Developing Blocking Fundamentals, the Drive Block and Double Team

Harry Hiestand Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach University of Illinois Champaign, Ill.

t is an honor to contribute to this year’s Summer Manual. Every year many of us get something that helps us become better coaches from the Summer Manual. I hope to be able to give you something that will help make your players better blockers. Maybe the most basic fundamental is not a physical one. It is instilling confidence in our players. Our blockers must believe they can block their man, and they must believe that we have confidence in them to be able to block. The players know whether we have confidence in them or not. We as coaches better be convinced that our man can block the defender by the time we get to our first meeting of game week or our linemen will know. They cannot be afraid to fail or they will play uptight. Emphasize and coach fundamentals and the blocker will have the best chance for success. Offense has two main advantages: Snap Count: It is not an advantage if you cannot use two or three of them. Must practice it from Day 1. First day of practice all snap counts are in. Commit to it and you will have an advantage. Direction of the Ball: We want our blocker’s helmet to the playside of the defender. Never let him cross your helmet. Before we can improve our players as blockers and get them ready for a game, three things must take place in practice, remembering that they play the way they practice: 1. Two speeds in practice. Walk through and full speed. To teach a specific concept it may be best to walk through it to get a clear understanding. Most of practice should be full speed. Individual drills must be all out by both the blocker and the defender. If either one is not giving great effort, we have no drill. The culprit is usually the defender. We challenge him regularly to make the blocker work for 5-10 seconds in every drill. 2. Be sure that everything we ask the blocker to do in practice will help him play his best in the game. Think about it, be sure you are not doing a drill just to be fashionable or because you are bored with basic fundamental drills. We must work to master the fundamentals to be effective blockers. 3. The players must know exactly what we want them to do and concentrate on that specific fundamental. We must be specific and clear. If we try to tell them too much, they will become confused. Players


will concentrate on what they don’t want if we constantly are coaching them in what we don’t want them to do. Our head coach, Ron Turner, reminds us to leave the don’ts out of our coaching and emphasize exactly what we want, with great detail, everyday. Our basic block is the drive block. We use this block more than any other. Our approach may change but at contact we want to execute a drive block 90 percent of the time. Drive Block Objectives: 1. Get and maintain leverage on defender. There are two kinds of leverage we are always after: Pad Leverage: Aim our pads under the defender’s pads. We want to be under the defender to take his charge coming at us and knock him back and up with our pads (Redirect his force). Hand Leverage: To get our hands inside the defender’s hands with power, we emphasize elbows in. If our elbows stay at our side, tight, we have the best chance to get inside leverage. If you watch film from behind, the blocker should look armless. You can have your hands inside but your elbows may be out. We are stronger with our elbows in. 2. Get our pad into defender’s chest. We would like to get our backside shoulder into the defender’s chest. Once we are in there, we are in control. With our pad under his pad and into his chest, we have a great chance to succeed. 3. Move the defender and keep him from the ball carrier. We are working to drive him, not turn him. We must drive the backside leg to the defender and up the field. When our back leg stops gaining ground, we no longer get movement and might as well be pass blocking. Our leg drive moves the defender once we earn leverage. Stance: Is a critical fundamental that we pay less attention to as the season goes on. It is important that our players can do what we ask of them without wasted motion or false steps. Blocking is tough enough without wasting time because of a poor stance. We run and pass block evenly so we need a balanced stance here at Illinois. The best stance for your players depends on your offense and what you ask your blockers to do. Feet: Wider than shoulders. Toes slightly out. Weight to inside of feet. Stagger toe to instep.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

Knees: Bent facing forward or inside of feet. Shoulders: Parallel to line of scrimmage (keep them level). Hands: Down hand under chin, off hand rest on thigh. Head: Eyes up, sight defenders through eyebrows. Coaching Point: If a blocker is struggling getting something done for you, always check the stance to see if it is holding him back. First Step: The first step must give us a chance to get into position to get leverage on the defender. The defender’s alignment will dictate the width and depth of the step. The step must allow the blocker to bring his back shoulder, arm, and leg into the defender. We want to get and keep our helmet to the playside of the defender. If our first step is a bad one, we spend the rest of the block trying to recover from it. It is critical on the first step that our eyes are on the aiming point (arm pit). Second Step: Must go into defender, gaining ground. Man drive block, the second step must be at defender where ever he goes. There may be slight hesitation. Zone drive block, the blocker now has help from backside, the second step can go past crotch of defender, full speed. • The wider the defender, the more width you must get with the back of the foot. • Type of play and depth of ball carrier is also a factor. If tailback at seven yards is ball carrier, we have more time to get leverage and block. We must be in sync with running back. If fullback at four to five yards is getting the ball, we will be more aggressive with second step. • Make your back foot and knee go toward defender vs. pressure from defender. If you give in, the back leg will not gain ground and you will not get movement on defender. Contact: Drive backside, front edge of shoulder pad to defender’s chest. Eyes to target: Armpit. Back arm in and under defender. Every muscle strains through aim point with body in the same line. Helmet must be kept to the playside, we never want him to cross our face. Follow Through: Run through defender, get as much ground as you can. Drive knees to defender, lift, strain as you go. Keep helmet playside and look defender in the eyes to help get square on him.

• Driving knees to defender helps keep our feet under us. Cannot block without our feet under us. • Blocker needs to work to be square on to defender to allow the running back a two way go. • By driving our knees to the defender, we keep from getting over extended and are able to finish. General Review 1. Stance we can move from. 2. First step to get leverage. 3. Keep feet underneath us. 4. Pad under pad — get to defender’s chest. 5. Drive back arm, shoulder, leg. 6. Eyes to arm pit, look it in. 7. Drive knees to finish. Keeps pressure into defender. 8. “Never give up.”
(Matthew, age 8, wanted that in the article!)

Diagram 3: Pinch

Blocker: Second step into defender. Drive knees, keep him pinched. Defender: Pinch hard to gap, penetrate, react to the ball.
(Michael, age 10, helped with drawings.)

To drill our drive block we will line up across a line with our back foot close to the line so we can easily follow the second step. We want leverage, then go like hell. We like to go one at a time to be able to watch each man. We emphasize driving defender vs pressure, 10 yards everytime. Defender: Align in tight shade. Deliver a blow, anchor and make blocker work for leverage. At times we want defender to try to cross blocker ’s face.

Double Team: There are several versions of double team blocks. We look for double team opportunities in every play we run. It is critical that we block the line of scrimmage first. Our goal is to always give our running back a chance by eliminating penetration to allow our back to get started. To teach the double team concept, we align two blockers with about a one-and-a-half foot split with a defender in the gap. We also place a linebacker about four yards behind the down defender. Blockers • Short step with near foot to the defender. • Near number aim point, eyes on linebacker. • Inside foot should stay ahead of outside foot. • Hips should be tight, strain, lift, bring knees to defender. • Blockers will both drive to the linebacker. Always drive through the down linemen, leverage and back leg through. Get body between defender and ball carrier. Defenders • Defensive linemen, anchor down and try to split double team and move to the side of the blocker that comes off for the linebacker (to the ball carrier). • Linebacker, pause then flow down hill close to the defensive linemen (flow, do not sprint). • Both defenders must play low and make blockers finish by going to the ball. We always start with the double drill. Blockers must learn to work together on a down defender. Then we move the defenders around to get the different angles that we need including linebacker dogs with down linemen movement on the snap of the ball.

Diagram 1: Tight Alignment (Full Line)

Back guard and tackle are working on backside blocks.

Diagram 2: Loose Alignment (Half Line)

Blocker: More width with back foot. Aim point in armpit. Knee to armpit. Defender: Loose shade, attack, leverage, fight to keep outside leverage.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

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