Coach Iverson provides and in-depth look at how he turns his D linemen into destructive run stoppers through drill and technique.
By Clay Iverson
Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
Mukwonago High School, Mukwonago WI
While it is becoming more and more "sexy" to talk coverage and pass rush, we all know if you don’t stop the run you don’t win football games, and stopping the run at any level starts with the guys up front. This includes stance, get offs, one on one block destruction and two on one block destruction. Our defensive line techniques must accomplish one of three objectives; having a defensive linemen make a tackle at or behind the LOS, making a play bounce so our perimeter can tackle a horizontal runner, or eating up blocking schemes so our ILB’ers can see and fill windows unblocked.
Our goal is to teach concepts that relate to any opponents run scheme from gun read to wing-t and everything in-between. This allows us to teach a few techniques and master them, so we are not putting in "the defense of week." What follows are a collection of drills and techniques that we use at Mukwonago to stop the run by our defensive linemen thus making teams one dimensional.
We put all run blocks into two categories – attack blocks and escape blocks. Attack blocks are any blocks that our read key attacks us with – Reach, base or zone, high wall (turnout), drive block, true DBL team. The other blocks, veer, scoop, arc, pull are escape blocks. We teach our defensive linemen base rules to handle an attack or an escape scheme, which should carry over to many of the individual blocks within that category. Let’s take a look at attack blocks using some examples.
We will take on all attack blocks with a stuff technique. We are a multiple front defense, but all a stuff technique tells us is that we are responsible for the gap we aligned in or are slanting to – again a stuff technique is triggered by attack blocks. Stuff technique is first taught with our hit drill (Diagram 1). We start from our knees and attack the nearside of the far number and the arm pit to our gap. Our elbows are in, thumbs are up and we are hitting our aiming point while bring our hips with us. We get three reps a piece from each shade.
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Reach Block - Extend with play side arm while making sure your play side hip and helmet are in your gap while attacking downhill (*note - in reach away we will keep our nose backside because that is his gap, do not start changing rules) ripping off when we start to get our shoulders turned. We work this at least twice a week.
Zone Block – in a one on one zone block we want to become 1.5 players which means we want to use our stuff technique while forcing the offensive linemen back into his gap, we do not want to widen and create creases with the OL; we now have taken care of our gap and tried to close the inside gap by at least a half to help our LB’ers. This is where the term 1.5 player comes from.
Double Team – One of the most popular attack blocks we see is a straight double to our LBer’s. The best way to defeat a double team is to change the levels of the linemen trying to double – if they are not on the same level they cannot double our defense linemen – this is why we work on get off and taking linemen back and playing on their side of LOS (pit drill). If we cannot change the level on a straight double team we will hold our ground and take two for one. Many times that means we will post with our inside knee and drop making sure the LOS has not been given up and we have taken 2 for 1. Many defensive coaches will tell you dropping is a loss, to us if we can keep our backers free and eat up two blockers we win.
We feel that if we follow our "stuff" rules we can quickly teach and then rep all year how to defeat attack blocks by the offensive line (reach, turn out, zone base, straight double and anything else that would fit in that category). By being consistent in defeating blocks our linebackers know what is happening up front and can work with our big guys up front to cancel gaps. The same is true when defeating escape blocks.
Defeating Escape Blocks
An escape block to us is when the linemen we are aligned on or slanting to does not block us. These would include the following blocks as stated above; veer, pull, arc, scoop or any release to second level. We defeat all escapes by using the term squeezing. Now as a coach I can use the terms "stuff" and "squeeze" and our DL knows what I am talking about – limited common verbiage. When we squeeze we want hands on the linemen that is escaping us and squeeze the air out of any running lanes. Many times an escape block will make a C gap player a B gap player. Since we are consistent in our teaching our second level can work a gap exchange when they see a squeeze performed by our DL. Again a squeeze block is triggered by an escape block.
Any inside release block to either double another defensive linemen or getting to second level we want to get hands on with our inside hand on the breast plate and outside hand on the hip. We are working to knock the veer release off course and look inside to spill any power, trap, kick out or tackle any back on midline, veer, etc… We love to go back to the pit drill (Digram 6) to work against the veer block. As before we will partner up and as the designated offensive linemen veer down the defensive line will squeeze and get to heal level. The pit works great here because if we come too far up field the defensive linemen will run in to our crash pad.
This a good look at the initial contact phase of the drill. You can see we are aiming for the chest and the hip. We are also trying to keep our outside should as square as possible so we do not squeeze ourselves out of the play. After two steps the defender will redirect down the line of scrimmage in front of the pad. Again, if they run into the pad we have gotten too deep. Diagram 7 shows this in game action. Again all escape blocks we try to get hands on and redirect offensive linemen.
In this shot we see or DT squeezing the OG down while looking for inside kick out, our OLB is also squeezing, but he needs to get hands on the OT and not over step as he is here. This is also a good look at when we can squeeze veer blocks we end up with a gap exchange, as #47 our MLB will overlap the A,B,and C gap and tackle a RB running towards the sideline, when the play shown is a power counter, meant to hit in the A to B gap.
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As you can see by using two terms (attack and release) you can categorize all run blocks and by using simple buzz words (stuff, squeeze, spine) you can teach a lot, cut down verbiage, maximize reps, communicate better, and coach on the run. Hopefully some of the drills and techniques will help your defensive line destroy run blocking schemes more effectively.
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A complete view of Coach Iverson's run distruction progression against every potential block.
Additional drills and coaching points for teaching players to identify and address
A detailed look at how Coach Iverson uses the 2 on 1 drill to rep a variety of common run blocking concepts.
Plus over 30 minutes of drill film and much, much more.