Circuit Training for the Eight Man Front

Jim Knowles Defensive Coordinator Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, Mich.

Kyle Nystrom Special Teams Coordinator & Linebackers Coach

n behalf of Head Coach Gary Darnell and the entire Western Michigan football program, we would like to thank the Summer Manual committee for the opportunity to share our thoughts. Our staff made the move to the eight-man front in the spring of 2000, and consequentially experienced a great deal of success during the 2000 season. When playing an eight-man front scheme, we believe that it is critical to avoid segmentation of the defense and to promote the vision of one unit. As you are well aware, this style of defense is committed to stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. Everyone on the defensive unit must believe in this philosophy and play a significant role in the package. Therefore, we developed a circuit-training program to teach the critical fundamentals of the defense. We begin every practice with a defensive circuit, which mirrors the philosophy of starting fast we take into each game. There are three elements of playing the eight man front package that a defense must practice on a consistent basis. These are: 1. Tackling 2. Take Aways 3. Pass Rush By training these skills with a circuit approach, you are able to practice a variety of techniques in a 10-minute period and keep the tempo enthusiastic for both the players and the coaches. We hope you are able to develop an idea from how we practice and encourage you to call or visit if you have any questions. Tackling Circuit 1. Skate Tackle 2. Sideline Tackle 3. Snatch Tackle 4. Head Across Tackling Circuit: Skate Tackle 1. Place two cones five yards apart 2. Place a cone approximately four yards to the left and one yard behind the left cone. 3. Continue to place two more cones to the left at 4 x 1 intervals, leaving a football at the last cone. 4. Repeat the procedure to the right. 5. Instruct the players to each stand by a cone. 6. Two players will stand one yard in front of the first cones and face the other players.


7. All remaining players will proceed to the last cone (one half to the right, one half to the left) and form a line. 8. The players at the last cone will pick up the football. 9. The players at the other cones will get into a six-point position. 10. On command, the two players standing in front will shuffle (one to the right, one to the left) defeating three cut blocks and executing a form tackle on the last player. 11. When finished, the tackler will go to the back of the runningback line and each player will move one cone to the inside. 12. The two players at the first cone will now face the others and become the tacklers. Coaching Points 1. Tacklers must shuffle in a football position with hands below the knees. 2. Tacklers must keep fingers up and palms down when executing block protection and strike the shoulder pad and side of the helmet of the blocker. Avoid slapping the back of the shoulder pads. 3. Tacklers must use a sprawling motion with the outside leg in order to keep it clear of the blocker. 4. Blockers must give excellent effort to try and capture the outside leg of the tackler. 5. When executing the tackle, be sure the tackler gets his head across the runner and runs to and through the ball carrier, continuing to drive his legs until the whistle is blown.

Diagram 1

Tackling Circuit: Sideline Tackle 1. Coach will stand in the middle of the field with two footballs. 2. Players will divide into two lines. One half of the players will line up on the numbers and simulate the offensive players. The second line will align on the hash mark at five yards depth for the defensive line and linebackers and 10 yards for the defensive backs. 3. Defensive players should be in a foot-

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

2. This is a teaching drill so predetermine the side for the release and angle tackle. The emphasis on this drill is to teach a defender to release off of a block low and get under control to make an angle tackle. 11. 3. The first players in the line should be in a six-point position. 2. and arms slightly bent. Immediately after the cut block. Diagram 4 • AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 • . place the ball five yards in front of each line. Coaching Points 1. The ball carrier. The defensive player must tip or intercept the ball. 4. eyes below chin. When executing a cradle fumble recovery. 8. Coaching Points 1. 3. 10. Teach the carrier to present a good look but let the tackler win the drill. be sure that the player bends at the knees and gets his hands under the ball (like a shortstop fields a ground ball). At the “hit” command the tackler will pop to a football position and read the flow of the runner. the first player in the line will execute a cradle fumble recovery and hold the position until checked by the coach. the first player in the line will execute a scoop and score fumble recovery. run with good tempo. The cradle position should cover all points of the ball and the coach will try to pry the ball out. The ball carrier is five yards behind the blocker. Tackler will attack downhill and at an angle to fit his head to the outside of the carrier. running an additional five yards with the ball. Coaching Points 1. 2. blocker. 4. The defensive player will then go to offense and the offensive receiver will then go to the defense line. 5. On command. The defensive player will take an inside out angle of pursuit and use the sideline to pin the receiver and make the tackle. 7. Coaching Points 1. The defender will fit into the blocker with leverage to the side he will release. 6. 3. The drill starts when the ball is thrown to the receiver. 8. Once he takes away the receiver’s angle he should accelerate through the carrier and make the tackle. Next he will step to his left and snatch or throw the blocker to his right. Continue until each player has progressed though the drill. the player should dive straight out. 2. Alternate the players as they complete tackling or running the football. After executing a repetition. the quarterback will throw the ball in the vicinity of the defensive player. On command. Locate the ball carrier and execute and an angle tackle. Emphasize lockout before the snatch and dip and rip to come out of the snatch in a balanced position before pressing the blocker. he will throw the ball to the simulated receiver aligned on the numbers. the play- Diagram 3 Diagram 2 Tackling Circuit: Snatch Tackle 1. Ball carrier is taught to pick either alley he chooses. separating from the blocker. Strip Tackle Take Away Circuit: Fumble Recovery 1. Form four lines of players in front of a quarterback. The players should then tuck the ball away as the coach tries to strip the ball from the player. the blocker will attempt to cut the defensive player. 2. 5. The blocker assumes high breakdown position loosely holding the edges of the defender’s shoulder pads and applies a moderate amount of pressure. Continue until each player has progressed through the drill. The defensive player must close hard. 6. 4. Fumble Recovery 2. the player will place the ball back at the fiveyard mark. Start the tackler in a sit up position with back to the carrier. The first player in the line should be in a football position with feet moving. As the defender’s hips clear the block. 5. On command. 5. Take Away Circuit: Interception Drill 1. The defender will have a secure hold on the blocker’s breastplate with both hands. Next. 6. Divide the players into two lines. The tackling line and the ball carrier line should be five yards apart. dip and rip the trail arm to the left to come to a momentary breakdown position. but not to lower his head. Place a blocker in a six-point position in front of each line. staying low to the ground and grabbing the ball with hands. Teach the tackler to “blink his eyes open” keep his head up and fit snug to the outside of the rib cage on the carrier. 3. 3. Rake and Punch 4. After finishing the drill. Rotate the drill going from defender to ball carrier to blocker and then back to defender. Tackling Circuit: Head Across 1.ball position. 4. drive his hips around to resist the path of the carrier and sprint his feet until the whistle is blown to end the rep. 2. 2. and defender are all aligned on the same yard line. 7. 2. 3. Tackler also clubs his arms through and around the carrier squeezing for tackle security and a possible take away. When executing a scoop and score recovery. Form four lines of players and place a ball one yard in front of each line. shorten his stride and sink his hips as he constricts the ball carrier’s running lane. 5. Take Away Circuit 1. Interception Drill 3. On the coach’s command. 7. 4. 6. On command. 3. the defender will lock out. 4.

Form two lines of defensive players outside the tight end position on the play strip. On command the ball carrier and the tackler execute and angle tackle keeping the ball carrier up. Coaching Points 1. Receiver runs half speed. 4. Defender keys hands for when to strip the ball. who is approaching a secured tackle. Emphasis: “Pin and Pry” with a violent motion. 4. Place a cone five yards directly behind the offensive tackle position. 6. On receiver’s movement drill begins. 6. The coach should use a watch to time this drill and place a landing pad at the finish point. 3. Coaching Points 1. 4. The stripper is taught to pin the ball carrier’s elbow with one hand and reach over the top of the point of the ball with the other hand. Pass Rush Circuit: Blitz and Speed Rush 1. 11. 2. The player should move his hands to the thrown ball. Strip ball before initiating tackle so receiver does not squeeze it.ers in the line will rotate so that they are ready to perform the drill when the quarterback progresses down the line. but will alternate left and right. Blitzers should key the running back and adjust their path according to his action. The rusher must finish between the two deep cones. The defensive players must execute proper cut block protection skills with their hands below their knees. recover the fumble. Take Away Circuit: Strip Tackle 1. Rotation: Stripper to ball carrier. Emphasize fast hands and finding the football. Rake Diagram 6 Diagram 7 Punch 1. The coach will use a stopwatch to time the speed rush. the drill begins. Backside Blitzer: Continue on the arc and fit up the quarterback on the bootleg. Dropback Pass Both blitzers run the arc to the upfield shoulder of the quarterback. 7. Bull and Clear 3. When defender closes. He will then strip the ball. 4. Set up one play strip. Blitz and Speed Rush 2. 9. violently pry the point of the ball by taking the ball carrier’s fingers away from his body. 3. Instruct three offensive players (on simulation) to line up at the center. 2. 2. Once this occurs the defender rips down on the ball and then attempts to rake the ball out and up from the receivers hands. 2. The stripper will align five yards away and beside the ball carrier facing in at him. Place a cone six and one half yards behind the center position. 3. Running Play Frontside Blitzer: Plant off the outside foot and knife inside. to strip the ball. 10. We will first incorporate an angle tackle into this drill to teach the defender. Place a cone one yard behind and one yard outside the offensive tackle position. Set the drill up in a triangle with the ball carrier five yards away facing the tackler. 5. Punch Diagram 5 Take Away Circuit: Rake and Punch Rake 1. Place a cone seven and one half yards behind the center position 6. 5. On receiver’s movement. Pass Rush Circuit 1. When defender reaches receiver he punches the ball up through receiver’s hands. and single back position. 3. not just tip it. The cones can be adjusted slightly for corners to simulate the path needed for PAT/FG block. When you pin the elbow and secure the point. Players will switch lines after each repetition to ensure equal training from the right and left side. 5. but the defensive lineman will run the arc. 3. Club and Rip/Swim B. Defensive linemen will not go simultaneously. 5. receiver extends ball. then pursue to and outside leverage position on the ball carrier. Fit up on the runner. ball carrier to tackler. Instruct the • AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 • . separating the ball. and tackler to stripper. 3. Defender aligns three yards behind receiver. 8. On the snap. quarterback. linebackers and safeties will simultaneously blitz off of each edge and the offense will execute a play. 2. attempting to catch the ball. Receiver runs half speed and keeps ball tucked. 2. the offense will not run a play. 4. Defender should punch at ball before initiating tackle so receiver does not squeeze ball. 7. and return it to his goal line for five yards. Coaching Points 1. The stripper will wait for contact by the tackler. A. Defender aligns three yards behind receiver. On the snap.

On command. 3. Continue until each player has completed the drill. 2. 2. • AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 • . 5. Be sure that the player finishes by bursting around the sled and finishes behind the sled. Sprint Out Pass Frontside Blitzer: Rip through block of running back and contain quarterback. Backside Blitzer: Run the arc and chase at the level of the quarterback. The right arm and right foot should work in tandem (rip or swim) to clear the sled. The rip/swim part of the combination should bring the player back behind the dummy. left foot / right rip. 5. coaches. Diagram 8 C. Form one line in front of the one-man sled with a flat-shouldered dummy. the player must have low pads and shoot his hands inside the numbers of the sled. On command the first player in the line will weave through the line using combinations. 2. managers. Set up three large bell-shaped dummies. turning the sled to the right and simultaneously swing his hips outside to the left. 7. On command. Diagram 10 Diagram 11 Coaching Points 1. Be sure that the players do not drag the trail arm and always finish with a rip/swim. 10. 3. Form three lines in front of each dummy. same foot when executing combinations (Left club. Repeat the drill with the players executing a club and rip/swim combination to the left. escape once to both the right and to the left. 5. trainers. On takeoff. 3. 11. right foot). On command. Continue until each player has completed the drill. The player’s hips must come out of the cylinder of the dummy when using a club. Continue until each player has completed the drill. The coach will call out the times as players compete for the best time. 9. The first player in the line should be in the stance that pertains to their position. Be sure that the players use the same hand. At the end the player will dip and scoop the towel.. Dropback Pass with Flare Frontside Blitzer: Melt and cover back on the flare. 4. 2. the player must extend the left arm. 6. Backside Blitzer: Run the arc to the upfield shoulder of the quarterback. 3. Continue until each player has completed the drill.7 Use of Tobacco Products. Bend tight off the cone getting the hips around and bursting through the finish. 4. Speed rushers must keep their chest down on the start and plant hard on the outside foot at the five-yard cone. Pass Rush Circuit: Club and Rip/Swim 1. The use of tobacco products is prohibited by all game personnel (e. 4. 2. Uniform penalties (as determined by the applicable rules-making committees and sports committees with rules-making responsibilities) shall be established for such use. When escaping to the left. Diagram 12 NCAA Rule Regarding Tobacco Products NCAA Bylaw 11. The player will then swing his hips outside the cylinder of the sled and finish the drill behind the sled.1. Diagram 12 Diagram 9 D. Coaching Points 1. the first player in the line will weave through the line using quick combinations. Film this drill from behind in order to see that the hips of the players are setting out of the cylinder. the player will explode into the dummy and execute a bull rush.g. Pass Rush Circuit: Bull and Clear 1.quarterback to attempt to escape outside after dropping back. Place the dummies approximately two yards apart and form one line at the end. the first three players will execute a club and rip/swim combination to the right. and game officials) in all sports during practice and competition. Place the dummies approximately four yards apart and place a towel one yard outside the last dummy. 8. 4.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 • .

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