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Offensive Line

Rick Trickett

Human Kinetics
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Trickett, Rick.
Complete offensive line / Rick Trickett.
p. cm.
1. Football--Offense. 2. Football--Training. I. Title.
GV951.8.T75 2012
ISBN-10: 0-7360-8651-X (print)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7360-8651-6 (print)
Copyright 2012 by Rick Trickett
All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in any
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The web addresses cited in this text were current as of May 2012, unless otherwise noted.
Contributing Author: Garin Justice; Acquisitions Editor: Justin Klug; Developmental Editor:
Cynthia McEntire; Assistant Editors: Elizabeth Evans and Anne Rumery; Copyeditor: Patrick
Connolly; Permissions Manager: Martha Gullo; Graphic Designer: Nancy Rasmus; Cover
Designer: Keith Blomberg; Photographer (cover): Doug Benc/Getty Images; Photographer
(interior): Neil Bernstein; Visual Production Assistant: Joyce Brumfield; Photo Production
Manager: Jason Allen; Art Manager: Kelly Hendren; Associate Art Manager: Alan L. Wilborn;
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We thank Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, for assistance in providing the location for
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To all my former, current, and future offensive linemen. As
I convey to every player, our relationship starts out with us
liking each other, then it may go through a phase of us not
liking each other, but then, hopefully, it becomes a coach
player love for each other as we appreciate what both of us
have gained and learned from our relationship.

Key to Diagrams xii

1 Characteristics of Offensive Linemen 1

2 Stances 11

3 Drive Blocks 27

4 Reach Blocks 43

5 Cutoff Blocks 57

6 Down Blocks 69

7 Combination Blocks 79

8 Stretch Plays 95

9 Inside Zone 115

10 Option 123

11 Pass Protection 131

12 Pass Progression and Drills 149

13 Conditioning and Core Work 161

Drill Finder 181

About the Author 193


I thank Garin Justice, my former player and graduate assistant,

for his input in the beginning stages of this book. Garin Big Oak was
scheduled to assist with this endeavor before he was offered a full-time
coaching position at Concord University, where he is currently the head
football coach. I also want to thank Florida State University for graciously
allowing their facilities and equipment to be used for the photos. I want
to thank the models for their part in the photo demonstrations. Most of
all I want to thank my family, my wife Tara and my sons Travis, Chance,
and Clint for their continued support in whatever adventures this crazy
life may throw our way.


Starting out, I thought the defensive side of the ball was going to
be my path in football. I played defense when I was in high school and
college. My professional coaching career began in 1973 at Glenville State
College. In 1975, I was the head freshman coach and defensive coordina-
tor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At that time, it seemed that
a career on the defensive side of the ball was my future. I had no idea
that becoming an offensive coach was ahead of me. In my playing and
coaching careers, I have had the opportunity to work with many suc-
cessful coaches on both sides of the ball.
In 1976, West Virginia University had an opening for a part-time
tight-ends coach. Back then, a part-time position was a small step
above a graduate assistant. I interviewed with coach Frank Cignetti. We
seemed to hit it off, and I got the job. The team had two offensive line
coaches. One was Joe Pendry, who is currently the offensive line coach
at the University of Alabama. Pendry spent many years coaching in the
National Football League. As luck would have it, the two line coaches
had different philosophies. In 1977, the head coach made adjustments.
One line coach was moved to coach the tight ends, and I was moved to
assist Coach Pendry with the offensive line. That was a defining moment
in my career. After my first practice as an offensive line coach, I realized
I was hooked.
I became intrigued with the offensive line for many reasons. This
area included so many different blocking schemes, types of technique
work, coaching strategies, steps, helmet placements, hand placements,
and so on. You could practice all day with offensive linemen in shorts,
even without helmets, and accomplish a lot. You cant do the same
on the defensive side of the ball. I love the work ethic of the offensive
lineman. I love the way the majority of offensive linemen see the posi-
tion as one that requires a strong work ethic. The offensive lineman
goes about his day-to-day operations knowing what he needs to do

viii Introduction

to be successful. Most offensive linemen are good guysapple pie,

Chevrolet type of guys. They seem to be blue-collar kinds of guys, the
kind I like to coach.
I coached the O-line for 1 year. When the head coach made changes on
the defensive side of the ball, he asked me if I would go to the defensive
side. They needed some fire, enthusiasm, and a new approach. I was the
young coach, thankful that Coach Cignetti gave me my start. I needed
to do what he wanted, even though it was not my first choice. I coached
the defensive line for 2 years, not knowing at the time that it was prob-
ably one of the best things I have done in my career. Gary Tranquill was
defensive coordinator and one of the smartest football coaches around.
I learned a lot about football! I learned about tying the coverages to the
fronts, analyzing offensive percentages, field position, technical parts, and
the thought process for a defensive coach. It was the opposite of what I
had been teaching on offense. What a great experience! I recommend that
any young coach work both sides of the ball, especially the side opposite
his comfort zone. Taking on the challenge of coaching both sides of the
football is a wonderful opportunity to learn. At West Virginia, we were
running the split-back veer offense, zone blocking on the backside, veer
blocking on the front side, quick-hitting plays, and a lot of play-action
pass. This scheme was valuable for me to learn. I hadnt been around it
much, so I learned how to run it for 2 years and then how to defend it for
2 years. During that time, I also made great friends among my coaching
colleagues, including Nick Saban, currently head coach at Alabama, and
the late Joe Daniels, assistant coach at Ohio State.
After West Virginia University, I headed for Southern Illinois Uni-
versity to coach under Rey Dempsey. Coach Dempsey was a very intel-
ligent football coach. He had two offensive line coaches; I coached the
center, quick guard, and quick tackle. The first year, our best player was
the strong tackle. However, at the end of the season, our center, quick
guard, and quick tackle made the all-conference team. The other side,
although made up of the best players, did not receive any awards. The
other offensive line coach and I had different personalities. I approached
Coach Dempsey and told him that this was not working for me. He gave
me the whole offensive line, moving the other coach to the defensive line.
I have not shared an offensive line since that time. I am not an advocate
of having two offensive line coaches. It is not ego; I think there needs to
be one voice, one personality for the offensive linemen. I like having all
five play with my personality in the background.
In 1982, I moved to the University of Southern Mississippi to coach
under Jim Carmody. We had some great players. It was a unique
Introduction ix

experience to work with skill players who were so talented. Reggie Col-
lier was quarterback, Sam DeJarnette was running back, and Louis Lipps
was wide receiver. Louis went on to play with the Pittsburgh Steelers
and was rookie of the year; he had a great career in the NFL. The defense
had great speed. This was my first opportunity to coach in the South. It
was an eye-opening experience to see the speed and quickness on both
sides of the ball. This helped me set another coaching philosophybeing
aggressive on the offensive line. We had to be an aggressive offensive
line to be able to block players of that caliber and athletic ability.
The University of New Mexico was my next stop on the coaching
carousel. Ben Griffith, the offensive coordinator, had come from Georgia
Southern, where Erk Russell was the head coach. They had just won the
national championship for Division I-AA. We put in the run-n-shoot
offense. We were up and down the football field. We could move the
football on anybody. We ended up third in the nation in offense. To give
you an example of the WAC Conference at that time, we were number
3 in the country, but number 2 in the conference behind Brigham Young
University. This was another good experience for my coaching rsum;
I learned new styles and different philosophies.
After my short stint at New Mexico, I was hired by Charlie Bailey at
Memphis State University. For the next 4 years, I had the most fun of my
coaching career. Coach Bailey was a lot like Coach Tranquill; he knew
both sides of the football. We turned around that program. We made
great strides in winning football games. One year we were fortunate to
beat the University of Florida when they were undefeated, and we also
beat Alabama when they were rolling. The time I spent at Memphis State
University was such an enjoyable experience.
I continued on to Mississippi State University. During my first 2 years
there, Rockey Felker was the head coach. For the next 2 years, it was
Jackie Sherrill. Jackie decided to keep me on as the offensive line coach
after Coach Felker was let go. I appreciated the opportunity he gave me.
Coach Sherrill hired Watson Brown as the offensive coordinator. Watson
Brown knows more about offensive football than most others out there.
I always told him that he might know too much! We ran several styles
of offense, sometimes changing from week to week. This situation made
me learn how to teach numerous techniques. This really helped define
and improve my teaching ability. During this 2-year period, I was able
to get my feet underneath me and become the teacher I am today.
Auburn University was the next stop for our family. Terry Bowden,
son of legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, was named
the head coach, and I was the first person he hired. Our first year we
x Introduction

went 11-0! It was exciting to be in the Southeastern Conference and have

such success. We were placed on probation because of the previous staffs
misconduct, so we were not allowed any postseason play. This was also
the beginning of my friendship with Jimbo Fisher. Jimbo was the quar-
terback coach at that time. The next year, we won 9 straight games, so
that made 20 in a row. We tied with Georgia after four overtimes, and
then we lost in the last few minutes to Alabama. Because the Bowdens
are a very close family, and we had both Tommy and Terry Bowden on
our staff, we started out with the same offense as Florida State during
our third year. During that time, Florida State (with quarterback Char-
lie Ward) was running the run-n-shoot spread offense with four wide
receivers. We were also very successful in moving the football. We had
a great tailback named Stephen Davis, so he had to be involved with the
offense. We were a four-wide, I-formation team. We broke every offensive
scoring record in the history of Auburn University during that year. Our
team was extremely versatile and diverse. We could move the football
on quite a few teams in the Southeastern Conference. We continued to
be successful at Auburn, competing for the SEC title. However, in 1998,
things did not go as well. The line went through several centers because
of injuries. The team did not respond as well as expected. Coach Terry
Bowden resigned midseason under pressure.
After considering various options in coaching, I took the head coaching
position at my alma mater, Glenville State College. Glenville State is a
Division II school in the West Virginia Conference. The previous 6 years
at Auburn had been tough and pressure filled. Suddenly football was fun
again. I was coaching players who were playing the game because they
loved it. I was the head coach and offensive line coach. I had a center who
was given $250 a semester for booksthat was all he received. These
were the kinds of kids who appreciated a free T-shirt. They were ecstatic
over the smallest things. They would knock a wall down if that is what
it took to get your approval. They didnt ask for sweatpants or tennis
shoes; they were happy to get a T-shirt. It was a great experience for me!
It was good to get back to the ground roots of football. We would have
to bus to games. I remember my first game as the head coach. It was 9
hours away. We watched the movie Scarface two times up and two times
back; it was the only movie we had! This job brought things back to a
different level of coaching. After being in the Southeastern Conference,
things were a little harder to come by here, but we sure appreciated
everything we received.
After Glenville, Nick Saban, my friend and former colleague, called
and asked me to come with him to Louisiana State University. I helped
Introduction xi

him fill his staff with some familiar names. At this time, I was reunited
with Jimbo Fisher. Jimbo and I put in a pro-style attack, I-one back. We
got LSU going in what I like to think is the right direction. We ended
up 8-4, with a Peach Bowl win over Georgia Tech. LSU has such great
tradition; those people love to win ballgames.
At this time, I heard momma calling with an opportunity to return to
West Virginia University. I was returning to my old stomping grounds.
I went back with a young coach named Rich Rodriguez. We were going
to run the four-wide spread offense. Regardless of our personnel, we
were going to run it anyway. We won only three games that first year.
We started recruiting the players we needed to run this style of offense.
We had a young quarterback named Rasheed Marshall. We won eight
games a season for the next 2 years and had the opportunity to play in
bowl games. Shortly thereafter, I recruited and signed a player from
south Alabama named Pat White. From the beginning, it was a recruiting
battle with LSU and with the California Angels baseball team. We were
also fortunate to get a running back named Steve Slaton and a walk-on
fullback named Owen Schmitt. With the addition of these three playmak-
ers, we were able to have 11-win seasons 3 years in a row, including a
BCS win in the Sugar Bowl over the University of Georgia. West Virginia
University had experienced the best 3 years in their football history. We
were number 2 in the nation in rushing and were continually ranked in
the top 10. During this time, I spoke with Alex Gibbs of the Denver Bron-
cos. I had been following his coaching style and his full-zone blocking
schemes. Coach Gibbs gave me valuable information that I continue to
use. When you are going to take something from someone else and use
it, I dont believe in putting your own mark on it right away. In other
words, we did exactly what the Denver Broncos were doing, and we
were successful.
After 6 years at West Virginia University, I received a phone call from
coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State. Coach Bowden asked me to be his
offensive line coach. This had been a dream of mine for quite a while,
but it was a tough decision. I was happy at West Virginia and had built
a new home 15 miles from family; however, I recalled talking to players
about chasing dreams and accomplishments, and I thought I needed to go
forward. It was about the journey, so I decided to leave WVU for Florida
State. Florida State was also in the process of hiring Jimbo Fisher, so we
were together again for the third time. We decided to make changes to
the style of offense that Florida State had been running. Jimbo let me
bring in a lot of the running game and zone blocking schemes, inside
and out zone.
xii Introduction

Over my career, my teams have gone from the split-back veer to the
power I, from one-back sets to empty sets, from the run-n-shoot to the
spread running game, and back to a conventional pro-style offense. I have
had a chance to do it all. I think this has helped me become a better football
coach and enabled me to better understand pass protection, the running
game, and overall philosophy. It has taught me to take the personnel I
have and help them work to the best of their ability. One thing I believe
will never changeif a team can run the football, they can do anything
they want to do. If a team cant run the football, that team becomes one-
dimensional and may struggle. The New England Patriots may prove
that theory wrong, because they throw the football more than they run,
but Ill say it againif a team can run the ball, they can be devastating.
I prefer to be a 5050 football team, but if I had to choose 6040, I would
choose to run 60 percent and pass 40 percent.
On the following pages, I cover the desired characteristics of an offen-
sive lineman, proper stances, various types of blocks, and effective zones.
Pass protection and drills are also covered. This book is a synopsis of the
knowledge I have gained throughout my coaching experience. Offensive
line is definitely my forte. My career record and the success of my players
speak for themselves. If you want to be a successful offensive lineman
at the next levelwhether it is the high school, college, or professional
ranksthe following information will prove vital in helping you become
a better player at this position.
Key to Diagrams


, center, shaded side of block

center, shaded focus of block; head-up technique

offensive player

, offensive lineman, shaded side of block

offensive lineman, focus of block; head-up technique

V defensive lineman

LB linebacker

LB linebacker being combo blocked

CB cornerback

W weakside linebacker

S strongside linebacker

M middle linebacker

SS strong safety

WS weak safety

FS free safety

running path

alternate running path

blocking path

alternate blocking path





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of Offensive
To be successful, an offensive lineman needs to have these five
characteristics: intelligence, toughness, work ethic, good character, and
athletic ability. A team with five players who have all five of these char-
acteristics will be difficult to beat.

Intelligence plays a very important role on the offensive line. Offensive
linemen need to be football smart in addition to being able to perform
in the classroom. Many good students are not football smart; other play-
ers are really smart on the field but dont perform well in the classroom.
Players who do not play smart will get beat during a game. Successful
linemen have a balance of both classroom and football intelligence. Find
a player who is serious about succeeding in school and who works hard
in the classroom, and you will see the same player working hard on the
football field. High school coaches must coach the players they have. If
an offensive lineman has difficulty learning but the coach needs him to

2 Complete Offensive Line

play, the coach can place him next to one of the smarter players. If all
five offensive linemen have trouble understanding the game, the coach
will need to keep it simple.
Film study is essential at all levels of football, from high school through
professional. Watching film is an important basic tool for players. For
example, an offensive tackle who will be playing against a defensive
tackle or defensive end should study that opponent on film, focusing on
the players stance, his alignments, the positions of his hands and feet,
and his distance on and off the football. This film study will enable the
offensive tackle to find keys that will assist him during the game. The
coach could have the players bring in a report on Wednesdays about
who they will be playing against that week. It is surprising how much
information a coach can receive from the players. Watching DVDs of
various defenses can also help offensive linemen in their preparation.
These DVDs can be used to show how defenses are called, the cover-
ages used, and the various types of blitzes that may occur. During the
first two meetings of fall and spring practice, I like to teach nothing but
defense. Once the players know what the defense is doing, they have a
better understanding of how they can attack offensively.

Mental and physical toughness are essential characteristics for an offen-
sive lineman. These characteristics are developed through drills on the
football field, mat programs, weight room work, and station drills. A
player must first create a degree of mental toughness. Physical tough-
ness usually follows mental toughness. Players need to understand that
pain is a large part of football, especially in the trenches. Players must
be able to play with pain. (Injury is different. An injured player should
sit out of practice or contact.)
During the season, our practices include individual coaching time
during which only 10 players participate. A player who is not blocking
is standing in on defense and getting blocked. Players take a lot of pride
in helping each member of the unit perform the best block he can against
resistance. This part of practice includes a lot of fast-paced repetitions on
drive blocks; zone blocks to the linebackers; and reach, cutoff, and down
blocks. It has been said that my offensive linemen do more in 40 minutes
than others do all practice. Hydration is a very important part of practice;
water is available all the time. The practice schedule is set up so the first
Characteristics of Offensive Linemen 3

individual periodwhich includes chutes; T-boards; and work on reach

blocks, cutoff blocks, and blocking schemesis considered a buster. (A
buster is an all-out grinding period. It is a gut-check, no-holds-barred,
give-it-your-all type of period.)
After the individual run blocking period, we work on the inside run
versus defense. At this point, the coach wants the offensive line to be
tired. The coach wants the line to have to grind out eight plays, or two
sets of four reps, to the point of exhaustion. After the work on the inside
run is done, the players take a 5-minute break. Although players at other
positions sit down during breaks, offensive linemen stand or take a knee.
They take their helmets off for the break.
After the 5-minute break, we move on to group work. Group work is
run at a fast tempo but not as hard as the individual period; this gives
the linemen a chance to regroup before pass progression. Many players
consider pass progression, a period of 12 minutes, to be more difficult
than run progression. Pass progression is a seven-step progression of
drills that consists of partner work, very demanding resistance, a lot of
straining, and fast repetitions (this progression is described in chapter
12). On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the offensive line is expected to
be exhausted when going into one-on-one pass rush. When working
offensive players against defensive players, the coach wants them to
be so tired that they have to find that fourth-quarter gear. Then, during
the game, when players hit the fourth quarter, they can say, Ive been
much more tired than this, and they can then go dominate. This doesnt
happen by talking about it; the coach must take the players where they
are going to live.
The off-season program of agilities and mats consists of 60 minutes
of pure getting after it. This includes a 3-minute break after every 16
minutes. Players must perform each drill correctly and at full speed or
they are required to repeat it. Each player is graded after each station
while it is fresh in the coachs mind. At the end of the day, a reward
may be in order. For example, black shirts could be awarded for excel-
lence, grey shirts for average, and orange shirts for below average. This
schedule is very demanding and requires mental toughness. The mat
program consists of commands, feet position, and football position
breakdowns. Players must work hard to stay in a great football posi-
tionlow with knees bentand must be able to move and play from
this position. Players have a tendency to play high. One idea to break
this tendency is to have players run in pens and under ropes at the end
of mat drills. Drills need to be set up so that if players lose focus and
4 Complete Offensive Line

dont concentrate, they repeat the drill. Drills are broken down like game
situationsplay hard, rest, play hard, rest. Players sprint from point A
to point B, with an emphasis on finishing. I recently timed a player to
determine the actual work he completed in a 60-minute workout with
one repeat. The result was a total of 7 minutes and 40 seconds of work.
Many players dont know how or when to rest. This lack of knowledge
may get them into trouble with their coaches and teammates. These
drills will help create the team leaders and will help all players develop
mental toughness.
Players also need to become aggressive about weights and the weight
room. Discipline is important in the lifts and techniques. Once a week,
we stress mental toughness in the weight room. This may involve tests
of mental toughness, such as having two players hang from the pull-up
bar to see who can last the longest or having them perform a four-point
push-up to see who will be the last one. We often determine the starting
lineup based on the order of finishing.

Work Ethic
Hard work is the basic foundation of any successful offensive line. My
linemen often state that they are the hardest working group of linemen in
the United States. This is the mind-set that I want my offensive linemen
to have. My reputation for requiring my linemen to work hard is built
on fact. Pro scouts often say that they have never seen a harder work-
ing group of offensive linemen. The pro scouts relay this message to the
players, and this helps validate our work ethic. Similarly, ex-players and
visiting coaches can help sell this to players. A great work ethic is one
of the first things I look for in an offensive lineman. When recruiting,
the question of the players work ethic is usually at the forefront. I tell
players about our program. I tell them that they will be worked until
they think they cant go another stepand that I will then ask them to
do more. The less dedicated player will not want to continue.
Players come from many different backgroundssuch as blue collar,
city, or country. Some players may have a good work ethic, and some
may not. A coach can teach kids to work hard and to be proud of their
accomplishments. When coaching at Glenville State College, a Division
II school, I had my players paint the field house, clean the weight room,
and put in new lockers and floors. When they were finished, they had
a lot of pride in what they accomplished. Hard work will help players
win on and off the field.
Characteristics of Offensive Linemen 5

Good Character
Character is very important in a football player. A successful offensive
line needs players with character, not players who are characters. My
offensive line is called the unit. The unit is a group of unselfish people
who are united as one, working for one goal, and being the best they
can be. A team with five smart, athletic, and tough offensive linemen
who have character and great work ethic will be difficult to beat on
the football field. When recruiting, a coach needs to find those players
who want to succeed, who believe in God and the American way. Some
players are not as fortunate as others. They come from backgrounds and
family situations that are less than ideal. These players have an oppor-
tunity to learn what will help them be the best they can be. The unit has
high standards, and its members hold each other accountable for their
actions. If a player has trouble fitting in, the coach and the players may
need to put more effort into finding out what makes that player click.
Adjustments may have to be made, but the end result must be favorable.
If not, the player needs to change or leave because no single player is
more important than the group. This type of player has usually been
culled out by this point.

Athletic Ability
Sometimes athletic ability is the easiest characteristic to find. Finding
an athlete with the first four characteristics is usually more difficult.
When evaluating athletic ability, a coach should first look for quick feet.
Wide shoulders, wide hips, and a big-bone body structure are positive
physical attributes for a lineman. Having long arms is also a plus for a
lineman. The coach should pay attention to hip roll, punch, and body
balance on the finish. For example, at the college level, I would prefer
to recruit a kid who weighs 250, 260, or 270 pounds with a good frame
and build him up rather than recruit a player who weighs 360 pounds
and take him down.
Athletic ability often jumps out at the coachfor example, the coach
may see a player do something on film that he knows cannot be taught.
It just happens. I like to see a lineman get in trouble and then recover. All
coaches want the best athletes available, but the other four characteristics
are also important at all levels of football. Im willing to give up some
athletic ability to get players with the other four qualities. Many average
athletes who possessed the other qualities have been very successful,
6 Complete Offensive Line

even named All-American and all-conference. Some players with great

athletic ability who lacked some of the other qualities ended up with
issues. Great athletes sometimes have difficulty using proper technique
consistently because they rely so much on their athletic ability. Once
these players buy into technique, they often become All-American or
all-pro players.

Aggressive Play
Players should take pride in using an aggressive style of play on the
offensive line. This demonstrates how the game of football should be
played. As in many sports, good things happen when players are aggres-
sive. I think basketball coach Bob Knight once said that if you have five
guys playing aggressively all the time, its hard to pick out the one to
call a foul on.
In zone blocking, the backside block is more difficult to make than the
block at the point of attack. Point of attack is all the way across the board.
The backside block is at a more difficult angle than the front-side block.
However, if the blocks are made, this will open up the defense to allow
big running plays. Backside cutoff blocks need to be very aggressive
legal, but aggressive. The cut block is used to get a defensive lineman or
linebacker on the ground. Mixing up a lot of cut blocks and angle blocks
on level 2 and 3 will get the attention of the defenders. An offensive
lineman should practice cut blocks on bags at every practice in shells or
shorts. During a full-pads practice, offensive linemen should try to cut
block as much as possible. During pass protection, it is helpful to have
a buzzword that signals the offensive linemen to set the protection and
cut block defenders through the mid area.
Second and third efforts by the offensive linemen are huge keys to
success on screens, reverses, and draw plays. A coach may want to give
an award to the lineman who has the most knockdowns each week. On
a screen play, the lineman must stay on his block and try to take the
defender off the screen. The offensive line needs to play for 8 seconds
on every snapthe 8 seconds of hell. Toughness, effort, and discipline
(referred to with the acronym TED) are apparent in a successful offensive
line. Linemen must play past the whistle, which is especially important
on level-2 and level-3 assignments. Players should chase defensive backs
and linebackers until someone tells them to stop. Offensive linemen can
maximize their effectiveness by using this style of play, but to do so, they
must be in great condition.
Characteristics of Offensive Linemen 7

Running the Football

Conditioning leads into the next phase of my philosophy, which involves
being able to run the football. The offensive team must be able to run the
ball at anytime, especially when the opponent knows that the offense has to
run the ball. The 4-minute offense is a phase that a team must work on every
week so that they learn how to control the clock and win the football game.
Nothing upsets me more than having to punt the football to the
opponent with time left in the game, especially if the opponent still has
a chance to win. The chutes and T-board drills covered later will teach
players to come off the football. Danny Ford, when he was at Clemson,
once taught me a lesson about coming off the football. He said that if a
golfer is not very good at putting, then the golfer should practice putting.
The same goes for football. If the offensive lineman wants to be good at
coming off the football, the lineman needs to practice coming off the ball.
At practices, coaches should talk about coming off the ball from the
time practice starts until the time it ends. Players cannot hear this enough.
Football players often have insight on specific plays that can be effec-
tive. When it is third and 1 and players tell the coach to run Stretch 48,
the coach knows that the players will make it work the majority of the
time. What is your teams money maker? When the game is tight and
you need 1 yard, which running play can you always depend on? If you
change week to week, game to game, you dont have a money maker.
Ideally, a team should have two or three plays in its repertoire for this
situation, but the team still needs to have the one money maker play that
will consistently get the first down.
If the offensive line unit is slacking when coming off the ball, the
coach can run a drill called four downs. The first group lines up in the
chutes. Everythingstance, snap count, come-off, finish, and sprint
backshould be perfect in the drill. When the snap count is called, the
line comes off and then drives their man (a second-team player holding
the hand shield) down the board. When the coach yells the command
huddle, the players sprint back to line up in the chute. Players must
sprint. They line up as quickly as they can. The coach then calls out, for
example, second down on two, ready, blue 81, blue 81, set, hut hut,
and the players repeat the same process they did on first down. If the
stance, takeoff, snap count, finish, and sprint back were perfect, the
process is repeated for third and fourth down. If anyone jumps on any
down, the drill starts over. This drill will make or break an offensive
line. Some groups have had to do as many as 25 or more to finish. It is
a great conditioner for the linemen. Leaders will emerge from this drill.
8 Complete Offensive Line

Quarterback Protection
A great offense must have a balanced attack and must be able to run and
pass the ball with the same amount of effectiveness. For the offensive
linemen, pass protection involves having the will and desire to prevent
the defender from touching the quarterback. When it comes to pass
protection, an offensive linemans first goal should be to not give up a
sack the entire season. On my team, we reward players for giving up no
sacks. The unit is rewarded when a certain number of passes are thrown
without a sack. If the offensive line can protect the quarterback, its almost
impossible for the defensive secondary to cover all receivers, therefore
resulting in more completions.
To be a great pass blocking team, the players must use teamwork
and communication. The saying congestion is your friend means that
the more people banging into one another, the better chance to get the
defensive linemen off course. Players must learn to anticipate the twist
game, which refers to an exchange of gap responsibilities between two
or three defensive linemen. When the defensive tackle goes first and the
defensive end loops inside, this is referred to as T, E. During a twist, the
defensive end may go through the guardtackle gap while the tackle
loops to the outside for containment in the C gap. The defensive linemen
may use the twist game more often in third-down situations in an effort
to get to the quarterback. If the offense goes with an empty backfield in
which everyone is out for a pass except the quarterback, the twist game
becomes automatic. Offensive linemen can gain a lot of information
about the twist game by studying film on alignments. They should note
specific aspects of the defensive linemens alignment, such as their hand
positions, whether they have balanced or unbalanced feet, and their
depth on and off the football. Each unit must acknowledge that a blitz or
twist is possible on every pass play. If the unit anticipates blitz or twist
on every pass, the unit should be ready if the blitz or twist occurs. If the
blitz doesnt happen, the linemen at least know that they were prepared.
Knowing your role in the pocket is a big part of pass protection. The
center and the two guards are responsible for the depth of the pocket.
The desired depth of the pocket is only 2 to 3 feet from the line of scrim-
mage. When the offensive line is pushed back too much, the quarterback
is unable to step up into the pocket; this often results in a sack. The tack-
les are responsible for the width of the pocket. They maintain the width
by using a jump pass set, a kick slide set, or a vertical pass set. Working
against the tackles, most defensive ends try to push the pocket as the
defensive tackles do the same on the offensive guards. The quarterbacks
Characteristics of Offensive Linemen 9

spot in the pocket is only 9 yards from the ball. If the quarterback gets
deeper than 9 yards, it becomes extremely difficult for the tackles to
protect the quarterback.
In a short-setting offensive line, the guards and the center are on drop-
back pass protection. This means they will be set quick and firm on the
line of scrimmage. We will cover exact techniques later in the book. The
tackles use a kick slide pass set or the vertical pass set, depending on
twist or no twist, to maintain the width of the pocket.
Body positioning is very important in pass protection. Offensive line-
men must control their aggression, keep their feet alive, and not overset
their man. One of the biggest mistakes an offensive lineman can make
is oversetting, or moving and getting out of position. The lineman must
make the defender run through or around him to get to the quarterback.
He must never give up the inside rush lanes.

A successful offensive lineman will have the following five characteristics:
intelligence, toughness, work ethic, good character, and athletic ability.
If these are present, there is gold at the end of the rainbow! Remember,
aggressive play and the ability to run the football are vital in a success-
ful offense. Conditioning is also a factor in a teams ability to have an
accomplished running game. An offensive lineman must never slack
when coming off the ball. He must also learn the best way to protect the
quarterback. To be successful, offensive linemen must become skilled
in the correct stance for the running and passing games, which will be
covered in the next chapter.
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Offensive linemen are required to execute numerous blocking
schemes in the run and passing games. They must be able to quick set
on passes, zone step on runs, pull on boots or sweeps, and down block
on gap plays. My one pet peeve as a line coach is when players use an
incorrect stance. If a player does not have a good stance, everything
else he learns will be useless, or he will not be able to obtain the desired
degree of perfection.
The center uses a two-point stance with his hand on the football.
Guards use the three-point stance most of the time. In goal-line situations,
guards use the four-point stance. During a 2-minute drill at the end of the
game, guards get into a two-point stance. The tackle is in a three-point
stance as long as he is covered on the line of scrimmage by a tight end.
If there is no tight end, the offensive tackle is in a two-point stance. The
only time this changes is when the offense is backed up on the goal line
or is inside the 4-yard line and attempting to score. In those situations,
the tackles should be in a three-point stance.
A four-point stance is not used as much in football today as in the
past. However, on short-yardage plays, such as a quarterback sneak, the
offensive linemen will often get into a four-point stance. This stance keeps
the players shoulders square and low to help make the play successful.

12 Complete Offensive Line

Down Stance
The first thing players must learn is that they need to show the same
stance on every play. The defense should not be able to read run or pass.
If one look is given, it should be a run stance.
To assume the proper stance, a lineman should stand and position his
feet slightly wider than his shoulders (figure 2.1). He must make sure he
doesnt get his feet too wide. The toes need to be slightly turned in (figure
2.2) so the big toe can be used to push off and provide the best start. Think
of a sprinter getting into the starting blocks. The sprinters feet are set
to come off the big toe. There are no duck stances in the starting blocks.

Figure 2.1 Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders.

Figure 2.2 Turn toes in slightly.

Stances 13

To show the players what works, I sometimes have the biggest lineman
on the team help me perform a demonstration. I turn the linemans feet
out really wide, put my hands on his chest, and tell him to lean against
me and drive block me. The lineman, even at 300 pounds or more, will
not be able to move me (at 160 pounds) with his feet in this position.
Once I let him turn his toes in, I cant come close to stopping his block.
A live visual demonstration like this brings home the point to players.
After positioning the feet, the lineman should then move into the squat
position (figure 2.3). The linemans hands should be cupped, and his
forearms should be on his thighs. His back is completely flat.

Figure 2.3 Move into squat position: (a) front view;

(b) side view.
14 Complete Offensive Line

The linemans knees should be under his breast. He can pretend that he
has magnets on the inside of each knee and that they are pushing against
each other. The ankle, knee, and thigh should make a Z shape, creating a
power angle. A lineman must use power angles in making blocks.
The lineman should now relax and get out of the stance. Players can
use the following exercise to work on correct hand placement: The player
bends over to the ground and picks up an imaginary basketball. He palms
the ball with the hand that he uses as his down hand in the stance. A
right-handed player who has used a right-handed stance since he started
playing football should use a right-handed stance. The same applies for
the left-handed player. Left tackles will often use a right-handed stance.
It is surprising how weak some players hands and fingers are when
starting this drill. The player should stand as if he is palming a basketball
to get the feel of how the hand should be positioned when it is placed
on the ground. When palming a basketball, the players fingers have to
get as far apart from each other as possible while the palm maintains a
shape that fits the roundness of the ball.

Develop Strong Hands

Lack of strength in the hands is a big problem for many football players.
The goal is to have pure strength with the ability to grip like a vice. This
can be developed through the use of sand. Fill two garbage cans with
sand. Using both hands at the same time, the player squeezes the sand
for 100 repetitions. He should use a deliberate grip and fast repetitions.
Rice is a good alternative to sand. Place some rocks or a box at the
bottom of the can to help stabilize the can and to use up some of the
volume so you dont have to use as much rice. Players should do two
sets on three days a week.

The lineman should repeat the process of getting into the stance: He
stands with the feet slightly wider than the shoulders, turns the toes
in, and squats with cupped hands and with the forearms on the thighs,
keeping a flat back. Now he places the down hand slightly inside the foot
to the hands sideright hand by right foot or left hand by left foot. The
coach should check to see if air is under the hand and fingertips. Placing
the hand wider allows a lineman to have square shoulders in relation
to the line of scrimmage. This goes back to being perfectly balanced in
the stance. Im not a proponent of using a left-handed stance on the left
side of the line of scrimmage unless the player is left-handed. By using
a parallel, balanced stance, a right-handed player on the left side of the
line should have no problem.
Stances 15

An offensive lineman should strive to have a totally balanced stance

with 33 percent of his weight on each leg and 33 percent on the down
hand. This totals 99 percent, leaving 1 percent in the players plum bob
(you figure it out). A player should watch himself when getting into his
stance. Players often have a tendency to roll into the stance. This will place
too much weight on the down hand, resulting in an imbalanced stance.
The player can correct this problem by getting in the squat position first.
Once in this position, he works his butt from side to side while placing
his hand out in front on the ground. The habit of rolling forward into the
stance is a habit that a lineman must break early. The head should be up,
with eyes toward the eyebrows looking at the defender (figure 2.4). The
off arm should rest on the thigh with the hand inside the framework of the
body. This will allow quick use of the hands and will keep them inside.

Figure 2.4 Down stance: (a) front view; (b) side view.
16 Complete Offensive Line

The lineman should set in the stance and get a feel for shifting his
weight. He should practice by picking up the right foot then the left foot
or picking up the down hand while maintaining his balance.
A player who cannot physically get into the desired stance can simply
make small adjustments that will allow him to be successful. An extremely
tall player should spread his feet out wider. A player with extremely stiff
ankles and hips can use a small stagger in his stance. First, the player
should attempt a toe-to-instep stagger. He may have to slightly widen
the base. An extremely tall player who has a narrow body type may need
to use a stagger that moves his foot back to the heel. However, players
should use the toe-to-heel stance as a last resort because it puts the player
at a major disadvantage when using a stretch step to the inside. A player
who uses the toe-to-heel stagger may have to use more of a drop step
to gain position when making blocks to his inside. The term drop step
is used very loosely. When trying to cut off or reach a defender who is
lined up wide on the offensive lineman, the offensive lineman must give
ground with his play-side foot and leg to gain the angle needed to block
the defender. The player must give some ground to gain some ground.
This step is still more of a stretch step to the outside than an actual drop
of the foot straight back. The lineman is basically opening his hips on
the proper angle to the defender.

Up Stance
The up stance, or two-point stance, is used by an offensive tackle who
is not covered by a tight end. For an offensive tackle, being in an up
stance is beneficial when he has to block a speed rusher off the edge. As
in the down stance, the feet should be slightly more than shoulder-width
apart. The outside leg is slightly outside the framework of the body, but
not extremely. In the two-point stance, the lineman drops the outside
foot back. He starts out toe to instep and no farther than toe to heel. A
big stagger creates problems with cutoff blocks or zone blocks in the
scheme. Once the feet are aligned properly, the lineman goes to squat
position. The drop foot should be in the ground if possible, but many
players have physical restrictions that make this challenging. A player
may need to slightly widen his stance or slightly twist his foot to help
the foot lie closer to the ground.
Stances 17

In the up stance, the upper body is loose and relaxed, and the forearms
are relaxed on the thighs (figure 2.5). The shoulders should be over the
knees. In all stances, linemen must understand that a relaxed muscle is a
faster muscle. The linemen should be loose in their stance and in a relaxed
state of play so they can perform to the best of their ability.

Figure 2.5 Up stance: (a) front view; (b) side view.

First Step and Helmet Placement

The first step and helmet placement are key. Most coaches emphasize
getting the second step down on the ground. I also coach players to get
their second step down as fast as possible, but I stress that if they dont
get their first step right, the second step makes no difference.
18 Complete Offensive Line

Another term used to describe the first step and helmet placement is
mental weight. If stepping with the right foot, the lineman needs to shift
his mental weight to the left leg. This is not a full-body lean, just a short
weight shift to the opposite leg. A linemans success is a product of his
first step. To better understand mental weight, players can imagine that
the right foot has all of the body weight on it; then they should try to
pick up the right foot and move it. This cannot be done. The same is true
when lining up on the offensive line. Proper mental weight allows the
lineman to take proper steps. This is key when playing on the offensive
line. Once a lineman gets a feel for body balance and mental weight shifts,
he should begin to work on starts. He should come off the ball with the
right-foot step on a drive block (figure 2.6a). He then repeats with a left-
foot step on a drive block (figure 2.6b).

a b

Figure 2.6 Drive block: (a) right foot; (b) left foot.

The lineman should now try going to a zone scheme and repeating
the process with a stretch step right (figure 2.7a) and a stretch step left
(figure 2.7b) to get a better feel for using the mental weight process. (The
stretch step will be covered in more detail in chapter 4 in the discussion
of the reach block.)
Gaining the proper helmet placement is a habit that must be formed
through practice. An important coaching tip when linemen are learning
helmet placement is that they should always keep their eyes on the target
or aiming point. Whether aiming for the chin on a drive block or the V
of the neck on a down block, linemen should always drive through the
defender with their eyes focused on their target. Many football players
Stances 19

a b

Figure 2.7 Reach block: (a) stretch step right; (b) stretch step left.

have bad eye habits and do not use their eyes effectively on the field.
Football players need to take advantage of this resource and use it to their
favor. It is difficult to hit something if you are not looking at it. A players
eyes will never let him down. I stress big eyes every day in practice. The
example I like to use is Mike Singletary of the Chicago Bears. He played
with his eyes wide open. Using the eyes makes a player much more
aware of what is happening in his area of the field.
If an offensive lineman gains position on the block, this can make the
difference between a long run and a very short one. A solid first step is
the best way to gain this position. For the blocking that I teach in the
zone blocking scheme, the first step and helmet placement are the core
fundamentals that players must master in order to become successful.

Square Shoulders
Another valuable coaching tip in the run and pass game is that linemen
should keep their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. This means
that the shoulders should run parallel to the yard lines on the football
field. Square shoulders allow offensive linemen to stay in position for
blocks and to pass defenders off to each other in the run and pass game.
Square shoulders are included in run fundamentals because of their
value in zone blocking schemes. I often tell my players that if we run
north and south coming off the ball, and the defense goes east and west,
we will win the game. This theory holds true with an experienced and
disciplined offensive line.
20 Complete Offensive Line

Tight Elbows
No one wants to coach 747s with a wide wingspan. Therefore, a popular
coaching term is tight elbows. This is a wrestling term. Tight elbows mean
tight hands. Inside hands kick butt. Many drills can be used to develop
tight hands. For example, in our mat program, we use small 12-inch
hand pads that players punch as part of the warm-up (figure 2.8). I like
these pads because they can be moved around easily. This makes for a
drill that requires players to move very quickly and helps them develop
quick, tight hands.
Offensive linemen must learn to use tight elbows when coming out
of their stance for starts on any type of blocking schemewhether its a
zone, stretch, pull, or pass set.
Boxing during the summer and hitting the speed bag are also great
drills for developing tight, quick hands. The best pads to use are hand
shields that have the armpit for hand placement. The pads on our sled
are from World Sporting Goods in Mobile, Alabama. These pads have
the armpits built into the pad for hand placement purposes.

a b

Figure 2.8 Warm-up drill using small hand pads: (a) punch to right; (b) punch to left.
Sumo Drill
This sumo drill can be used in the off-season. Take a round hoop and
lay it on the ground with a yard line going through the middle. Two play-
ers take their places inside the hoop with one hand on the others chest
and one hand off (figure 2.9a). Both players are in a two-point stance.
The players should keep their head out of the drill in order to avoid head
butts. On the coachs command of go, the players see who can throw
the other out of the circle (figure 2.9b). After getting a feel for the drill,
players take their hands off each other and go like two wrestlers, free to
shoot their hands. This shows which player gets his hands inside first,
while still trying to throw the other out of the hoop. Create a round-robin
tournament and see who ends up King of the Hoops.

Figure 2.9 Sumo drill: (a) starting position with one hand on the
chest and one hand off; (b) each player tries to throw the other player
out of the hoop.

22 Complete Offensive Line

Hands and Leverage

Playing in the trenches of football is a game of hands and leverage. The
low man who has inside hands will win a great percentage of the time.
Players with great steps and helmet placement but poor hand technique
will lose blocks and draw holding penalties. Players with great hands
and low pad level give themselves opportunities to defeat defenders
who may be more talented.
Leverage is a facet of the game that levels the playing field. A smaller
player can make himself physically dominant over a larger player by
coming off the ball with low pads and getting under the defender. Inside
hands help him push and control the block. A player who can run with
bent ankles, knees, and hips can play football with leverage. To measure
a players natural ability to play with leverage, the coach should watch
the player bend on lifts in the weight room, including positions during
the squat, power clean, hang clean, and deadlift. Also, to check for ankle
stiffness, the coach can have the player stand with his feet wide and toes
turned out; the player then squats like a baseball catcher, and the coach
checks to see if the players heels come off the ground.
Some players naturally have more leverage than others, but leverage
can also be developed. Players can develop leverage and explosion in
the weight room by performing Olympic lifts that focus on the lower
body. They can also improve their leverage by using bands and exercise
balls to perform various stretches and exercises that encourage static
flexibility in the lower body. Every inch of leverage is worth 10 pounds.
Six-Point Explosion Drill
The six-point explosion drill can be per-
formed on the pad of a sled or with a person
holding a hand shield. The player gets on
his hands and knees on the ground and
curls his toes under his feet (figure 2.10a).
He shifts his weight back on his toes. He
then explodes forward with his hips, keep-
ing his head up and exploding his hands
through the pad (figure 2.10b). This is a
full-extension movement that will leave the
player in a fully extended position. a

Figure 2.10 Six-point explosion drill: (a) starting position on hands and knees with
toes curled under the feet; (b) exploding forward with hands going through the pad.

Chest Pass Drill
During the off-season, players should perform explosion drills to help
develop hip explosion. Here is one effective drill that can be used: The
player places a medicine ball on the ground with both hands on the side
of the ball as he stands over it. He passes the ball from the ground as
if throwing a chest pass in basketball while stepping with the right foot
(figure 2.11a). The player then repeats the process with a throw from the
ground while stepping with the left foot (figure 2.11b).

Figure 2.11 Throwing the ball from the ground: (a) stepping with the right foot; (b)
stepping with the left foot.

The player can also do this drill from the knees. He throws the ball while
lunging the hips forward, then falls forward to the ground (figure 2.12).

Figure 2.12 Throwing the ball from the knees: (a) lunging
the hips forward; (b) falling forward on the ground.

26 Complete Offensive Line

A proper stance, good hand position, and leverage are key for all blockers
along the offensive line. Hands inside the framework of the body come
from having tight elbows. Tight hands in the armpits of the defenders
breastplate allow the offensive lineman to control the defender in the
run game. This hand position also leads to success for the center and
guards much of the time in pass protection. A lineman achieves this
hand position by keeping his eyes focused on the target and punching
aggressively to the target.
In the next chapter, well discuss the drive block, including the stance,
approach, steps, and contact for this fundamental block. Drills for per-
fecting this block will also be presented.
Drive Blocks
The drive block is the most basic and common run block used in
football. It is the basis of the fundamentals for all run blocks. The drive
block is a man-on-man, one-on-one block on the line of scrimmage, but
it could also be used on a linebacker. The principles of a successful drive
block can be incorporated into other blocks such as reach, cutoff, trap,
and combo blocks.
The drive block requires a player to stay square to the line of scrim-
mage. The block involves three points of contact, including the helmet
and both hands. For a successful block, the lineman must use leverage,
keep a flat back, and use power-producing angles while maintaining
a base. The four steps to the drive block are approach, contact, drive,
and finish. This chapter covers the basic fundamentals and the various
phases of the block.

The approach for the drive block begins with the perfect stance. Refer to
chapter 2 for the fundamentals of the stance. The player should be perfectly
balanced in a three-point stance with slightly more pressure on the hand
so he can explode and come off the football. For a run block, he should
have 60 percent of his weight on his down hand and 40 percent on his legs.
Next, the player applies mental weight to delegate which foot he will
step with first. If stepping with the right foot first, he places his mental
weight on his left foot and vice versa. The player must be ready for the
first step and must execute the proper helmet placement. He wants to
explode off his lead foot, stepping out and up with a 4- to 6-inch step.

28 Complete Offensive Line

The player comes off the lead foot. The lead step (figure 3.1a) should
go out and up very slightly. This is similar to a short post step used on
pass protection. When I say slightly, I mean very slightly. This helps
keep the base wide on the first step. On drive blocks, the lead foot is
often the inside foot. By using the inside foot, the lineman helps prevent
the defender from crossing his face and getting the shortest route to the
football. The size of this step varies depending on the size of the player.
Taller, bigger players may take a 6- to 8-inch step. Smaller linemen may
take a 4- to 6-inch step. No lineman should ever take a step so big that
he gets off balance. The width on the first step shouldnt be more than
2 to 3 inches over and up.
The second step (figure 3.1b) needs to get down before contact. The
style of defensive line play will affect the point of contact. When playing
against a reading defender, the lineman may be able to get the second
step down before contact. Against a penetrating defender, contact may
be made on the second step. The coach should emphasize to players
that they need to get the second step down as quickly as possible. The
offensive lineman should explode off the line of scrimmage with power
and torque.
Regardless of how fast the players come off the line, it still may not
be fast enough for them to make certain blocks. This is especially true
in short-yardage situations. The lead step may differ according to the
defenders alignment over the offensive lineman and the direction of
the play called.

Figure 3.1 Drive block: (a) first step; (b) second step.
Drive Blocks 29

The first step should incorporate all the characteristics of a good start
(as covered in chapter 2): The lineman needs to come off the balls of the
feet, keep the back flat, use leverage, stay low, and power off the back foot.
The second step should be a power step. The lineman should step about
6 to 8 inches, landing slightly ahead of or at least even with the lead step.
He should work hard and concentrate on getting his second step down as
quickly as possible. This keeps momentum going forward with power and
strength. Note that the first two steps are short steps with power and torque.
The linemans base will automatically narrow on the second step no
matter what he does physically. If his first step is inside with a narrow base,
his second step will automatically be narrower, leaving him with no base
at all. Therefore, the lineman must keep the base wide on the first step.
Many linemen have a tendency to cross over on the second step. When
this happens, the body gets twisted, and the lineman has no chance to
make the block. The biggest factor in creating this problem is a really big
first step. This in turn may lead to a wide stride and then put the player
off balance.
Tight elbows were de
scribed in chapter 2. When
a player uses tight elbows,
he will have tight hands.
The player should think
of firing his guns, which
refers to a gun fighter s
motion of drawing his
weapons from his hol-
ster. After performing this
motion, the player should
then make a strong punch-
ing motion toward the Figure 3.2 Strong punching motion toward the
target (figure 3.2). Tight target.

Coaching Point
The feet on the human body naturally tend to stay close together.
Offensive lineman is the only position in football that requires the
player to maintain a base with his feet apart the entire play. The feet
are always working to get back together. This is why the lineman
must be disciplined in his steps and lower-body movements.
30 Complete Offensive Line

elbows should be a carryover from drills done in the off-season and from
constant coaching every day.
A player who consistently flares his arms out wide during blocks
needs to do extra work after practice to cure this habit. For example, the
player could punch a dummy 100 to 200 times with both hands. This
should help the player develop the ability to keep tight elbows. If 200
times doesnt help, the player can try 500 times until he breaks the habit
and forms a new one.

Key Points for the Approach to the Drive Block

1. Execute a perfect three-point stance.
2. Apply mental weight to the foot opposite of the one you will step
with first.
3. Prepare to execute a good first step and proper helmet placement.
4. Place the second step down before contact.
5. Use tight elbows and tight hands.

Contact is the second phase of the drive block. For the contact phase,
the first factor to consider is the aiming point. After all, the player cant
hit what he cant see.
All players need to aim at a target during every block. The aiming point
on the drive block is the defenders chin (figure 3.3). If the lineman puts
the crown of his helmet to the
defenders chin, the lineman
should end up at the top of
the defenders numbers. The
lineman should not overthink
the aiming point; for example,
he doesnt need to have his
right eye on the defenders
left number. He should just
pick a point to focus on and
then go get it.
The targets and the eyes
may be the most important
parts of the block. The line- Figure 3.3 The defenders chin is the aiming
man must use his eyes to get point for the drive block.
Drive Blocks 31

to the aiming point. For many players, their eyes are the least used parts
of their body. A player wants big eyes on the target. When in the stance,
he should look through his eyebrows to the aiming point. On each block,
the lineman will use a different target on the defender. On the drive block
versus a down defensive lineman, the offensive lineman looks through
his eyebrows to the defenders chin so the crown of the helmet is aimed
through the target. Once the defender rises, the offensive linemans
helmet is at the top of the defenders numbers.
When the player gets to the fit of his block, he should make three-point
contact (figure 3.4). On the drive block, the player needs to have three-
point contact with his helmet and both fists hitting the defender at the
same time. The linemans hands should be in the defenders armpits or
tight on the breastplates
of the defenders pads.
The linemans hips
should be lower than his
shoulders as he main-
tains a wide base. The
toes should be slightly
turned out on the drive.
This will help produce
power from the whole
foot in the ground. The
linemans hips, knees,
and ankles produce
the power that drives
through the defender. Figure 3.4 Three-point contact on the drive block.
This is where the Z cre-
ated by the knees and
ankles (figure 3.5) helps
produce power.
Once the lineman is
in the fit of his block, the
legs are very important.
The lineman should
push the defender as if
he were a pickup that
was out of gas. The
lineman is behind the
pickup, pushing on the
rear bumper. He must Figure 3.5 The Z angle of the hips, knees, and
keep pushing until he ankles produces power to drive through the defender.
32 Complete Offensive Line

gets gas. If the legs are the power, then the head, arms, and shoulders
are the explosion.
The core of the body is vital in transferring power from the legs through
the body and to the explosion. This power is transferred through the
bodys core. Therefore, offensive linemen need to do abdominal work
daily. Flat abdomens are a must.
The offensive lineman is like a bulldozer on tracks. Once the lineman
is into the fit and has made contact, he needs to hit through the block,
not to the block. The lineman should avoid rolling his hips because this
pushes his head up and slows down the movement of the bulldozer on
tracks. The lineman must be able to run through contact. The defender
has only one chance to stop the delivery of the blow. The defender must
strike a blow on the offensive lineman, then shed and remove the lineman
to make a tackle. The offensive lineman who can withstand this initial
attempt from the defender and continue to drive through contact with
correct technique will win the block.
The bulldozer on tracks starts with the line of departure. From point
A to point B, the lineman must come off the ball as fast as he can. This
includes the angle of leverage from the takeoff point, which is the stance,
until contact in the fit. The lineman should act as if a steel rod is running
through his back, keeping the hips behind the shoulders. This allows the
lineman to drive like a bulldozer on tracks!
Here are some things that can cause the blocker to lose power on
Bending at the waist to create a hump in the back
Coming in too high and blocking with the chest, bosom to bosom
Coming in with the head down and collapsing to the ground
Not using the eyes on contact, resulting in being off center of, not
square to, the block
To learn to see through contact, players can perform this drill: A coach
or partner takes a hand shield, holds it sideways, and hits the players
face mask to see if he blinks or flinches.
Here are some other major mistakes that offensive linemen make when
getting to the fit of their block:
Taking a first step that is too big, causing the second step to cross
Chopping their feet in the ground, which creates no movement or
power steps
Coming in too high and losing leverage by rolling the hips too fast
Drive Blocks 33

Key Points for the Contact During the Drive Block

1. Aim at the defenders chin.
2. Use your eyes.
3. Make three-point contact with your helmet and both hands.
4. Be a bulldozer on tracks.

The drive (figure 3.6) is the
most difficult part of the block
for most linemen to execute
effectively. To accomplish a
good, hard drive, the lineman
must use a complete combina-
tion of the power from the legs
and the explosion from the
upper body.
The first part of the drive is
to sustain the block after get-
ting into the fit phase. Great
acceleration from the feet is Figure 3.6 Driving through the defender
a must. The linemans legs and staying close.
should pound the ground. He
must hit through the defender. The lineman needs to have a hard edge.
He must be a jet coming off the football. He needs to stay fitted into the
block. He has to want it. He has to want to whip this defender.
The biggest fault of many players is that they do not run with their feet
or they extend their arms. They help the defender get separation. The
lineman needs to stay as close as possible to the defender. A defensive
linemans job is to explode off the line of scrimmage, deliver his blow,
and stop the offensive lineman. In doing so, the defender wants to use his
hands to get separation so he can run to the football. The offensive lineman
does not need to help the defender get separation by pushing him away.

Key Points for the Drive During the Drive Block

1. Produce power from the legs.
2. Explode with the upper body.
3. Hit through the defender.
4. Stay close to the defender.
34 Complete Offensive Line

Finishing the block (figure 3.7) is
a matter of personal pride. I want
my players to be noticed for the
way they play the game. I want
others to recognize the style of
play. The finish comes down to
second and third effort. How
many pancake blocks can the
player get in a game?
To finish off the block, the
player needs to
play past the whistle,
Figure 3.7 Finishing the block.
give a second effort on
levels 2 and 3,
use cut blocks at the end of the block, and
take the block off the screen.
Finishing a block comes down to attitude, grit, and a desire to keep
constant pressure on the defender. The lineman can keep constant pres-
sure on the defender by using short, powerful steps.

Key Points for Finishing the Drive Block

1. Make a second or third effort.
2. Keep pressure on the defender.
3. Take pride in how you finish the block.
Drive Blocks 35

Drills for the Drive Block

To improve their ability to perform the drive block, players should first
work on stance and starts. I like to use drill lines whenever possible so
players are conscious about their footwork. The proper techniques for
the stance and start were covered in chapter 2.
Next, players should work on the approach and contact through the
fit. They should then work on the drive and the finish. Players are in
shorts for these drills, and they work against players who are holding
hand shields that have armpits for hand placement.
Chutes should not be used for the first couple of days until the players
learn this block. Players should use T-boards to get the feel of getting
the second step down and the feel of having the board between their
legs to maintain a proper base. (A T-board is a regular 12-inch board
with a 6- to 8-inch board at the end to form a T.) The T-board helps the
lineman take a short first step and quickly get the second step down.
After successfully blocking live defenders on the T-boards, the team
can progress to chutes.
After shoulder pads are introduced, players should work on block-
ing a live defender. The defender should believe it is his job to help the
offensive man make the best block he can make.
The end of the progression is one-on-one blocks against the defensive
line on boards. Place a board on the ground and then tape off a distance
of 18 to 24 inches, depending on your teams alignments. Players put
their hands on or behind the line (figure 3.8) and come off the ball on
the offensive linemans movement. A coach should control the drill with
a whistle.

Figure 3.8 Two players on the boards.

Stance and Start
Players line up behind a white line and get into a great stance. Next,
players come out of their stances using a drive block, stepping straight
ahead. The coach should check to see if the players are overstriding on
the first, second, and third steps. While teaching the drive block, the coach
should use the reverse teaching progression.

The player is fitted into a handle shield using three points of contact with
his head up in the middle of the pad. His hand should fit ear high on the
shield. He uses tight elbows and a slight angle in his back. His feet should
be slightly wider than his shoulders and should be turned out slightly to
get the most power from the inside of the foot. On the coachs command,
the lineman drives the shield for 5 yards. The defender provides slight
resistance so the lineman can perform the fit and drive portion of the
block successfully. Repeat, adding more resistance each time until the
block is done live on the boards.

The offensive lineman starts with a perfect stance and then jets off the ball
with tight elbows and head up, making three-point contact. The first step
(figure 3.9a) should be a short step, but the player should get the second
step (figure 3.9b) down on the ground quickly to maintain a great base.

a b

Figure 3.9 Approach: (a) first step; (b) second step.

After mastering the approach, the lineman can let Mother Nature take
over as he maintains a good base while driving his feet with short, pow-
erful steps down the boards. The lineman hits through the block for three
steps, then stops to see how he is fitting into the block. The offensive
lineman must keep his head up, look through his eyebrows, and on the
approach, make the three-point contact portion of the block. The line-
man needs to hit through the block, so he should form a habit of hitting
through the contact part of the block. Many players will be either too high
early in the approach or too low with the head down. These players must
learn to come off with a flat back and get a feel for the perfect approach
for them as an individual.
Next, the lineman comes off the ball with a right-foot drive, then a left-
foot drive, doing two left-foot drives for each right-foot drive.

Contact Through the Fit
The offensive lineman stands at the end of the board in a two-point
stance. The linemans knee should be bent in a good football position; the
shoulders are over the knees, the head is up, and the arms are bent with
hands tightly closed by the hips. On the coachs command, the lineman
explodes out of the stance and uses three points of contact (the helmet
and the hands) to hit the defender face up (figure 3.10). He drives his feet
and moves the defender down the board. The lineman needs to make sure
he stays as low as possible when coming out of the two-point stance. He
needs to cock his arms back as if drawing his guns out of a holster and
then deliver a powerful blow on
contact. The player must bow
his neck back and keep his
head up on contact. The line-
man must have a good bend
in the knees so that he can roll
his hips after contact in order
to execute the drive portion of
the block. The lineman blocks
the defender for about 5 yards
down the board. Repeat the
block with two left-foot drives Figure 3.10 Contact through the fit, left-foot
and one right-foot drive. drive.

Finishing the Block
The defender stands at the end of
the board, and the offensive line-
man gets fitted into the block. On
the coachs command, the lineman
drives the defender (figure 3.11a).
The coach will give the defender a
direction, and on the hand signal,
the defender will break right or left
(figure 3.11b). The offensive line-
man has to adjust his feet, turn his
body, and move his feet to finish off
the defender (figure 3.11c). a

b c

Figure 3.11 Finish: (a) Lineman drives; (b) defender breaks; (c) offensive lineman
finishes the block.

One-Man Sled
Another way to learn the drive block, including the finish, is to use a one-
man sled that will recoil on contact. Place sandbags on the base of the
sled so the offensive lineman really has to strain to get the sled moving.
Once the sled is moving, the lineman must be sure to maintain a wide
base while moving his feet so that he stays square on the sled. The sled
will soon swing, so the lineman will need to move his feet to finish.

Execute the Drive Block
The lineman takes a perfect three-point stance at the end of the board. The
defender needs to be about 3 feet off the lineman. On command, the lineman
comes out of the stance, leading with the right foot. Keeping his back flat
and his head up, the lineman aims his helmet at the defenders chin (figure
3.12). This should put his helmet at the top of the defenders numbers when
contact is made. The offensive lineman must remember to come off the foot-
ball with a flat back! He drives his feet into the ground. Once the defender is
moving, the toe part of the offensive linemans foot should be turned slightly
to the outside (nothing drastic, just a subtle turn). This will allow the lineman
to get all of his foot in the ground to generate more power. While keeping
pressure on the block, the lineman gets ready to use the second and third
effort. When he feels that the defender is ready to separate and get off the
block, the lineman uses the finish to end the block. If the defender goes to
the right, the lineman uses left-hand pressure and then takes the defender
in the direction he wants to go. Once on the approach, the lineman puts
together all the phases of the block: contact, hit through the fit (with flat back,
head up, and tight elbows), powerful steps, and leg drive.

Figure 3.12 Lineman blocking in the chutes: (a) back view; (b) side view.

Drive Blocks 41

The drive block is the mother of all blocks. It is the most basic and fun-
damental block in football. All forms of blocking originate with the drive
block. All blocks have a stance, start, approach, contact, and finish. This
will be evident as we move from the drive block to the reach block.
This page intentionally left blank.
Reach Blocks
The reach block is the second block that offensive linemen should
learn in the run game. The reach block is used on the front side of a run
play. It is also used to gain outside position on a defender. Whether the
team is using a man blocking scheme or a zone blocking scheme, an
offensive lineman can use a reach block on the play side.
As a coach, I prefer to use zone blocking, so the reach block is a major
part of the run game for my teams. With the reach block, the aiming
point on the defender is the outside breast to armpit. The reach block is
different from the drive block, but once the blocker gets on his approach
path, the basics of the drive block are applied. The drive block is a basic
block that involves pushing the defender straight back off the line of
scrimmage. On the drive block, the offensive lineman covers the whole
defender down the middle of the block. Basically, the reach block involves
blocking the play-side half of the defender. The approach is on an angle
to the outside half of the defender on the play side. The reach block is a
very useful block for smaller, quicker linemen, such as many of the line-
men in high schools or small colleges.

The offensive linemans stance for the reach block is the same as the
stance used for the drive, cutoff, and down blocks. Linemen can use a
three-point or two-point stance when executing a reach block. Tackles
have to use both. The linemans mental weight process is very important
on the reach block because the goal is to gain outside position on the
block. The first step of the reach block is a lateral step with the outside

44 Complete Offensive Line

foot. This step will usually cover 6 to 8 inches, but players should step
whatever distance is necessary to avoid being off balance. This first step
is referred to as the stretch step.
During the stretch step, the offensive linemans guns should be
drawn to fire much like the position for the drive block. The lineman
should focus on the target, which is the outside breast to armpit.
The offensive line should be aligned deep off the football. This allows
the linemen to gain valuable angles on defenders (if the proper stretch
step is taken). When taking the stretch step, the players head and shoul-
ders should work over the outside legthat is, the leg that he stepped
with (figure 4.1). Tight elbows are necessary to get the hands inside
very quickly. The player should keep his shoulders parallel to the line
of scrimmage as much as possible.

Figure 4.1 During the stretch step, the head and shoulders work over the
outside leg. The shoulders act as if they have a string attached to them:
When the hip and leg stretch out to the right, the head and shoulders go
with the leg on the same angle.

The second step may vary according to where the defender lines up.
The aiming point is still the defenders outside breast to armpit. For
example, consider the reach block for an offensive guard or tackle facing
a defender who is lined up in a 3 or 5 technique (figure 4.2). The lineman
fits his block into the aiming point of the defenders outside breast and
armpit (figure 4.3).

Figure 4.2 Defenders in the (a) 3- and (b) 5-technique alignments.

Figure 4.3 Lineman fitted into the defenders outside breast and armpit.

46 Complete Offensive Line

If the defender is in a 3, 5, or 9 technique, the offensive linemans

stretch step should mirror the defender. The linemans toe should point
downfield on the stretch step when he is blocking inside zone. The
linemans stretch step should land even with the defenders outside
foot (figure 4.4a). The linemans second step should land even with the
defenders inside foot (figure 4.4b). The third step should be outside
and upfield (figure 4.4c). The second and third steps have to be really,
really quick. If you put it to music, it would be onequicktwothree.

Figure 4.4 Linemans first steps: (a) Stretch step lands even with defenders outside
foot; (b) second step lands even with defenders inside foot; (c) third step works
hard outside and upfield.
Reach Blocks 47

Contact and Fit

Just as in the drive block, three-point contact is needed for the reach
block. The linemans helmet goes to the defenders outside breast, and
the linemans outside hand goes in the defenders armpit (figure 4.5).
The linemans inside hand should be on the defenders inside number.
The outside arm and leg must be strong on reach blocksall pressure
should be applied from the outside arm and leg. The inside hand is in
push and control mode. On contact and fit, the lineman should try to
stay as square to the line of scrimmage as possible.

Once in the fit of the block, the lineman should drive the defender on
the angle. Linemen should not try to work for a quick hook on the line
of scrimmage.
If the defender wants to run hard to the outside, the lineman should
lock up and move his feet while maintaining outside pressure. If the
defender runs hard to the outside after the lineman has started the drive
on the defenderand the lineman believes that he is losing the blockthe
lineman should come hard with the inside hand and drive the defender
to the outside (figure 4.6).

Coaching Point
On the angle refers to the lineman getting his hips in the direction of
his aiming point. Basically, the lineman wants to execute a reach block
in that direction. Once the blocker is into the fit of a reach block and
has his hips on the right angle, he executes the basic fundamentals
of a drive block with a great base and arm pressure. The offensive
lineman blocks until the defender tells him where he wants to go.
The lineman then adjusts his block accordingly.
48 Complete Offensive Line

Figure 4.5 During the reach block, the linemans helmet is at the defenders outside
breast, the linemans outside hand is in the defenders armpit, and the linemans
inside hand is on the defenders inside number.

Figure 4.6 Inside arm pressing the defender to the outside.

In zone blocking, the finish on all blocks is very important. The reach
block takes a lot of second and third efforts to make the play work. Once
the defender is really hooked, the lineman should pin him hard and take
him downfield. If the defender works hard outside, the lineman should
use the reverse inside hand to take him where he wants to go. Because
of the various directions that the defender may go, this block takes tre-
mendous effort from the offensive lineman.
Reach Blocks 49

Reach Block Versus 3 and 5 Techniques

Performing the reach block on the 3 technique for the guard is the same
as the tackle on the 5 technique. Both linemen need to focus on their
aiming pointsoutside breast to armpit. They must take a great stretch
step and explode into the block using all of the techniques previously
mentioned. This includes keeping their elbows tight so they can punch
while maintaining great balance. Once into the fit, the linemen must
work the outside arm and leg strongkeeping a great baseto block
the line of scrimmage. They should work the better player hard down
the line of scrimmage and expand the defender. The phrase knocking
the defender off the line of scrimmage is way overrated if the lineman
cant maintain the line of scrimmage while moving the defender laterally.

Using the Reach Block Against 3 and 5 Techniques

1. Stretch step is even with defenders outside foot.
2. Second step is even with defenders inside foot.
3. Third step gets on ground quickly; lineman runs on the angle.
4. Aiming point is outside breast to armpit.
5. Outside arm and leg are strong on contact and fit; lineman runs
the hard angle.

Reach Block Versus 2 and 4 Techniques

In this situation, the defender is aligned much tighter on the blocker.
A 2 or 4 technique means the defender is head up on the blocker. He is
aligned shoe to shoe. When the offensive lineman is taking a stretch step,
the outside foot should end up outside the defenders foot. The primary
aiming point is still the outside breast to armpit. Everything now becomes
very tight. This is basically using a tight drive block with reach blocking
techniques. In other words, the lineman takes one short stretch step and
executes a drive block on the defender.
50 Complete Offensive Line

Using the Reach Block Against 2 and 4 Techniques

1. Defender is aligned tighter on offensive lineman.
2. Stretch step is outside defenders outside foot. Stretch step doesnt
have to be as big as against other techniques.
3. Second step is to defenders crotch.
4. Quick third step is out and upfield, with quick replace.
5. Aiming point is outside breast to armpit.
6. Contact fit and drive are the same as against the 3 and 5 techniques.
7. Lineman is squarer to the line of scrimmage.

Tackles Reach Block Versus 7-Technique or 3-Gap Player

The phrase the wider the defender, the deeper the drop will hold true
when blocking a defender aligned in the 7 technique. This means the
defender is wider; therefore, the offensive lineman needs to take a drop
step with his outside foot deeper so that his hips are more opened on
the angle of the defender. The lineman continues to use an aiming point
of the outside breast to armpit. This block usually doesnt end up with
the blocker reaching the defender because of the angle. Once contact is
made and the defender fights outside, the lineman should use the inside
arm and press the defender to the outside.

Using the Reach Block Against 7-Technique or 3-Gap Player

1. Stretch foot opens toward outside foot of 7-technique or gap player.
Foot points out at an angle; head and shoulders are on the same
2. Second step is toward inside foot of 7-technique or gap player.
3. Third step comes hard; the lineman runs the angle. He still uses
4. Helmet placement works defenders middle to outside breast.
5. Lineman works outside arm and leg strong.
Reach Blocks 51

Block Versus Defender on Inside Shoulder

Defenders aligned in the 1 technique and the 4I technique are reach
blocked by the center and guard. The center must be able to reach 1
technique all day. This should be practiced year-round. Every time the
shotgun is snapped, the center should work on reach blocking a man
aligned in a 1 technique. The center has to take a deep drop and aim his
helmet to the far shoulder of the 1-technique defender. The key for this
block is to sprint and overplay the block. The lineman then makes contact
with his helmet and uses his outside arm to gain control. Once contact
is made, the lineman sprints with his hips headed to the sidelines until
he gains control; at that point, the defender is hooked.
When the guard is reach blocking a 4I-technique player on the tackle,
he will have help from the tackle 100 percent of the time. This will make
his reach block not as drastic as the centers block. The guard should
deepen his first step on the stretch and aim for the outside breast to
armpit, then help knock the tackle off the block. Once contact is made, the
guard should work hard for position on the block and work the outside
arm and leg strong.

Drilling the Reach Block

I picked up a great teaching fundamental from a high school coach who
grew tired of telling his players to move up or move back while they
were trying to drill. To cure this problem, the coach had the center align
over the football; the coach then marked the spot in front of the football
where the defensive lineman could place his hand as close to the ball
as possible. Next, the coach marked the spot where the offensive line
should align on the center. When I do this, I mark the spot so that the
guards hand will align on the centers shoelaces. I mark this spot where
the guards hand is placed. This designates the offensive linedefensive
line relationship for all drills worked on throughout the practice.
For most college players, the distance between these placements on
the line of scrimmage and the blockers down hand is 28 to 32 inches. I
would mark the spot at 30 inches. I now have lines painted on the football
field that are 30 inches apart for our drills.
52 Complete Offensive Line

This is the best concept I have learned in coaching. All players can
drill with the same relationship they will use in a game. Marking these
spots also provides these benefits:
The guards and tackles can drill without the center.
Defensive players can line up where needed with their hands on
the line. The coach doesnt have to spend the whole day moving
players up and back.
All drills may be performed off these lines: all reach, cutoff, and
down blocks; all zone and gap blocking schemes; and all pass blitz

Stretch Step
Players should learn the stretch step from behind a line. It can be a line on
the football field or a line on the side of a basketball court. Players should
place their toes behind the line but as close to the line as possible. All five
of the offensive linemen are on the line. Each player does the following:
1. The player thinks about shifting his mental weight so that he can
2. The player executes one stretch step to the right and one to the left
(figure 4.7). He takes one step only.

Figure 4.7 Stretch step drill: (a) stretch step to the right; (b) stretch step to the left.
3. The player works on an inside zone step first.
4. The player executes the stretch step. He should never cross over
his feet on inside zone.
5. The player works on firing his guns with tight elbows.
The players come off the ball and sprint 5 yards. They do this repeat-
edly until the coach believes they have mastered the technique. They
then flip it over and come back with the opposite foot. I do first group,
second group, then third group. I change the snap count with each group.
A coach must work at this. The coach needs to be sharp and know what
he is doing, giving each group a different count.

Stretch on Wide Zone

Next, players work on the stretch step on the outside stretch play. Each
lineman should pretend that he has a wide player on his right shoulder
going right.
1. The lineman executes a stretch step right. Emphasize putting the
head and shoulders out over the lead step. This step needs to open
wide, with toes pointed out toward the wide defender.
2. The lineman gets the second step down quickly.
3. The lineman maintains tight elbows. He should pump the elbows
in a normal run motion.
4. The lineman runs the angle for 5 yards.
5. The lineman repeats the process of stretching right and then comes
back with the left foot. Players should do this until the coach believes
that they know what they are doing.

Learning Fit for the Reach Block
First, the lineman is fitted into the defender:
Linemans helmet to the defenders outside breast
Linemans outside hand into the defenders armpit
Linemans inside hand on the defenders inside number
Linemans left foot at the defenders crotch
Linemans right foot outside the defender and slightly upfield
At the coachs go command, the lineman makes the defender move
to the outside and executes the best block possible. The lineman should
work the outside arm and leg strong. The inside hand is used to guide
with slight pressure. The lineman works to stay square to the line of scrim-
mage. He runs his angle of departure.

Step to Fit
The lineman goes back to the approach. He executes a stretch step right
and gets his second and third steps down quickly. He practices contact
and fit. The lineman makes three-point contact on the defender. He hits
through the fit and stops.

Execute the Reach Block

For this drill, the linemen put all phases of the reach block together.
They come out of their stance and block the defender using the correct
techniquesapproach, contact to fit, drive, and finishfor executing the
reach block. The offensive linemen should do two or three of these every
day in practice during individual period.
The right guard and right tackle go first. The center drills alone. Finally,
the left guard and left tackle perform the drill. Linemen should practice
the drive, reach, and cutoff blocks every day. For the first repetition of this
drill, I have all of the linemen in a down stance. For the second repetition,
the tackle is up in a two-point stance similar to when he is uncovered
without a tight end.

Reach Blocks 55

The tackle uses the same techniques in a two-point stance as he does

in a three-point stance. He should focus on staying down low, especially
with the shoulders, when in a two-point stance. From the two-point stance,
the tackles footwork is exactly the same as it is from a three-point stance.
In this drill, when the tackle is blocking out of the two-point stance, the
defensive end should widen his alignment on the tackle. On the second
repetition, I also have the 3-technique defender widen his alignment on
the guard.

The reach block is a very important block in offensive line play and in
any type of scheme, including zone blocking, man blocking, or sweep
player on the wing. For the T blocking scheme, the reach block is a vital
part of the teams strategy.
There are no magic drills for teaching all these blocks. Remember,
players should perform drive, reach, and cutoff blocks every day. When
I think that players are not progressing at practice, or not executing well,
I have the players do nothing but practice the drive, reach, and cutoff
blocks for the entire individual period. This helps the players perfect the
reach block as well as other blocks.
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Cutoff Blocks
The cutoff block is the most important block used by the offen-
sive line. When well executed, the cutoff block will cut off the backside
of the defense and create giant seams in the defense. In the zone block-
ing scheme, the point of attack on a run play can be anywhere across
the offensive line. Long runs on the zone or stretch play are the result of
the cutoff blocks on the backside that created these runs. When a coach
is grading the plays, all players on the front side of a zone run should
get a plus on the grade. The backside cutoff block is the major focus in
the grading system. This will usually determine the success of the play.
The 18-inch cutoff block is used on the backside of the stretch play. For
the 18-inch cutoff block, the aiming point is 18 inches inside the defenders
thigh. This aiming point will change according to the defenders align-
ment. If the offense is running an inside zone play, the lineman should
use a tight cutoff block with an aiming point of the defenders inside
breast to armpit. The 18-inch cutoff block is used on the outside zone play.

The lineman must use the same good stance as with the drive and reach
blocks. He should use a three-point stance with the proper balance. If the
tackle is uncovered, he may be in a two-point stance. The main thing is
that the lineman must be completely balanced so he can move laterally
to make these cutoff blocks. As with the drive and reach blocks, mental
weight is a big factor in the execution of the cutoff block.
The footwork is based on the principle of not stepping too big and
getting off balance. According to the defenders alignment, the offensive

58 Complete Offensive Line

lineman should focus on the target of 18 inches past the defenders thigh.
The first step is a stretch step of 6 to 8 inches (figure 5.1a). The offensive
lineman throws his head and shoulders over the lead foot and knee. The
second step comes down quickly on the angle (figure 5.1b). The third
step needs to stay on the angle with power and force (figure 5.1c). The
linemans arms should be drawn to fire on approach with tight elbows.
Emphasize the inside arm working strong.

Figure 5.1 Cutoff block approach: (a) stretch step; (b) second
step; (c) third step.
Cutoff Blocks 59

The biggest challenge is focusing only on the aiming point 18 inches

past the defenders thigh. The most common mistake made by line-
menfrom professional players to high school playersis looking at the
defender. When this occurs, the linemans helmet will land in the middle
or on the backside of the defender. I describe the technique to players as
shooting birds. You have to lead that bird for him to fly into the shot.
This is the same on 18-inch cutoff blocks.
The offensive lineman should use his depth of alignment off the football
to his advantage. This will result in great angles.

Contact and Fit

If the block works out perfectly, the offensive lineman should clear his
head past the defender. The helmet and outside arm often make first
contact. The lineman must work hard to keep tight elbows so he can get
his inside hand hooked up on the inside breastplate as quickly as pos-
sible (figure 5.2).

Figure 5.2 Cutoff block contact and fit; helmet placement

with inside hand hooked up.

The lineman should not work for a quick hook or try to pin the defender
too fast. He should stay on the angle as long as possible or until he has
complete control of the block. Once control is established, the lineman
works to finish the defender and lose him backside.
60 Complete Offensive Line

Three-point contact is not a big factor in the 18-inch cutoff block. Hands
are more of a factor. Quickness off the football can play a big role in the
cutoff block.
When I coached at Southern Illinois University, I had a split tackle,
Chris Lockwood, who made first-team All-Missouri Valley. He was
successful because of his ability to execute the cutoff block better than
anyone I have ever coached. At that time, the offensive line was flip-
flopped; Chris was on the backside of many plays. He played a big role
in the success of our running game by executing the cutoff block so well.

When in the fit of the block, the lineman should drive the defender on
the angle (figure 5.3). Again, the lineman must not work for a quick hook
once he makes contact. One of the biggest Coach
mistakes a lineman can make is trying to V
hook the defender as soon as he makes
contact. To correct this mistake, I take a
position at an angle and make the blocker Figure 5.3 The coach stands at
work to me as I stand at the proper angle. the proper angle for the offensive
On a quick hook, the defender will lineman to release and sprint
toward the coach. Once he is on
fight across the block. Now the blocker this angle, the lineman will then
is working backside and has lost his make contact with the defender
helmet placement. A lot of holding pen- and E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.3/436111/ke/R1
be in the proper position to
alties come when the lineman is out of make the block.
While driving the defender on the angle, the lineman should execute
the same technique as on the reach block. He should work the inside arm
and leg strong with the back arm in push mode.

Again, the cutoff block is the most important block to execute. Remember,
the team whose offensive line does the best job of executing the cutoff
block will be the team that has the most long runs. Second and third
efforts are a must for successful cutoff blocks.
If the defender runs hard to the play side, the blocker must try to flat-
ten him down the line of scrimmage. The outside hand and arm must
be used to drive the defender hard down inside. The lineman must stay
hooked up, run his feet, and not let the defender come back inside.
Cutoff Blocks 61

18-Inch Cutoff Block Versus 3 and 5 Techniques

(Outside Shade)
In this situation, the offensive lineman 5 3
should aim 18 inches past the defenders
thigh. He should then come off to this
area and execute the technique of the
Figure 5.4 18-inch cutoff block
cutoff block. The lineman needs to work against defenders aligned in 3
the inside arm and leg strong. He must and 5 techniques.
be ready to explode the arms and hands
when contact is about to be made. He should not work for a quick hook
block on the defender. The lineman should runE4928/Trickett/Fig.
the proper angle while
getting a good feel when he tries to pin the defender to the inside.

Using the 18-Inch Cutoff Block Against 3 and 5 Techniques

1. Stretch step doesnt have to be big because the lineman already
has great position on the defender. Step should be over and up,
putting the helmet on course for the 18-inch aiming point.
2. Linemans outside foot is aimed at the defenders inside foot.
3. Helmet placement on the cutoff block overrules all steps and foot
4. Lineman takes quick third step with inside hand working for posi-
tion and strength.
5. Aiming point is 18 inches inside defenders thigh.
6. During contact and fit, lineman works inside arm and leg strong;
lineman runs the hard angle.

18-Inch Cutoff Block Versus 2 and 4 Techniques

(Head-Up Alignment)
When the defender is in a head-up alignment on the lineman, the shoes of
both players will also be aligned. The 18-inch aiming point is now deeper
to the inside because of the alignment of
the defender. The offensive blocker needs V V
to open his first step slightly deeper than
he would against a 3- or 5-technique
defender. Then he can execute the same Figure 5.5 18-inch cutoff block
cutoff block as he did on the 3- or 5-tech- against defenders aligned in 2
nique player. and 4 techniques.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.5/436113/ke/R1
62 Complete Offensive Line

Coaching Point
With the aiming point a foot and a half past the defender, the line-
mans first contact may come with the outside shoulder. The line-
man must work his outside hand insideto the defenders outside
number. He must work hard to get his inside hand on the defenders
breastplate and gain control as quickly as possible.

Using the 18-Inch Cutoff Block Against 2 and 4 Techniques

1. Stretch step goes inside and must be deeper in order to gain the
18-inch helmet placement past the defenders thigh.
2. Second step works hard to the defenders inside foot.
3. Quick third step stays on the angle.
4. Aiming point is 18 inches past the defenders thigh.
5. Defender is tighter on the lineman. The lineman will have to aim
deeper inside.
6. Lineman makes contact, fits, and drives with outside pad. He must
initially work hard to gain control of the defender with the inside arm.

18-Inch Cutoff Block Versus 1 and 4I Techniques

(Inside Shade)
A defender in a 1 technique or 4I technique is aligned deep to the blockers
inside. The linemans first step has to be a drop step, which results in
giving ground to gain even more ground. The offensive lineman must
be sure to throw the shoulders over the knee in order to get the proper
angle to make the block. The lineman V V
needs to explode and run his feet as hard
as possible. This will allow him to stay on
his angle while making up the space cre- Figure 5.6 18-inch cutoff block
ated by the defenders alignment (which against defenders aligned in 1
gives the defender a big advantage). and 4I techniques.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.6/436114/ke/R1
Cutoff Blocks 63

Using the 18-Inch Cutoff Block Against 1 and 4I Techniques

1. Stretch step needs to be inside and deep off the ball. The guard
needs to stretch and sprint through the football.
2. Lineman attempts to get second step to the defenders inside foot
in order to gain the 18-inch helmet placement.
3. Lineman gets third step quickly on the ground; he runs his angle.
4. Aiming point is still 18 inches past defenders thigh.
5. Things will happen much faster with the defender in this alignment.
The wider the man (in this case, inside), the deeper the drop.
6. Lineman makes contact and fit with helmet and outside shoulder
and arm first. He works hard to get the inside arm in control as
quickly as possible.
7. Lineman maintains tight elbows.

Tight Cutoff Versus 3 and 5 Techniques (Outside Shade)

Tight cutoff blocks are just like reach blocks to the outside. The tight
cutoff is simply reversed to the inside. The defender is already blocked
by his alignment on the offensive lineman. The offensive blocker has
the advantage. For the tight cutoff block, V V
the aiming point is the inside breast to
armpit. Basically, against a 3- or 5-tech-
nique defender, all the lineman needs to Figure 5.7 Tight cutoff block
do is perform a short zone step and then against defenders aligned in 3
execute a drive block from his cutoff. and 5 techniques.

Using the Tight Cutoff Block Against 3 and 5 Techniques

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.7/436115/ke/R1

1. First step is slightly in and up; lineman then executes a short zone
2. Second step is a quick step to defenders crotch.
3. Third step is straight ahead like the step on a drive block. Lineman
gets it down on the ground quickly.
4. Lineman still works outside hand in push mode; he works inside
arm and leg strong.
5. Aiming point is inside breast to armpit.
6. Lineman needs to stay square to the line of scrimmage.
64 Complete Offensive Line

Tight Cutoff Versus 2 and 4 Techniques

(Head-Up Alignment)
In this situation, the defender positions himself head up and totally even
with the blocker. The offensive lineman should use a short zone step to the
inside breast and armpit. Once contact
is made, the lineman executes the cutoff
block with the inside arm, hand, and
leg really strong. He should stay square Figure 5.8 Tight cutoff block
to the line of scrimmage and drive the against defenders aligned in 2
defender off the line of scrimmage. and 4 techniques.

Using the Tight Cutoff Block Against 2 and 4 Techniques

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.8/436116/ke/R1
1. Stretch step is to outside of defenders inside foot. First step doesnt
have to be a big step.
2. Second step is to defenders crotch.
3. Quick third step is out and upfield, with quick replace.
4. Aiming point is inside breast to armpit.
5. Defender will be aligned tighter on the offensive lineman.
6. Contact, fit, and drive are the same as against a 3- or 5-technique
7. Lineman needs to stay much more square to the line of scrimmage.

Cutoff Block Versus 1 and 4I Techniques (Inside Shade)

Once again, the defenders alignment is on the inside shoulder toward the
play side when the offense is running the football. This gives the defender
the advantage. The offensive lineman must open the first zone step at a
much deeper angle to put himself at an advantage on the defender. Once
contact is made to the defenders inside V V
breast to armpit, this block will usually
go on a slight angle to the inside. The
lineman must work hard and strong on Figure 5.9 Cutoff block versus 1
his inside arm, hand, and leg. and 4I techniques.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.9/436117/ke/R1
Cutoff Blocks 65

Coaching Point
The wider the defender, the deeper the linemans inside foot will
need to go back. The wider the man, the deeper the drop. With a
cutoff block, wider relates to inside alignment.

Using the Cutoff Block Against 1 and 4I Techniques

1. Stretch step is open toward the defenders inside foot.
2. Second step goes toward the defenders outside foot.
3. Third step must come quickly and hard; the lineman runs the angle.
Just as in a reach block, the lineman counts 1quick23.
4. Helmet placement is at the defenders inside breast to armpit.
5. Lineman needs to work the inside arm and leg strong.

Drilling the Cutoff Block

Not many drills specifically teach the cutoff block. When drilling the
cutoff block and teaching its purpose, coaches should use the reverse
teaching progression. This allows the lineman to learn the fit of the block
first so that he knows how it should feel when he does the block at full
speed. Next, the coach should fit the blocker on the defender and then
let the blocker execute the block from this position.
Reverse Teaching the Cutoff Block
In the reverse teaching progression, the player begins by fitting into the
block and then driving the defender. Next, the blocker goes from his
stance to the fit of the block. Finally, the player executes the cutoff block
from the stance to the finish.
The lineman is first fitted into the defender:
Linemans inside hand to defenders armpit
Linemans helmet past the defender (right shoulder block)
Linemans outside hand on the defenders outside number
Linemans inside leg past the defender
Linemans outside leg just inside the defenders inside leg
At the coachs go command, the defender moves inside to help the
offensive lineman make the best block possible. The lineman works his
inside arm and leg strong. His outside hand is in push and control mode.
The lineman works the hard angle and stays as square to the line of
scrimmage as possible.

Step to the Fit

1. The lineman goes back to the approach. He gets in a good stance,
uses a good inside stretch step, and gets the second and third
steps down quickly.
2. The lineman executes contact and fit. This should be more of an
outside shoulder block.
3. The lineman hits through the fit and stops. It should be a five- or
six-step process.
4. The lineman gets the inside hand in control.

Cutoff Blocks 67

Execute the Cutoff Block

Work with the lines on the ground when drilling the cutoff block. Measure
lines based on alignments off of center (figure 5.10) so that players will
be working the proper distance for the blocksthat is, the distance they
will work in the game. In this drill, the players put together all the phases
of the cutoff block:
1. Stance, start, approach, and lever- V V V V V
age to block (low pads)
2. Contact to fit
Figure 5.10 Line placement for
3. Drive cutoff blocking drill.
4. Finish
First, the right guard and tackle work on cutoff blocks. Then the center
practices reach blocks to the left. Next, the left guard and tackle do cutoff
blocks on their side of the ball. E4928/Trickett/Fig. 5.10/436118/ke/R2-alw
On the second repetition, after the first and second lines execute their
cutoff blocks versus head-up technique, I put the tackles in a two-point
stance. On the second repetition, the defender gets on an inside shade (a
1 technique) for the guard or a shade on the center. The tackle performs
a cutoff block against a defender in a 4I technique. The center executes
a reach block against a 1-technique defender on the guards.

Remember, repetition is the mother of learning. Linemen should perform
drive, reach, and cutoff blocks every day at practice except on the day
before a game. Players must remember to do these blocks every day. Two
reps a day, every day, will be more helpful than four or five reps one day
a week. In the next chapter, well address the down block, which is the
toughest block to learn.
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Down Blocks
The down block is the toughest block that an offensive lineman
must learn. If the defender is a penetrator, the lineman must get his head
in the V of the defenders neck and then execute a drive block to stop
the penetration. If the defender is a reader, the lineman must work more
upfield to make sure the defender doesnt come across the linemans face
and play him over the top. The angle of the down block on the defender
does not allow for a very good aiming point because of the angle or
direction that the lineman comes from.
To counter the various styles of defensive line play, the offensive line-
man needs to learn a very quick read step (basically the stretch step).
First, the lineman needs to read the depth of the defender off the football.
Does the defender play close to the ball with a lot of weight forward? Or
does he play square and off the football, as a read defender? The aiming
point is the V of the defenders neckthat is, the 90-degree area from
the side of the helmet to the shoulder padno matter which style of
play the defender uses. The linemans inside hand works to the inside
frame of the defenders body while working across to the far number.
The linemans inside hand should be in the far armpit or breastplate if
possible. The lineman now needs to try to get his outside hand on the
defenders outside arm. He needs to look at the defender as a cylinder
while splitting the cylinder down the middle.

70 Complete Offensive Line

If the defender is tight to the line of scrimmage, the offensive linemans
first step is a short stretch step with the inside foot, giving ground to
gain the proper angle for his hips. The offensive linemans second step
is inside and up toward the defender so the lineman is square on the
block. The offensive linemans third step puts the lineman in the proper
direction toward the contact point of the block. The offensive linemans
arms should be tight to the body, cocked, and ready to fire on contact.
Now the offensive lineman stays low with his pads and tries to get on
the defender as quickly as possible. When the defender is tight to the
line of scrimmage, the offensive lineman has to be quick and unload his
block as fast as possible.
If the defender is aligned off the football in a square (read) position,
the offensive linemans first step is a short step with his inside foot, but
now he stays very square to the line of scrimmage with his shoulders
square as well. The offensive linemans second step is more upfield as
if he were executing a backside slip block. When the defender tries to
cross the offensive linemans face, the lineman needs to place his face
mask in the V of the defenders neck on the third step. His arms should
be cocked and ready to fire on contact. With the lineman using low pads,
this should end up like a drive block only the offensive linemans helmet
is on the shoulder pad next to the defenders helmet; the linemans out-
side hand is in the defenders outside armpit, and his inside hand is on
the defenders inside breastplate.

Contact and Fit

For the down block, the contact point is from the helmet to the V of the
neck of the defender (figure 6.1a). The offensive linemans inside hand
works hard inside to the defenders far breastplate (figure 6.1b). The
offensive linemans outside hand stays tight inside while the lineman
tries to get it on the defenders outside arm (figure 6.1c). The hand must
be kept off the defenders back to avoid holding calls.

Figure 6.1 Down block fit: (a) contact point of helmet in V of

defenders neck; (b) inside hand works to inside defenders far
breastplate; (c) outside hand gets outside defenders outside arm.

72 Complete Offensive Line

The offensive lineman needs to imagine

the defender as a cylinder. He must try to
stay in the middle of the cylinder (figure
6.2). The lineman should keep himself
square on the block; he must not lean
inside and get off balance, because this
would allow the defender to beat him.
The lineman should stay square on
the block as much as possible, working
hard to keep his outside arm strong
on the block. If the lineman loses the
defender, he wants to lose him to the
inside of the block.
Figure 6.2 On the down block,
the offensive lineman stays to the
middle of the cylinder.

The offensive lineman should get square on the block. If he catches the
defender off balance, movement should be easier. The lineman must
now move his feet and block the defender on the angle. If the defender
plays tough into the lineman and is holding his ground, the lineman
must remember that the play is going outside of him. He should keep
pressure on the block and hold his ground.
The main concern is stopping the penetration of the defender. The key
to doing this is getting the second and third steps down into the ground
as quickly as possible. The lineman must continue to drive his feet after
contact is made. He must drive through the defender and keep pressure
on the defender at all times.
The lineman should work his outside arm strong to pin the defender
to the inside. He must not allow the defender to spin outside.
Down Blocks 73

The finish is the basic drive block with a great base. The offensive line-
man should keep consistent pressure on the defender until the whistle
blows. The lineman must keep his feet moving. He should be ready for
the defender to try to use a rip or club technique to get out of the block.
Now it comes down to who wants it the most.
A lot of defensive linemen are taught to spin out of the block and then
try to come over the top of the offensive lineman. If this happens, the
offensive lineman must use his hips and work them upfield so he can
run with the defender.

Down Block Versus a Penetrating Defender

How fast can the block be made? The faster the penetration is attacked,
the better the block. Against a penetrating defender (figure 6.3), the line-
man needs to get the second step down quickly. He keeps a flat back
and drives his helmet to the V of the defenders neck. He should keep
his eyes on the aiming point of the V of
the neck. The lineman brings his arms in
a powerful punch mode. He maintains
tight elbows when coming out of his
stance. Once he is into the fit of the block, Figure 6.3 Down block versus
he is essentially executing a drive block. a penetrating defender.

Fit for the Down Block on a Penetrating Defender

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 6.3/437940/ke/R1
1. The lineman gets into the fit position on the defender; the linemans
head is in the V of the defenders neck.
2. The lineman puts his inside hand on the defenders inside
3. The lineman puts his outside hand on the defenders outside arm.
4. The lineman puts his hip on an angle to the middle of the cylinder.
5. The lineman executes the down block on the snap count command.
6. The lineman moves his feet and works outside arm pressure strong.
He works his hips upfield.
74 Complete Offensive Line

Hit Through the Fit on a Penetrating Defender

1. The lineman takes a stretch step of 6 to 8 inches (read step).
2. The lineman gets the second step down quickly.
3. The lineman hits with his helmet to the V of the defenders neck.
4. The lineman maintains tight elbows. He fires his guns to the
defenders inside breastplate and outside arm.
5. The lineman executes the down block and hits through the defender
for two or three steps past contact.
6. The lineman stops and sits in the fit position.
Coaching Points
The lineman must stay low, stay low, stay low, and move his feet!

Execute the Down Block on a Penetrating Defender

1. The lineman executes all of the steps for a good down block and
blocks the defender on the angle.
2. After contact, the lineman drives the defender for 4 to 6 seconds.

Down Block Versus a Read Defender

When blocking on a read defender, the linemans first step is the same
except it is more parallel to the line of scrimmage. When the defender
plays across the linemans face, the lineman should redirect the second
step upfield as on a drive block. The lineman should still place his head
to the V of the defenders neck and work hard to get his outside arm
strong to help block or pin the defender to the inside.
When a lineman is using a reverse blocking technique against a read
defender, all the steps are exactly the same as for the block against a
penetrating defender. The only difference on the fit is that the blocker
will be squarer to the line of scrimmage. The lineman should get in the fit
Down Blocks 75

position with his head in the V of the defenders neck. He should work
all the steps discussed in the section on the fit. He needs to work hardest
on making the outside arm strong and working the hips upfield much
quicker. He should hit through the fit on the read defender. The lineman
takes a stretch step (read step) of 6 to 8 inches. The second step is upfield,
like the step on a drive block. The lineman hits his helmet to the V of the
defenders neck. Maintaining tight elbows, the lineman fires his guns
to the defenders inside breastplate and outside arm. After contact, the
lineman blocks the defender for 4 to 6 seconds. He works hard to pin
the defender inside. The lineman executes the down block, working his
outside arm and leg strong. He sits in the fit. The lineman should execute
all the coaching points and block the defender on the angle.

Down Block Versus a Defender Off the Ball

When the defender is off the ball on a down block, the lineman should
take his read step but slow down. The block should be different than
when attacking a penetrating defender. The lineman should slow down
and read the defender. This allows time to redirect and perform the block.

Drilling the Down Block

Players can learn the down block just like the reach or cutoff block,
working off two lines. Drill the block off the lines on the field. Players
should first practice the block with the defender penetrating the line of
scrimmage. When preparing for a team whose defensive line uses both
the penetrating and reading techniques, players can work on blocking
the penetrator one day and the read technique the next day.
Hit Through the Fit
1. The lineman takes a 6- to 8-inch stretch step with his inside foot
and opens his hips toward the defender.
2. The lineman gets his second step down quickly.
3. The lineman keeps his eyes on the target. He puts his helmet to
the V of the defenders neck.
4. The lineman stays low with tight elbows.
5. The lineman explodes his arms to the defenders inside number
and outside arm.
6. The lineman executes the down block on the angle.
7. The lineman moves his feet and works on applying pressure with
his outside hand and arm. He works his hips upfield.
Drill with two read defenders to one penetrating defender. The center
needs to get double reps on this block because he is the only lineman
who has to execute this block to both sides.

Teaching the Block Using the Reverse

Blocking Progression
1. Place five boards on the ground at a
45-degree angle. Place three of the
boards facing inside, simulating the
center, guard, and tackle. The other Figure 6.4 Setup for the re-
two boards face the opposite way verse blocking progression.
(figure 6.4).
2. The lineman takes the proper steps and blocks the defender down
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 6.4/437941/ke/R2-alw
the boards. The center and either the right guard or right tackle will
work together. This will allow the other guard and tackle to block
down on their side.
3. The coach can place a bag holder on the board. When the player
makes contact, he will get resistance while going down the board.
He should work the outside arm and leg strong.

Down Blocks 77

Reverse Body Block

The last down block that can be used is the reverse body block.
1. The lineman takes a wide, open step to open his hips.
2. The lineman throws his head and arms in front of the defender to
stop penetration, and he gets a quick second step down.
3. With high hips, the lineman works his butt upfield to the outside.
He stays on both hands and both feet.
4. The lineman executes a four-point crab walk. He keeps pressure
on the defender with his hips. The lineman should feel the defender
in his rib area when pressure is applied.

The down block is one of the toughest blocks to master. For all but wing-T
teams, it is also one of the least used blocks. The approach, contact, fit,
drive, and finish are each important to the success of the down block.
Keeping the eyes on the target and using the aiming point of the V of
the neck will aid the lineman in making the block.
The next chapter covers combination blocks. Combination blocks
involve two linemen working together to block a defender on level 1
while working up to the defender on level 2.
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Combination blocks are blocking schemes in which two or
more linemen work together on a level-1 defender before one of the
linemen works off to a defender on level 1, 2, or 3. For example, when
the guard and center are working play side, the term for their combina-
tion is Jack. Queen is used for the guardtackle combination. King is the
tackletight end combination. Another termeither you or readis added
to describe the combination used to block the defender.
Combination blocks require a lot of repetition and practice because
of the timing it takes for two linemen to work together. Combo blocks
involve a post man, who is the covered lineman, and a drive man, who
is the uncovered lineman. It takes a lot of practice for players to know
how much of the defender each lineman should cover when executing
the block.

80 Complete Offensive Line

CenterGuard (Jack) Combination Blocks

The centerguard combo blocks in the zone blocking scheme are Jack You
and Jack Read. These calls specify who will block the declared linebacker.

Jack You Call

On the Jack You block, the guard has to use his outside footwork with a
short stretch step. The second step, made with the inside foot, should be in
the middle of the level-1 defender. This places the guard on the outside half
of the defender (figure 7.1). By this time, the center should be there to help.
Once the center is working with the guard, the guard keeps a wide base
and keeps driving his feet. The guard does not come off the block until the
linebacker gets almost even with him. Once
the guard comes off on the linebacker, the V V V V LB
guard gets in the middle of the linebacker
and executes a drive block. The guard fin-
ishes the linebacker until the whistle blows. Figure 7.1 Jack You call.

Jack: centerguard combination block

You: The center tells the guard, You go get the linebacker.
On the combo Jack block, the center should E4928/Trickett/Fig.
snap the football while
taking a deeper drop step to the blocking side. This will open his hips
on the proper angle. The center should work on driving his helmet to
the middle of the level-1 defender and become the drive man. The center
should use both hands and the helmet on contact and should then move
the defender on an angle of about 45 degrees. When the center feels the
guard come off to block the linebacker, the center should have the level-1
defender covered and should keep blocking until the whistle blows.

Jack Read Call

For the Jack Read call (figure 7.2), the guard should use the same foot-
work and technique that he used on the Jack You call. On this block, the
center needs to work square to the line of scrimmage while working
the inside half of the defender. Both the guard and center have to stay
on the defender until the linebacker declares one side or the other. The
general rule is that a lineman should not come off onto the linebacker
until he can read both jersey numbers on
the linebacker. Once the lineman comes off V V V V LB
to block the linebacker, the lineman should
get into the middle of the linebacker and
block until the whistle. Figure 7.2 Jack Read call.

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Combination Blocks 81

Jack: centerguard combination block

Read: The center tells the guard, We combo together, and when the
linebacker commits, one of us comes off.
A Jack Me call may also be used, but technically it isnt a combo block.
For the Jack Me call, the center tells the guard that the center will go get
the linebacker. The guard blocks the defensive lineman.
This system works the same down the line with the guardtackle
(Queen) and tackletight end (King) combination blocks.

GuardTackle (Queen) Combination Blocks

The combination block between the guard and the tackle works to the
linebacker who is lined up outside the guard.

Queen You Call

For the Queen You call (figure 7.3), the tackle should be the post man using
outside footwork, the same as the guard did to block the 1-technique
defender on the Jack You call. The tackle takes a short stretch step with
the outside foot. The second step is down the middle of the defender
and upfield. This will put the tackle a half a man on the defender; the
tackles inside half covers up the defender. The tackle should continue
to keep a wide base and drive off the line of scrimmage until the line-
backer comes up and forces the tackle to come off the block. The tackle
now takes the linebacker down the middle, executes a drive block, and
finishes until the whistle blows.
The guard will be more even on this block than the center was on his
block because of the alignments on the line of scrimmage. (The center
is moved up in front of the rest of the offensive line.) The guard should
take a short stretch step, open his hips
toward the defender, and with helmet and LB LB
hands, drive the middle of the defender on LB V V V LB

a 45-degree angle, taking over the block.

The guard finishes the block until the
Figure 7.3 Queen You call.
whistle blows.
Queen: guardtackle combination block
You: The guard tells the tackle, You go get the linebacker.
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82 Complete Offensive Line

Queen Read Call

Queen Read (figure 7.4) is exactly like Jack Read except the guard is even
with the tackle. This should be much easier for the guard to execute than
it was for the center. The guard should use outside footwork to cover up
the defender. He blocks the level-1 defender off the ball until the line-
backer shows one side or the other. The lineman does not come off on
the linebacker until both linemen can read LB LB
the linebackers jersey numbers. Whoever V V V V
comes off (either the tackle or the guard)
blocks the linebacker down the middle with
a drive block and finishes until the whistle. Figure 7.4 Queen Read call.

Queen: guardtackle combination block

Read: The guard tells the tackle, We will combo the linebacker
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The Queen Me call is not technically a combination block. For the
Queen Me call, the guard tells the tackle that the guard will get the line-
backer. The tackle blocks the level-1 defender.

TackleTight End (King) Combination Blocks

The tackle and tight end work together on the King You and King Read calls.

King You Call

For King You (figure 7.5), the tight end uses outside footwork just like the
tackle and guard in the Jack and Queen You calls. The tight end covers
the defender with his inside half. He keeps a wide base and drives the
defender off the line of scrimmage with the tackles help. Once he can
read the linebackers jersey numbers, the tight end is ready to come off
the combo block and execute a drive block down the middle of the line-
backer until the whistle blows.
The tackle should take a good stretch step with depth in order to get on
a 45-degree angle to block the defender. He should take the block over so
the tight end can come off the combo block
and block the linebacker. The tackle should V V V V
use outside footwork. The aiming points are
the same as the guards and tackles aiming
points on Jack and Queen You blocks. Figure 7.5 King You call.

King: tackletight end combination block

You: The tackle tells the tight end, You go get the linebacker.

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Combination Blocks 83

King Read Call

Most of the time, King Read (figure 7.6) is a combo block used when the
linebacker is lined up inside the tight end. The tight end should use out-
side footwork just like the guard and tackle in the Jack and Queen combos.
The tackle uses outside footwork as well, but he covers the defender with
his outside half, while the tight end covers the defender with his inside
half. Both should make contact at the same time and drive the defender
off the line of scrimmage. If the linebacker works over the top to the
outside, the tackle needs to take over the block as the tight end comes
off and executes a drive block on the linebacker until the whistle blows.
The biggest mistake is when the tight end comes off too early and leaves
the tackle stranded. The tight end must not come off until he can read
both numbers on the linebackers jersey. LB M LB
The tackle should see the linebacker work V V V V
outside, snap his head across to the middle
of the defender, and then block him down
the middle. Figure 7.6 King Read call.

King: tackletight end combination block

Read: The tackle tells the tight end, We will combo the linebacker
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The King Me call isnt technically a combination block. For the King
Me call, the tackle tells the tight end that the tackle will get the linebacker.
The tight end blocks the defensive lineman.

Gap Schemes
All of these calls (Jack, Queen, and King) are used on the inside zone,
stretch, and option plays when running. The techniques are different, but
the called assignments stay the same. If the offense is using gap schemes,
such as the power play or counter play, the same system of calls is in
effect. Although different techniques and different footwork may be used
on gap plays, the theory of the system remains the same regarding the
play-side combinations.
Lets look at the blocking combinations used on the gap scheme.
84 Complete Offensive Line

Jack Back
Jack Back (figure 7.7) is a double team between the center and the play-
side guard that blocks the nose guard to the backside linebacker.
The center is the post man on this block. His help comes from the right
guard, so the center should use left footwork on his drive block. The
centers job is to get the nose guard up and to be right down the middle
of him. The play-side guard is the drive man. Using his inside foot, the
guard steps inside and up, gaining ground on his first step. Staying low,
he reads the play-side hip of the nose guard and drives his near shoul-
der pad through the defenders hip; the guard blocks the nose guard
backside and then works up to the linebacker if the nose guard slants to
the backside. If the nose guard slants to the guard, the center and guard
combo block. If both have to stay on the nose guard and no one gets off
on the linebacker, and if the guard has good control of the nose guard,
the center will work up and block the linebacker.
Jack: centerguard combination block
Back: The center tells the guard to
double off to the backside linebacker.
Figure 7.7 Jack Back call.

Coaching Point
Sometimes when the guard blocks the nose guard over really well,
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the linebacker will run over the top. In this case, the guard needs
to snap off and block the linebacker in the direction he wants to go.
The running back can still cut off this block.

Queen Back
The Queen Back (figure 7.8) double team is between the play-side guard
and tackle, and it goes to the backside linebacker. In this case, the guard
usually has a 3-technique defender lined up on him.
The guard uses inside footwork, taking a short stretch step with his
inside foot. If the 3-technique defender pinches, this will allow a great
block to the inside. After the short stretch step, the guard moves his
outside foot down the middle of the defender and covers the defender
with his outside half.
Combination Blocks 85

Coaching Point
On this block, the players should use the same technique and foot-
work used on a power step. The defender shouldnt know if he is
getting double-teamed or slip blocked.

Now the guard posts the 3-technique defender for the tackle to drive off
the line of scrimmage. The only time the guard should come off on the line-
backer is if the linebacker fires into the A gap and comes through the inside
of the guard. If the guard and tackle block the defender so far off the line,
the guard should be the one to come off on the linebacker. The tackle should
take a short stretch step with his inside foot and try to stay as square as pos-
sible to the line of scrimmage while blocking the outside hip of the defender.
The linemen want to displace the 3-technique defender first, then worry
about the linebacker. Once contact is made, the guards outside hip and the
tackles inside hip should work together. The LB LB
linemen should stay square and generate the V V V V
most power possible. If the guard and tackle
are both used on the 3-technique player and
do not block the linebacker, this is okay. Figure 7.8 Queen Back call.

Queen: guardtackle combination block

Back: The guard tells the tackle to double off to the backside
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King Back
For the King Back (figure 7.9), the tackle and tight end double the 5-technique
tackle back to the backside linebacker. The tackle should use the same coach-
ing points just discussed for the guard on the Queen Back, and the tight end
should do the same as the tackle. Footwork, technique, and aiming points
are all the same. The major difference in the King Back scheme is that the
tackle is usually the main blocker who comes off on the backside linebacker
once the tight end makes contact. The tight end needs to get his helmet to
the middle of the 5-technique player and LB LB
take over the block. The tight end uses inside V V V V LB
footwork, drives his helmet and hands to
the middle of the defender, and drives the
defender on the angle, usually on the inside. Figure 7.9 King Back call.

King: tackletight end combination block

Back: The tackle tells the tight end to double off to the backside
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86 Complete Offensive Line

Jack Mike
The Jack Mike block (figure 7.10) may end up in a double team. It could
also end up with the center single blocking the nose guard and the guard
staying square while working up to the Mike linebacker.

Coaching Point
The guard should learn that the A gap between him and the center
is a canal. The guard needs to take a T-board step to the inside, stay
square, and go down the canal to the Mike linebacker.

If the Mike linebacker runs over, the guard should turn and block the
Mike to the outside. M
Jack: centerguard combination block
Mike: The center tells the guard to
double to the Mike linebacker. Figure 7.10 Jack Mike call.

Queen Mike
For the Queen Mike (figure 7.11), the guard uses the same technique he
used on the power slip with inside footwork. When double-teaming to
the Mike linebacker, the guard should takeE4928/Trickett/Fig.
more of the down 7.10/436152/ke/R2-alw
the tackle can knock the defensive lineman over to the guard, allowing
the tackle to get up on the linebacker.
If the Mike linebacker runs under the M S
guard into the A gap, then the guard V V
comes off on the linebacker, and the tackle
stays on the defensive lineman. The guard
and tackle must keep four eyes on the Figure 7.11 Queen Mike call.
Queen: guardtackle combination block
Mike: The guard tells the tackle to double off to the Mike linebacker.
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King Mike
For the King Mike (figure 7.12), the tackle comes off the double team
only if the Mike linebacker comes through the B gap. The tackle uses
inside footwork and his power slip techniques. The tackle needs to take
as much of the defensive lineman as possible. The tight end should knock
the defensive tackle to the tackle and work up for the middle linebacker.
Combination Blocks 87

King: tackletight end combination LB

block V V V LB

Mike: The tackle tells the tight end to

double off to the Mike linebacker. Figure 7.12 King Mike call.

Learning Combination Blocks

Offensive linemen can learn the various combination blocks
E4928/Trickett/Fig. by starting
with the inside zone play versus a 1-technique defender.

Inside Zone CenterGuard Combinations: 1 and 2 Techniques

The offensive linemen should start learning this blocking combination
by working against just a defensive lineman and no linebacker (figure
7.13). The linemen need to understand how
important it is to take care of level 1.
More often than not, players want to go to
level 2 too fast. This results in short yardage
Figure 7.13 The 1-technique
or loss of yardage. If the offense takes care defender is double-teamed by
of level 1, they will always gain yardage. the center and guard; the two
The guards are really deep off the foot- offensive linemen learn to stay
ball. For the timing of this combination on the double team.
block to be effective, the guard must come E4928/Trickett/Fig. 7.13/436155/ke/R1
off the football hard. The guards footwork is outside foot over and up as on
the step for a drive block. He should get the second step down as quickly
as possible and be ready to make contact with the inside foot and inside
shoulder. The guard may use his forearms or his hands to deliver the blow.

Coaching Point
The phrase same foot, same shoulder applies to these combination
blocks. A lineman never wants to hit one shoulder and opposite foot
on any block. He should always hit same foot, same shoulder. This
delivers power and thrust through the defender.

The center should snap the football and take a stretch step to get started
on his proper angle. The wider the defender, the deeper the drop. The
center may use a forearm flipper or his hands on contact. I prefer that
players use the hands. The offensive lineman should feel the defender
and try to gain some control by using his hands. Sometimes using the
88 Complete Offensive Line

forearm provides very little control. The centers aiming point is the
defenders near number.
When the guard is covered, it is his job to get leverage and post the
defender. The uncovered mans job is to get movement and push the
defender back to level 2. After a few days of working on blocking the
level-1 defender, add the linebacker into the drill.
On the double team, a big problem occurs when one of the blockers
comes off too early to block the linebacker. I coach four hands on the
defender, four eyes on the linebacker. When the blocker can read both
of the linebackers numbers, that means LB
the linebacker is committed to the play V
side, so the blocker needs to come off the
down block (figure 7.14). I have one stan-
Figure 7.14 Linebacker com-
dard rule: If there is any doubt, the blocker mitted to the play side. When
should not come off and should stay on the the blocker can read both num-
level-1 double team. bers on the linebackers jersey,
The principles for all covered linemen its time to come off and block
are the same: the linebacker.
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Bring the outside foot over and up (short stretch).
Use the inside foot and inside shoulder.
Get the step down quickly.
Maintain your base.
Aim at the defenders outside breast.
Drive the defender with two hands on the defender and two eyes
on the linebacker.
If the linebacker commits outside, take him; if not, stay on the
down lineman.
Uncovered linemen follow these principles:
Take a stretch step with the play-side foot.
Get the second step down quickly.
Never cross over the feet.
Keep your base.
Take the third step when contact is made with the play-side foot
and play-side shoulder.
Aim at the defenders inside breast.
If the linebacker goes outside, work your head across and take
over the down lineman.
Combination Blocks 89

The uncovered mans steps should be one, quick, two, three with
contact on the third step. A 1 and 2 technique are treated the same. With
a 2, 4, or 6 head-up technique, the lineman should expect movement. In
these situations, we call Jack, Queen, King, You. If the head-up defender
steps out, it goes to Jack, Queen, King, Me.
Once the offensive lineman comes off to the linebacker, each of these
situations may be different depending on how the linebacker decides to
play. If the linebacker attacks the line of scrimmage, the lineman should
try to get his head across to the defenders far numberor at least to
his near numberand execute a drive block. The lineman should move
his feet and try to move the defender wherever he can. If the linebacker
sits, the lineman should come off and hit him square down the middle,
then perform the perfect drive block.

Inside Zone Versus 3, 5, and 9 Techniques

When an offensive lineman has the outside shades, success comes down
to base blocking unless the lineman gets movement when the defender
slants or angles inside.
All covered linemen follow these principles:
Take a stretch step.
Execute a tight reach block.
Aim at the defenders outside breast to armpit.
Block on the angle.
Uncovered linemen follow these principles:
Take a stretch step (inside zone) and never cross over your feet.
Block the linebacker from outside breast to armpit, moving the
linebacker down the middle.
Always expect a spike by the defender aligned in a 3, 5, or 9

Backside Combination Blocks, Inside Zone

Backside blocking combinations are based on the same principles as the
front side. On the backside, a buzzword is used for the center and back-
side guard working together. Buzzwords are also used for the backside
guard and tackle and the backside tackle and tight end.
For example, the buzzword Scoop may be used for the center and
backside guard; that is a very standard call. Slip could refer to the guard
and tackle, and Slide to the tackle and tight end.
90 Complete Offensive Line

For a zone blocking run scheme, the center and backside guard combo
block the defender to the backside linebacker (figure 7.15). The center
uses play-side footwork and gets his backside half on the nose guard
to lift him from the backside guard. The backside guard takes a zone
step to the play side; he blocks the defender with his helmet to the far
number using the right-arm strong technique and then takes over the
defender. This is the Scoop Back blocking scheme to get the nose guard
and backside linebacker blocked.
The center should zone up to block the backside linebacker with his
helmet on the play-side number. He must not look at the linebacker or
his helmet will go backside on the block every time! The center leads
the linebacker a couple yards and then blocks him. He stays square to
the line of scrimmage.
Scoop: centerbackside guard combi- LB
nation block
Back: The center tells the guard that
the center is going for the backside Figure 7.15 Scoop Back call.
For a Scoop You call (figure 7.16), the You call tells the backside guard
to zone up and block the linebacker. The center will execute a reach block
on the nose guard. E4928/Trickett/Fig. 7.15/436158/ke/R2-alw
Scoop: centerbackside guard combi- V
nation block
You: The center tells the backside be ready!
guard, You go get the backside
linebacker. Figure 7.16 Scoop You call.

On the power slip block between the backside guard and tackle (figure
7.17), the guard uses inside footwork and lifts the defender with the out-
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 7.16/436159/ke/R2-alw
side half of his body. The backside tackle uses a stretch step and aims for
the far numbers of the defender with a strong-arm technique (play-side
arm); he then takes over the defender. The guard should work up and
block the backside linebacker on his play-side number.
Slip: backside guardtackle combina- LB
tion block
Me: The guard tells the tackle that the
guard will get the linebacker. Figure 7.17 Slip Me call.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 7.17/436160/ke/R1
Combination Blocks 91

The Slip You call (figure 7.18) tells the tackle to zone up and block the
backside linebacker on his play-side number. The guard uses an 18-inch
cutoff technique on the 1-technique defender. The Slip You is a block in
which the backside tackle and tight end combo off the defensive lineman
up to the backside linebacker. The tackle uses inside footwork and, as
with the center and guard, lifts the defender for the tight end with the
outside half of his body. The tight end steps inside with a zone step and
works for the far number of the defender, using a strong inside arm to
overtake the defender.
Slip: backside guardtackle combina- V
tion block
You: The backside guard tells the
tackle to go get the linebacker. Figure 7.18 Slip You call.

The Slide Me call (figure 7.19) tells the tight end that the backside
tackle will go block the backside linebacker. The tight end then blocks
the defensive lineman.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 7.18/436161/ke/R2-alw
Slide: backside tackletight end com- SS
bination block
Me: The backside tackle tells the tight
end, I will go get the linebacker. Figure 7.19 Slide Me call.

The Slide You call (figure 7.20) tells the

tight end to go block the backside linebacker on his play-side number.
The tackle uses an 18-inch cutoff block on the defensive lineman.
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Slide: backside tackletight end com- V LB
bination block
You: The backside tackle tells the tight
end to go get the linebacker. Figure 7.20 Slide You call.

Blocking With an Outside Head-Up Technique

For the inside zone play, the covered lineman will use more of a power
combination block with the uncovered lineman. This means they block
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more of the defender, trying to get at least one-half to three-quarters of
the defender covered up on the post.
92 Complete Offensive Line

The covered lineman uses these techniques:

Take a stretch step with the play-side foot.
Do not cross over your feet.
Make contact with the outside shoulder and leg (same foot, same
Block the inside half of the defender.
Get leverage and stay square.
Keep two eyes on the linebacker.
Do not let your inside (play-side) hand get involved in the block.
Stay on the down lineman until the linebacker takes you off the
block and you can read both of the linebackers numbers.
The uncovered lineman uses these techniques:
Take a stretch step with the play-side foot; give a little ground to
get a good angle on the defender.
Aim your second step at a point behind the defenders outside foot.
Work to take the defender over at the aiming point of his inside
Stay low and work for inside hand leverage.
Work your angle to the line of scrimmage and stay as square as

Coaching Point
Any time the guard is covered and the backside tackle is uncovered,
no matter the technique of the defenders, the backside tackle works
with the guard to block the defender up to the linebacker. This goes
back to covered, uncovered principles of who each lineman works
with in zone blocking.

Blocking With an Inside Technique

Away From an Uncovered Lineman
In this situation, we still have zone blocking principles in place, taking
the zone steps to the play side. When the techniques are away, like on an
inside shade, the offensive linemen basically end up with man blocking.
Combination Blocks 93

The guard blocks man to man on the 1-technique defender, using an

18-inch cutoff block. The backside tackle uses a zone step and then goes
up to block man to man on the linebacker.
The covered linemen follow these principles:
Execute a cutoff block to the play side.
Work to get square to the line of scrimmage.
The uncovered linemen follow these principles:
Take a stretch step (inside zone) and never cross over your feet.
Block the linebackers inside breast to armpit; if the linebacker is
moving, block him and then adjust and block down the middle or
backside number.
Always expect a spike by the inside-shaded defender.

This chapter covered all of the calls play side and backside on zone and
gap blocking combinations. For combo blocks, a lineman must know
who he works with and the techniques required. For successful zone
blocking, players must know the post man and drive man on double
teams, as well as who is covered and uncovered. This information will
be beneficial in understanding chapter 8, which covers the stretch play
and outside zone blocking scheme.
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Stretch Plays
The stretch plays covered in this chapter will explain all the dif-
ferent defensive fronts you will be asked to block. We will explain the
1-2 reads on each front that you block, that the running back should be
reading as he runs the football. All blocks, such as the read, cutoff, and
slips, will be covered in length.

Stretch Plays to the Tight-End Side

The stretch play using an outside zone blocking scheme is my number
one running play, and this blocking scheme may also be used on numer-
ous other running plays. The option play can be run to the tight-end side
and split side. Both use stretch zone blocking. The only difference is that
the offense does not block the end man on the line of scrimmage. The
option game will be covered in chapter 10. The speed sweep, toss sweep,
and base stretch play use the outside zone scheme.
The guards should maintain base splits at a foot and a half. The tack-
les and tight ends should use a tight two-foot split so the inside blocker
does not get hung out to dry. The tackles and tight ends must learn not
to oversplit; if they oversplit and a three-man game call is made, the
lineman in the middle is really in trouble.
Obviously, the goal of the stretch play is to get the football to the out-
side of the defense. The more the defense is stretched, the more seams
will likely be created. The goal is to get the front side of the defense
moving hard laterally while the backside offensive linemen make great
cutoff blocks on the backside. This will separate the defense, opening
the desired seams.

96 Complete Offensive Line

Coaching Point
For the stretch play, the running backs and linemen must be on the
same page. The running backs coach and offensive line coach have
to speak the same language. Sometimes egos get involved, so I
prefer to have the offensive line coach put in the play and coach all
positions on the running of the play. This way, the running backs, tight
ends, wide receivers, and offensive line are totally on the same page.

In this section, we look at stretch plays to the tight-end side versus

four defensive fronts. The play is shown with all 11 players; we discuss
the assignments for the running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Then we concentrate on the offensive line. Figure 8.1 shows the stretch
play to the tight-end side against an odd defense.



LB V V 8.1a/437942/ke/R4-alw

Figure 8.1 Stretch play to tight-end side versus
odd defense: (a) Cover 2, boss scheme; (b) Cover 3,
cutback side scheme.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.1b/437943/ke/R4-alw
Stretch Plays 97

The tailback is 7 yards deep in a two-point stance. (If the running back
is very quick, he could move to 8 yards deep.) His aiming point is the
butt of the play-side tight end or imaginary tight end. He must stay on
track. The quarterbacks job is to get the football to the tailback. The full-
back can be used as a backside cut blocker or a front-side force blocker,
depending on the call and the defensive front.
The wide receivers must take a maximum split. If the ball is in the
middle of the field, both receivers will split to the top of the numbers
(college). They block force defenders. If they have any doubt, they block
the safeties.

Offensive Line Blocking Versus Odd Fronts and Variations

The play-side tackle and tight end
must get the outside linebacker LB LB
2 1
and the number 1 read moving as LB V V V LB
quickly as possible (figure 8.2). The
faster the number 1 read moves,
the quicker the running back gets
his first read. Now his eye can
go back to his second read. If the
number 1 read works outside and
the number 2 read gets reached, the Figure 8.2 Outside stretch play when
number 1 read works outside and number
ball should go in the B gap.
2 read gets reached. The most important
These are the assignments that block of all five linemen is the cutoff block
the offensive line must execute on on the backside, which is executed by the
the stretch play to the tight-end side: backside tackle in this case.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.2/437944/ke/R2-alw

Tight end: reach block

Tackle: reach block
Guard: stretch run, track to linebacker
Center: stretch block play-side A gap (scoop back)
Backside guard: stretch backside AW gap (scoop back)
Backside tackle: cutoff block
The tackle and tight end execute reach blocks. They get the first read
and run hard, working the outside arm and leg strong. The guard always
expects a pinch from the 5- or 4-technique defender. On stretch plays,
the center stretches and rips and works to the front-side linebacker to get
the backside linebacker. The backside guard pulls and overtakes, while
the backside tackle uses a great 18-inch cutoff block with the inside arm
strong. The cutoff block is the key to the success of the play.
98 Complete Offensive Line

If the number 1 read pinches to the

inside (figure 8.3), the running back auto- LB LB
2 1
matically takes the football into the C gap. LB V V V LB
The running back makes one cut and puts
the football north and south. The offensive
linemen execute their assignments:
Tight end: reach block
Tackle: reach block; squeeze off pinch
block to linebackers outside number Figure 8.3 When the uncov-
ered lineman works play side, the
Guard: stretch to overtake (pinch 5
offense must always be ready for
technique), head across the pinch of the defensive player.
Center: stretch play-side A gap slip off
slant nose guard to backside linebacker E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.3/437945/ke/R2-alw
Backside guard: stretch and overtake nose guard, head across (cut
Backside tackle: 18-inch cutoff block
The play-side tackle should try not to overreach the defensive tackle
because this puts a lot of pressure on the uncovered guard to overtake
the pinch defender. The tackle should work through the outside breast
to armpit and squeeze off the defender on his way to the linebacker. He
should try to stay as square as possible. The backside guard should be
ready to get his head across the nose guard and cut block his far leg.
If the center comes off clean and thinks he has position, he executes a
cut block on the backside linebacker. (The center should not look at the
linebacker; he should lead him.)

Coaching Point
A big kid who has trouble cut blocking should stay high and cover
up the linebacker. A coach shouldnt ask a player to do something
that his body wont let him do.
Stretch Plays 99

When the number 1 read runs

hard to the outside (figure 8.4), the LB
center is hooked up, and the number LB V V V LB

2 read is coming hard to the outside,

the running back should cut off the
backside of the number 2 read. Theo-
retically, this will put the football in
the backside weak A gap. When the
defense flows hard, this cut will still
happen out around the play-side Figure 8.4 Defense running the
tackle and tight-end area. number 1 and 2 reads out; the running
back cuts behind the number 2 read.

Coaching Point E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.4/437946/ke/R1

On the front side, linemen must be sure to maintain helmet place-

ment and stay on their feet. The backside cutoff block by the back-
side tackle is the most important block. The coach has to sell this
to his players. I tell our players that all five offensive linemen are at
the point of attack.

The offensive linemen execute their assignments:

Tight end: reach block
Tackle: reach block
Guard: stretch run at an angle to the linebacker
Center: scoop back to lock up nose guard; maintain helmet place-
Backside guard: scoop, run track to linebacker
Backside tackle: cutoff block
Fast-flow linebackers can be a problem for the center, guard, tackle, or
tight end, especially if the offensive player doesnt abandon his partner
on the squeeze-off. When the lineman comes off and the linebacker is
running hard to the outside, the lineman should lock onto the linebackers
backside number and drive him to the sidelines.
100 Complete Offensive Line

When the outside linebacker in an odd LB LB LB

2 1
front lines up in a head-up position toe to V V V LB

toe with the tight end, he now becomes

the number 1 read (figure 8.5). When this
Figure 8.5 6 call.
occurs, we make a three-man game call that
tells the guard, tackle, and tight end that we
are taking the zone out to the tight end at this point. As long as the tight
end is facing a 9 technique or outside technique, he is by himself, and the
zone stops at the tackle. When the linebacker goes to a 6 or 7 technique,
he becomes the number 1 read.

Stretch Play Versus Under Defensive Front

We try to keep this play simple even though the Mike linebacker
E4928/Trickett/Fig. is strong
side and it is a member of the stack family. We treat the front side of this
play as an odd front and block it accordingly (figure 8.6). The number 1
and number 2 reads remain the same, and the running back treats the
play that way.


2 1

Figure 8.6 Stretch play versus under front with slip block
on the backside.

Against the under front, the offense should expect faster flow to the
tight-end side because E4928/Trickett/Fig.
the defense is8.6/437948/ke/R1
already shifted in that direction.
Backside is where some adjustments need to be made. The backside
guard needs to read the placement of the Will linebacker and adjust his
path accordingly. He should make a
call to the tackle if the linebacker is V V
inside heavy into the AW gap. This call
tells the tackle, Im out of here, and
you have no help, so take the defen- Figure 8.7 The front side is
sive tackle by yourself. At this time, blocked like a 50 front. On the back-
the tackle needs to pull and overtake side, the guard and tackle have to
(figure 8.7). overtake the 3-technique defender.
Stretch Plays 101

The offensive linemen execute their assignments:

Tight end: reach block
Tackle: reach block
Guard: stretch run track to linebacker
Center: reach block
Backside guard: slip or make call to be free and go get linebacker
Backside tackle: slip or pull and overtake
When the offense faces an under G look LB
1 LB 1
(figure 8.8), everything is the same for
everyone except the play-side guard and
center. A call of Jack You is still used, but Figure 8.8 Ricochet tech-
because this is the outside zone scheme, the nique in which the guard tags
guard will use a ricochet technique to get to the nose guard and then shuf-
the linebacker. fles down the line of scrim-
On a ricochet call, the center must know mage to get to the linebacker.
that he needs to take the 1- or 2-technique E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.8/437951/ke/R2-alw
defender as if he has no help. The guard
will stretch step and tag the 1-technique LB
defender with his inside hand. He must
then shuffle skate down the line of scrim-
mage, getting no depth and staying square Figure 8.9 Guard does not
until he gets outside helmet placement on get depth and works down the
the linebacker (figure 8.9). This technique line of scrimmage to get helmet
takes a lot of practice, but once the player placement on the linebacker.
can do itand the center gets the 1- or
2-technique player cut offthe opponent
has no defense.

Stretch Play Versus 4-3 Stack

Defense W M
2 1
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.9/437952/ke/R1
If the number 1 read works outside and
the number 2 read gets reached, the ball
goes into the B gap (figure 8.10). This play
involves nothing more than reach and
cutoff blocks with the uncovered lineman
stretching and running good tracks to the
linebacker. Figure 8.10 Great tracks by
the uncovered lineman. Reach
and cutoff blocks with covered

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.10/437953/ke/R2-alw
102 Complete Offensive Line

Now if the number 1 read goes inside, W M

the football goes outside to the D gap. All V V V V

of the uncovered linemen should expect a

pinch from the covered man they are work-
ing toward. The number 1 read goes inside,
and the ball goes outside (figure 8.11).
If the number 1 read works hard out- Figure 8.11 The defensive
side and the number 2 read runs hard to line slants inside, and the foot-
ball goes outside.
the outside, the running back cuts back
behind the number 2 read in the A gap
(figure 8.12). This should also happen in W M
the tackletight end area on the line of V V V V

scrimmage. E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.11/437954/ke/R1

The offensive linemen execute their
assignments: blocks

Tight end: reach block, squeeze climb

for Sam linebacker
Tackle: stretch run track to linebacker; Figure 8.12 Number 2 read
expect pinch from number 1 read running hard to the outside;
running back cutting back
Guard: reach block, pinch climb for
behind the number 2 read.
Mike linebacker
Center: stretch run track to Mike linebacker; expect pinch
E4928/Trickett/Fig. from
number 2 read
Backside guard: 18-inch cutoff block
Backside tackle: slip with guard, run track to Will linebacker, expect
1-technique defender to loop outside
Against a shaded nose guard, the center has to give a go call to the
backside guard so the guard can pull and overtake the shaded nose guard
(figure 8.13a). The play-side tackle and tight end execute a King You call
to the Sam linebacker. If the Sam linebacker flows (figure 8.13b), the fast-
flow linebacker technique should be put into effect. The tight end runs
the linebacker to the sideline.


a b
Figure 8.13 (a) Go call to the backside guard; (b) tight end comes off
on linebackers backside shoulder and runs to the sidelines.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.13a/437956/ke/R2-alwE4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.13b/437957/ke/R1

Stretch Plays 103

Stretch Play Versus Even-Front Defense

When the defense shows an eight-man front (figure 8.14), the offense
needs to know if they are blocking it with a force blocker or with the
tight end handling the number 4 player. If boss blocking the number
4 defender, then the tight end and tackle will work a King call on the
box players. The offense should focus more on getting the ball outside,
especially if the defensive end is in a 6 or 7 technique.


2 1


2 1
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.14a/437958/ke/R1

Figure 8.14 Stretch play versus even front: (a) boss blocking and King blocking the
box linebacker; (b) tight end has support and blocks out on the support defender.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.14b/437959/ke/R1
104 Complete Offensive Line

Another technique is to have the LB

2 1
tackle and tight end fan block to the V V V V
strong safety and let the fullback go
inside the number 1 read to get the
linebacker (figure 8.15). On this call, the
tailback should know that the number
1 read is being taken to the outside so
the ball goes to the B gap. If the number
2 read runs hard, the ball will go back Figure 8.15 Fullback and tight
to the play-side A gap. end changing assignments.
The offensive linemen execute their assignments:
Tight end: combo block with tackle (King call) to the strong safety
(number 4 read) E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.15/437960/ke/R2-alw

Tackle: stretch and combo block (King call) the 6- or 7-technique defender
Guard: reach block
Center: if two backs in the backfield, stretch the A gap strong for the
play-side linebacker to the backside linebacker; if one back in the
backfield, get the front-side linebacker
Backside guard: 18-inch cutoff block
Backside tackle: guard covered slip with backside guard and run
track to the backside linebacker
With a six-man box and the tight end staying in the box to block,
the backside tackle can lock the backside on the defensive end (figure
8.16). The backside tackle still needs to stop the linebacker from running
through the backside B gap.
The main problem against an eight-man front defense is the pinch of
the 6- or 7-technique defender to the B gap when the offense has one
back in the backfield (figure 8.17). This defensive pinch forces the use of

Figure 8.16 Mike linebacker Figure 8.17 Center, guard,

backside. Backside tackle and front-side tackle using the
needs to cover the B gap to the three-man game to get to the
defensive end. play-side linebacker.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.16/437961/ke/R1 E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.17/437962/ke/R1

Stretch Plays 105

a three-man game to the play side. We work on this blitz every day in
practice. This is the first defensive tactic I study on Sunday night when
scouting an upcoming opponent. I study all of these pinches, one after
another, to try to find a tip-off or giveaway.
The key is that the play-side tackle doesnt hang out the guard by
overreaching. The tackle needs to stretch and stay square to the line of
scrimmage as much as possible. A natural running lane will open up if
the offense picks up the play-side linebacker. Weve had some really long
runs off this pinch when its been blocked properly.

Stretch Plays to the Split-End Side

The stretch play to the split-end side has some very different looks that
must be handled differently. With the new trend of spread offenses and
the pro influence of the one-back set, the split-side running game has
really evolved. The split-side game is very simple; if there are three
defenders and three blockers, this will enable the offense to use the run.
The phrase angle, numbers, grass is used to judge where to run the
football. The offense will use the same number 1 to number 2 read
philosophy in the running game but from a lot of different sets in the
Here is a simple example of how running
backs learn this philosophy. In figure 8.18, the 1 2 1
one-back stretch play is being run to the ghost
tight ends but with the junction point of the
handoff shown from under center. The quar-
terback and running back (dotted in) are out
of the spread set. Based on the philosophy of
the spread, the running back needs to know
what the number 1 read is doing by the time
Figure 8.18 Junction
he takes the football from the quarterback. The
point out of the I-formation.
running back needs to press the junction point
of the underneath handoff before he makes his
one cut off the read of the number 2 defender.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.18/437963/ke/R1
106 Complete Offensive Line

A common error that a running back makes in the shotgun is want-

ing to bend to the line of scrimmage as soon as he touches the football
when coming across. This creates a number of
problems for him and the offensive line that 1 2
cannot be fixed.
The base alignments and splits on the line
of scrimmage stay the same: 18 inches for the 5 yards
guards and tight 2-foot splits for the tackles.
The running backs align with their toes 5
yards deep and shoe to shoe with the offensive Figure 8.19 Alignments
tackle. The quarterback lines up with his toes in shotgun showing the
on the heels of the running back (figure 8.19). junction point where the
running back needs to go.

Coaching Point
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.19/437965/ke/R1
Do not assign the quarterback a depth for his feet. The quarterback
has enough to do with getting everyone lined up. The running backs
are responsible for setting the backfield and getting the alignment
right. If the running back messes up and sets his depth at 5 1/2 yards
deep, the quarterback still needs to align his toes behind the heels
of the running back.

This alignment allows the running back to come straight across; he

will not have to veer or get off course to get to his junction point. The
running back should be able to go from the left halfback spot to the right
halfback spot without any problem. If the quarterback aligns toe to toe
with the running back, the running back will get pushed into the line of
scrimmage, and all of the running backs cuts will be difficult.
If aligned in the pistol formation, the running backs depth is 7 1/2
to 8 yards. The quarterback aligns his toes at 4 yards deep. The running
backs angle and aiming point LB LB
1 2
are the same as those out of the LB V V V LB
Now lets look at how to block
these split-side plays versus the
four fronts as previously dis-
cussed for the tight-end side. The
backfield set has no correlation
with the blocking performed up Figure 8.20 Split-side run. There must
front (figure 8.20). be a blocker for the number 4 defender.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.20/437967/ke/R2-alw
Stretch Plays 107

Coaching Point
One spring we noticed that, especially out of the pistol set, the
running backs path to the split side was tighter. The running backs
werent going to the ghost tight-end spot. After studying this, we
determined that the majority of the time the defensive end would
play hard outside. With this being the case, we started using the
defender as the aiming point. This strategy makes that inside cut
happen quicker and easier. Besides, if the defender pinches, its
easier for the running back to get outside than to get back inside.

The offensive linemen execute their assignments:

Tackle: reach block
Guard: stretch step, run track to linebacker
Center: scoop to backside linebacker
Backside guard: scoop for nose guard to backside linebacker
Backside tackle: slide call to tight end versus 5 technique, work up
to strong safety
Tight end: slide call, work with tackle
To run the stretch play, the offense must be aware of the numbers they
have to the split-end side. Against the odd front, a fullback or halfback
must block the outside linebacker.
If the offense is in a one-back set versus this front, the play would have
to be checked off and then go to the tight-end side. A wide receiver could
be motioned across to block the outside linebacker, but the best strategy
is to just check the play and go to the tight-end side.
All the blocking rules for the offensive line are the same for the split
side. LB LB
If the fullback is offset, he will handle LB
1 2
his blocking path just like he would in the
shotgun. The fullback needs to take a 6-inch
stretch step to the outside and then attack the
defender as his aiming point (figure 8.21).
The fullback should try to block him on his
side of the line of scrimmage. He should use
a cut block as a last resort.
Figure 8.21 Fullback block-
ing the number 4 defender
on the line of scrimmage.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.21/437968/ke/R2-alw
108 Complete Offensive Line

In figure 8.22, note how the I-formation LB

stretch play and the shotgun split-back play LB V V V LB
are coordinated. Half of the time, the offen-
sive line does not know if the backfield set is
the I or split-back formation.

Figure 8.22 Split-back

stretch with fullback in same
alignment as in I-formation.

Blocking the Stretch Play to the Split-End Side

Versus the Under Front
Versus the under front, the stretch play to the E4928/Trickett/Fig.
LB LB8.22/437969/ke/R1
1 2
split side is very different from the stretch V V V V LB
play to the tight-end side. Even when the
numbers are right with three on three, the
offense must still be able to get the center to
the play-side linebacker. The go call (figure
8.23) comes into effect for the backside guard
Figure 8.23 Go call to the
to take the nose guard while the center is backside guard.
working to the play-side linebacker.
The offensive linemen execute their assignments:
Tackle: reach block
Guard: reach block, call from center to say we are working
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.23/437970/ke/R2-alw
Center: call for guards to help work to the front-side linebacker
Backside guard: call from center to take the nose guard
Backside tackle: cutoff block or slide call
Tight end: cutoff block or slide call
Treat the split side of the under front like a 40 defense. The center
should work to the front-side linebacker. The center must know if he has
a fullback or not for the purpose of Mike declaration.
I have avoided the Mike declaration because in a fast-paced, no-huddle
offense, there is not enough time to make a Mike call before blocking
the front. On some teams, the quarterback calls the Mike, and on other
teams the center calls out the Mike linebacker. The Mike declaration is a
situation that each team needs to work to its best benefit.
Stretch Plays 109

Coaching Point
On the 40 look, the center and guard handle all of the A- and B-gap
stunts. The fullback never goes into the A gap to get a defender.
Instead, he reads his way to the B, C, or D gap to get to the linebacker.

The center needs to make a call to the LB LB

guards, letting them know that he is work-
ing with the front-side guard (figure 8.24).
The center treats the front like an even or 40 Figure 8.24 Go call for a
defense. three-man zone scheme
Previously, we would scoop the front back, with the play-side guard,
but this strategy left the front-side (A) gap center, and backside guard.
open for the linebacker to run through. Now LB LB
we make a call to put the center on the play E4928/Trickett/Fig.
V V V 8.24/437971/ke/R1
side with the guard. The backside tackle and
tight end must be brought along to handle
Figure 8.25 Leaving the
the defensive tackle and linebacker. Figure play-side A gap open and
8.25 is a scheme used on the weak-side lead blocking it with the center.
play, a form of zone blocking.
For some defenses, a big blitz off the boundary side is the weak corner
fire. To predict this stunt, the offensive team must rely heavily on film
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.25/437973/ke/R1
study. This scheme needs to be worked every day during fundamentals.
Once the backside guard is involved, it becomes a four-man game. The
wide receiver and fullback should swap assignments if the weak corner
beats the wide receiver inside (figure 8.26). In a one-back set, the quar-
terback should check out of the play. The speed option is a great play to
check into and run because the line blocking is exactly the same, letting
the quarterback pitch off the weak corner.


Figure 8.26 Wide receiver and fullback

change assignments on weak corner blitz.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.26/437974/ke/R2-alw
110 Complete Offensive Line

One of the toughest things to do is run the play when the wide receiver
is in no position to make his block (figure 8.27). The tackle moves out to
the weak safety on the line of scrimmage and lets the receiver go hard
down inside to get the linebacker. This is about the only way to handle
this without getting the running back killed.


Figure 8.27 One-back run in which the

tackle and wide receiver change assign-

Figure 8.28 shows an example of the stretch play being called to the
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.27/437975/ke/R2-alw
right side of the offense. The extra defender forced the play to be checked
to the other side. The quarterback can check the play to the other side
and run the stretch play himself. Now the running back, who originally
had the call of ballcarrier, is the lead blocker.

2 1 1

Figure 8.28 Changing the play to a quar-

terback run; the running back is now the
lead blocker on defender number 4.

The offensive line must complete these assignments:

Tackle: read block
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.28/437976/ke/R1
Guard: zone B gap to linebacker
Center: reach nose guard
Backside guard: slip to linebacker
Backside tackle: pull over to tackle the 3-technique defender
Tight end: cutoff man on (if a tight end is used)
Stretch Plays 111

Stretch Play Versus 4-3 Stack Defense

The stretch play versus the 4-3 defense to the W M S
split-end side (figure 8.29) can be run with V V V V
two different blocking schemes. First, the
center and play-side guard can combo the
nose guard to the middle linebacker. Second,
the center and guard can block the nose
guard to the Will linebacker, and the fullback
will take the Mike linebacker. (The play-side
guard uses an ass pat to tell the fullback Figure 8.29 Stretch play
that the guard will take the Will and that the versus 4-3 defense to split-
end side.
fullback should take the Mike. Basically, they
are changing assignments.)
The offensive linemen execute their assignments:
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.29/437977/ke/R2-alw

Tackle: reach block

Guard: Jack Will call, ass-pat signal to the fullback
Center: Jack Will call, nose guard to Will
Backside guard: slip call to Sam linebacker
Backside tackle: slip call with the guard
Tight end: 18-inch cutoff block

Run to Split-End Side Versus the Seven-Man Box

A blocker from the backfield is needed on this play. The blocking back
needs to take a short stretch step and still run at the defensive end. He
then works up for the linebacker. This will prevent the linebacker from
taking an isolation fill on the blocking back W M S
and will buy some time. V V V V
The blocking backs aiming point of the
defensive end also allows him to have easy
access to the outside on a pinching defender.
The play-side tackle has the defensive end
man on man (figure 8.30), if the tackle doesnt Figure 8.30 Tackle stays
call the guard over to him. The center and man to man on the defen-
guard make a Jack Mike call. If the tackle sive end, and the fullback
makes a call for the guard to come help him, works to the outside to get
the Jack Mike call is off. The tackles call has the Will linebacker.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.30/437978/ke/R1
112 Complete Offensive Line

When the tackle calls the guard over M S

(figure 8.31), the tackle can really help V V V V
the guard because he is now respon-
sible for the Mike linebacker. If the Will
linebacker hits the tackle in the face, the
tackle must block the Will linebacker.
The fullback will adjust and take the
Mike linebacker.
Figure 8.31 Tackle calls for the
guards help, making it a three-man
zone scheme to the play side.

Split-Side Stretch Play Versus Even Front

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.31/437979/ke/R2-alw

When using an offense with four WS LB LB

wide receivers, the team will some- VV V V V

times have to bring a wide receiver

across the formation to block the
number 4 defender (figure 8.32)
and get inside-out position on the
defender. On a one-back run play, the Figure 8.32 Wide receiver blocking
offensive line can block only three on the number 4 defender.
the play side.
The offensive linemen execute their assignments:
Tackle: reach block
Guard: Jack You call, ricochet technique E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.32/437981/ke/R1
Center: Jack You call, 1 technique
Backside guard: slip or call gone to tackle
Backside tackle: slip, pull, and overtake; gone call
Tight end: 18-inch cutoff block

Six-Man Box
The offense should be able to run all day. The basic rule is to run to the
A-gap player based on how the players are blocking their personnel.
If the right guard is better than the opponents 3-technique player, the
offense should run to that side. However, the team should not get locked
in to rules. If one or two linemen say they are better than the defender,
the offense should run that way if possible.
Stretch Plays 113

The three-by-one set in the spread offense is a good formation for

getting numbers to the weak side to run the football. If the weak safety
is playing games, the offense should go under center or to pistol forma-
tion and make the defense guess which way the play is going to be run.
The play can always be checked. The FS
offense can run the quarterback stretch
back to the running backs side of the CB V V V V
All games to the 40 defense side
are handled with the same three-man
game calls. Again, the tackle and wide
receiver can protect against the weak
safety or weak corner fire from the
boundary (figure 8.33). The offense Figure 8.33 Speed option chang-
can check to the speed option against ing the pitchman to the weak
this stunt, and the defense will have a corner.
A change-up used sometimes on the LB LB
V E4928/Trickett/Fig.
V V V 8.33/437982/ke/R1
backside is to man the guard on a wide
3-technique defender (figure 8.34). The
backside tackle pulls and overtakes the
Figure 8.34 Tackle pulling around
path up to the linebacker. If the line-
to get the linebacker.
backer runs hard, the linemen use the
fast-flow technique to block him.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 8.34/437983/ke/R1
This chapter covered the blocking schemes of the stretch play to the
tight-end side versus four different fronts. It also covered the one-back
and two-back stretch plays to the split-end side with different blocking
schemes on the perimeter.
In chapter 9, the blocking schemes of the inside zone will be discussed
and explained. The inside zone is a very popular scheme used by many
teams. I will share my philosophy related to the inside zone and discuss
how to use it successfully.
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Inside Zone
Most of the running game inside the tackle box is executed with the
inside zone blocking scheme. When identifying the inside zone blocking
schemes, terms such as power scoop and power slip are used on the backside
of plays. Calls such as Jack Read, Jack Me, and Jack You are used on the
front side of plays. (See chapter 7.)
My philosophy of the inside zone scheme is to first take care of the
down lineman. He is the level-1 player. It is okay to not get off to the
linebacker if both linemen need to stay on the down lineman. This is
called securing level 1. Too many players worry about getting to the line-
backers. The end result is no one ends up blocking the level-1 defender.
The inside zone play can be run out of the I-formation in which the
fullback goes to the backside of the play as a cutoff blocker. The inside
zone play is also run with the fullback leading to the play side as an extra
blocker. When this is done, we use motion to put a wide receiver or H
back in position to be the cut blocker backside.
Out of the shotgun formation, we run a belly cutback dive play that
uses the inside zone blocking scheme. This is a quarterback read play
with an option back as well.
My philosophy is to stretch the defense and make them run from side-
line to sideline. Reverses, options, stretch plays, quick screens, and split
screens can be run to achieve this movement of the defense. The offense
can then come back hard inside with the inside zone running game. In
this chapter, we look at blocking the inside zone versus four defensive
fronts: odd, even, under front, and 4-3 stack.

116 Complete Offensive Line

Inside Zone Versus an Odd Defense

The tailback lines up 7 yards deep LB LB
(figure 9.1). The fullback is used as a LB V V V LB
backside cut blocker off the backside
edge. The backside tackle has to decide
whether to use a 4 or 4I tackle alignment.
In a 4 tackle alignment, the backside
tackle aligns head up on the defensive
tackle. In a 4I alignment, he aligns on
the inside shade of the defensive tackle. Figure 9.1 Number 1 read out
These alignments require two different and nose guard getting reached;
types of cutoff blocks. number 1 read out and number 2
read out with ball going backside.
The odd defensive front includes
three down linemen and four lineback- E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.1/437984/ke/R1
ers. The tailback uses open crossover steps to get square to the line of
scrimmage. He should aim at the guards outside leg or the B gap. Versus
an odd front, this play reads just like the stretch play. The tackle is the
first read; the nose guard is the second read.
In a 3-4 front, defensive linemen often perform a lot of movement
with slants and angles on the defensive front. The running back has to
read the defensive tackle for his first read. If the first read goes outside,
the ball should go into the B gap. If the defensive tackle pinches inside,
the ball should go to the C gap. If the tackle slants outside and the nose
guard slants hard to the play side, the tailback should be ready to cut
the ball back behind the nose guard.
A mistake that running backs often make on this play is not pressing
the line of scrimmage before they attempt to cut. If the running back cuts
back too quickly, the offensive line, especially the backside guard and
tackle, will not be in the right position.
The offensive linemen execute their assignments:
Tight end: tight reach block
Tackle: tight reach block
Center: power scoop from play-side A gap to backside linebacker
Backside guard: power scoop from nose guard to backside line-
Backside tackle: tight cutoff block or 18-inch cutoff block
Inside Zone 117

If there is movement to the inside of the LB LB

play-side tackle, the guard should end up
in a Queen read until he can work off to the
play-side linebacker (figure 9.2). The center Figure 9.2 Defensive tackle
and backside guard power scoop the nose going to a 4I technique. Two
guard. The offense needs to handle level 1 offensive linemen stay on the
(all the down linemen) first before worry- block on level 1.
ing about getting to the linebackers.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.2/437985/ke/R2-alw

Coaching Point
Offensive linemen should alert each other on the head-up technique.
Knowing that there may be movement is advantageous. Linemen
should handle the level-1 defenders first. They should not be in a
hurry to get to level 2. If they arent careful, both linemen will be in
a hurry to get to the linebacker.

When facing an odd front with the LB LB

outside linebacker in a 6 or 7 technique LB V V V LB

on the tight end (figure 9.3), the offense

can make a call for a three-man game just
like the outside stretch play. This play is
blocked like a stretch play. The football
should bounce outside on the pinch of the
The tight end and center should try to Figure 9.3 Play-side three-
choke and squeeze the tackle and nose man zone to pick up pinching
guard. The tackle and both guards should
treat this as if it is the outside stretch play.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.3/437986/ke/R4-alw
118 Complete Offensive Line

Inside Zone Versus an Under Front

Against the under front (figure 9.4), the LB LB
offense must know what kind of nose guard V V V V LB

they are up against. Is he quick? Can he run?

Is he a big run stopper and gap player? Can
the center handle him one on one or does he
need help?
The offensive linemen execute their
Figure 9.4 Center single
Tight end: tight reach block blocking the nose guard.
Tackle: tight reach block
Guard: stretch step, run track to linebacker
Center: reach nose guard or call for pop E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.4/437987/ke/R1
to get help from the play-side guard
Backside guard: power slip to linebacker
Backside tackle: power slip with guard
If the center calls for help from the play- LB LB
side guard (figure 9.5), the guard should use
the drive block technique with his outside
foot over and up. The inside foot and inside Figure 9.5 Guard pops
arm should come straight off, and he should nose guard to linebacker.
make contact with the same foot and shoul-
der. The guard should stay on the double team as long as possible. The
play-side linebacker will read isolation and step right up to the guard.
When the linebacker gets even with the guard, E4928/Trickett/Fig.
the guard comes off and
blocks him. If there is a 1-technique or gap player, the guard doubles
him out to the linebacker.

Inside Zone Versus a 4-3 Defense

This should be an effective play because of all the bubbles in the 4-3
defense. The backside 1-technique player must be controlled on this play.
The center should make a presnap read on the depth and alignment of
the middle linebacker. The center should not overzone the linebacker or
let him fall back inside on the play.
Inside Zone 119

The offensive linemen execute their assignments:

Tight end: tight reach block
Tackle: stretch step, run track to linebacker
Guard: tight reach block
Center: stretch step, run track to Mike linebacker
Backside guard: cut off 1-technique player
Backside tackle: stretch step, run track to linebacker
The zone and stretch plays should look as similar as possible on the
first stretch step. Helmet placement is very important, especially on inside
zone plays. The goal is to get the defender running hard to the outside,
if possible. If the defenders are big run stoppers, the linemen need to be
ready to drop their hips and knock them off the ball. At the very least,
they need to hold the line of scrimmage. Against any inside pinch moves,
the uncovered lineman should be ready to double with the covered
lineman (figure 9.6). The uncovered lineman W M V S V
should aim his second step to a point behind V V
the defenders inside foot. The uncovered line-
man needs to be able to stop all penetration
and maintain the line of scrimmage. If two Figure 9.6 Pinch defen-
offensive linemen must be used on a pinch der using up two offensive
defender, then they let the linebacker go free. linemen.
Versus an under shift of the defensive front
(figure 9.7), power combo blocks are a must.
LB M 9.6/437989/ke/R2-alw
The covered offensive lineman must keep his E4928/Trickett/Fig.
play-side arm free and out of the block so he
is able to come off if the linebacker attacks the
line of scrimmage. Figure 9.7 Under shift of
If the Sam linebacker walks up on the line defensive front.
of scrimmage, the tackle and tight end must
make an out call.
If the nose guard is aligned in a shaded W M S
V V 9.7/437990/ke/R2-alw
E4928/Trickett/Fig. V V
position on the center (figure 9.8), he needs
to stretch step to the play-side A gap and
work the same foot, same shoulder on the
Figure 9.8 Scoop Mike
nose guard. He hangs for the backside guard technique with the center
as long as possible and then comes off on the and backside guard.
Mike linebacker when the Mike linebacker
commits to the line of scrimmage.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.8/437991/ke/R2-alw
120 Complete Offensive Line

Another change-up that can be used is to M S

fold the backside with the guard and center.
The center works a back block to the V of the
nose guards neck. The guard executes a drop
Figure 9.9 Fold block
step and pulls to the play-side A gap to block with center and backside
the Mike linebacker (figure 9.9). guard.

Inside Zone Versus

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.9/437992/ke/R1

an Even Defense (40 Looks)

Many defenses try to disguise the 40 even front and the 4-3 defense with
cheat alignments of the middle linebacker. If the Mike linebacker commits
to the play-side A gap, the offense should treat it like a 4-3 defense and
go with it (figure 9.10a). If the Mike linebacker gets to a point backside at
which the center has to go backside to block him, then the offense should
treat it like an even front (figure 9.10b).


a b
Figure 9.10 (a) Mike linebacker in play-side A gap; (b) Mike line-
backer backside when center has to work backside.

The offensive linemen execute their assignments:

Tight end: block out on
E4928/Trickett/Fig. the strongE4928/Trickett/Fig.
9.10b/437994/ke/R1safety, the number 4 read

Tackle: man on man outside

Guard: tight reach block
Center: stretch step to front-side A gap, run track to linebacker
Backside guard: cutoff block
Backside tackle: stretch step, run proper track to linebacker; if Mike
declares, backside block man on man
The center must always be alert for the LB LB
pinch. He always anticipates this and is ready
to double to the play-side linebacker (figure
9.11). The backside guard has to execute a cutoff Figure 9.11 Guards
block as the defensive lineman loops outside. squeeze off to the line-
The guard should squeeze off to the linebacker. backers.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.11/437995/ke/R1
Inside Zone 121

The five offensive linemen zone step off the line of scrimmage and
stay square to the line. By staying square, they will handle a lot of the
movements that the defensive linemen are trying to execute. This is why
it is so important for the center and guards to keep 18-inch splits and for
the tackles to keep 2-foot splits.
When the defender is in a shaded alignment W M S
on the center, the offense should treat it like V V V V
the 4-3 defense. The only difference is that the
Mike linebacker is much more in the play-side
A gap (figure 9.12). With this being the case, Figure 9.12 Center exe-
the center may have to tag the nose guard and cutes a quick tag on the
nose guard and goes to
abort a little quicker than he would against a
the Mike linebacker.
true Mike linebacker in order to get his man.
The fold block versus the even front is no more than a linebacker trap.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.12/437996/ke/R1
Calls have to be made on this scheme. The play-side guard has to know
that the center is no longer working the play-side A gap and that the
guard is man on man with the 3-technique defender.
This is a great scheme as long as the W M S
3-technique defender plays a 3 and does not V V V V
pinch. Against an even front, the offense will
usually get a lot of 3 techniques to 1 techniques
and 1 techniques to 3 techniques. To counter this Figure 9.13 Pinching
and take the pressure off the guard so he can 3-technique defender
with the pulling guard
come off the football, the guards assignment
having to trap block the
should be to do a tight reach (figure 9.13) and 3-technique defender.
not worry about the pinch. E4928/Trickett/Fig. 9.13/437997/ke/R2-alw
The guard must tight reach and rip off the outside shoulder of the
3-technique defender. If the 3-technique player pinches to the inside, the
guard doesnt worry. Instead, he continues to the linebacker just like on a
stretch or inside zone play. The pulling or folding guard folds and reads
the inside half of the 3-technique player on his way to the linebacker. If the
3-technique player widens, the guard goes up and blocks the linebacker.
If the 3-technique player pinches, the guard trap blocks him inside out,
and the tailback needs to hit it real tight.
If the backside tackle gets the fold call, he may have to take a stretch
path to go get the backside linebacker deeper inside. This is especially
true if the offense runs the inside dive from the shotgun.
122 Complete Offensive Line

This chapter covered the inside zone blocking scheme, including how to
use it successfully against the four major defensive fronts. Power scoops
and power slips are often used in this scheme, along with Jack and Queen
combo blocks. The main point in this chapter is that the offense must
take care of level 1 first.
The next chapter will cover the blocking schemes for the option play.
When preparing for an upcoming game, one of the first questions the
defense will ask is, Do they run the option? The option play can be
difficult to defend if performed correctly. Lets move on and learn to
block for the option.
Every defensive staff that meets to get ready for an opponent
asks one question: Does the opponent run the option and, if so, what
forms of the option do they run? I like to go into a game being able to
run an option play from all formations. Once your opponent realizes that
you will run the option, the opponent will cut back much of their twist
game and secondary blitzes.
The quarterbacks style will dictate just how much option the team
uses. However, a pure drop-back style quarterback can still run the speed
option from under center or out of the pistol formation.

Outside Zone
The option game that I prefer uses LB LB SS
the outside zone scheme. Figure LB V V V LB LB
10.1 shows how to block for some of
the tight-end option plays using the
outside zone scheme versus the four
common defensive fronts.
The quarterback needs to pitch the
football off the end man on the line of
scrimmage, whether it be the defensive Figure 10.1 Speed option versus
down lineman, outside linebacker, or Okie defensive front.
secondary safety man.
The blocking rules for the offensive line are the same as the rules for
the outside stretch play because the tight end goes up into
E4928/Trickett/Fig. the second
level to block the linebacker.

124 Complete Offensive Line

In the I-formation, the speed option is the base option used to run the
stretch scheme with the offensive line. The quarterback steps back with
the foot opposite the direction he is going to run the play. If the option is
to the right, he steps back with his left foot, replaces with his right, and
then runs the option, attacking the outside shoulder of the defender at
the end of the line of scrimmage. The fullback runs an arc release and
works to block the outside shoulder or leg of the support player. The
tight end uses an inside release to block the onside inside linebacker. The
tight end should make sure that he doesnt get too far inside and knock
the play-side tackle off his block. The tight end can cheat his split to 3
feet so that he has room to take an inside stretch step. After he takes his
stretch step, he works in and out to block the inside linebacker. The tight
end must work to stay square to the line of scrimmage. The play-side
tackle should use a stretch reach block on the 5-technique defender. He
should sell out to reach the defender and should expect no help from the
tight end. If the tight end can get a tag on the defensive tackle and still
do his job, he should do it; if not, he should not do it.

Coaching Point
Heres one thing Ive learned about option football in nearly 40 years
of coaching: If the offense blocks the linebackers, the option play will
gain yardage. This is a big selling point to the offensive line. A lineman
must do whatever it takesdive cut, fall, and so onto get some kind
of hit on the linebacker. The quarterback and tailback can also execute
a counter action in the backfield in order to hold the linebackers.

If the offense uses a pistol formation or under center with one back,
the blocking scheme is still the same for the offensive line.
The tight end has a rule that if he gets LB LB
man on man outside, as shown in figure LB V V V LB SS
10.2, he must block man on. The tight end
should make the call to the tackle and
guard, letting them know that they have a
three-man game. This should be the same
call that is made on the stretch boss play.
The defense will often use various schemes
off the edges to try to confuse the quarter- Figure 10.2 Speed option
back. The tight end and tackle have to be versus the strong safety blitz.
coordinated so they can make the right
calls to block whatever blitz or front the
defense may show. E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.2/438000/ke/R1
Option 125

Option to the Tight-End Side

Versus an Even 40 Front
Figures 10.3 and 10.4 show two different LB LB LB LB
schemes versus an over defense with a V V V V

7-technique defensive end. If the defen-

sive end is a very good player, the offense
should take him out of the game by King
blocking him. This is the same scheme
used on the stretch boss play from the
stretch outside zone play. Blocking rules
are the same as the rules for the stretch Figure 10.3 Tight end and
tackle blocking the box for the
boss scheme versus 40 defense.
inside linebacker.
Even though the center declared the
Mike linebacker backside and the back- LB LB LB
side tackle could lock down his block on V V V V
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.3/438001/ke/R2-alw
the defensive end, I prefer to zone the
linebacker through the B gap and secure
the backside weak A gap and weak B gap
against blitzes and run-throughs.
If the defensive end is a big, slow
player, the offense can use the loop
scheme to the free safety and pitch off Figure 10.4 Blocking scheme
to m a ke t h e 7- te c h n i q u e
the slower defender who is not used to defender the option man.
playing the quarterback. The play-side
tackle on the tight-end side has to use a split-side technique of in and out
to block the first play-side linebacker. ThisE4928/Trickett/Fig.
scheme is particularly useful
if the quarterback is not a great runner. It helps to get the ball out of the
quarterbacks hands much more quickly. If an offense uses the option a
lot and mixes in both schemes of looping the tight end and King blocking
the box, this really makes it tough on the defensive front.
If there is movement up front, the tight end and tackle will King the
box and pick up all blitzes. I have the offense work against two different
slants with the defense in an even front: 2-gap slants (figure 10.5a) and
1-gap slants (figure 10.5b) on the fire zone series of blitzes. The 1-gap
slants are simple blitzes and shouldnt be a problem to pick up. The 2-gap
fire zone blitzes are the ones that require the most work.

a b
Figure 10.5 (a) 2-gap slants; (b) 1-gap slants.
126 Complete Offensive Line

Coaching Point
Heres an important coaching point for the play-side tight end, tackle,
and guard: Whoever gets to level 2 and blocks the play-side line-
backer first will allow the other blocker (either the tackle or guard)
to continue on to level 3 and block the free safety.

Option Versus the 4-3 Defense

If the tight end is facing a 9-technique defensive end, the tight end
needs to work the in-and-out technique on the linebacker. The play-side
tackle should come off with the outside foot but should focus on execut-
ing a deuce-tag technique with the play-side guard to make sure the
3-technique defender gets no penetration (figure
10.6). Everyone else on the line blocks the stretch W M S
play. The play-side guard and tackle must block
the 3-technique player as much as possible. If
the offense has to waste a double team on the Figure 10.6 Deuce
3-technique player and the tackle doesnt get off tag on the 3-technique
to the linebacker, this is better than forcing the defender.
quarterback to pitch off the 3-technique player.
If the defensive end lines up in a 6 or 7 technique on the tight end, the
tight end should make a King call to the tackle, E4928/Trickett/Fig.
King the box,10.6/438005/ke/R2-alw
and let the
quarterback pitch off the secondary support player. Another option is
using the loop technique on the 6-technique defender and then pitching
off the 6-technique defender.

Option Versus the Under Front

On the option versus an under front, blocking assignments are the same
as on stretch boss to the tight-end side versus an under front. For blocking
the under front, the coach must know whether his center can block the
shaded nose guard and not allow penetration on the play. If the center
is having a problem with the wide shade or gap player, the offense can
put the ricochet technique into effect and ricochet the nose guard. The
backside guard has to judge the alignment of the backside linebacker.
He must decide whether to shoot through and get the linebacker, leaving
the backside tackle singled on the 3-technique defender.
Option 127

The front side of the under front is LB LB

blocked just like the Okie, or 50 defense V V V V LB
(figure 10.7). The rest of the line blocks
the stretch play.
Figure 10.7 Play side of the under
front blocked like 50 defense.

Option Versus the Bear Defense

When defensive coaches jump to the bear defense E4928/Trickett/Fig.
and give 10.7/438006/ke/R1
a steady dose
of this up front, the first thing the offense should try is the speed option.
It goes back to the old philosophy that LB
if the defense puts them all inside, the V V V V V LB
offense wants to run the football outside
(figure 10.8). The tight end will usually
have a man-on-man outside rule in Figure 10.8 Bear front with a line-
backer exchange on the tight end.
effect versus this bear front.
When blocking the bear front on the speed option, the offense uses
a triple blocking scheme from the center to the backside tackle. This
allows the center to cover the front-side A gap on the stretch scheme.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.8/438007/ke/R2-alw
If the 3-technique defender pinches to the inside, the A gap is covered.
If any kind of 6- or 7-technique defender is lined up on the tight end,
the tight end needs to King the box. The offense must always cover the
front-side A, B, and C gaps while letting the quarterback cleanly get
down the line of scrimmage to the pitchman.
The options on the split-end side have one rule. First, the offense should
try to run to the numbers. If everything else is even, the offense should
try to run to the deepest linebackers.
Figure 10.9a shows the deepest linebacker aligned in the play-side A
gap. The play-side tackle has a great chance to get in and get this backer.
In figure 10.9b, the backer is in the B gap. This is a very tough get for the
tackle. Most of the time, a crackback block on the linebacker by a wide
receiver is used to get the B-gap linebacker.


a b
Figure 10.9 (a) Deep A-gap linebacker; (b) B-gap linebacker with
a crack block by the wide receiver.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.9a/438008/ke/R1E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.9b/438009/ke/R2-alw

128 Complete Offensive Line

Another technique that can be used if the defensive ends are playing
wide is to have the tackle step with the outside foot like a reach but then
come off inside the defensive end for the inside linebacker. This is called
the fake reach block. The tackle should go up hard inside and block the
The tackle needs to make a call to the guard and center to let them
know that the tackle is coming inside to get the linebacker. Once this
call is made, the guard can combo off the A-gap player and work off to
the backside linebacker. On the backside, the guard can handle it two
ways: slip through to the linebacker (figure 10.10a) or man it up and lock
down the backside (figure 10.10b). A potential problem when locking it
down is the weak linebacker run-through. Locking the backside keeps
the defensive end from chasing, but it frees the weak A gap. I like to use
the slip option and handle the defensive end with reverses and nakeds.


a b
Figure 10.10 (a) Skip blocking the backside; (b) man blocking
the backside.

Man on Man Outside

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.10a/438011/ke/R1 E4928/Trickett/Fig. 10.10b/438012/ke/R1
The odd stack is a very tough defense against LB LB LB
the speed option because of the bad angles V V V
on the front side as the blockers try to get up
to the linebackers (figure 10.11). The offense
has to block the 5-technique defender and
hope to pitch off the scrape linebacker. When
the offense does this, the play really starts to
get strung out, and the quarterback usually
dips up inside the B gap. Figure 10.11 Blocking the
A great scheme to counter the 3-3 stack 5-technique defender and X
blocking on the spread option.
defense is the X blocking scheme on the
option. The play-side tackle veer blocks
the B gap, stopping all linebacker run-throughs, and blocks
E4928/Trickett/Fig. the middle
linebacker. The play-side guard loops to the outside of the 5-technique
defensive tackle and blocks the play-side Sam linebacker. This forces the
5-technique defensive tackle to play the quarterback.
Option 129

A base adjustment to the odd stack is to get in a three-by-one set and try
to pull the defense to the side with the three receivers. The offense should
get more of a conventional Okie 50 defensive front and should run the
option out the weak side. The three wide receivers force the defense to
pull the linebackers to the outside to cover. If the defense chooses to leave
the linebacker in the box, the offense should be throwing the football.

The option is by far the most worked-on play by a defense. For the offense,
the option is great out of all formations, and it forces the defense to be
perfect in their assignments. This leads into the chapter on pass protec-
tion. Protection and drills for improving skills in this area will be fully
covered in the next chapter.
This page intentionally left blank.
Pass Protection
My philosophy of pass protection is to be very aggressive and
solid at the guard and center positions. The tackles must keep the outside
edges strong. I have a saying about how fast the linemen need to get set
on pass protection: They cant get set fast enough. However fast they
can get set, it is not fast enough.
My offensive linemen use three types of pass sets: the post, kick slide,
and vertical. The linemen must master all three, so we work on sets
every day before practice and sometimes after practice. The technique
of pass protection is a phase of football that can be worked on every day
year-round because players dont need to have pads on to work on their

132 Complete Offensive Line

75 Percent25 Percent Advantage

Regarding percentages of position that an offensive lineman wants on
the defender, a 75 percent to 25 percent advantage is the ideal position.
We call this alignment the 75 percent25 percent offensive advantage
(figure 11.1).

Figure 11.1 75 percent25 percent offensive advantage.

Some coaches want the offensive linemans outside leg in the defend-
ers crotch. This is the same thing I coach, but I stress that the offensive
lineman must look at his aiming point. If the offensive lineman is told
foot to crotch, he is not expected to look at the defenders crotch. The
aiming point is the defenders inside breast. The offensive lineman needs
big eyes on the defenders inside breast. The offensive lineman must
never look at the rushers head.
On the 75 percent25 percent advantage, linemen should use a kick slide
set or vertical set. The offensive guards and center will short set this align-
ment. A short pass set means the lineman gives no ground and gets hands
on the pass rusher as quickly as possible. For the 75 percent25 percent
advantage, the linemans footwork should involve picking up and replacing
with the outside foot first, the inside foot second. The defender is already
aligned where the lineman wants him; this is perfect position. There is no
reason to set inside or outside, so the lineman should just step and replace.
A common error made by offensive linemen is to set out and get shoe
to shoe or head up (figure 11.2), opening up the inside rushing lane. The
lineman must maintain his 75 percent25 percent relationship to keep
the rusher outside. Against a real tight 3- or 5-technique defender, the
lineman can use what is known as a short post to cover the slant. This is
described in the upcoming section on the post set.
Pass Protection 133

Figure 11.2 50 percent50 percent advantage even. Head-up

or shoe-to-shoe alignment.

Post Set
The post set will push the offensive blocker back into a 75 percent25
percent advantage position. A 50 percent50 percent advantage even is a
head-up shoe-to-shoe alignment. To get back to 75-25, the lineman takes
an inside-foot post set to gain this relationship (figure 11.3).

Figure 11.3 25 percent75 percent defensive alignment. Defender in an inside-

shade alignment on the offensive blocker.
134 Complete Offensive Line

The footwork is very important in gaining position, but the lineman

must also remember to get his hands on the defender as quickly as pos-
sible. When working the hands, the lineman should try to imagine the
inside hand becoming as strong as possible. He should place it inside the
defenders breastplate as quickly as possible; the outside hand should be
inside the framework as well. The feet and hands have to work together as
one movement. The only way to have tight hands is to have tight elbows.
Coaches should constantly relay this point to players while working on
pass protection. V V V V
The inside shade gives the defender a b
a 75 percent25 percent advantage.
The offensive blocker must work back Figure 11.4 (a) 50 percent50
percent even shoe-to-shoe alignment;
to get head up and get at least back
(b) two-step post set to try to get back
to 50 percent50 percent even (figure to 75 percent25 percent advantage.
A two-step post set (figure 11.4b) will get the offensive lineman back to 75
percent25 percent. Against the inside shade, the lineman should make sure
he at least gets back to head up and should fight to stay at least 50 percent50
percent. The post sets are still easier to do than setting a 3 or 5 technique.
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 11.4a/438017/ke/R1
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 11.4b/438018/ke/R1

Tackle Play
If the tackle is touching the defender, he uses a one-step kick and then
quick sets the rusher. At the tackle position, the offensive lineman must
be ready to cut angles and must be able to read the proper angle to take so
he can block the pass rusher with a one-step, two-step, V V
or three-step kick slide. If he cant use one of these, the
tackle must use a vertical pass set. The one-step kick is
similar to the guard setting a 3 technique. The tackle Figure 11.5 One-
wants to get his hands on the defender as quickly as step kick set.
possible while making sure he doesnt overset him
and get heads up (figure 11.5). If the rusher is hardly
touching the tackle, the tackle can set out and get to
a foot-to-crotch 75 percent25 percent relationship
because the defender is one man removed. This is Figure 11.6 Two-
step kick set.
done by using a two-step kick set (figure 11.6).
When the defender widens to a point where he isE4928/Trickett/Fig.
a couple yards away
from the blocker, the blocker can use another technique called half the
distance. This is used more often by the tackles than the guards or center.

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 11.5/438019/ke/R1
Pass Protection 135

A defensive end will often align outside wide and tilt to the inside.
This alignment makes the tackles feel very uneasy, and they tend to jump
outside and then get beat inside.
Tackles judge half the distance between the rusher and the tackle. The
tackle must judge this spot on the line of scrimmage and must also judge
the depth of the pass set. This is because the junction point is not on the
line of scrimmage but at an angle deep in the backfield. Understanding
how to judge these angles is very important for the tackles.
I have never had a tackle get beat when he got a three-step pass set and
was square to the line of scrimmage. This is usually a two-step kick set
and should never be over a three-step kick. The imaginary spot halfway
between is the key to the technique. Staying as square as possible to the
line of scrimmage while getting depth is also a big key to success.

Vertical Set
The vertical pass set will allow the blocker to get more depth quicker,
but the width of the pocket will be smaller. When going against a pure
speed rusher who is an upfield speed guy, the offensive lineman should
use the vertical pass set. On the vertical pass set, the lineman keeps the
shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and reads the inside number
of the pass rusher.

Learning the Post Pass Set

As stated earlier, a lineman should use the post pass V V V V
set on a head-up to inside pass rush defender. The
term short post is used when the lineman is facing
Figure 11.7 Short
a defender in a tight outside shade who may rush post.
inside (figure 11.7). It is also used when the lineman
is facing a defender in a head-up even alignment or an inside-shade
alignment. The post set for the tackles is taught in the same way as the
post is taught for the guards.
When learning the post, linemen should start with the same balanced
stance used for the running game. The blocker reads the defenders feet
to read the alignment. If a defender is head up or inside, the blocker
steps with the inside foot first. He steps inside and slightly gains ground
E4928/Trickett/Fig. 11.8/438022/ke/R1
until he is strong with the inside leg. Then he puts the inside foot into
the ground and holds (sticks it). When taking the step inside, many
136 Complete Offensive Line

blockers make the following mistake: When the foot hits the ground, it
flies back behind the blocker so that the inside foot is now back and the
outside foot is up. When the inside foot moves, the outside foot should
simultaneously come with it so the blocker can maintain balance. A lack
of balance and poor positioning are the main reasons a blocker gets beat.
When the blocker takes his inside post step, his inside hand comes
hard to the rushers inside breast. Tight elbows make for tight hands.
The blocker should get his hands on the defender as quickly as possible.
If the defender is lined up with an inside shade, the blocker should post
the rusher on a two-step post and try to get back the 75 percent25 per-
cent position. The blocker must get to at least 50 percent50 percent. He
should carry his body weight on the inside half of his body. This goes
back to mental weight and knowing how to adjust his body while not
worrying about the defender. The blocker should read the defenders
inside number. He should never look at the defenders head. He needs
to focus on the inside breast.

Kick Slide Technique on Outside Shade

The first thing to remember on the kick slide pass set is to not overset. The
blocker should not set out; he should get back to 50 percent50 percent on
the rusher. Defensive linemen are taught to read the blockers shoulders.
They read how fast the blocker jumps out, rises up, or turns to the side-
lines. This tells them what moves they need to make. If the blocker jumps
outside fast, the defender is going to go inside. If the blocker rises up, he
will get bull rushed. If the blocker turns and drops his second step in the
bucket, the defender will use an underarm rip or pull and swim inside.

Coaching Point
Pass blockers need to stay aggressive up and down the line of
scrimmage, not into the line of scrimmage. Too often players take
a good set and then lunge into the line of scrimmage. A great pass
blocking guard or center learns to slide firmly up and down the line
of scrimmage. A tackle should be at more of an angle off the line of
scrimmage. The blocker must be aggressive on these angles. Over-
extending and lunging forward may result in becoming top heavy.
This is the biggest mistake made in pass protection.
Pass Protection 137

If the blocker sets and stays square to the line of scrimmage as much
as he can, this forces the rusher to think, and the blocker has gained an
advantage. The defender is waiting for the offensive lineman to tell him
what move to use. If the defender has to stop and think because the line-
man is square to the line of scrimmage, the lineman has the advantageat
this point, he wins.

Versus the Outside-Shade Technique

By using a one-step kick set, the blocker can get the position he needs to
defeat a defender in an outside-shade technique (figure 11.8). The blocker
takes the first step with his outside foot back about 6 inches and resets
his inside foot. He must use quick hands. He reads the rushers inside
breast and gets his hands inside. The blocker should never look at the
pass rushers hand.

Figure 11.8 Tackle using a one-step kick set versus an outside-shade defender.

Every time a blocker sets an outside technique, he should set it and

be ready for the inside move. The best tactic versus the inside slant is
to punch the rusher as quickly as possible and try to shock him or get
him off balance. The blockers inside hand should be dominant if pos-
sible. But if the blocker can shock the defender with both hands, thats
great. When working the pass set drills, linemen should always set three
one-step kick sets. After setting the kick sets, they should set three more
kick sets, but this time, as soon as the outside foot hits the ground, the
linemen should come back inside on a two-step post. This simulates a
3-technique defender using an inside rush on the lineman as he sets out
to block the 3-technique defender.
138 Complete Offensive Line

Vertical Pass Set

The vertical set is used when the tackle and guards 1
are responsible for blocking three or four defenders V
2 3
without any help (figure 11.9). It is also used when
the tackle is facing a fast inside rusher and wants to
avoid oversetting him; in this case, the tackle will use
a vertical set to cut the angle. Figure 11.9 Ver-
For the vertical set, the blocker takes a 45-degree tical set.
kick slide step with the outside foot. Once he performs
the kick slide, he drags the inside foot straight back. Then he sets one,
two, three steps straight back with the outside foot moving vertically
back from the line of scrimmage.

Vertical Set Against a Wall

E4928/Trickett/Fig. 11.10/438024/ke/R1

Offensive linemen can learn the vertical set by working against a wall.
The lineman sets up about 2 feet away from the wall, facing the wall. He
takes a 45-degree kick slide step toward the wall and drags the inside
foot straight back. He then moves vertically down the wall with a one-step
kick. When he is comfortable with that, he performs a vertical two-step
kick backward down the wall. He finishes with a 45-degree kick step and
drag one, two, three. The lineman stays square to the wall, performing the
vertical pass sets. The wall keeps him going backward and prevents him
from getting width. This teaches the lineman to get depth on his pass set.

Pass Protection Drills

Players can work on pass protection drills during the off-season and the
summer. Successful pass protection is a combination of balance and body
control. Pass protection drills help each player gain control of his body
and learn proper technique. All linemen should be able to work from a
three-point or two-point stance on all pass protection drills.
Kick Sets and Vertical Sets
To begin, the linemen on the left side of the line execute three one-step
kick sets on the command set hut, set hut, set hut. The linemen on
the right side of the line then execute three one-step kick sets. Next, the
linemen on the left side execute three one-step kick sets and then drive
back inside on a two-step post to simulate blocking a pinching defender.
The linemen on the right side then repeat the same pattern.
Next, the linemen on the left side execute two-step kick sets. The line-
men on the right side then repeat the pattern. Guards do the same sets
because the technique used is the same as fan protection versus the 50
defense. The guard has to take a two-step kick to block the 5-technique
defensive tackle.
The tackles then work on the three-step kick slide. During this time, the
guards work on performing the one-step kick and coming back inside on
the two-step post to simulate blocking a pinching defender to the inside.
Finally, the linemen work on the vertical set. This includes the tackles
and guards. On the vertical set, the tackle sets back three steps, and the
guard sets back two steps. Then the linemen work on the sort technique
and gap techniques. For the sort technique, there are three defenders
and only two blockers.
All of this is done with nothing but sandbags. Use sandbags on the first
and second sets of each drill. The third set is done on air; the lineman
simply takes the set as if in a game. This allows the linemen to move
with quickness after using the 20-pound sandbag on the first two sets.
When the guards and tackles perform these sets from the down stance,
they hold the sandbags on the ground with both hands. When they take
the post and kick sets, they need to bring the sandbag up and punch on
the first step of the post or the first step on the kick set.

Kick Sets and Vertical Sets With Chest Pass
The second drill is similar to the first except it includes a chest pass at
the end of the drill. In part 2 of the drill, the linemen post set out of the
two-point stance holding the sandbags in both hands. After executing
the post from the down stance, the linemen continue to post and punch
four more times down the line. When the linemen hit the fifth step, they
execute a punch and throw the sandbag like a chest pass in basketball.
They then repeat this drill from the two-point stance. After the post set,
they throw the sandbag on the fifth step.

Double-Punch Drill
In the double-punch drill, the blocker hits one defender and then quickly
comes off to a second defender. This drill requires three players in each
group. While one group is working, the next group should be ready to go
as soon as the first group finishes. After the first group finishes and starts
to rotate players, the coach begins coaching the next group on the drill.
The coach continues coaching while each group rotates.
The group of three should include two bag holders and one offensive
pass blocker. The first bag holder is set out on a loose outside shoulder
technique so the offensive blocker has to take a one-step kick set and
punch the bag holder. As soon as he punches the first bag holder, the
blocker must come back inside and punch the second bag holder, who
was off the ball and comes late.

Twist Drill
My offensive linemen do the twist drill on Wednesdays and sometimes
Thursdays during the season. Start with the left guard and left tackle.
Two defenders execute a tackle-end twist or an end-tackle twist. The
offensive tackle and the guard work against both of these games. Only
work two at a time.
The left guard and center are now in focus. The two defenders work
a tackle-nose twist or a nose-tackle twist on the center and guard. A
defensive end can be substituted if the coach wants the offensive tackle
to work on reacting against a player with more speed.

The center and right guard now work the same two twiststhe tackle-
nose and nose-tackle twist. Lastly, the drill moves to the right guard and
right tackle; these two players work against the tackle-end twist and the
end-tackle twist.
When the first-team players have each completed their two pickups,
the second-team offensive linemen should rotate into the drill. Repeat the
drill with the second-team players, starting on the left side.
Coaching Points
The guards alignments are far off the football. The center must learn to
snap the football and get back even or deeper on the line of scrimmage
while the guards pick up the twist games.

One-on-One Pass Rush Versus Defensive Line

We do this drill for at least 9 minutes a day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays,
and Thursdays during the season. Start by lining up the five offensive
linemen on the line of scrimmage. To begin the drill, the left tackle blocks
the defensive end on two pass rushes. Next, the left guard blocks for two
pass rushes versus the defensive tackle, followed by the center for two
on a defensive tackle, the right guard for two on a defensive tackle, and
then the right tackle for two on the defensive end. Then the second-team
linemen rotate in to the drill and repeat the process.
Changing the snap count often will help the offensive blocker and will
also make the defensive lineman watch the football. The center uses a
shotgun snap (snapping the ball to the manager) on each repetition so
the defensive lineman sees the ball being snapped.

Set With Weighted Ball
The lineman gets in a great three-point stance while holding a 6-pound
weighted ball in both hands. On the command of set, hut, the lineman
takes either a post set or kick set and chest passes the weighted ball to a
teammate. The lineman should end up in a perfect pass protector position.
He freezes in this position until the coach releases him. The linemans
partner then repeats the drill, passing the ball back to him.
Coaching Points
I prefer that players use more kick sets than post sets because the kick
set is more difficult. Because guards should use a three-point stance all
the time except during the 2-minute offense, guards should do more work
down in a three-point stance rather than up in a two-point stance. The
tackles should work more out of a two-point stance than a three-point
When working out of a two-point stance, linemen must learn to stay
down in a good bent-knee position without bending their back. Both post
and kick sets are a two-step slide.
The lineman must be sure to work with tight elbows and execute a
basketball-style chest pass. He should aim the pass to hit his partner in
the face mask. The lineman needs to stay in great football position while
executing the drill.

Set and Pass the Ball

Each lineman works with a partner. The lineman holds a weighted ball in
both hands. He can begin the drill in a two- or three-point stance. On the
command set, hut, the lineman executes a post or kick set. This time he
continues to post or kick set for four or five steps with his partner as they
pass the ball back and forth. Linemen should post set for two repetitions
and kick set for three or four repetitions of the drill so they get more kick
sets than post sets.

Sumo Pass Protection in the Hoops
This is the favorite off-season
drill for many offensive linemen.
Place a hoop on a yard line so
the hoop is split down the middle.
One offensive lineman stands on
one side of the line in the hoop,
and another lineman stands on
the other side of the line in the
hoop (figure 11.10a).
Players must keep their a
heads back; there are no head
butts. Each lineman places one
hand in the armpit of the other
lineman. The outside hand is
placed on the outside of the
partners upper arm (figure
On the command go, each
player tries to throw the other b
out of the hoop (figure 11.10c).
The player must sink his hips
and really try to hold his center of
gravity. After the players go, they
are free to use hand replace-
ments on each otherwhatever
they need to do to get the other
out of the hoop.
Coaching Points
This drill will show which players Figure 11.10 Sumo pass protection in the hoops:
give second and third efforts. A (a) Two players stand on opposite sides of the
line in the hoop; (b) each player places one hand
quitter will have a very difficult in the armpit of the opponent, other hand on the
time with this drill. This is a very opponents upper arm; (c) players try to move the
competitive drill that indicates opponent out of the hoop.
who is tough and who likes to
compete. To help avoid head butts, the players can begin with their heads
offset on each others shoulders.
Keep score of wins and losses. Create an elimination tournament to find
out who is King of the Hoops.

Kick Slide Three-Man Punch
This drill is used to help guards, tackles, and centers work on the kick
slide set. A lineman lines up on a yard line. (Two linemen can do this drill
at the same time.) Three defenders stand to one side, spaced out 2 to 3
yards and staggered in alignment (figure 11.11a).
On the command set, hut, the lineman kick slides and punches the
number 1 defender (figure 11.11b). After punching number 1, the lineman
continues the kick slide and punches number 2, then he kick slides and
punches number 3 (figure 11.11, c and d). After the lineman punches the
number 3 defender, he should lock up and finish this defender off to the

Figure 11.11 Three-man punch: (a) lineman on yard line with three
defenders to the side; (b) lineman kick slides and punches number
1 defender.

Tackles can use the same procedure to work on vertical pass sets. Two
tackles line up on a yard line. Three defenders stand to one side, spaced
out 2 to 3 yards and staggered. On the command set, hut, the tackles
punch the number 1 defender and then the number 2 defender. When
the tackles get to the number 3 defender, they punch the defender, lock
him up, and finish him off to the outside.

Figure 11.11 (continued) Three-man punch: (c) lineman kick

slides and punches number 2 defender; (d) lineman kick slides
and punches number 3 defender.

Run Blocking in the Hoops
This is a great lower-body drill that helps players learn to sink their hips
and keep a high-quality base. Place a hoop on a yard line so the hoop
is split down the middle. One offensive lineman stands on one side of
the line in the hoop, and another lineman stands on the other side of the
line in the hoop.
Each player should be in a balanced two-point stance. The players
should offset their heads so they have an ear-to-ear relationship and
their heads are aligned with each others shoulders but not touching.
Each lineman has his hands on his thighs. On the command set, hut,
each lineman tries to get his hands inside the others hands and drive
the other out of the hoop. The linemen must be sure to keep their hips
low and keep a wide base with leverage.
Coaching Points
This drill will show which players give second and third efforts. A quitter
will have a very difficult time with this drill. The drill will also indicate which
players have great command of their hands (i.e., the players who get their
hands inside the other players hands at the start of the drill).
Keep score of wins and losses. Create an elimination tournament to
find out who is King of the Run Blockers.

Pass Protection 147

Five-Man Sled
The five-man sled can be used when the offensive linemen need leg work
and need to improve their leg drive. (Alternatively, the five-man wheel
trainer could be used.) Change the snap count with each repetition. Start
with four 5- to 10-yard drives, then rotate the second group into the drill.
The players should reset after 5 yards. They should change the foot
used for the lead step. My linemen do two left-foot runs to each right-foot
run, if possible. The linemen should keep the shoulder pads low, keep
the back flat, and use tight elbows with great punch. They should always
use powerful, choppy steps and maintain a good wide base.
Coaching Points
If things arent going well and the coach needs to get the players atten-
tion, he can have the players drive the sled for an extensive time. When
the coach calls the snap count, the players come off and drive the sled
the length of the field. Two or three shots of this will get their attention. I
use this about two times a season, and things always seem to pick up.
Linemen may be offset to the right or left. If they are, they should use
zone steps to execute the block on the sled.

Pass protection needs to be aggressive and solid. This chapter covered
several types of pass sets, techniques, and drills. Learning the proper
way to perform pass protection drills will help the offensive lineman
improve and refine his skills. And when the linemen are skillful in this
area, it makes for a very happy quarterback. In the next chapter, pass
progression and drills will be covered. Several drills will be broken down
and explained so the lineman understands his purpose during pass
progression. Many of these drills will simulate real football situations.
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and Drills
This chapter presents a seven-step progression of drills that will
help offensive linemen develop their skills in pass protection. We work
on this progression of drills every day in fundamental and individual
practices. Each one of these phases has its own value and will help an
offensive lineman become a better pass protector.
The pass progression drills are as follows:
1. Shuffle mirror
2. Pushpull
3. Pressure hop
4. Combination
5. Punch
6. Sandbags
7. Tap

150 Complete Offensive Line

Each phase of this pass progression work focuses on certain areas

pertaining to pass protection. In the shuffle mirror drill, linemen work
on body balance as well as good movement of the feet. The pushpull
drill helps with body control and staying balanced. Pressure hop helps
linemen learn how to stop a bull rusher and how to control their body
to stop a powerful force coming at them. The combination drill puts all
of the phases together and allows the linemen to practice working in a
realistic gamelike situation. The sandbags are great for learning a punch
while still controlling the upper body. Punching is a big part of pass pro-
tection, and the punch drill is used to work on timing and balance during
the punch. The tap drill also allows linemen to work on the timing of the
punch. These seven steps will help linemen break down the individual
segments of pass protection and then combine them together.
All of the drills are run out of the two-cone setup. Two cones should
be set 6 yards apart. Once the drill is set up, the centers should partner
up first down the line behind the cones, followed by the guards and
then the tackles.
The partners will sprint into the drill on the coachs command. When
they receive the command back, they will sprint out of the drill to the
outside. If the partners dont sprint into and out of the drill, the coach
may have them do up-downs or may kick them out of the drill.
In this chapter, each progression drill is broken down, including
descriptions of the procedure and purpose for each drill along with
coaching points.

Shuffle Mirror
The shuffle mirror is also known as mirror dodge or chase the rabbit. Two
cones are needed. Set the cones 6 or 7 yards apart. Draw a chalk line or
use a yard line out on the football field. The offensive lineman can crowd
the line but must never go over.
The offensive lineman gets in a great two-point stance with both hands
behind his back. He gets in position so his shoulders are over his knees
(figure 12.1). The lineman should stage his stance according to the side
he plays on. He should get his head up and get in good ready football
position. He should never look at the defenders head. Big eyes are a
must, just like in the run game. The lineman must read the defenders
numbers. The defender will line up directly in front of the lineman and
off the line about a yard. This is done so there will be space in between
the two players.
On the command go, the
defender moves quickly be-
tween the two cones. The offen-
sive lineman leads with his
direction-side foot. For example,
if the defender goes to the line-
mans right, the lineman will
lead with the right foot. This is
not a hop or pound. The lineman
shuffles squarely to the rabbit,
mirroring him perfectly. The
lineman must keep his hands
locked behind his back all the
way through the drill. This will
help the player learn to con-
trol his upper body. When the Figure 12.1 Shuffle mirror.
defender stops to go in another
direction, the lineman plants his
play-side foot and leads back out with the opposite foot. The defender
works the offensive lineman from cone to cone. The defender should
stay square to the cones and to the offensive lineman. This enables the
blocker to read the defenders numbers. The defender might turn slightly,
but he should try to stay frontal as much as possible.
Coaching Points
The biggest challenge for the lineman will be shifting to the lead foot. The
lineman may need to slow down until he gets the feel of leading with the
near foot. He should step to the right with the right foot, shift his weight,
and then step with the right foot again. If the lineman is moving to the right
and the rabbit suddenly changes to move to the left, the lineman must
step with his left foot to change directions. He must not step under his body
with the right foot. Once the lineman has a feel for the drill, he should turn
it loose and let go. Being efficient in the footworkmaintaining quick and
active feetis the most important element of the drill. The lineman must
not get the shoulders leaning to the right when going right or to the left
when going left. He should try to let his shoulders ride between his legs
and should stay as controlled as possible without letting his body lean.

Linemen can use this drill to find their center of gravity and balance. The
lineman gets into his stance as in the shuffle mirror drill. He puts his right
hand behind his back and grabs his left wrist. He gets into a great stag-
gered stance. He should stagger the foot back according to the side of the
offensive line he plays on.
The partner puts one hand
on the linemans shoulder
on the same side as the
linemans back leg and puts
his other hand behind the
linemans neck (figure 12.2).
When the lineman gets in
a great stance, he freezes
in the stance. He should
lock his core. When the
partner pulls the lineman
forward, the lineman posts
forward and goes with the
pull, taking two post steps
forward but keeping good Figure 12.2 Pushpull.
body position. When the
partner pushes the lineman back, the lineman plants his feet and presses
his shoulder against the pushing hand. The key to the drill is to be strong
in the lower back and fight to stay in that locked-in stance. The drill starts
when the partner pushes the linemans shoulder back. The blocker may
have a tendency to let the shoulder turnhe must not do this! No matter
what pressure is put on him, the lineman must work hard to keep his
shoulders square and to maintain a great stance as much as possible.
Coaching Points
When the partner pushes on the linemans shoulder, the partner should
release the pressure on the neck. When he pulls on the linemans neck,
the partner should release the pressure on the shoulder. He should try
to pull the lineman forward (not down on the neck), trying to yank the
lineman out of his stance. When the partner pushes the lineman back-
ward, the partner should try to raise the lineman up and make him weak
at that point of pressure. The partner needs to stand tall and help make
this the best drill possible. Sometimes partners have a tendency to lie
down and pull down on the offensive lineman. The drill has to be run by
the defender. The coach should make sure the defender doesnt get lazy
and hurt the blocker. The defender has to stay tall.
Pressure Hop
Pressure hop is a drill used to practice stopping a bull rusher. This drill is
usually performed with two offensive players and two defensive players.
First, the defensive player should be fitted into the chest of the offen-
sive blocker. The defender fits his hands into the blockers armpits and
executes a drive block (figure 12.3). The offensive blocker is upright in his
football stance with his hands on the outsides of the partners shoulders.
He should have a slight
bend in his knees. Once
the defender starts to
drive block the offensive
lineman, the lineman
holds the defender as
long as possible and then
executes a shor t hop
backward with both feet.
Once the offensive player
hops back, he again tries
to hold off the rusher as
long as he can until he
has to perform a short
hop backward and reset
again. The two players Figure 12.3 Pressure hop.
should do this for four
or five hops and then stop. There should be a lot of straining going on
during this drill. When taking the short hop backward, the lineman should
execute a swap of the hips like when doing a power clean. He should
drop his hips and reset.
The defensive partner starts with a drive block at three-fourths strength.
Once both players are able to perform the drill well, the defensive partner
comes at the offensive man at full speed.
Coaching Points
The offensive man needs to lean slightly forward with knees slightly
bent. The defender should fit up with his face in the numbers, bow his
neck, get his hands in the armpits, and maintain a flat back. He should
then execute the drive block. The defender should apply pressure on the
blocker at all times so he learns to stop the rusher, reset his hips, and
be ready to stop him again. This drill is a great conditioning drill and will
force the player to really strain.

The combination drill is a combination of the shuffle mirror, pushpull,
and pressure hop drills. Together these drills simulate a situation that is
similar to what the players will experience in a real game.
The offensive blocker gets into the perfect pass blocking stance. He
should bend his knees, hold his shoulders over his knees, keep his elbows
tight, and stagger his feet according to the side of the line he plays on. The
defensive partner walks up to the offensive blocker and grabs his outside
shoulder area. The offensive blocker puts his hands into the partners
chest and presses. The defensive partner grabs the outside shoulder
and pulls. There should be constant pressure on the offensive blockers
hands. On the command go, the defensive partner will shuffle mirror, and
the offensive blocker will press and shuffle. The offensive blocker must
look at the defensive partners numbers on all moves. After the defensive
partner shuffles, he may bull rush so the offensive blocker has to pressure
hop. The defensive partner may also use a pull technique to simulate
pushpull. The coach should make sure that the defender stays tall and
doesnt lean forward or lie down on the blocker. It is the defenders job to
help the blocker have the best drill possible.
Many possible combinations can be used. For example, the defender
may execute any of these movements:
1. Shuffle right
2. Push, pull
3. Shuffle left
4. Shuffle right
5. Bull rush
6. Shuffle left
The defensive partner should mix up his movements and really work
the offensive blocker hard.
Coaching Points
Let the offensive blocker get himself into the best offensive pass block-
ing stance possible before the defender approaches him. Once they are
fitted together, the two players really need to keep a lot of pressure on
each other. To do this, the defender pulls on the blocker, and the blocker
pushes on the defender.

Timing the punch and maintaining balance are very important and very
difficult to execute. During this drill, blockers will punch hand shields or
shoulder pads on their partner.
Players start in two lines, and the coach calls out the command Give
me four out. This means two pairs of players need to be out doing the
drill. Two players are the blockers, and two players are the partners. On
the command go, the partner comes at the blocker, and the blocker
punches the hand shield when the partner is close. If the players are
wearing shoulder pads, the partner should put his hands behind his back
and then rush and take the punch. The blocker tries to maintain a great
pass set and be ready to strike. He must not punch too quickly and get
overextended. This can be an early issue. Another issue is punching too
late and letting the defender get on top of the blocker. Each player should
be aware of his arm length and just how quickly or slowly he should be
punching the hand shield or shoulder pad.
When the blocker strikes the punch, he needs to give ground, reset, and
be ready to strike again. Players should do this for four or five punches
and then rotate.
Coaching Points
The biggest problem that
players have in this drill is
dropping their hands after
striking a punch. Guards
and centers must always
carry their hands high and
in a boxing strike position.
Tackles must learn to strike
with both hands from their
belt buckles. Tackles may
reset their hands to the point
of the belt buckle as shown
in figure 12.4.
As players perfect the Figure 12.4 Resetting the hands to the belt
drill, they should speed it up buckle.
to get the rhythm of punch
and reset. They should always keep their head up and keep big eyes on
the target. They will not hit what they cannot see.

Sandbags are the perfect aid for helping linemen learn a great pass set.
We do post, vertical, and kick sets while using sandbags as a teaching aid.
In two lines, players pair up behind two cones. On the command go,
two players jump out with the sandbags in their hands, ready to execute
the drill. On the command set hit, the centers take off together in one
direction and perform a kick slide (figure 12.5a). They punch the sandbag
forward each time the lead foot hits the ground. They repeat this step and
punch for five or six steps at an angle of their kick slide step. The kick
slide is the only set the centers use; they never use a post set. Guards
and tackles use the post set (figure 12.5b).

a b

Figure 12.5 Sandbags: (a) centers; (b) guards and tackles.

The guards and tackles will be back to back when executing the post
set. On the post set, they should post into the line of scrimmage with a
punch and replace. They should execute the post steps five or six times
down the line of scrimmage.
On the second set, the centers kick slide to their left. Again, they are
lined up behind each other so they can go in the same direction. The
guards and tackles kick slide in the appropriate direction according to
which side they play on. Usually on Wednesdays, we have the tackles and
guards perform the vertical set. The tackles and guards do the kick slide
and hold off the post set. When using the vertical pass set, the tackles set
back three or four steps. The guards set back two or three steps. Once
again, the linemen should punch when the lead foot hits the ground.

When the offensive linemen take their regular pass set stance, they
should be holding the sandbags. They should keep elbows tight and
arms at a 30- to 40-degree angle. When the offensive blocker performs
the kick step or post step, he should punch the sandbag with that first
step. For example, if the blocker kick slides to the left, he should punch
the sandbag every time the left foot leads out and hits the ground.
Once the step is taken and the sandbag is extended, the lineman should
make sure the arm is not extended over 80 degrees and never closer
than 30 degrees. This will ensure a tight, short, and powerful punch. It
will also help the lineman maintain balance and body control.
Coaching Points
The coach may have to stay in front of the blocker and hold his hand
out as a target for the blocker to punch the sandbag to. This sometimes
helps the blocker find the rhythm needed to do this drill. Regarding arm
angles, players should be more open than closed. Most players will hold
the bag next to their chest. Once the drill starts, the players should hold
the bag out away from their body with an arm angle of 30 to 40 degrees.

Offensive linemen need to get the feel of the defender putting his arms
around their body and still be able to time the punch. Players should do this
drill in shoulder pads. The partner comes at the blocker, and the blocker is
set in a great pass set, waiting to punch (figure 12.6). The partner needs
to get close enough to reach up with both hands and tap the outside tip
of the blockers shoulder pads. The partner will still take the punch from
the offensive blocker. The partner then drops his hand and gets ready to
reach up again and retap the blocker. Players should perform four or five
repetitions. The offensive blocker punches and resets to strike another
punch. When the blocker feels the arms of the defender coming to grab
him, he learns how to time the punch. If the defender is close enough to
grab the blocker, the defender is usually close enough to punch.

a b

Figure 12.6 Tap: (a) tap position; (b) offensive blocker punching tapper.

Coaching Points
Make sure the defender does not get too fast with his hands and just tap,
tap, tap. He needs to slow down and make sure the blocker is ready to
punch. Each tap is an individual drill in itself.

Pass Progression and Drills 159

This concludes the seven-step progression of pass protection drills.
Offensive linemen should do these drills at least twice a week during the
season and every day during football camp in three- or four-part phases.
The progressions discussed will help each player become an effective
pass blocker. The drills also allow the blocker to work on any weak parts
of his pass blocking. At times, the shuffle mirror, sandbags, punch, and
tap drills may be the only drills used. In the next chapter, well discuss
conditioning and core work. These are two aspects that play a key part
in the success of an offensive lineman.
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and Core Work
Conditioning is one of the main factors in a linemans ability
to become a great player. Conditioning comes from distance and sprint
running. The best players are always in the best condition. Being in great
condition allows the player to perform at the top of his game and to go
full speed on every repetition.
A great core and a very strong back allow the player to create power
and torque when performing. Body appearance (with a great core) and
good health are additional reasons for wanting to be in top shape.
Linemen should run year-round to maintain their weight. Once a large
person gets heavy, it is very difficult to get the weight off. Linemen need
to be able to run long distances as well as the 110-yard distance.

162 Complete Offensive Line

Five Fifths
The lineman runs five fifths of a mile around the football field in a time of
80 seconds a fifth. After each fifth, the lineman gets a 45-second break
before he runs the next fifth. This is repeated until all five fifths are com-
pleted. Once the lineman can run five fifths in 80 seconds, his next goal
is to drop the time down to 75 seconds, then 70 seconds. Once he can
run five fifths in 65 seconds or less, he will be in great shape.
To set up this drill, use eight cones to mark the course on the football
field. Set four cones on the 5-yard lines where they connect with the
sidelines. Place the other four cones 5 yards in on the goal line to create
a perfect curve. This distance will measure out to be a fifth of a mile. Front
starting point after one lap is made from start to finish at the same point.
After running five of these, the player will have completed a mile.

The 110s are run in 18 seconds with a 45-second break between each
run. The player repeats this until he has completed 15 110-yard runs.
During the summer, players should overtrain on these by building up to 30
sets of 110s about three-quarters of the way through summer workouts.
Then, when they go back to running only 15 110s, it will seem effortless.
The drill starts on the line at the back of the end zone and ends on
the opposite goal line. After crossing the goal line, the player strides out,
turns around, and gets ready to start from the back of the end zone on
that end of the field.

Core Stability
Core stability should be a primary area of focus year-round. The first
step is to identify the core and the targeted areas. The human core con-
sists of the abdominal muscles, the right and left obliques, and the mid
to lower back. Just as every lineman is different in the way he runs or
blocks, each linemans core strength will separate him as an athlete and
in his ability to dominate on the field. A strong and stable core will allow
a lineman to be more mobile with his steps because of the balance and
stability he will gain. Core stability also allows the lineman to execute
more powerful blocks because the core support helps him deliver each
shock during play.
Entire core
Front Plank
Lie on your abdomen. Cup your hands to make a pyramid with your
elbows underneath your chest. Your legs and feet are together. Rise up
on your toes and lift your body off the ground (figure 13.1). Keep your
head down to ensure a flat back. Hold for 90 seconds, then lower to the
ground. Complete two or three repetitions.

Figure 13.1 Front plank.

Entire Core
Plate V-Up
Lie on your back with your legs straight out and feet together. Hold a
25-pound weight plate in both hands with arms extended straight up
from your chest in front of your face (figure 13.2a). Raise your legs and
lift your shoulders off the ground, touching the weight plate to your feet
as your body forms a V (figure 13.2b). Do not let the weight generate any
momentum. Remember, you want to have a strong core and then use it.
Do two sets of 25 repetitions.

Figure 13.2 Plate V-up: (a) starting position; (b) up position.

Entire Core
Bicycle Step
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Lift both legs off the
ground with one leg straight and the other leg bent. Bring the opposite
elbow toward the bent knee (figure 13.3a). Rotate your legs and elbows,
bringing the other knee up toward the opposite elbow (figure 13.3b). You
can either time the exercise and perform two sets of 45 seconds each
or count the number of times the elbow moves toward the knee (right
elbow to left knee and left elbow to right knee equals one repetition) and
perform two sets of 18 repetitions.

Figure 13.3 Bicycle step: (a) left elbow to right knee;

(b) right elbow to left knee.

Entire Core
Stability Ball Toss
Lie flat on your back. Hold a stability ball between your legs (figure 13.4a).
Lift your legs slightly off the ground and your arms straight above your
head slightly off the ground. Lift your legs to bring the ball to meet your
hands in the middle (like a V). Grab the ball with your hands (figure 13.4b)
and return to the start position (figure 13.4c). Return the ball to your legs
by lifting your hands and grabbing the ball with your legs. One round trip
(ball from legs to hands and from hands to legs) is one repetition. Perform
two sets of 15 repetitions.

Figure 13.4 Stability ball toss:

(a) starting position with stability
ball between legs; (b) lifting legs
and handing off ball to hands; (c)
returning to the starting position with
stability ball in hands.

Entire Core
Hanging Knee Raise
This exercise not only builds core strength, but also improves grip strength,
shoulder strength, and mental toughness. You will need a squat rack.
Chalk up your hands to help keep your grip. Hang from the top of the
rack so your feet do not touch the ground (figure 13.5a). Keep your toes
flexed and your feet out in front to avoid swinging between repetitions.
Bring your knees up toward your chest (figure 13.5b) and pause for a
two count. Extend your legs, keeping your feet off the ground. Perform
two sets of 20 repetitions.

a b

Figure 13.5 Hanging knee raise: (a) starting position; (b) lifting knees toward chest.

For a more advanced version, keep the legs straight, lifting your straight
legs up past your belly button.
To develop mental toughness and core stability, hang with your knees
or legs up for 1 minute.

Side Plank
Get into the up position described for a front plank (page 163). Rotate to
the right side so your bent right arm is on the ground aligned with your
chest but your hand is in front of your chest. Place your left arm on your
left hip (figure 13.6a). Your left leg will be stacked on top of your right leg.
Keep your body straight and keep your right hip off the ground for 90
seconds. Return to the front plank position and repeat, rotating to the left
side (figure 13.6b). Perform two or three sets on each side.

Figure 13.6 (a) Right plank; (b) left plank.

Resisted Side Bend
Grab a 45-pound weight plate. Stand
with your feet on the ground and the
45-pound plate in one hand. Place
your free hand on your hip. Keep-
ing your legs straight, bend to the
weighted side (figure 13.7). Remem-
ber not to bend your legs when bend-
ing to the weighted side because
this will cause you to push off the
legs instead of pulling with the free
oblique. Return to the start position
and repeat to the same side. After 10
repetitions, switch sides. Perform two
sets of 10 repetitions on each side.

Figure 13.7 Resisted side bend.

Bench Oblique Rise
You will need a partner for this exercise. Lie down on your right hip on a
flat bench so your upper torso hangs off the bench (figure 13.8a). Your
partner braces your legs. Cross your hands over your chest and let your
head and shoulders hang toward the ground. Extend up (figure 13.8b).
Squeeze at the top position for a two count and then control yourself as
you return to the start position. Perform 10 repetitions on your right side
and then switch sides. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions on each side.

Figure 13.8 Bench oblique rise: (a) starting position with

hip on flat bench; (b) extending up.

Barbell Russian Twist
Stand, holding a barbell that is end over end. Grab the top of the barbell.
Slightly bend your knees and keep your arms straight and locked out.
Rotate from side to side (figure 13.9), lowering the barbell as far as pos-
sible while keeping the arms locked out. If the arms start to bend, you are
going too low and defeating the purpose of the exercise. Lowering the
barbell to the right and then to the left equals one repetition. Complete
two sets of 20 repetitions.

a b

Figure 13.9 Barbell Russian twist: (a) rotating to the right side; (b) rotating to the
left side.

Stability Ball Hip Thrust
Get into a side plank position with a stability ball between your legs and
with your hip off the ground. Thrust your hip up for a two count (figure
13.10) and then return to plank position, keeping your hip off the ground.
This exercise also develops the groin muscles because of the pressure
applied to the stability ball. Perform 12 repetitions, then switch sides.
Perform two sets of 12 repetitions on each side.

Figure 13.10 Stability ball hip thrust.

Mid and Lower Back
Lie facedown on the ground with your arms straight out in front of you
and with your legs straight (figure 13.11a). Lift your arms and legs off the
floor (figure 13.11b). Hold this position for a two count and then release.
Perform two sets of 20 repetitions.
For a more advanced version, perform this exercise on a stability ball.

Figure 13.11 Superman: (a) starting position; (b) lifting arms and legs.

Mid and Lower Back
Back Extension
If you have access to a glute-ham machine, use it. If not, use a stability
ball or flat bench. Get in position in the glute-ham machine with your nose
level with the bottom T bar (figure 13.12a). Your legs are straight, and your
hips are on the roller. Extend up (figure 13.12b) and hold the position for
a two count when you are parallel to the floor. Your back should be flat.
Perform two sets of 15 repetitions.

Figure 13.12 Back extension: (a) starting position; (b)

extending up.

For a more advanced version, hold a weight plate to your chest (figure
13.13a) or add a twist at the top position (figure 13.13b).

Figure 13.13 Advanced versions of back extension: (a) holding a

weight plate to the chest; (b) adding a twist in the up position.

Mid and Lower Back
Bird Dog Pole
Get down on all fours, with your knees and hands flat. Your head should
be flat, eyes looking to the ground. Have a coach or partner place a PVC
pipe between your shoulder blades so it is in line with your rear end. The
pipe will measure your stability and balance while you are flexed in an
uncomfortable position. Once the PVC pipe is placed, lift your right arm
and left leg (figure 13.14a), pushing each limb straight back. If your limbs
drift or the PVC pipe falls, there is a flaw in your exercise technique. Point
with the extended arm and flex the toe of the extended foot. Hold for a
two count, return to start position, and switch sides, lifting the left arm and
right leg (figure 13.14b). Perform two sets of 20 repetitions on each side.

a b

Figure 13.14 Bird dog pole: (a) lifting the right arm and left leg; (b) lifting the left
arm and right leg.

Mid and Lower Back
Alternate Lying Bird Dog
Get in a superman positionfacedown on the ground, arms straight out
in front of you, and legs straight. Raise your right arm and left leg (figure
13.15a), lifting your thigh off the ground. Hold for a two count. Return to the
start position and repeat with your left arm and right leg (figure 13.15b).
Perform two sets of 20 repetitions on each side.

Figure 13.15 Alternate lying bird dog: (a) lifting the right arm and left leg; (b)
lifting the left arm and right leg.

Mid and Lower Back
Lying Leg Crossover
Get in a superman positionfacedown on the ground, legs straight
except place your arms flat to the sides, elbows bent. Your goal is to try
to take the left foot to the right side (figure 13.16a) and take the right
foot to the left side (figure 13.16b) by crossing your leg over your body.
Complete as many repetitions as possible in 1 minute. Complete one set.

Figure 13.16 Lying leg crossover: (a) bringing left foot to right side;
(b) bringing right foot to left side.

Mid and Lower Back
Balance Ball
This is a total core exercise that also builds a strong groin and improves
balance. Grab a stability ball. If you are a beginner, start against a wall
or another firm object that you can
brace yourself on until you are able
to balance on your own. Place both
knees on the stability ball. Find your
balance with your hips extended and
your back straight. Squeeze the ball
with your knees to help keep your
body stable and balanced. Place your
hands on your head (figure 13.17).
Hold this position for 1 minute. Per-
form two sets.
For a more advanced version, have
your coach or a partner lightly tap
your abdomen, elbows, or other parts
of your body to test your balance. Or
toss a light medicine ball to a partner.
When you become truly advanced,
you can progress from the knee
position to a standing position on the
stability ball. Figure 13.17 Balance ball.

180 Complete Offensive Line

The core is the most important muscle group in the body because all
power and force are generated through the core area. A player with a
strong core and a strong back will be a much stronger football player.
Offensive linemen should remember core flexibility in every exercise
they do. Bodybuilders condition their muscles for performance by con-
stantly flexing between sets to build muscle endurance. The same concept
applies to core endurance in football: The more the players core endures,
the easier it is to build on.
This book began with instructions for the offensive lineman on the
proper way to get in a stance and make all the run blocks that a lineman
needs to make. We have covered all phases of pass protection and the
drills to help linemen learn pass protection. Drills for practicing pass
protection, blitzes, and twist games were also covered. In addition, weve
discussed conditioning for linemen as well as core stabilization.
If a player wants to become a great offensive lineman, he needs to be
the guy who outworks everyone! Hard work and sweat are the way to
become a really good offensive lineman. If a player also has some skill
and natural talent, he can become great!
Drill Finder

Develop Strong Hands page 14
Sumo Drill page 21
Six-Point Explosion Drill page 23
Chest Pass Drill page 24

Drive Blocks
Stance and Start page 36
Fit page 36
Approach page 37
Contact Through the Fit page 38
Finishing the Block page 39
One-Man Sled page 39
Execute the Drive Block page 40

Reach Blocks
Stretch Step page 52
Stretch on Wide Zone page 53
Learning Fit for the Reach Block page 54
Step to Fit page 54
Execute the Reach Block page 54

Cutoff Blocks
Reverse Teaching the Cutoff Block page 66
Step to the Fit page 66
Execute the Cutoff Block page 67

Down Blocks
Fit for the Down Block on a Penetrating Defender page 73
Hit Through the Fit on a Penetrating Defender page 74
Execute the Down Block on a Penetrating Defender page 74
Hit Through the Fit page 76
Teaching the Block Using the Reverse Blocking Progression page 76
Reverse Body Block page 77

182 Drill Finder

Pass Protection
Vertical Set Against a Wall page 138
Kick Sets and Vertical Sets page 139
Kick Sets and Vertical Sets With Chest Pass page 140
Double-Punch Drill page 140
Twist Drill page 140
One-on-One Pass Rush Versus Defensive Line page 141
Set With Weighted Ball page 142
Set and Pass the Ball page 142
Sumo Pass Protection in the Hoops page 143
Kick Slide Three-Man Punch page 144
Run Blocking in the Hoops page 146
Five-Man Sled page 147

Pass Progression and Drills

Shuffle Mirror page 150
PushPull page 152
Pressure Hop page 153
Combination page 154
Punch page 155
Sandbags page 156
Tap page 158

Conditioning and Core Work

Five Fifths page 162
110s page 162
Front Plank page 163
Plate V-Up page 164
Bicycle Step page 165
Stability Ball Toss page 166
Hanging Knee Raise page 167
Side Plank page 168
Resisted Side Bend page 169
Bench Oblique Rise page 170
Barbell Russian Twist page 171
Stability Ball Hip Thrust page 172
Superman page 173
Back Extension page 174
Bird Dog Pole page 176
Alternate Lying Bird Dog page 177
Lying Leg Crossover page 178
Balance Ball page 179
About the Author

Rick Trickett was hired as the offensive line

and assistant head coach at Florida State
University in 2007. He is regarded by most
as the guru of developing offensive linemen.
No other current or past offensive line coach
has trained more players who have gone on to
win all-conference and All-American honors.
Coaching Stops
1973 Glenville State College (linebackers coach)
1974-75 Indiana University of Pennsylvania (linebackers coach)
1976-77 West Virginia University (defensive line coach)
1978-79 West Virginia University (offensive line coach)
1980-81 Southern Illinois University (offensive line coach)
1982-85 University of Southern Mississippi (offensive line coach)
1985 University of New Mexico (offensive line coach)
1986-88 Memphis State University (offensive line coach)
1989-92 Mississippi State University (offensive line coach)
1993-98 Auburn University (offensive line coach)
1999 Glenville State College (head coach)
2000 Louisiana State University (assistant head coach and offensive line
2001-06 West Virginia University (assistant head coach and offensive
line coach)
Four players drafted in the first round in a six-year span at Auburn
Victor Riley (Chiefs number 1 draft choice in 1998)
Willie Anderson (Bengals number 1 draft choice in 1996)
Wayne Gandy (Rams number 1 draft choice in 1994)
Kendall Simmons (Steelers number 1 draft choice in 2001)
More than 20 former players in the NFL
Six All-American offensive linemen in his career
30 players with all-conference honors
13 players named either first- or second-team freshmen All-Americans

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