Coach McKaig details the techniques behind his top three line twists and how he tweaks them to attack both man and zone pass protections. It was these movements that helped the Pioneers produce 26 sacks last season.
By Ben McKaig
Defensive Line Coach
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As defensive coaches, we are constantly looking at ways to attack weaknesses in protections without losing coverage options in the back end of the defense. I believe that a properly executed twist can give both man and slide protections trouble, providing pressure on the quarterback without bringing an extra defender. We have worked our twists over the past several years to try to obtain maximum effectiveness against both types of protection.
Benefits of Using a Twist:
We look to twists to do several things for our defense. First, we can attack a protection with a properly executed twist and almost always generate additional pressure and stress on the quarterback and offensive line. We also incorporate our twist game to defend against screens and draws, as late moving defensive linemen are able to see the play happening in front of them and redirect. Finally, twists can cloud quarterback throwing lanes and help to defend against a quarterback looking to step up in the pocket or scramble. That said, the lion’s share of this article will focus on attacking offensive pass protections.
Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Twists
Our twisters are divided into two primary jobs: a penetrator and a looper. Our defensive linemen understand that depending on the type of protection we face, either member of the twist may come free to the quarterback. So there is a shared responsibility in executing our twists and all of our guys can benefit from a well-executed stunt. The basic twist movement is shown in Diagram 1. The penetrator is labeled P and the looper is labeled L.
Types of Twists
We operate out of a G front for all of our twist games, but you can use similar concepts out of multiple fronts, and we have experimented with twists out of our 3-man front as well. We incorporate three main twists into our pressure packages. Our twists include:
- A tackle – end exchange which we call TEX
- A nose – tackle exchange which we call NUT
- An end – nose exchange which we call WAX.
Each is designed to attack protections in different ways. We chart offensive protections to determine which will be the most effective for us to use each week.
In our TEX twist, the penetration is going to come from our 3-technique. He must get off the ball directly at the OT’s ear hole. It is his job to strike the tackle and get immediately vertical. His aiming point is the up field shoulder of the QB on the ricochet. He has to be able to contain the QB from inside the offensive tackle. This is possible because our DE is going to occupy the offensive tackle’s eyes and feet, so we will get a free shot to strike and ricochet inside. This helps to shrink the pocket and get immediate pressure.
The loop is going to come from our DE. He knows that without a good first 2 steps, the twist will not work because his OT will be able to see the hit coming from our 3-technique. He must occupy the offensive tackle until the penetrator is able to strike the ear hole. When timed properly, the stick and nod described above will happen right as contact is being made.
This is our favorite twist. It is particularly effective because we are able to attack the center and create problems in the middle of the protection, which is right in front of the QB. We try to identify in film study where the center will turn in the protection so that we can attack with the nose tackle crossing his face. The nose tackle (2i technique) is our penetrator and will attempt to “break the nose” of the center. This means we want him to run as tight across the face of the center as possible. If the face mask was not there, he would break his nose. Our 3-tech is the looper, and he will be free or one-on-one with a guard.
WAX is a different twist for us. While NUT and TEX emphasize pressure in the quarterback’s face, WAX is set up to win a one-on-one but also protect against a scramble. We primarily like to call this twist when we believe that our DE has an inside move opportunity against an offensive tackle. We want to make sure that we can contain the pocket while we take the inside move, so we use in-game communication with our DE’s to determine when to call this stunt.
The DE is the penetrator, but we want him to set up the inside move rather than go right away (this is the difference between NUT and TEX). The twist will develop a little slower for our looper. We still want our NT to take 2 steps, but we also will shadow punch the guard to increase the illusion that we want to engage with him. The looper must sprint to get vertical and close the pocket. If the QB escapes out to the side, we should get the sack. This twist can also be run the same way with a 3 technique. He needs to work to get head up with the guard on the snap of the football, then loop.
Game Film and Coaching Points…
Join X&O Labs’ Insiders (an exclusive membership-based website) and get the full-length version of this clinic report including Coach McKaig’s coaching points and videos. Here’s just a short list of what you’ll get in the full-length version of this clinic report…
- Techniques behind the penetrator and why Coach McKaig teaches him to shed and ricochet to get to the quarterback.
- Techniques behind the looper and he must take two vertical steps before getting into his rush path.
- How the Tex stunt is adjusted to attack both man and slide pass protections.
- How the Nut stunt is adjusted based on the slide of the center.
- 3 rules Coach McKaig gives his looper and penetrator when executing these twists against run action.
- VIDEO: Watch game film on these first level stunts
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Twist games can be a very effective way to generate pressure against any protection you will face. They are also easy to execute if you have defensive linemen that are not going to go out and win a lot of one-on-one matchups. It gives your players a chance to execute and succeed in your scheme when you may not have a particularly favorable matchup. The looping DL will also have a chance to disrupt any screen and draw plays, adding a level of protection to your defense and allowing you to be more aggressive in your coverage drops. These twists have been really good to us and will be in the future. Thanks for taking the time to read this clinic report and thanks to X&O Labs for the forum to share.
Meet Coach McKaig: Ben McKaig recently completed his second season as the defensive line coach at Utica College in New York. He was hired in the summer of 2013 and helped guide the Pioneers to a 7-4 record in 2014 including the school's first post-season appearance in the ECAC North Central Bowl. McKaig spent 2012 as an assistant football coach and math teacher at Andover High School in Andover, KS where he coached the offensive and defensive lines to an 8-3 overall record and an appearance in the KSHSAA 5A playoffs. He is a 2012 graduate of Emporia State University where he played for four years on the offensive line.