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Is It Time To Abandon The Zone Read?

Stop for a moment, think hard, and try to recall Texas' longest rushing play from scrimmage this season...

Still thinking? Me, too. That's because there haven't been any long ones. Is anyone else curious why this is? And should Greg Davis and Texas think about making some changes?

It's a question worth asking. The pros to the zone-read offense are numerous. The quarterback can take the snap, read what the defensive end is doing - charging up the field or diving in - and keep the ball or hand to the running back, depending on the read. For passing purposes, the fakes can delay linebackers long enough to get wide receivers down the field and open on their routes.

But the entire scheme is predicated on two critical factors:

  1. The quarterback must make the right read.
  2. The quarterback must be a threat to keep the ball and run.
I don't doub that Colt's capable of the first, but if the second factor is null and void, the first is meaningless.

Colt isn't keeping the ball on the zone read, which means he's just handing the ball off. And if your quarterback is simply handing the ball off, the play is really just an iffeciency. There's a reason that teams don't rush the football that way when they don't intend for the quarterback to have an option to keep it. Why? You can get better blocking and better running lanes for your tailbacks out of different, more run-friendly formations. The only reason you would run the zone-read offense is if you intend your quarterback to be an equal threat on each play.

Which Colt most certainly is not.

Texas can do two things to remedy this. They can either command Colt to run the zone-read properly and keep the football more often. Or they can abandon the zone-read for a more traditional pro style formation.

I think the zone-read is an incredibly difficult one for collegiate defenders to handle, so I'm not opposed to running it with McCoy. He's shown enough rushing ability to handle the gig. But if he's not comfortable with it, or the staff doesn't feel he he's got what it takes to pull it off, why use it at all? It's undoubtedly one of the reasons why Texas' tailbacks, as good as they've been, haven't really broken out this season.

After watching seven games, I'm beginning to wonder whether Texas might be best served using Colt in a traditional pro style offense, and bringing in Snead situationally to run the zone read. Quite the opposite from our starter, Snead's shown natural ability running the zone read, to excellent results. Snead's racked up 89 yards on just 15 carries, good for 5.9 per rush. He's not there yet passing-wise, but he could certainly be used as a complimentary weapon to Colt's superior passing abilities.

Making this work would from the coach's standpoint would be dicey, at best, but this offense is merely good. If the team fancies itself a title contender - Big 12 or otherwise - it ought to be working to get more from the personnel on board. Selvin and Jamaal are doing well because they're phenomenal, but schematically, they're being hamstrung.

Is it time to make a change?