LBC: Leaders By Choice

Curtis Walker Linebackers Coach Catawba College Salisbury, N.C.

n behalf of David Bennett and the entire defensive staff at Catawba College, Richard Kent (DC), Jim Tomsula (DL) and Ryan Haglan (OLB), it is an honor to contribute some of our ideas to the 2001 Summer Manual. I was asked to write on a subject that plays one-third of a role of a very good defense. Since the staff’s arrival in 1995, we have been able to develop a program that competed in a tough South Atlantic Conference. The progress from year-to-year in every area of our program has made the staff’s time here very enjoyable. We were able to watch an average defensive unit in 1995 mature into one that has ranked among the best in every category nationally over the past five seasons. Our success can be attributed to our players’ hard work and dedication. Within our conference, our defense was the No. 1 ranked rush defense (1996-2000), total defense (1997-2000) and scoring defense (1997-2000). Nationally, we ranked in the Top 10 in the same categories during the same years. In 1999, we led Division II in rush defense (53 yards per game) and 2000 scoring defense (8.3 points per game). Those were just a few defensive accomplishments that our players have worked so very hard to reach in order to continue the tradition of Catawba defense. Linebacker Play at Catawba College Philosophy: Our philosophy of linebacker play is very simple. Linebackers are the leaders of the defense. They are responsible for all calls made for alignment, strength of formation and adjustments to formations. I feel that this role is perfect for a linebacker. Linebackers are the only players on the defense to gain control of the huddle and speak to them every play of the game. With this control, they are forced into a leadership role. It is up to them to make the best of it. Attitude: We can’t stress how important it is for a linebacker to be a leader in every aspect of his life. He must be a leader on campus, in the classroom, weight training, conditioning and on the field. They are all important for the development of a leader. Stance: The stance is the most important part of linebacker play. A player must be put in a stance he can be most successful in. Here is what I teach my guys about their stance: • Feet parallel. • Shoulder width apart. • Bend at knees, hips and ankles.


• Chest out with back flat. • Weight on the balls of your feet. • YOU MUST BE COMFORTABLE. Being in a comfortable position from the start will enable the linebacker to be relaxed in his stance. He will not have any wasted movements getting to the ball. A player in a stance that he isn’t comfortable in will first relax and then react to the play. Our linebacker will start every drill in a good stance. Even if we are just running through bags in pre-practice. This will develop a feel for a comfortable stance.

Diagram 1: Triangle

Keys/Reads: In our scheme of defense, our linebackers have to understand the triangle (Diagram 1). The triangle will give them all they will need in diagnosing the play. The first key will be the initial key. The initial key is a runningback for direction. The only movement that I am looking for from this key is his read step. The read step is a six-inch jab step. The read step will give them movement but will not get them out of position. His next phase in the triangle will be finding his under key. The under key is used to identify the intent of the block. Finding the uncovered linemen will be the best under key. This key will show you one of four blocks that you can use to identify the play. The blocks that you may see will be base, cut off, down block and pass block. Identifying the block will give you an indication on what play you may see. It will also help your linebacker know his fit in the defensive scheme.

Diagram 2A: Base Block

Base Block: The linebacker will have to force the line of scrimmage with his outside pad free. Having his leverage point lower than the opponent does. He needs

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

to plant his outside foot to set the anchor so that he doesn’t lose ground in his gap of responsibility.

Diagram 3: Lane 1

Diagram 2B: Cut Off Block

Diagram 4: Lane 2
Cut Off: Understanding that he can’t get cut off for the outside run, the linebacker needs to work to get over the top. He has to be a frontside player and let the nose guard and the backside linebacker play the cut back. He needs to use the scrape technique to get over the top. If he is cut off, he should shoot his hands to the lineman’s breast plate and work push/pull technique.

Diagram 5: Lane 3

Diagram 2C: Down Block

Back or Down Block: One of the easier reads for the linebacker. The linebacker will have to force the line of scrimmage if his initial key is at him. He will need to keep the same leverage with his outside pad free attacking the fullback on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage.

Diagram 2D: Pass Block

Pass Block: Look for the high hat or the passive blocks. Pre-snap key will also help in determining if it is a pass block or not. The progression happens in a split second. You have to be able to read on the run. Once you have determined what type of play it is, run or pass, you have to read the lane of the quarterback. The quarterback has three different lanes that he uses. Lane one (Diagram 3) the quarterback has the

ball on the line of scrimmage. Lane one is a run lane for linebackers and should force the line of scrimmage in his gap of responsibility. Lane two (Diagram 4) is an off the line read for the linebacker. It is a tough read! The linebacker needs to treat it like run or pass. Definite play action pass or deep run. Slower read for the linebacker but enough time react to run or pass. Stress that he shouldn’t move until he passes the last draw threat. Lane three (Diagram 5) is the straight dropback read from the quarterback. There is still a threat of draw but usually a passing play for the quarterback. Our linebackers become more active the more they understand the triangle. There is a drill that I like that has helped our linebackers with the understanding of reading the triangle. The drill is aligned exactly like what are shown in Diagrams 2A-D. I will give the linemen a blocking scheme and the back a direction. From there the linebacker has to make the correct steps to his gap of responsibility. I like to work this drill without a ball at first just to see their movements. Once we start getting the hang of the drill, we will move to other phases by adding the quarterback in lanes 1-3. They will start to see the triangle

better and better with repetition. I think that it is a great drill for checking gaps of responsibilities with your defensive calls. It is very useful because the drill will change weekly with the change of offensive blocking schemes. The headline is L.B.C., which means Leaders By Choice. During my first year at Catawba, my players and I wanted to decide on a catch phrase that we could hang our hats on. We came up with this phrase because it was a true meaning of what we needed to stand for. We wanted to be known as leaders. We decided that our linebackers needed to be leaders not only on the field but also in the weight room, conditioning, the classroom and community. It is important to understand and adapt this responsibility into our everyday lives. We have a built in reminder by breaking down to L.B.C. whenever we are together. I truly feel that this understanding has been part of our defensive success. Thanks for letting me share some ideas of linebacker play. Once again, I want to thank the AFCA for the opportunity to contribute to the 2001 Summer Manual. I hope these ideas can help you in the basic teaching of linebacker play. The linebackers are only part of the defense. We try to understand our role and help make the unit a whole. Good luck in 2001!

The American Football Coaches Association Promotes Positive Recruiting Practices
All Coaches: Be positive. Talk about your institution and not other institutions. Head Coaches: If you have a recruiting problem with another institution or have rumors flying that should be stopped: Call the head coach of the institution involved and talk straight. It will eliminate a lot of problems and hard feelings towards one another.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

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