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Woodman vsFrostburgBy Ben McKaig, Defensive Line Coach, Utica College

The offseason is drill season. At Utica College, they place a heavy emphasis on using drills outside of the season to work on the little things that make winning defensive line play. In this drill report, Coach McKaig shares their stance and get off drill progression that they do daily.


By Ben McKaig
Defensive Line Coach
Utica College
Twitter: @McKaig_Ben


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Woodman vsFrostburgThe offseason is drill season. At Utica College, we place a heavy emphasis on using drills outside of the season to work on the little things that make winning defensive line play. In this drill report, I am going to share our stance and get off drill progression that we do daily.

Editor’s Note: Please review the brief drill outlines below and then scroll down for the full 20 minute video featuring these drills.

1 Step Launch

  • DL in a stance across from crash mat
  • On ball movement
    • DL takes first step
    • Push off first step and launch onto crash mat
      • Land on belly
      • Triple extend ankle, knees, and hips
      • Explosive jump through the first step
        • Work to generate power and explosive ability.
        • Roll the hips


6 Point Punch Progression

  • Speed punch placement
    • DL are in a 6 point stance, toes of cleats tucked, shading their partner
    • Partner standing in good bent stance with hands on hips and chest exposed
    • On the whistle DL will punch shade with proper hand placement
      • Shade hand on shade number, outside hand clamps shade arm
      • Thumbs up elbows tight
    • Rapid fire
      • On each whistle, quick punch and reset
        • Emphasis on accuracy and speed of the punch
  • Punch extension
    • Punch and grab, hands above eyes
    • Full hip extension, Full arm extension
    • Coach resets the drill each time
      • Emphasis on power and locking out hips and arms
      • OL head will snap back
  • Punch explosion - 2x each shade
    • Punch the shade, pressing thru the toes with full hip extension
      • Emphasize exploding thru toes
      • DL will come off of the ground
    • DL should land on their stomachs

123 Step

  • All players line up on the line facing coach
    • Front foot should have toes touching the line
  • On ball movement, players take 1st step
    • Step should land close to the line players are lined up on
  • Reset – two steps
    • Quick feet, tight hands, thumbs up
      • Avoid the hop – 2 quick steps
    • Flat back, good knee bend, hands above eyes
  • Reset – Full get off
    • Quick feet, roll hips, finish through
  • Can be performed with an OL
    • Incorporate punch, extend, rip and finish

Crash Mat Base Blocks

  • OL starts in 2 point stance with heels against the crash mat
  • DL shade outside
  • Drill starts on OL movement
    • DL defeats base block by striking shade, extending hands, and running feet
    • OL should fall on to the crash mat
      • Simulate displacing OL back into the hole
    • DL rip and accelerates to end of crash mat to finish


Hand Block Rec

  • DL shades an OL
    • Stationary feet
      • Isolate upper body – working primarily on hand reaction
        • Accurate punch
      • Eye discipline
  • Drill starts on OL movement
  • OL takes 1 step (Reach, Base, Veer)
    • Reach
      • DL steer (push/pull)
    • Base
      • DL punch and extend
    • Inside release
      • DL punch and ride


  • 2 OL vs. 1 DL
    • 1 foot split by OL
    • DL will inside shade one of the 2 OL
  • On movement, the OL will execute one of the following
    • Double Team
      • DL strike the shade of their OL
      • Drive feet and displace their shade
      • No displacement – make a pile
      • Pull OL down
      • Throw hip into the created space
      • Rip and split
  • Scoop or Outside Zone
    • DL strike the shade of their OL
    • Drive feet to displace the shade
    • Redirect to the combo


  • OL/DL pair start with OL hands on
    • Punch and grab
    • Lock up DL
  • DL executes escapes
    • Violent, Accurate hands
    • Hand lifts
      • Wrists
      • Elbows
  • Hook chop
  • Buzz saw
  • Wipe Chop
  • Accelerate to finish


  • Hands are just as active and important as feet
  • Emphasize striking the opponent
    • Lock out elbows
    • Create separation
  • Gain leverage
  • Control the OL and LOS
    • Put OL backwards
    • Play on the other side of the LOS

Run/Pass Grapple

  • 2 DL shading opposite one another
  • Athletic, bent stance
  • Stationary feet
    • Hands ready to strike
  • 1 DL is the “run” player
    • Strike shade
      • Quick, explosive, powerful
    • Extend
    • Grab for control
  • 1 DL is “pass” player
    • React to the “run” punch
    • Keep hands off for separation
      • Club/Swipe/Chop
      • Arm lifts


  • 2 DL face to face
  • Stationary feet
  • Drill starts on a whistle
    • For 15 seconds, both DL fight for inside hands and release
    • Punch, grab, release
    • Fight to keep hands off
  • This is a drill to teach aggressive punch and toughness
    • Players should physically struggle to get inside hand position

Mirror Hands

  • OL and DL start face to face
  • OL will randomly punch with 1 or both hands
    • DL must react and keep OL hands off
      • Club
      • Chop
      • Swipe
      • Hand lifts
  • This drill is meant to work the reaction timing of an OL punch in a pass rush or on a DL stunt
    • Work the strike zone – the point in which an OL and DL will engage during a pass rush

Speed Hands

  • DL starts head up on OL
  • Starts on the whistle
  • 15 seconds
  • DL will rapidly punch the OL in 3 spots
    • Left shade
    • Middle of chest
    • Right Shade
  • This drill is designed to work the speed and accuracy of DL punch
    • Players with little to no experience using hands will benefit
      • Work on coordination


  • All DL start in a circle
    • 1 pair starts in the center of the circle
    • 1 OL and 1 DL
    • The OL will show hands for the DL to perform a move
      • DL performs a rush move
        • Hips will always turn towards OL
        • Accelerate to finish move
    • OL flips and repeat 3x
  • OL goes to DL, new OL into the circle
    • Rapid Fire
    • High Intensity

Club Swipe Progression

  • Players pair up, DL shaded
  • OL shows hands
  • On sound
    • Flip hips and club
      • Reset
    • Flip hips and club swipe
      • Reset
    • Flip hips, club swipe, accelerate to finish

Swivel Hips – Hands Down the Line

  • 5 – 8 DL in a line with 2 yards separation
  • 1st man in line faces the line
  • All others show hands
  • DL weaves through and works rush moves
    • Accurate hands
    • Flip hips to OL
      • Belly button on OL hip
    • Accelerate through to next OL
    • Moves
      • Club rip
      • Scissors
      • Club chop

Swivel Hips - Popups

  • Working DL flipping hips to QB
    • Quick sets
    • Aggressive OL or aggressive slide pro
  • 4-6 Popups placed in line with 2 feet in between each
  • DL will club and flip hips at each popup
    • Weave between popups
    • Stay tight to popup
      • Belly button on the bag
    • Accelerate to finish
      • Tackle square bag
      • Crash mat
    • Progress to working rush moves

Catch Up Geoff

  • DL pair up
    • 1 OL and 1 DL shaded outside in a stance
    • OL will backpedal quickly
      • DL reacts on OL movement
      • Get out of stance and run to “catch up” to OL
        • First step quick in the ground
          • Elongate the second step – “launch”
      • Tag the hip of the OL
        • Must close the distance before we can work a move
          • 2.5 seconds to get to the QB, no wasted movement/time
      • Bend to finish
    • Progress to work rush moves with catch up



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Get off 2 Popup

  • DL in a stance, get out on movement
  • First popup at 3-4 yards (Sweet spot)
    • Perform a move and bend
  • Second popup at 5-7 yards
    • DL finish inside the popup
    • Accelerate through to finish
  • Tighten the popups to ensure that DL are bending tight
  • Alternate route
    • Outside both pop ups
    • Accelerate back through starting line to finish

Stagger Bags

  • Turning hips to QB
    • Deep sets
    • Full speed rushing
  • Popups placed every 5 yards with 5 yard stagger
  • DL in a stance
    • On movement get out
      • Plant outside foot at each popup
      • Dip shoulders
      • Turn hips to the next popup
      • Accelerate out of turn
  • Progress to working moves
    • Club Rip
    • Chop Rip

L Drill to Scramble

  • Popups placed in an L at 5 yds.
  • On ball movement DL get out
    • Outside the first popup
      • Perform a move (club rip, etc…)
    • Inside 2nd popup (figure 8)
      • Perform a move
    • Finish back through start
  • L Drill scramble
    • Finish parallel to popups another 5 yards
      • Dive tackle the QB
        • Square bag on crash mat

4 Corner Popups

  • Popups are placed in a square with 10 yards between each
  • DL in a stance, get out on ball movement
    • Work getting hips to QB both ways
      • Turn hips
      • Flip hips
    • Work specific pass move at each popup
    • Finish through starting point
  • 2 DL in the square at all times
    • Maximize reps

1 Step Tackle

  • DL in pairs
    • Hitter is shaded to one side
    • On the whistle – hitter takes 1 step across to midline of ball carrier
      • Feel the fit
        • Check fundamentals
        • Eyes - Up on target
        • Bend - Knees bent, flat back
        • Body position - Same foot same shoulder
        • Reload
  • Wrap and run
    • Whistle start
      • Perform fundamentals
      • JUMP THROUGH the tackle
        • Explode through the ball carrier – jump off of plant foot
        • Forces other feet to follow and run on contact
      • Wrap up! – Low to high hands
        • Whistle to break and reload

Shuffle Tackle

  • DL in pairs facing one another 1-2 yards apart
  • Ball carrier begins to shuffle down the line
    • DL will shuffle with ball carrier
      • Stay on the back hip – trail the ball carrier to prevent cutback
    • Ball carrier will step forward to run
      • DL step across and tackle
      • Step on the midline
      • Hit with same foot and shoulder
      • Eyes up
      • Jump through the tackle
      • Wrap and run

1 Step Roll Tackle

  • The tackler starts inside leverage of a stand-up square bag
    • Aiming point is the thigh of the ball carrier (below the handles of the square bag)
    • Tackler will keep his head on the same side as his leverage
      • Eyes up
      • Ear to outside of thigh/knee
    • Wrap and squeeze
      • Compress the square bag
    • Run feet
    • Roll shoulder through ball carrier or bag
      • Roll INTO the ball carrier

Angle Tackle

  • Ball carrier and DL 5 yards apart, 5 yards from sideline
  • Ball carrier can run anywhere in the 5 yard area
    • DL must make a tackle
    • Chase the back hip – prevent cutback
    • Step on midline
    • Same foot and shoulder
    • Eyes up
    • Jump through
    • Wrap and run
  • Drill can be done with square bags in pursuit
    • Wrap and Run
    • Roll Tackle


As you can see, we have quite a variety of drills in our arsenal, but each one has a specific purpose in our overall coaching progression. Thanks for taking the time to read this drill report and thanks to X&O Labs for the forum to share. 


Meet Coach McKaig: Ben McKaig recently completed his second season as the defensive line coach at Utica College in New York. He was hired in the summer of 2013 and helped guide the Pioneers to a 7-4 record in 2014 including the school's first post-season appearance in the ECAC North Central Bowl. McKaig spent 2012 as an assistant football coach and math teacher at Andover High School in Andover, KS where he coached the offensive and defensive lines to an 8-3 overall record and an appearance in the KSHSAA 5A playoffs. He is a 2012 graduate of Emporia State University where he played for four years on the offensive line.




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