterback to gain big yards. Run the Zone Read Option against a variety of defensive formations [Select formation and then press Select (PS3)/Back (360) for a Random Play.] Learn to read the defensive formation and determine which formations give you fits. In game action, you may want to audible to a different play when you see that formation against your Read Option play.
3. Quarterback speed isn't the top factor for this play - making the correct read is. Speed helps, but so long as your quarterback has decent speed and acceleration, making the proper read can net you yards. In addition, recruit quarterbacks with high carry and injury ratings if you plan on making this a staple of your offense as the quarterback will be vulnerable to big hits and injuries as he racks up the carries.
If you have any questions or comments on running the zone read or ideas for a future video/blog, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!