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Developing a Defensive Identification System

By Sam Gooding, Offensive Line Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, Dakota State University (SD)


With the multiple looks that Dakota State University (SD) offensive line coach Sam Gooding received from defenses each week, it was clear that the classic "covered/uncovered" principles in his zone schemes could not always account for...


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Four RPO Answers to Beat Man Coverage

By Jeff Smith, Offensive Coordinator, Warrenton High School (MO)


Defensive coordinators are leaning on Man coverage to defend RPOs. See how Coach Smith is countering that approach with Man Coverage answers built into his RPOs. Read the report...  


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A Comprehensive Guide to Defending the Flexbone Option

By Brock Harney, Defensive Coordinator, La Crosse Logan High School (WI)


Defending the Flexbone Option offense is a frequent topic of discussion among high school coaches. Well coached Flexbone offenses can be very difficult to stop on a regular basis. Having success against this offense requires some adjustments...


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OLB “Bite” and “Blood” Technique vs. Three Man Surface Runs

By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs


Coach Baechler will teach what he calls a “Bite Technique” to his outside linebacker against three-man surfaces, particularly if he is slanting to the field and the tight end is to the boundary or against two tight end sets. The...


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Developing a Defensive Identification System

2017-02-19 20:29:52

By Sam Gooding, Offensive Line Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, Dakota State University (SD) With the multiple looks that Dakota State University (SD) offensive line coach Sam Gooding received from defenses each week, it was clear that the classic "covered/uncovered" principles in his...

Four RPO Answers to Beat Man Coverage

2017-02-19 19:57:23

By Jeff Smith, Offensive Coordinator, Warrenton High School (MO) Defensive coordinators are leaning on Man coverage to defend RPOs. See how Coach Smith is countering that approach with Man Coverage answers built into his RPOs. Read the report... By Jeff SmithOffensive CoordinatorWarrenton...

A Comprehensive Guide to Defending the Flexbone Option

2017-02-19 19:43:37

By Brock Harney, Defensive Coordinator, La Crosse Logan High School (WI) Defending the Flexbone Option offense is a frequent topic of discussion among high school coaches. Well coached Flexbone offenses can be very difficult to stop on a regular basis. Having...

OLB “Bite” and “Blood” Technique vs. Three Man Surface Runs

2017-02-19 19:22:46

By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs Coach Baechler will teach what he calls a “Bite Technique” to his outside linebacker against three-man surfaces, particularly if he is slanting to the field and the tight end is to the boundary...

Three-Level Sail Concept: New Trends Create a High-Low Stretch on the Flat Defender

2017-02-12 21:06:17

By Lee K. I. Boyd, Wide Receivers Coach, Saint Louis High School (HI) While the Sail has been ingrained in the run and shoot offensive system since the days of Mouse Davis, now this three-level flood concept is being tweaked to...

Mix These 5 Coverages Behind Zone Pressures to Defend the Run and Pass

2017-02-12 20:43:48

By Clay Iverson, Head Football Coach, Mukwonago High School (WI) When you double the number of INTs that you had from one year to the next, you must be doing something right. Find out how Coach Iverson mixes his coverages to...

Attack Multiple Coverages Using Dig-Pivot Concept and Simplify Your QB’s Read

2017-02-12 20:36:35

By Kyle Buresh, Quarterbacks & Wide Receivers Coach, Dakota Wesleyan University (SD) The Dig-Pivot Concept is a simple read for the quarterback and allows an offense to attack the defense in multiple coverages. See how Coach Buresh and his offense used...

Pre-Snap Screen Rules Off Run Actions

2017-02-12 16:26:08

By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs At Downey High School (CA), anytime Coach Plaa doesn't tag a pass, the wide receivers know to automatically run what head football coach Jeremy Plaa calls his “screen rules. Learn about them here... By...

West Conn’s Post Season Self-Scout Protocols

2017-02-06 14:39:08

By Drew Owens, Offensive Coordinator, Western Connecticut State University Post AFCA Convention usually transitions into a self-scout period with staffs analyzing game tape of last season to assess what went right and what went wrong. But aside from evaluating proficiency,...

Air Raid: Shake/Out/Scissor Concept

2017-02-06 14:28:26

By David Robinson, Offensive Coordinator, Skyview High School (ID) See how the Shake / Out / Scissor concept has become more reliable thank 4 verticals for Coach Robinson and his squad. Skyview’s 2016 offense set new records in every passing category...

4-3 Pattern Read Coverages: Play Any Zone Coverage While Simplifying LB Rules

2017-02-05 23:24:09

By Erik Kruppe, Head Football Coach, Farmington High School (MO) Over the past two seasons, Framington's opponents are only converting on 34% of 3rd and 4th downs. They emphasize and take pride in defending what they call the “critical downs.” See...

Deciphering Level Reads in Offset Formations

2017-02-05 23:20:25

By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs Here we will dig into the pre-snap level read progression Foster teaches his second and third level defenders based on the placement of the back. Read it here... By Mike KucharSenior Research ManagerX&O LabsTwitter:...

Over the years I've heard too many coaches say things like, "Our running backs can't block like that" or "The problem is our Wide Receiver won't block that long". If these statements were made by your staff last year then congratulations, you've found the secret to success within this post. If you need your skilled players and linemen to block better all you need to do is TEACH THEM HOW!!!
All too often I see coaches spending hours on schemes and then failing to really work the details of blocking and tackling. If you want to have great blockers on your offense you must practice blocking and demand great blocking. It's really that simple. In order to incorporate blocking into your practice plan you may want to consider a blocking circuit. Within this series on blocking techniques I'll share two different concepts for a circuit that you may choose to use in your program. The first concept is a blocking progression that builds upon the different phases of each block. I shared how we use this circuit in the previous article Shoulder Blocking Technique. The second concept will be a circuit that focuses on the specific types of blocks you will be asking your players to make.
Within the blocking progression there are a few phases of each block. Regardless of position you will have the stance, start, strike, fit, drive, and finish for each block. To incorporate these concepts into a blocking circuit begin by dividing your players into four groups by position. Next, you will need to divide your coaching staff so that each station has the appropriate number of coaches. I prefer to have coaches become experts on one skill within the progression. It helps build consensus and ownership of blocking within the coaching staff and avoids the wide receiver coach (sorry guys) not taking a lot of pride in his positions blocking ability.
The four stations I've utilized within this progression are strike, fit, drive, and finish/open field as I believe stance and starts should be taught by the position coach. This first article in the series will focus on the strike phase of the block. Keep in mind that we teach shoulder blocking from a hybrid Wing-T offense, so you may need to adjust to fit your techniques and scheme. Much of what I learned about shoulder blocking came from watching Ed Thomas: Becoming a Champion Offensive Lineman (DVD). This is an excellent resource that really gets down to the basics of blocking and simplifies both the teaching and learning of good technique.

In terms of logistics during this circuit, we will start with one position group at the strike station while the other groups are at the fit, drive, and finish/open field stations. After a set amount of time (3-5 minutes) we will rotate. This allows all players time during practice to work on the details of effective blocking.

STRIKE STATION: The STRIKE station will focus on the contact phase of the block. In order to win the battle along the line our blockers must deliver an effective initial hit to the defense. Therefore, we use this station to teach players how to use violent shoulder and forearm contact to initiate the drive off the line of scrimmage.
The first phase of this progression will have players facing a partner who is holding a bag around chest level. The blocker will be in a two point stand and on command he will forcefully lift his forearm to strike the bag. Players should focus on keeping their body posture within a 2 point stance and lifting their arm, not swinging it. This phase focuses on using the arm to deliver a blow.
At this point players can get in lines with one player holding a large blocking bag. The blocker will get into a 6 point stance (toes, knees, hands on the ground) and should be able to touch the bag. On command the blocker will explode into the bag driving his hips through and head up. Players should focus on delivering a big pop on contact. This drill will progress to a 4 point stance where they do not step but instead explode into the bag. Players should get their earhole on the bag to ensure a good fit. Finally players progress to a 3 point stance.
The next phase of the STRIKE progression is the Step and Strike Drill. Partners hold hand bags. Blockers will take 1 step and pop the bag using same foot same shoulder concept. Progress to 2 steps. Blocker should be in fit position after second step. This drill will advance to the blocker driving the bag holder 4 steps. At the end players will recheck their fit before releasing from the block.
Stay tuned for future articles on the fit, drive, and finish/open field phases as well as our block specific circuit.

Additional Resources:

One of the best ways to improve practice tempo while improving your football team is to implement circuits for basic universal skills such as blocking and tackling. Circuits increase reps, keep everyone active, dictate a high pace, and provide coaches opportunities to coach all kids on the team.

I have used two types of blocking circuits within my programs. One circuit focusing on a blocking progression including strike, fit, drive, and finish. The other circuit focuses on types of blocks such as base, down, and reach blocks. This article is the second in our series on these circuits and will focus on teaching appropriate fit in our blocks. Keep in mind that we use shoulder blocking within our program so you may need to make some adjustments based upon your scheme or techniques.

Watch this drill
At the FIT station players will work on appropriately fitting into a block. Initally they will start with "fitting up" to a partner. Players will align one arms length away from their partner so they can place their palm flat against their target. They will then get into their fit position and hold it until a coach or their partner checks for the following coaching points.

First the partner will help position the blocker's head so that his eyes are up and focused straight ahead. He will do so by holding him under the chin. This will help ensure the blocker is playing with his head up and a flat back. It also helps eliminate "rear in the air" blocking with players trying to stay low.

The partner will also help adjust the blocker's elbow if it begins to drop and does not stay high and tight. The blocker should keep his uphand on the ground in order to focus on staying low. He will maintain a flat back and a "Z in the knee".Knees should be over the toes. If they are beyond this point the blocker is overextended. Finally, the blocker should block from a surface covering the tip of the elbow to the earhole.

This drill will progress to stepping into the fit position with one step, then two steps, then from the full three point stance. Players will use their right and left shoulders. Once players are comfortably getting into the fit position the drill can advance to include "Fit to Pound/Drive". Players will get fit and pound their feet or drive their partner back four to five yards. After the specified time/distance players will recheck for appropriate fit position focusing on pad level, head and eyes up, and knees maintaining an appropriate relationship with the toes. Blockers should concentrate on keeping the defender between the knees so they can maintain control of the block.

By having players help coach each other up they will become more aware of appropriate technique. It is true that coaches need to stay on top to make sure they aren't letting each other slide by with poor technique, but we do that anyways, right? This station is often not a high intensity period for the kids, but is highly effective in focusing on the details of appropriately fitting into a block.
Additional Resources: **Ed Thomas video is featured in this post

Your players have gotten off the ball with a solid initial hit on the defense, they have fit themselves into the block with proper technique, and then.....nothing. It's great to get off the ball hard and low, but you still need movement in order to gain yards. So how do you teach that? Beyond the squat rack, how can you help your blockers stay with their blocks and get movement?
Within our blocking progression teaching the drive phase of the block is one of four stations. As you'll remember in previous articles strike, fit, and finish are the other stations within the progression circuit.

The focus of the drive segment is on maintaining proper body position, controlling the block throughout the play, and gaining movement. We typically start this progression with players lining up against partners with a blocking dummy. Blockers will fit up against the bag and on command they will drive the bag five yards or until the whistle blow. As always, at the end of the block the blocker and his partner will check to ensure he has maintained the proper blocking position throughout the block including head/eyes up, flat back, knees over toes, and high elbow. Once the player has checked for proper fit his rep is finished.

This drill progresses to placing the bags on boards to help focus on a wide blocking base, working from a 3 point stance instead of starting from a fit position, and working out of the chutes as shown in the above picture.

Of course, the drive phase can also be stressed through use of the blocking sled. Again, players can start from a fit position or a three point stance depending on numbers and sled size. Either way I strongly suggest that at the end of their repetition you take the time to check for proper fit throughout the block and readjust to get into proper fit if they are out of position.

As you'll remember from previous articles in this series on blocking circuits, the progression circuit is based around four stations that each focus on a different phase of the block. Players are divided out, usually by position group, into four groups that rotate between the stations at 3-5 minutes each. The other stations focus on the initial contact or strike, proper fit position, and driving the defender.

The final drill station in our blocking progression circuit focuses on a combination of the finish and open field skills depending on the week and the areas we are looking to improve.

We usually start the season by focusing on open field blocking technique. Since we teach shoulder blocking this is a slightly different technique for us. When blocking beyond the first level we teach our players to make contact with their should and a two hand punch aiming for the top of the playside number of the defender. A key is to make sure players are running to the block, but maintaining control to the block so they do not lose the defender. They can do this by keeping a wide base as they approach the defender. On contact players must accelerate their feet, work their head to the playside, and drive their hips up and to the hole.

In teaching open field skills we go back to basics and begin with proper fit. Players will pick a partner and fit in with their fists on top of the defender's playside number. On command they will work their hips up and accelerate the feet. Players will progress to taking one step into the defender from a two point stance and attacking then running through the block.

Eventually blockers progress to the sellout phase of open field blocking. Blockers will align at the end of an angled board with the defender directly in front of them holding a bag. An important point in the success of this drill and others with the bags are for the defenders to hold them correctly. We teach our "dummies" to hold the bag over the top of the bag and grab it on the bottom. They can then squeeze the bag into their bodies. This eliminates poor technique from the blocker due to the bag getting out of control.

On cue the blocker will take a directional step to the playside over the board working down the line while the defender flows that direction. Again, focus on maintaining a wide base, accelerating on contact, and swinging the head and hips into the hole.

We will work a variety of other open field skills in our other blocking circuit, including pull blocking, cracks blocks, and running backs on linebackers. But for the progression circuit, this is what we've used.

As things progress this station will also focus on finishing our blocks. This is a station that typically dials up the intensity quite a bit as we are trying to instill a desire and sense of pride in competing to the whistle.

One drill we use to teach this skill is our scoop/scramble drill. When teaching the backside scoop/scramble we have our blockers open to playside and throw their hands in front of their defender aiming for the playside thigh. Once their hands are grounded players must then work into a bearcrawl working vertically through the defender. If the defender slants away or is missed the blocker must recover to his feet and work downfield towards the play looking for another defender to block. I like this drill because it teaches players that they are not finished when then are on the ground. The whistle determines the end of the play and there is always more work to be found. I implemented this drill after watching Option-Specific Offensive Line Drills by John Reagan.

Another drill we use to teach finish is the gut check. We will place blocking dummies every five yards in a zig zag fashion. Players will sprint to each bag and scramble block it. While players in our state cannot cut downfield, this drill still stresses the importance of selling out and finding blocks. Coaches must stress committing to the block and recovering to find work. It's gotta be high intensity. You'll find a number of kids that won't sell out on the open field scramble block. That tells me something about the kid.

Of course when working finish there is also the more traditional end of drill focus and 1 on 1 competitions. We do this as well with incorporating the finish as the focal point of another blocking concept. One way to do this is to fit up and drive then really kill it on the whistle to finish the block. 1 on 1 competitions in front of their peers force kids to compete and I've found they usually pick up a dead practice fairly well.

Hopefully you can find something within this series on the blocking progression circuit to help your program become more effective blockers. No matter what techniques you use or what scheme you run, every program needs linemen to deliver an inital strike, fit properly, drive their defender, and finish the block/block in the open field. If you're looking for a more efficient way to teach these skills and improve practice tempo I strongly suggest the implementation of a circuit like the one presented in this series.

Similarly, if you have ideas based off what you've read leave a comment for the rest of us to see how we can implement YOUR ideas into our own programs. Thanks!

 

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