As mentioned in previous articles, I strongly believe that 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.
Prior articles regarding blocking circuits focused on our blocking progression circuit which teaches the basic phases of each block such as the strike, fit, drive, and finish. The other circuit we have used to teach all our players blocking skills is a circuit that is based around the specific blocks we are asking our players to make. One great thing about this circuit is that each player gets position specific drill work within the concept of a larger skill such as a base, down, or reach block.
Within circuits players organize by position and rotate among four stations at 3-5 minute intervals. Coaches stay at the same station and teach the same skill to each group of players. This benefits everyone as the coaches get to work with all players on technique instead of just their position group, all coaches become the expert on a specific skill, and we get a lot of indy type work done in a high rep and high tempo time period which helps keep practice moving at a great pace.
The first station we will focus on is our station on the base block. The drills used within this circuit are not necessarily what make the circuit so effective, but the set up and overall concept of the circuit itself is something that I believe can help any program improve their team blocking skills. Remember, that this circuit is not just for the offensive line. All positions, with the exception of our Quarterbacks, will be working on position specific versions of each drill. So within the base block station you will see the following drills depending on which group is currently at the station.
When our offensive line arrives at the base block station they will do one of two drills. The first is a standard 1 on 1 blocking drill in which the will block a defender who is holding a bag down a blocking board. I'm sure all your programs have a variation of this drill so I won't go into too many details, but basically it will focus on the concepts discussed in our fit and drive phases of the block. We are essentially looking for our athletes to get a great takeoff and attack their man while driving the bag holder down the board. Key coaching points include driving with the knees, keeping your head up, and blocking from the elbow to the earhole.
The other drill our linemen may work on is the combo block. Since we are a shoulder blocking team our combo skills are a bit different than what you may use, but, again, I'm sure your program uses some drill for combo blocking. This is where you could insert it into your circuit. For our combos the blockers will step with the foot towards the defender and aim for his near number. This is important because we typically don't combo vertically in our scheme and because if the defender slants away from the backside man then he can still maintain position on him by working into a reverse shoulder block. If the backside man aims for the playside number and the defender slants it is more difficult to recover on that block.
The players will assume the block is a double team with the backside blocker looking to come off on the linebacker filling backside. It is our goal to get three to four yards of movement on the double team in order to disrupt the linebacker's flow. It is not our first priority to worry about getting off the combo and to the linebacker.
While working this drill we try to set players up with the position they will work with on gamenight (LT w/LG). Sometimes this doesn't work depending on the expected scheme so it is a week to week variable of the drill.
TIGHT ENDS/RUNNING BACKS
Yes, Tight Ends and Running Backs. Why? Because in our system they work together a lot and this circuit provides quality reps at establishing the necessary skills to be an effective unit. For your system you may choose to send Tights Ends with the Offensive Line or Wide Receivers. That's fine. This is just what we do.
Much of this is set up very similar to the Offensive Line version of this station. The difference here is that the Tight End and Running Back will be in a wing relationship with each other to work on their combo blocking off the edge simulating the Buck Sweep scheme. For us it is important the Ends and Backs communicate who is blocking the edge player and who is tracking down to the linebacker. We will vary the alignment of the defender so they can work on making these calls.
FULLBACKS AND WIDE RECEIVERS
We pair these players up not because they often work together like the Tight Ends and Running Backs, but rather because they have fairly similar blocks within our scheme. For the base block station our Wide Receivers will work on their stalk blocking while the fullbacks will work on filling for pullers. Both groups will be working simultaneously, but will be set up slightly different due to the angles and timing of their blocks. However, because of numbers it is very easy to run these similar drills right next to each other with one coach. These players will not use a combo block variance from week to week as they do not double team at any point in our scheme.Again, I'd like to reiterate, that the drills here are reallly fairly basic, but they are drills that most programs do some version of during indy time. The use of a circuit can pull these out of indy to avoid the dreaded never ending indy period and therefore improve the flow of practice. If you decide to implement a circuit into your program I strongly suggest you focus on three to four concepts all players need to master and then tailor the drills to fit your skills and schemes.
Within our blocking circuit athletes are able to focus on base, down, and reach blocks in 3-5 minute stations. Some of the major benefits for using a circuit to practice these blocks are that circuits allow you to: Get a lot of reps in a quick amount of time, keep a high practice tempo, schedule in scheme specific blocking drills for all athletes, provide opportunities for coaches to work technique with kids outside of their position group, and eliminate the drag of an extended indy period.
Within circuits players organize by position and rotate among four stations. Coaches stay at the same station and teach the same skill to each group of players. This benefits everyone as the coaches get to work with all players on technique instead of just their position group, all coaches become the expert on a specific skill, and we get a lot of indy type work done in a high rep and high tempo time period which helps keep practice moving at a great pace.
The second station in our blocking circuit is the down block station. Again, our players will be divided into the following groups: Offensive Line, Tight Ends and Running Backs, Fullbacks and Wide Receivers. As shared in Blocking Circuit: The Base Block, we divide our players this way because these players often work together or have similar types of blocks. Your scheme may differ so I urge you to consider how these concepts can be applied to your technique and scheme as you read this.
The Offensive Line station will have three variations of the down block they can drill. The first variation is a true down block on an inside defender. Typically players will use this block vs. defenders who are reading and not getting much penetration. Players will align with a partner offset holding a bag. On command they will step towards the defender on a 45 degree angle and execute the strike and fit. His aiming point will be the playside hip of the defender.
The second variation of this drill will move to the gap block. This is very similar to the down block in that the blocker is attacking a defender on his inside gap. However, the gap block is used vs defenders who are likely to get penetration and can be gameplanned or used as an adjustment. In executing a gap block our lineman will take a slightly deeper step towards the defender and make a wrong shoulder block so their head is in the backfield. From this position players can drive their defender flat down the line or, if it is a personnel mismatch, can even get into a basketball style boxout. Again, the goal of this block is to avoid penetration and keep the defense from reacting back down the line. It is not necessarily for movement at the point of attack.
The final variation in this drill will focus on taking a down track to a flowing linebacker. I discussed much of the technique for this block in Blocking Progression: The Finish/Open Field. In essence, we teach our kids to deliver a closed fist punch to the playside number of the linebacker while accelerating feet on contact and working hips to the hole. For this drill we will set four cones in a short square. The blocker will be at a bottom corner and release into the square. The defender will move into the square and the blocker will adjust to make his block.
TIGHT ENDS AND RUNNING BACKS
Our Tight Ends and Running Backs will work on the same drill set up as the Offensive Line. The one difference is that a variation of the down block on a Linebacker will simulate the insert block we use in Belly and Midline. In each of these plays the playside back will drop step to 45 degrees and work the angle to the area Linebacker. After the drop step this block will follow the same guidelines discussed within our Offensive Line drills. The Tight End may use an insert on Midline in some situations. Therefore, he will work the drop step out of his three point stance as well.
FULLBACKS AND WIDE RECEIVERS
Our down drill for Fullbacks and Wide Receivers mimics the 4 cone set up used by the other position groups. The difference will be the distance the blockers will go to make the block. For our Wide Receivers this drill is set up to practice the crack block. Defenders will hold bags and enter the cones while the Receiver crack blocks him. We do not worry about the physical nature of the hit on these blocks, but rather teach our blockers to settle their feet and make sure they at least set a screen in the front half of the defender. We all know high school officials love holding and blocks in the back by Wide Receivers. For more on specific Wide Receiver technique I suggest you take a look at the Wide Receiver Blocking Series.
Our Fullbacks will treat this drill as a pass pro drill because they do not down block within our scheme. Fullbacks will fill to the cones and the defender will serve as a blitzing Linebacker.
Prior articles regarding blocking circuits focused on our blocking progression circuit which teaches the basic phases of each block such as the strike, fit, drive, and finish. The other circuit we have used to teach all our players blocking skills is a circuit that is based around the specific blocks we are asking our players to make. One major benefit of this circuit is that each player gets position specific drill work within the concept of a larger skill such as a base, down, or reach block.
By working these reps in a blocking circuit format your are able to improve practice tempo while simulataneously improving your football teams basic skills. Circuits increase reps, keep everyone active, dictate a high pace, and provide coaches opportunities to coach all kids on the team.
The Reach Block station will be the focus of this article within our Blocking Circuit Series. Because of the technique and use of this block, this station is the least differentiated between positions.
The Offensive Line can work one of two drills during this station. The first drill is a basic reach drill in which they are executing a block on the outside shoulder of a man lined up in an outside shade. To work this technique we will align vs a bag holder in a shaded position. On command the bag holder will take a step to the outside while the blocker attempts to block him on his outside shoulder. Since we shoulder block our technique may be a bit different, so use what works within your scheme. Some key coaching points we use in teaching the reach is to aim for the outside hip of the defender, get vertical on contact, and drive the second step through the crotch of the defender. We also tell our players that the wider and faster the defender is the deeper their first step should be. However, the blocker must be careful to avoid angling his toes or he will not be able to get vertical on his block.
The second drill our Offensive Line will work is applicable to our Jet and Rocket schemes. Since it is not vital to maintain a block throughout the play on these schemes we use a slightly different technique. In this drill we will set the blocker with a defender in front of him at linebacker depth and another approximately three feet to either side simulating a defensive lineman aligned over the next outside lineman. On command the blocker will open up and rip around the defensive lineman while working into a path to intercept the flowing linebacker. He will block this defender using the techniques described in Blocking Progression: The Finish/Open Field. The key to blocking these plays is not so much in maintaining a solid reach block, but getting in front of flowing defenders to slow them down and therefore the focus of this drill is really the reach and rip of level one and pursuit to level two.
TIGHT ENDS/RUNNING BACKS
This group works the same drills as the Offensive Line except the Running Backs may work more on the Rocket drill while the TE spends more time working the close range reach block. We can work both these blocks together at the same time with Tight Ends blocking each other while Running Backs do the same.
This station will be broken into two drills both running simultaneously. The Wide Receivers will run through the same drill as the Offensive Line except they will work both a close range reach block and working to the outside shoulder of a defender in space. The Fullbacks will work on logging a Defensive End because that is the closest they come to a reach block in any of our schemes. To manage these two different drills the coach will have the fullbacks rotate their drill while the wide receivers are getting their reps and vice versa. This keeps the drill high tempo while allowing the coach to manage two simulataneous drills.