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

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

The gap scheme, or gap blocking as it’s otherwise known, is a popular scheme among offenses – both power and spread.

What is the gap scheme? The gap scheme is when an offensive lineman uses leverage instead of power when blocking another player. It includes blocking a defender “down” away from the play, and creating a natural wall between the defender and the ball carrier.

In this article, we’re going to dive into the fundamentals and principles of the gap scheme and how you can implement them into your offense.

Why Run The Gap Scheme?

The gap scheme is great for all types of linemen. Small, big, slow, or fast linemen are fit for the gap scheme.

As mentioned above, the gap scheme relies solely on “gap” blocks or down blocks. This requires players to get their heads and hands on the player’s side and leverage to drive the player out of the hole.

This works with lineman types because the player creates a natural barrier between the defender and the ball carrier. To lose in a down-block situation, the defender must either fight over it or fight around it. 90% of the time, when the defender fights around, they will take themselves out of the play.

As a defender, fighting over a down block requires practice and quick reaction skills. It’s a skill that even professional players have a tough time reacting to.

Gap Principals & Rules

The Gap principles are simple: If there’s someone in your gap, opposite of the play-side call, block them. We’re going to go over split concepts like power and counter, but for a simple ‘gap across the line’ scheme, these are general principles. Study the diagram below.

Most offensive plays use a 1/2 line gap scheme, with the added combination of pulling guards. However, we created the diagram above from 11 personnel to give an extreme example of the gap scheme for reference to the gap scheme.

As you can see, the play is being run to the left side. The offensive line will block the player in the gap opposite the play (the right side). The two tackles and center will block the defensive lineman away from the play. The H-back will also block down on the play-side defensive end.

The tricky block is the guards getting to the linebackers. In years past, players could cut blocks at the second level, making this block a bit easier.

Because of the rule changes, players must take a better angle to the linebackers to make the block.

Gap Schemes With Guard Pull

As mentioned, most gap schemes involve some guard pull to take care of the extra defender. In the example above, the H-back was used to take care of the defensive end.

In most cases, teams will pull a guard with a kick-out block or a wrapped block to seal the edge. Let’s look at a simple counter play below out of a spread look.

Gap Scheme in football

The Play Side: Simple gap scheme with the play side tackle, guard, and center blocking away from where the ball is run. Depending on the scheme, coaches may have the play side guard attack the play side linebacker or backside linebacker.

The Back Side: Coaches have gotten creative in utilizing the backside lineman. Along with tagging the plays with RPOs and Read Options, the backside linebacker and defensive lineman can be held away from the plays in many ways.

In this play, the guard will kick out the play-side defensive end, and the tackle will wrap up through the hole and take care of any linebackers who trail the play.

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Teaching The Gap Scheme

To teach the gap scheme, there are a few fundamentals that must first be put into place:


Establish the foundation for your gap scheme. Offensive linemen work best when they don’t have to think and react. Creating rules and checks for blitz players is essential to blocking it up properly. One quote we loved was from Coach Herb Hand when he participated in #hogfbchat:


Create basic rules for your gap scheme to alleviate any mental blocks from an offensive lineman. One thing to keep in mind is how to attack teams that will shoot the guard gaps and affect the blocking/pull scheme.


The technique of a down block in a gap scheme is crucial. As mentioned, we don’t want the defender to slip the down block toward the play, otherwise known as “cross face” on our offensive lineman. Proper steps in completing a down block include:

  1. Taking a 45-degree step toward the defender
  2. The second step needs to be square and not crossed over
  3. Fit both hands to near side chest plate and shoulder

What’s Better, Gap or Zone Schemes?

It all depends on the preference of the coach and the players on the field. All types of linemen can utilize gap schemes. Zone schemes may require more athletic linemen. Determine the scheme based on your players

What Defensive Fronts Do Gaps Schemes Work Best Against?

Gap Schemes work against any front. The more defensive linemen, the better, as it decreases the chances of a down block being missed. With 3-man fronts, it requires a lineman to get to the second level, which increases the chance of a block being missed.

Keep Learning

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

Improve your football IQ by checking our Ultimate Football Guide 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

Complete Outside Zone Guide & Tutorial

Complete Inside Zone Guide & Tutorial

What Is Power Read In Football? Install Guide

Utilizing the gap scheme is important to blocking a big strong defensive lineman. Whether you’re a power team or a zone team, gap principals are easy to implement and execute on the fly. Implementing a counterplay or a single guard belly play with a gap scheme attached could be a nice wrinkle for an offense.

How do you block up gap schemes? Let us know in the comment section below!

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.