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By Keith Grabowski

Offensive Coordinator

Baldwin-Wallace College

"The tie-in of our techniques with our zone & power concept allows us to practice efficiently and helps our players improve because they are getting many repetitions at the techniques they do over and over." Keith Grabowski, OC, Baldwin-Wallace College
First off, I would like to thank X&O Labs for giving me the opportunity to contribute to its website. I would also like to give credit to our offensive line coach Mark Jochum who has devised a lot of the coaching points I will discuss in this piece. In 2010, we implemented a power running game that tied into what we are doing with our zone running game.  For us, the two concepts relate in both a philosophical and technical manner.  We define our one or two back power as a physically gap-blocked play designed to attack the A-gap out.  It is used to create angles and displace gaps versus penetrating situations.

Like our inside zone play, our one back power is an aggressive and physical play that has several similarities.  First, both schemes have the offensive line going in one direction.  Just like zone, everyone is responsible for a gap.  In our zone concept, everyone blocks their play side gap.  In our power concept, it works opposite with all linemen responsible for their backside gap with one player kicking out.  Additionally, both use combination blocks.  In our run game we want to find as many double teams as possible.  With our inside zone we can have up to two double teams, and Power gives us a double team at the Point of Attack.

Because we have similarities between the two concepts, our run game allows us to emphasize the execution of fundamentals and techniques.  For example, what we call a "Backside B" technique on zone play is very similar to our "Deuce Block" on the power play.  We can work that single technique in a drill.

From a strategic standpoint, both our zone and power concepts are flexible schemes.   Both can be run from multiple formations.   These runs provide a balanced attack which can run to both the tight end and split end sides.  The rules of our concept are very similar with one back or two back power.  Both hit in the A-gap with someone responsible for the Sam linebacker.  In two schemes, that back would be the fullback.  In one back schemes we remove him by positioning a receiver outside the box and forcing the defense to cover down on that receiver.  Furthermore, the schemes adapt to the different types of defense that we may see, whether they prefer a penetrating, reading, or pressuring style.

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When running the power scheme there are three main keys that must be accomplished to be effective:
  • Gaps always override people.
  • Blocking angles are essential.
  • A devastating combination block is needed at the point of attack.
Key #1:  Gaps always override people (Diagram 1).  Because we are always gap responsible first, this is a sound scheme versus defensive line movement and blitzes.

Key#2:  We create favorable blocking angles by declaring the LB that we will kick out (Diagrams 2-4).

Key #3:  We look to create a double team or combo block at the point of attack (Diagram 5).

Our blocking assignments and techniques for all linemen and backs are as follows:

Post Man (PSG)

Description:  This player could be a play side guard against a 3-technique defensive tackle. We prefer to run it to a 3-technique, because the play hits tighter and gets downhill quicker.  He is responsible for posting the down lineman to his outside gap.  The objective is to get vertical displacement at the point of attack the work to backside linebacker past declared.  He is still responsible for his inside gap.

Landmark:  Inside number of down defender

Approach:

  • 1st step settle with inside foot. (Up and down(settle) step with gap responsibility like zone)
  • 2nd step power step. 2nd step thru the crotch(Lead step-same as zone)
Contact:  Lazy forearm with outside arm (See Image "Combo at Point of Attack1")

Follow-thru:  Play side foot thru the crotch and backside foot lags behind.  Strain defender off you which will bring your hips underneath you.

Finish:  Push off play side foot and get off to BSLB past declared. Drive on vertical line; don't get off until he comes to us.  Aiming point is the backside number with a double under punch.  In the double under punch we get our hips and our hands involved.  Can't have hips behind.

Coaching Points:

  • If there is a man in the gap there can't be a gap; tighten down your split with PST.  We will tighten our split from two feet to foot to foot.
  • Stance should be parallel so second step goes thru defender’s crotch.  He won’t have a long way to travel.  First step is a brace step, right into the ground.  Our second leg needs to get down quickly and not lean into defender.   He will not be able to get skinny to play into the post man.
  • Strike must be with shoulder and flipper.
  • Get movement on the DL but still look to your gap responsibility for LB run-thru.
  • Keep backside foot high, want play side leg into defender (right leg if you're going right).   Don't want stagger to come forward, don't want our left hip into the man because it keeps our shoulders square.
  • Come off to BSLB and attack the backside number of LB which increases the chance he will bubble over top, more allowing a bigger running lane to the RB who is hitting A-gap.  Also can’t come underneath to make the tackle.

Drive Man (PST)

Description:  This refers to a play side tackle in the one-back power play. Drive a defender in the inside gap vertically with the Post Man.  The objective is to get vertical displacement at the point of attack.  The only time we will come off is if the down lineman plays into the inside gap of the post man.

Landmark:  Outside number of the first level defender.

Approach:

  • 1st Step: Post Step: We want our near leg into defender by splitting his crotch and staying slightly lateral so we can drive him vertically.
  • 2nd Step: Slide step: Bring backside foot with you.  It's an up and down transfer of weight. Step lateral, don't step behind.
  • 3rd step: Power Step: Bringing inside foot through defender's crotch and drive him vertically (See Image "Combo at Point of Attack2").
  • Contact:  Single Under: One hand punch will go to two hand punch (double under).
  • Follow-thru:  Get inside foot thru the defender’s crotch and strike.  Keep a high inside foot.
  • Finish:  Overtake the down defender with two hands.
Coaching Points:  Foot fire to take your post and slide step.  These steps are not long; they are short and quick.  Key the defender’s hip, if it goes away, go to the BSLB past declared.  Get knee into defender’s crotch and get hip to hip with the Post Man.

Down Block (Center)

Description:  This is not part of the combination block, it is mainly used by a Center when blocking back for the pulling guard.  It is used to block a defender in the inside gap and displace the defender by sucking air out.  We want to knock the opponent off the ball and add space to the hole because the ball is coming right behind you.

Brace step: Up and down step.  Open up hips, get knee inside the foot keeping power inside the frame.  Eyes to V of the neck of defender.

Is he a penetrator or a reader?

  • Penetrator = Brace step needs to be flatter.  We don't want the foot turned, move it laterally.  It keeps the knee inside the foot.
  • Reader = We want separation; take 2nd step and keep high play side leg (right leg if going right) backside leg up front.
We see more teams that read than penetrate.  Most teams will try to read block and get over the top of it.  We're focused on high leg and high hand.

Landmark:  "V" of the Neck of down defender.

Approach:

  • 1st Step – Brace Step
  • 2nd Step – Power Step
Contact:  Double Under

Follow-thru:  Keep high inside foot and heavy inside hand.

Finish:  Make sure the defender does not penetrate into gap and does not play over the top.

Coaching Points:  Have to be fast with the first step.  Second step might just have to uncoil, especially if he is in a tight shade.  Keep second step high with hand outside underneath and underneath the arm pit.

Puller (BSG)

Description:  The backside guard will pull to block the play side linebacker. Skip pull used to kick out linebacker.   Get in the hole on the third step for easy access to clear back block of the center, and keep eyes on declared LB.

Landmark: Inside number of linebacker.

Approach:

  • 1st Step:  Take backside foot (if pulling right, use your left foot) throw it behind your butt to get depth. We don't open the front foot because it will get you more lateral.  This gets us the depth we need and keeps our hips square.
  • 2nd step: Open Step - A lateral step with right foot.  We really just slide it laterally.  Don't open your foot, it opens your hips and prevents us from getting thick on an A gap backer.
  • 3rd step: Crossover with left foot (if going right) and get downhill with eyes on LB.
Contact:  Double Under

Follow Thru:  Bring hips and feet into defender

Finish:  Kick out defender with inside-out angle.

Coaching Points:

  • 1st step must lose ground otherwise he will not clear the down block of Center and will get too wide.  Object is to keep an inside out angle on the defender.
  • Keep eyes on LB; "feet will follow eyes." If they are playing gap sound defense LB should come up, he is the key.
  • Make contact on their side of the LOS; make something happen.

Tight End vs. a 6 or 7-Technique (C Gap Defender)

Description:  Cut off C-gap defender

Landmark:  Inside armpit of defender

Approach:

  • 1st Step: Deep toe step with inside foot, step with left foot if play is going right (toe – lose stability to move farther; it loses more ground than a brace step). It's the same footwork as a reach block in outside zone but we're going the other way. We want to get movement.
  • 2nd Step: Power step, work to get outside foot into crotch and get hips into him.
Contact:  Two-hand punch with inside hand going to near arm pit and outside hand going to bottom of chest plate.  Have a strong inside hand.

Follow-thru:  Power step thru the defender getting your hips through him.

Finish: Cutoff the defender by "walking" your hips through the defender or wash him down on an angle.

Coaching Points:  Make sure you don’t step underneath yourself (get hips under you) on the deep toe step.  Work through him, don't let feet get behind. Do not get around him to ensure he is cut off or washed on an angle.

Tight End vs. 9-Technique (D Gap Defender)

Description:  Ensure the D-gap player is still a D-gap player

Landmark:  Outside number of defender

Approach:

  • 1st Step: Brace step
  • 2nd Step: Power step
Contact:  Double under

Follow-thru:  Keep a strong inside hand and strong inside foot keeping him in the D gap.

Finish:  Get feet out of the hole and hips on defender.  Widen the hole.

Coaching Points:  If defender is in a tight 9-technique, take a quick first step with the second step uncoil to ensure you are not getting beat inside.   We reset our hat if he's coming hard off edge.  We want to reset our hat outside and move with him.

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Funnel & Hinge Technique (BST)

Description:  This technique is used by the backside tackle.  Always protect the two backside gaps (B to C) when the offense runs gap schemes.

Landmark:  Play side shoulder of B gap defender.

Approach:

  • 1st Step: Post Step
  • 2nd Step: Slide Step
Contact:  One hand Punch Point

Follow-thru:  Kick slide to C-gap defender

Finish:  Block B-gap run-through, then secure C-gap

Coaching Points:  Look at the triangle (Nose to Weak side LB to DE) to identify the possible B-gap defender.  Don't get tied on a man.  Take two lateral steps if no defender appears in B gap, then pass set. The pre-snap triangle read helps with identifying who the B gap player is going to be.  It's important to secure that gap because it allows for a destructive run-thru if not secured.

Thoughts on the pre-snap triangle read:

  • The Shaded or 2i nose is most likely a B-gap defender; get eyes on him (See Image "BST: Read the Triangle1").
  • If Will LB is in the middle of the triangle, need to respect that he may run thru.  If he is widened there is still a chance he can run-thru so tackle must look B-gap first then pick-up DE (See Image "BST: Read the Triangle2").
  • If no defender comes to B-gap then widen the C-gap defender (See Image "BST: Read the Triangle3").
Running Back:
  • Description:  A gap runner; if he does not see anything inside he can take it B to C to outside.
  • Get Off:  Step backward with opposite foot getting square to the A.
  • Aim point:  Play side A gap
  • Read:  If A gap is closed, bounce B to C to D.
  • Coaching Points:  Pre-read where the double team will occur.  If he is a 3-technique, there is a good chance to hit it in the A gap if he doesn't get washed down.  If the defensive lineman does get washed, hit it in the B gap.  Know that with 7-technique (C gap player) it could go all the way out.  If backside LB runs over top hit the cavity that he leaves.  We don't necessarily read him, but if we see it we'll take him.
Quarterback:

Description:  Get the ball deep to the RB; Don't come back on the midline and force the running back out of the A gap.  We can't push the RB wide, he loses vision in the A gap.

Footwork:  Reverse out getting depth and giving back clear vision of the A-gap and the puller.

Play Fake:  Boot away getting depth around original alignment of RB.  Five full speed steps.

Coaching Points:  Tempo of run sell or play action boot needs to look exactly the same. Diagram 6 shows the entire blocking scheme and rules.  Like our zone, this play is forgiving when things don’t exactly go as we would like, but we still manage to get a hat on a hat.  Because we are blocking physically at the point of attack and our back has options where to take the ball, we are able to gain yards and stay on schedule. 

When we look at any offensive scheme we always start with the guys up front.  We like them to be able to be aggressive in their play.  The tie-in of our techniques with our zone & power concept allows us to practice efficiently and helps our players improve because they are getting many repetitions at the techniques they do over and over.  The flexibility of the concept allows us to extend it over many formations and personnel groupings, and also allows us to tie it into other backfield actions like our jet sweep package.  Because of the benefits discussed, this play fits well into the Yellow Jacket philosophy of offense.

Bonus Q&A With Keith Grabowski:

Q: What is the difference between your one back and two back power? 

A: The primary difference is now we will be kicking out two second level defenders.  While we use a receiver to remove a linebacker from the box in one back power, now we will have to account for that linebacker with the fullback.  The only thing that changes is that we will declare the #2 second level defender as the LB who the guard will be pulling for.

Q: Why do you use the skip pull instead of the square pull?

A:  Because it's an A gap play, he needs to insert where the LB is.  It allows him to insert into A or B gap and block the LB with his shoulders square.  Even if we're running power in two-back against an Under front (5 and 9-technique) we will skip pull.

Q: What do you do if the LB walks back into the box in one back power? 

A: We run this from pistol, so the quarterback has the ability to throw bubble to the inside receiver if the linebacker moves into the box.

Do You Have a Question for Coach Keith Grabowski?  Post your question or comment in the "Comments" section below and Coach Grabowski will respond shortly.

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