78 percent of Florida Atlantic University’s offensive drives last season contained at least one explosive play—a run/pass over 20 yards. On 67 percent of those plays, a wide receiver made a key block to spring a ball carrier. In this exclusive drill report, FAU’s wide receiver coach Dan Shula details the mirror blocking drill progression he does daily to teach his perimeter blockers to turn seven yard runs into forty yard touchdowns. Read the report here.
By Dan Shula
Wide Receivers Coach
Florida Atlantic University
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The key to any elite offense is generating explosive plays. Generating big plays dramatically increases your team’s chances to score points. For example, here at Florida Atlantic during the 2015 season, 78% of our touchdown drives contained at least 1 explosive play.
How can WRs help an offense generate more explosive plays? The obvious ways are by catching deep balls and generating yards after catch on shorter routes. However, the far less glamorous way to aid the offense is in the run game. Last season, on our runs of 20+ yards, a WR made a key block on 67% of those runs. It’s these important blocks that turn 7 yard runs into 40 yard TDs. It’s these important blocks that turn a drive that ends in a FG into a drive that ends in a touchdown.
This drill is designed for outside WRs that are attempting to block a defender downfield in space. This type of block typically happens on an outside run or screen. It is ideal for the WR to give the ball carrier a “2 way go,” meaning the ball carrier has the option to break either inside or outside of the WR. This makes the movements made by the defender much less predictable. The WR must be able to adjust to the defender and which way he breaks.
The Mirror Progression is made up of 3 phases
- Phase 1: Mirror (hands behind back)
- Phase 2: Mirror (hands in front, punch)
- Phase 3: Diamond drill
Phase 1: Mirror (Hands Behind Back)
Start with the receivers 5 yards away from the defensive back. On the whistle, have the receiver run to the defensive back, stopping just in front of him. This phase is what I call the “burst to tempo.” You have to be able to eat up the cushion between yourself and the defender, and then be able to breakdown and be in a balanced position to make the block. Once they tempo down, have them put their hands behind their back. Make sure their knees are bent, and their feet are moving.
On the next whistle, have the defender start to move laterally. I put a cone two yards away on either side of the line, so the defender has 4 yards of lateral space to move. The WR needs to move his feet to stay in front of the defender.
Key Coaching Points:
- Maintain active feet. Take quick steps, don’t cross over
- Sink your hips, keep your head back
- This prevents you from leaning forward and getting off balance
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• Practice video and coaching points of the Mirror Drill
• Coaching points and video of the Diamond Drill
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Blocking is not optional for our receivers. We stress it daily and in the pre-game because it is critical to both moving the ball on the ground and setting up the defensive backs to give us more space in the passing game. Hopefully this article gives you some ideas about how to better drill this challenging technique with your players. Thanks to X&O Labs for allowing me to share on this topic and best of luck this coming season.
Meet Coach Dan Shula: Dan is entering his 3rd season coaching receivers at Florida Atlantic University. Shula came to FAU from Illinois State where he served as the wide receiver coach, kicking coach, and the DFO over the course of 5 years. Prior to that, Shula served in GA positions at the University of Miami and the University of Alabama.