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-

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ball position. On the coach’s command, he will throw the ball to the simulated receiver aligned on the numbers. 4. The defensive player will take an inside out angle of pursuit and use the sideline to pin the receiver and make the tackle. 5. The defensive player will then go to offense and the offensive receiver will then go to the defense line. Coaching Points 1. The drill starts when the ball is thrown to the receiver. 2. The defensive player must close hard, shorten his stride and sink his hips as he constricts the ball carrier’s running lane. 3. Once he takes away the receiver’s angle he should accelerate through the carrier and make the tackle.

Coaching Points 1. Emphasize lockout before the snatch and dip and rip to come out of the snatch in a balanced position before pressing the blocker. 2. This is a teaching drill so predetermine the side for the release and angle tackle.

Take Away Circuit 1. Fumble Recovery 2. Interception Drill 3. Rake and Punch 4. Strip Tackle Take Away Circuit: Fumble Recovery 1. Form four lines of players and place a ball one yard in front of each line. 2. The first players in the line should be in a six-point position. 3. On command, the first player in the line will execute a cradle fumble recovery and hold the position until checked by the coach. 4. Continue until each player has progressed through the drill. 5. Next, place the ball five yards in front of each line. 6. The first player in the line should be in a football position with feet moving. 7. On command, the first player in the line will execute a scoop and score fumble recovery, running an additional five yards with the ball. After finishing the drill, the player will place the ball back at the fiveyard mark. 8. Continue until each player has progressed though the drill. Coaching Points 1. When executing a cradle fumble recovery, the player should dive straight out, staying low to the ground and grabbing the ball with hands. 2. The cradle position should cover all points of the ball and the coach will try to pry the ball out. 3. When executing a scoop and score recovery, be sure that the player bends at the knees and gets his hands under the ball (like a shortstop fields a ground ball). 4. The players should then tuck the ball away as the coach tries to strip the ball from the player. Take Away Circuit: Interception Drill 1. Form four lines of players in front of a quarterback. 2. Place a blocker in a six-point position in front of each line. 3. On command, the blocker will attempt to cut the defensive player. 4. Immediately after the cut block, the quarterback will throw the ball in the vicinity of the defensive player. 5. The defensive player must tip or intercept the ball. 6. After executing a repetition, the play-

Diagram 3

Diagram 2

Tackling Circuit: Snatch Tackle 1. 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. 2. The ball carrier, blocker, and defender are all aligned on the same yard line. 3. The ball carrier is five yards behind the blocker. 4. The blocker assumes high breakdown position loosely holding the edges of the defender’s shoulder pads and applies a moderate amount of pressure. 5. The defender will fit into the blocker with leverage to the side he will release. 6. The defender will have a secure hold on the blocker’s breastplate with both hands, eyes below chin, and arms slightly bent. 7. On command, the defender will lock out, separating from the blocker. Next he will step to his left and snatch or throw the blocker to his right. 8. As the defender’s hips clear the block, dip and rip the trail arm to the left to come to a momentary breakdown position. 10. Locate the ball carrier and execute and an angle tackle. 11. Rotate the drill going from defender to ball carrier to blocker and then back to defender.

Tackling Circuit: Head Across 1. Divide the players into two lines. 2. The tackling line and the ball carrier line should be five yards apart. 3. Start the tackler in a sit up position with back to the carrier. 4. At the “hit” command the tackler will pop to a football position and read the flow of the runner. 5. Tackler will attack downhill and at an angle to fit his head to the outside of the carrier, drive his hips around to resist the path of the carrier and sprint his feet until the whistle is blown to end the rep. 6. 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. 7. Tackler also clubs his arms through and around the carrier squeezing for tackle security and a possible take away. Coaching Points 1. Ball carrier is taught to pick either alley he chooses, run with good tempo, but not to lower his head. 2. Teach the carrier to present a good look but let the tackler win the drill. 3. Alternate the players as they complete tackling or running the football.

Diagram 4

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ers in the line will rotate so that they are ready to perform the drill when the quarterback progresses down the line. Coaching Points 1. The defensive players must execute proper cut block protection skills with their hands below their knees. 2. The player should move his hands to the thrown ball, attempting to catch the ball, not just tip it. 3. Emphasize fast hands and finding the football.

5. Defender should punch at ball before initiating tackle so receiver does not squeeze ball.


Diagram 5

Take Away Circuit: Rake and Punch Rake 1. Defender aligns three yards behind receiver. 2. On receiver’s movement, the drill begins. 3. Receiver runs half speed. 4. When defender closes, receiver extends ball. 5. Defender keys hands for when to strip the ball. 6. Once this occurs the defender rips down on the ball and then attempts to rake the ball out and up from the receivers hands. 7. Strip ball before initiating tackle so receiver does not squeeze it.

Take Away Circuit: Strip Tackle 1. We will first incorporate an angle tackle into this drill to teach the defender, who is approaching a secured tackle, to strip the ball. 2. Set the drill up in a triangle with the ball carrier five yards away facing the tackler. 3. The stripper will align five yards away and beside the ball carrier facing in at him. 4. On command the ball carrier and the tackler execute and angle tackle keeping the ball carrier up. 5. The stripper will wait for contact by the tackler, then pursue to and outside leverage position on the ball carrier. 6. He will then strip the ball, recover the fumble, and return it to his goal line for five yards. Coaching Points 1. 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. 2. When you pin the elbow and secure the point, violently pry the point of the ball by taking the ball carrier’s fingers away from his body, separating the ball. 3. Rotation: Stripper to ball carrier, ball carrier to tackler, and tackler to stripper. 4. Emphasis: “Pin and Pry” with a violent motion.

Pass Rush Circuit: Blitz and Speed Rush 1. Set up one play strip. 2. Place a cone one yard behind and one yard outside the offensive tackle position. 3. Place a cone five yards directly behind the offensive tackle position. 4. Place a cone six and one half yards behind the center position. 5. Place a cone seven and one half yards behind the center position 6. Instruct three offensive players (on simulation) to line up at the center, quarterback, and single back position. 7. Form two lines of defensive players outside the tight end position on the play strip. 8. On the snap, linebackers and safeties will simultaneously blitz off of each edge and the offense will execute a play. 9. Defensive linemen will not go simultaneously, but will alternate left and right. On the snap, the offense will not run a play, but the defensive lineman will run the arc. The coach will use a stopwatch to time the speed rush. The rusher must finish between the two deep cones. 10. The cones can be adjusted slightly for corners to simulate the path needed for PAT/FG block. The coach should use a watch to time this drill and place a landing pad at the finish point. 11. Players will switch lines after each repetition to ensure equal training from the right and left side. Coaching Points 1. Blitzers should key the running back and adjust their path according to his action. A. Running Play Frontside Blitzer: Plant off the outside foot and knife inside. Fit up on the runner. Backside Blitzer: Continue on the arc and fit up the quarterback on the bootleg.


Diagram 6

Diagram 7

Punch 1. Defender aligns three yards behind receiver. 2. On receiver’s movement drill begins. 3. Receiver runs half speed and keeps ball tucked. 4. When defender reaches receiver he punches the ball up through receiver’s hands.

Pass Rush Circuit 1. Blitz and Speed Rush 2. Bull and Clear 3. Club and Rip/Swim

B. Dropback Pass Both blitzers run the arc to the upfield shoulder of the quarterback. Instruct the

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quarterback to attempt to escape outside after dropping back.

Diagram 8

C. Dropback Pass with Flare Frontside Blitzer: Melt and cover back on the flare. Backside Blitzer: Run the arc to the upfield shoulder of the quarterback.

Pass Rush Circuit: Bull and Clear 1. Form one line in front of the one-man sled with a flat-shouldered dummy. 2. The first player in the line should be in the stance that pertains to their position. 3. On command, the player will explode into the dummy and execute a bull rush. 4. The player will then swing his hips outside the cylinder of the sled and finish the drill behind the sled. 5. Continue until each player has completed the drill; escape once to both the right and to the left.

Diagram 12

Diagram 9

D. 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. 2. Speed rushers must keep their chest down on the start and plant hard on the outside foot at the five-yard cone. Bend tight off the cone getting the hips around and bursting through the finish. The coach will call out the times as players compete for the best time.

Diagram 10

Diagram 11

Coaching Points 1. On takeoff, the player must have low pads and shoot his hands inside the numbers of the sled. 2. When escaping to the left, the player must extend the left arm, turning the sled to the right and simultaneously swing his hips outside to the left. 3. The right arm and right foot should work in tandem (rip or swim) to clear the sled. 4. Be sure that the player finishes by bursting around the sled and finishes behind the sled. Pass Rush Circuit: Club and Rip/Swim 1. Set up three large bell-shaped dummies. 2. Form three lines in front of each dummy. 3. On command, the first three players will execute a club and rip/swim combination to the right. 4. Continue until each player has completed the drill. 5. Repeat the drill with the players executing a club and rip/swim combination to the left. 6. Place the dummies approximately two yards apart and form one line at the end. 7. On command, the first player in the line will weave through the line using quick combinations. 8. Continue until each player has completed the drill.

9. Place the dummies approximately four yards apart and place a towel one yard outside the last dummy. 10. On command the first player in the line will weave through the line using combinations. At the end the player will dip and scoop the towel. 11. Continue until each player has completed the drill. Coaching Points 1. Be sure that the players use the same hand, same foot when executing combinations (Left club, left foot / right rip, right foot). 2. The player’s hips must come out of the cylinder of the dummy when using a club. 3. The rip/swim part of the combination should bring the player back behind the dummy. 4. Be sure that the players do not drag the trail arm and always finish with a rip/swim. 5. Film this drill from behind in order to see that the hips of the players are setting out of the cylinder.

Diagram 12

NCAA Rule Regarding Tobacco Products
NCAA Bylaw 11.1.7 Use of Tobacco Products. The use of tobacco products is prohibited by all game personnel (e.g., coaches, trainers, managers, and game officials) in all sports during practice and competition. Uniform penalties (as determined by the applicable rules-making committees and sports committees with rules-making responsibilities) shall be established for such use.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •