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.
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|
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.
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!