Spread Offense Playbook: Run Plays

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

The era of the spread offense is officially upon us. High school and college teams are quickly lighting up the scoreboard with points. Teams are taking advantage of space at speed from their athletes to keep the defense stressed consistently.

This article will show you all the run plays that coaches run out of the spread offense. These plays were modified from traditional under-center schemes to fit spread attacks from the shotgun.

Spread Offense Playbook

While teams rely heavily on throwing the football in the spread offense, the run game is as effective. Coaches have found ways to implement traditional running plays such as counter and power in their spread attacks.

The plays that we will cover in this article are standard plays that teams run in the spread offense. These plays can be installed relatively quickly and have advantages against different defensive schemes.

If you’re installing the spread offense for the first time, we recommend picking out 3-4 different plays from the list you can install with your players. It’s important not to do too much, but rather what your players can handle mentally.

Run Plays In The Spread Offense

Below are run plays that you can implement into your spread offense for maximum gains.

Inside Zone

The first running concept from the spread offense on our list is inside zone. Inside zone is one of the most common plays in the spread offense because it’s simple to teach and can be built on.

Inside zone provides offensive coordinators the ability to run the “new age” triple option, RPO, and more.

The basics of inside zone are trying to get as many double teams as possible at the point of attack. The offensive lineman will move to displace the defensive lineman from their gap, then move to the linebacker.

The center will ID the “mike” or the “0” point. From here, the offensive lineman will double team and work with the linebackers. When double-teaming, the offensive lineman hopes to create running lanes that the running back can read and run through.

Inside zone won’t always be hit in the same spot. Whether the double team wins or not, teams generally have a frontside A gap to backside the B gap.

This play gives the running back options to be creative and read the blocks from the lineman.

Teams have built on top of their inside zone play by tagging bubbles, slants, and post routes on top of the inside zone. This is known as an RPO.

RPOs put defensive players in the conflict by forcing them to commit to the run or the pass. Inside zone is typically the play of choice when teams are running RPOs.

If you’re looking to install or learn more about inside zone, we recommend checking out this complete breakdown.

Outside Zone

Outside zone, also known as wide zone, is another play in the spread offense. Offensive coordinators will use outside as a change-up to inside zone.

The benefit of outside zone is it takes advantage of defenses that don’t have edge defenders. If there is no defensive player to contain the play, offenses can run to the edge every time.

If the defense does have an edge defender, then the offense relies on their cutoff blocks from their offensive lineman.

The rule for a running back when running outside zone is as follows:

  • Bend
  • Bang
  • Bounce

The running back’s main job is to read the tackle’s block and determine his path based on what the tackle can do with the defensive end.


The running back will read the tackle’s block on the defensive end. If the tackle cannot successfully pin him toward the inside, then the running back will bend it back inside, looking for a cutback lane.

This is most likely the case if there is any penetration from the defensive end and the running back cannot get to the edge of the defense.


If the tackle is in a stalemate with the defensive end and the running back has no cutback lanes, he will bang it right off the tackle’s hip.

This situation can happen if the defense has a bigger defensive end that is able to control the smaller tackle. When in doubt, the running back should try to gain as many yards as he can by banging the football through the hole.


Bouncing the ball to the outside is the best-case scenario when running outside zone. This means that the offensive tackle was able to secure the defensive end to the inside.

If the defense doesn’t have an edge defender, the offense can take advantage of the space that the defense is giving up.

The running back should run as fast as possible to the outside and make defenders miss in the open field.

If you want a more in-depth look at outside zone, be sure to check out our complete guide here.


Counter first appeared in the single-wing offense. The goal of counter is to outnumber the defense by pulling two offensive linemen to the other side of the ball.

For example, if the team is running counter to the right, they will pull the backside guard and tackle. Pulling these players creates a numbers advantage for the offense, as the defensive will need to move two of their players to even out the numbers.

First, the backside guard will pull across the formation and try to block the defensive end toward the sideline.

Next, the backside tackle will pull and be the lead blocker for the running back.

The front-side offensive lineman will “gap” block away from the play, meaning they will push the player they are supposed to block away from the play.

Variations of counter can be seen using an H-back or tight end to substitute for a pulling guard or tackle.

If you want a complete guide to installing counter, check out our article here.

Pin And Pull

The pin and pull concept is a newer concept among spread offenses. We reference the pin and pull as the lost brother of buck sweep. While the two plays look similar, the pin and pull have specific rules to determine who is pulling to the play side.

As the name states, the pin and pull are designed to pin defensive players away from the play and pull offensive linemen toward the play.

The basis of the pin and pull is simple if you’re covered, pull. If you’re uncovered, then gap block on a defensive player in your backside gap. These rules can be applied to every offensive lineman. This is why the pin and pull scheme is so popular because teams can run it without spending a lot of time teaching it.

When studying the pin and pull, it’s important to understand two things:

  • Gap blocks are the easiest blocks in football. They use leverage instead of power to successfully remove a defensive player from making a tackle
  • Players who pull should work up the field and not horizontally.

The pin and pull scheme can be run out of any formation and gives an advantage to linemen who can run in space.

If you want to learn the rules and how to install the pin and pull, check out our article here.

Power Play

Power is one of the most common plays in football. It’s successful from traditional under-center offenses, so it’s not surprising that coaches found a way to run power out of the spread.

One back power is run a little bit differently than traditional power. There is no fullback to lead or kick out the defensive end. Coaches needed to get creative and adjust by running power with more wide receivers and fewer running backs.

The way coaches run one back power in the spread is by utilizing a tight end. Teams who run power out of spread will traditionally do it out of 11 personnel.

This allows teams to use RPOs on the back end while keeping three receivers on the field. Power from 1 back can be an effective play to add to your playbook, especially if you already have gap scheme rules installed.

If you want to learn more about one back power and how to install it, check out our article here.

Power Read

Power read is another new run play that teams are utilizing to get their quarterback the ball.

The term power read comes from the offensive line responsibilities (running power) and what the quarterback needs to do (read the defensive end).

Power Read was made famous by Cam Newton when he played for Auburn.

The play consists of the quarterback putting the ball into the stomach of the running back or a receiver in motion.

While the ball is in the stomach of the running back or receiver, the quarterback will be reading the defensive end. If the defensive end goes with the running back, the quarterback will keep the football.

If the defensive end stays on the quarterback or doesn’t move, the quarterback will hand the ball off to the running back.

The play is designed to put the defensive end in conflict but also gives the defense a numbers advantage to the play side.

If you want to learn more about Power Read and how to install it, check out our article here.

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Keep Learning

If you’re a coach who is looking to install some impactful plays into your offense, these plays are a great foundation to build your spread offense playbook.

Learn more about spread offense runs plays from the articles below.

Spread Offensive Run Plays – Complete Guide

The Basics Of The Oklahoma Trey Counter

How To Run Counter In Football – Complete Guide

Running The Power Play In Football – Complete Guide

The Gap Scheme & How It’s Run In Every Offense

Complete Outside Zone Guide & Tutorial

Complete Inside Zone Guide & Tutorial

What Is Power Read In Football? Install Guide

Included in our course, you’ll find different run concepts as well as pass concepts in the spread offense. All of these concepts are taught by our staff and explained in detail.

Included in the spread offense course, you’ll find:

  • Breakdown Of Popular Passing Concepts
  • Complete Passing Concept Installation Guide
  • Whiteboard Drawings & Explanations
  • Coverage Beaters
  • Run Game Installation With Drawings
  • Breakdown Of How To Disrupt Defensive Front
  • RPO Add-Ons To Both Runs & Passes

We’ve curated the top plays in the spread offense and provided whiteboard examples that you can easily install with your players.

If you have any questions – feel free to reach out on Twitter @vIQtorySports.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.