The zone read play is the primary running play of the spread offense. Either the quarterback or the running back will run the ball.
Zone blocking - each offensive lineman has a predetermined area, or zone, assigned to block - is used. If there is no defender in the predetermined zone, the blocker moves to the next level (linebackers or defensive backs) to block.
The defensive end (or last defender on the line of scrimmage) on the same side as the running back is left unblocked. He is the play's focal point, or key.
The quarterback must make a decision if the unblocked defender is going to follow the running back down the line, or if he has outside contain responsibility to his side.
If the defender charges down the line, the quarterback pulls the football back and will run toward the defender's vacated area.
If the defender stays home to protect his outside, the quarterback gives the ball to the running back.
Points of Emphasis
Blocking By Feel - The defensive alignment may create possible double team and trade-off blocks for the offensive linemen.
Read the eyes - If the quarterback sees the key defender looking at him, instruct him to hand the ball off to the running back.
Teaching the Mesh - The mesh is the point where the quarterback has his arms outstretched with the ball placed in the running back's midsection. The running back is responsible for securing the handoff, as the quarterback is reading the key defender.