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iskeBy Justin Iske, Offensive Line Coach, Southwestern Oklahoma State University

See how Coach Iske details the seven most common technique errors he sees in blocking the IZ and more importantly, he explains the technique adjustments he gives his offensive lineman on these issues and the drills he uses to reinforce them.


By Justin Iske
Offensive Line Coach
Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Twitter: @justiniske

Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report.



iskeThe most important on the field job of any coach is to improve your players’ technique. Here at SWOSU, we use practice and game film to point out errors in technique and, more importantly, how to fix them.

This clinic report will review the main coaching points for the offensive line on the Inside Zone play and how to correct common mistakes based on whether they are facing a play side shade, back side shade, or if they are uncovered.

Common Errors Against a Play Side Shade:

Rule/Footwork: The initial six-inch step works for width with play side foot. The second step mirrors the first step with the back side foot. As he moves, he must keep his toes slightly outside of ankles and knees inside of ankles to maintain power angles. He must also pound the insteps of his feet into the ground to create power.

Error #1: Lineman is not gaining width on first step

The player is stepping underneath himself with first step and not gaining width. A major coaching point to fix this is to have him put the majority of his weight opposite the direction he is going. This allows him to push off that foot and forces him to step with the correct foot.

Solution #1:  The Line Drill

Have the player(s) line up with play side foot directly next to a line on the field. This gives a visual landmark to show the player that they are gaining width on their first step. When we don’t have lines, I often use a rolled up towel or t-shirt can be used instead.

Coaching Points:

    • OL starts in two or three-point stance with play side foot directly next to a line on the field.
    • On command, he will take his first step over the line for width.
    • Drill can be done for one step, two steps, or through a whistle.
    • Drill can be done on air or versus a defender.


Solution #2:  Hand Technique

We want to get our hands on the defender as soon as possible. To accomplish this, our players must not load up their elbows. We want the player’s hands as tight as possible to each other to get inside hand leverage. Upon contact, we want the player to be heavy with the back side hand so he can’t be thrown by a defender as they react to the runner cutting back.

Error #2: Hands too wide on contact

This not only decreases power, but it will result in holding penalties by grabbing outside the framework of the defender. 

Solution #1: Clap/Volleyball Drill

One way to get the hands tighter is to have your players clap their hands together in front of their body as they execute the punch. This also takes care of anyone with the habit of loading their elbows. We also use volleyballs or medicine balls instead of hand shields to force our players to get their hands tighter. We teach them to “aim small, miss small.”

Coaching Points:

    • OL starts on his knees with hands on thigh boards and butt on heels. Partner stands in front of him with a slight bend in the knees holding a volleyball in the middle of his chest to give the OL a target.
    • On the command, drive hands to bottom of the volleyball while driving hips through. Strike on the rise. Stress hips and hands!
    • Knees and feet do not move. As upper body and hips follow through, the OL should end up with chest on the ground.


Solution #2: Eyes/Aiming Point Technique:

On the front side of the play, we expect our players to get to the midline of the defender. On the back side, we teach our players to aim for the play side number. From there, we will have them adjust their footwork based on the width of the defender’s alignment. We also teach our players to get their eyes to the defender’s chin in order to establish lower pad level.

Error #3: Not hitting the aiming point:

Coming up short of the aiming point is, without a doubt, the most common issues we run across. Luckily, we know the reason. In most cases, this problem can be tied back to the player’s initial footwork. We stress that the first step must be “over the line” and that the second step must mirror the first step.

Solution #1: Hips Technique

It is important to understand that we always want our players to block with a lifting motion (striking on the rise) instead of a pushing motion (striking on a flat plane). We ensure this by teaching our players to make contact with the defender with the hips in front of the feet. Once contact is made, the player must strain to push his hips through and keep his elbows tight.

To see game cutups of these technique adjustments, click on the video below:


More OL Solutions for Your Inside Zone…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of Coach Iske’s clinic report which includes 4 more mistakes your OL is probably making and the 12 simple solutions. Here’s just a short list of what you’re missing in the full-length report:

  • How to get your offensive linemen to react to movement away from the point of attack.
  • How to the Line Drill consistently gets offensive linemen to drive their backside knee through the defender.
  • How the Pods Drill corrects the proper eyes and aiming point technique.
  • How to the Combo drill helps uncovered lineman to get enough depth on the square drag technique.
  • How to get your back side offensive lineman to react to slanting across their face.
  • VIDEO: Watch detailed video illustrating these corrections.

Join the Insiders. Go Here.



Coaching the Inside Zone isn’t rocket science, it is about coaching the details. This problem/solution approach has helped me as a coach get the most out of my players and it helps give them tools to solve their own issues.  I would like to thank our Head Coach, Dan Cocannouer, and the rest of the staff here at SWOSU for their help in putting this report and film together. Feel free to contact us anytime if you have any questions.

Meet Coach Iske: Justin Iske begins first year at SWOSU following four years on the staff at Fort Hays State in 2014. Iske will serve as SWOSU’s offensive line in 2015. While at FHSU, he has coached seven All-MIAA selections on the offensive line, led by two-time second team selection Hawk Rouse in 2011 and 2012 and second-team selection Mario Abundez in 2013. The Tiger offensive line helped produce an average of over 2,000 rushing and 2,000 passing yards per year in Iske's tenure. Iske came to FHSU after two seasons at Northwestern Oklahoma State University where he was the offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and offensive line coach. His 2010 team won the conference championship and led the conference in rushing offense, sacks allowed and kickoff returns. He spent the 2008 season coaching at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. He served as the Special Teams Coordinator as well as coaching the tight ends and offensive line. Fort Scott went 9-2 that season and finished the year ranked No. 6 after winning the Heart of Texas Bowl. Other coaching stops for Iske have included Arizona Western College, Southwest Minnesota State University, Northern State University and Midland Lutheran College. 




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