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Sunday, August 4, 2013

FILM STUDY: Rutgers' Kaleb Johnson dissects zone blocking

Inserted at left guard after two seasons at tackle, Kaleb Johnson could be Rutgers' blueprint as it focuses on more zone-blocking concepts. (Tyler Barto)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

PISCATAWAY — Kaleb Johnson pulled to his left Friday, picking up an oncoming defensive end as Rutgers' backfield awaited a series of keys on a run play.

It was textbook execution, and chances are more of it will come as Rutgers features more zone blocking than it has in recent history.

"I feel  like it's just going to add another weapon to our arsenal of plays," Johnson said Friday of zone blocking, Rutgers' first installation during training camp. "If it's not zone blocking, it's going to be the power game. If it's not that, our pin-and-pull game."

Zone blocking requires linemen to read specific gaps along a defensive front rather than defenders themselves. Running backs must have the same instinct as linemen block for a certain zone.

RELATED: Kaleb Johnson explains zone blocking, other principles

It requires patience, and so must Rutgers as it molds its philosophy under new offensive coordinator Ron Prince.

Rutgers' zone-blocking principles teach its linemen to disengage defensive linemen quickly to reach linebackers. That creates one less unblocked player to account for. It has also created another need.

"You have to be able to move," Johnson said. "That's the one thing Coach Prince has preached to us since he got here. That's one of the reasons I feel like they moved me to guard because they feel like I can move."

Johnson, who entered camp at 303 pounds, spent the last two seasons tackle, where he wasn't asked to pull much, if at all. Prince will require his tackles — sophomore Keith Lumpkin and junior Taj Alexander to start — to pull and move in space more frequently.

Johnson doesn't mind.

"I'm excited to do it and run," he said, "hit and run."

The junior should benefit, evidenced by a swing screen during his collegiate debut in 2011 against Ohio:

(Courtesy of TheFootballman175)
Johnson lines up at right tackle at Ohio's 26-yard line. Chas Dodd drops back before releasing Jawan Jamison on a swing screen, when Johnson and now-junior Betim Bujari release to block downfield.

MORE FILM STUDY: Brandon Coleman's patented route combo

(Courtesy of TheFootballman175)
An in route by Mohamed Sanu collapses Ohio's perimeter. Johnson reaches the second level as Jamison hauls in Dodd's pass.

(Courtesy of TheFootballman175)
Less than three seconds later, Johnson is 10 yards downfield with a kick out block, springing Jamison to Ohio's 4-yard line.

As in the sequence above, Johnson is designed to block a specific area and not responsible for one defender. He will be responsible for doing so more often at left guard in 2013, with Bujari at center.

It all starts with identifying defensive fronts and how it affects zones.

"Betim makes the first call, pointing out the linebackers that we're responsible for," Johnson said. "Then everybody else goes off of that. It's everybody (making calls)."

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