We know both the hands and feet were vital in pass protection. See how Western Michigan drills these two facets of the game. Read more here...
By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
Editor’s Note: The following research was conducted as part of XandOLabs.com special report on Man Pass Pro Drills. Continue reading to learn more about this special report.
When we initially began conducting our research on this topic, we were presented with a dilemma. We knew both the hands and feet were vital in pass protection, but we were curious to see which of these two components offensive line coaches placed more of an emphasis on. Of the ten contributors in this study, almost all of them suggested that the feet are more important than the hands and the reasoning is simple: The feet put an offensive lineman in the best position to stop an inside or an outside charge in man pass protection. While many offensive line coaches teach different techniques on the punch, the footwork to get him there remains vital. We started our research process by asking our contributors what the most important techniques are when coaching the feet in pass protection. Before we delve into the techniques these coaches use and the drill work that corresponds with it, a brief background on who our contributors are:
The Contributors (in alphabetical order):
- Chennis Berry (CB), Offensive Line Coach, Southern University (8 sacks allowed in 2014, 4th in FCS).
- Brian Callahan (BC), Offensive Line Coach, Western Michigan University (allowed 1.8 sacks per game in 2014).
- Vin Giacalone (VG), Offensive Line Coach, Valparaiso University (5 sacks allowed in 2014, 1st in FCS).
- Herb Hand (HH), Offensive Line Coach, Penn State University.
- Art Kehoe (AK), Offensive Line Coach, the University of Miami.
- Brandon Jones (BJ), former Offensive Line Coach at East Carolina University (371 passing yards per game in 2014, 3rd in FBS), currently at Cal Berkeley.
- Jonathan Leibel (JL), Offensive Line Coach, Central Connecticut State University (11 sacks allowed in 2014, 10th in FCS).
- Cameron Norcross (CN), Offensive Line Coach, Fresno State University.
- Ryan Stancheck (RS), Offensive Line Coach, Alcorn State University (7 sacks allowed in 2014, 3rd in FCS).
- John Strollo (JS), Offensive Line Coach, Ball State University (13 sacks allowed in 2014, 12th in FBS).
We started by asking a general question on footwork. Our contributors’ responses are categorized by their initials.
MK: What are some of the most important coaching points you emphasize when teaching the feet of offensive lineman in pass protection?
BC: “We spend a lot of time talking about the various kinds of alignments defensive linemen will be in pre-snap. We talk about head-up alignment, outside eye alignment, outside shoulder alignment and wide shade alignment. Our coaching points for each are as follows:
Head Up Alignment (Diagram 1): Here the offensive line short sets to the inside and takes away the inside charge of the defender. The inside power foot is moved about six inches to the inside to secure the inside against the rush that way.
Outside Eye Alignment (Diagram 2): Here the offensive lineman moves his feet in the set but he doesn’t travel with the foot movement. He picks up the power foot, puts it down in the same spot and takes the defender in a short set. With the outside eye defender, the tackle is already in the right aiming point and doesn’t change his alignment. On an outside eye alignment, the tackle will vertical set and work the line. The line is the imaginary line drawn on the outside foot of the tackle seven yards deep. The tackle kicks one step straight back with his outside foot and drags the inside power foot. This allows the offensive tackle to react to the defenders movement inside. If there is no inside move, the tackle kicks again down the line. It gives him enough depth so he will not turn before the defensive end passes the quarterback’s set point. If he gives too much width as he works down the line, he gives up the inside and lets the defender have a two-way go. Giving up too much width allows the defenders to run twist stunts more effectively.
Outside Shoulder Alignment (Diagram 3): Here the blocker sets short and outside and makes sure he does not give up an inside gap with his set. If he sets too wide, he gives up the inside gap to a counter move. The set is a step drop and skate back for the tackle. Tackle still works the line here. He takes two steps straight back and repeats that movement as he retreats. In the eye alignment, he sets one step because of the inside threat movement.
Wide Shade Alignment (Diagram 4): Now we use a jump set technique. The offensive tackle takes a short drop-step and reads the second step of the defensive end. He takes the drop step because it gives him more time to see which way the defender is going. In addition, it allows the blocker to get on the defender late and keeps the defender’s hands down. After he reads the step, he attacks the inside V of the neck of the defender with an aggressive run block. If the defender comes to the inside, the tackle drive blocks him down. This can also be used by a center on a 2i- technique or by a guard on a wide 3-technique. They have to put themselves into a position to get on the defenders number without being turned in his set. They take lateral steps to stay square and not give too much depth. If they drop too deep, they will be in the quarterbacks lap. For the tackle, there is no immediate threat to the inside. He works for width and depth to one yard outside the original line. Once the tackle gets one-yard width, he works that line straight back with his inside foot. He kicks out with width and depth to get his inside foot on the line and works it straight back.
CB: “We talk about a trail technique and a cover up technique. A trail technique is used by our tackles in man protection. To us, trail means to keep our inside arm on the inside number of the defender. So if I’m a left tackle, my right arm should be lined up with the inside number of that 5-technique. We can’t set on the outside of that defender because it opens up an inside rush. For guards, we talk about covering them up, even against a 3-technique. If the guard executes a trail technique it’s a problem because he’ll be too susceptible for an up field rush, which pushes the pocket for the quarterback. For him, we talk about an inside number landmark but more importantly not to drop the post foot. He must keep that post foot up at all times.”
Coach Berry illustrates his footwork principles here (Diagram 5).
JL: “One of the problems we encounter is that players over set way too much. A guard on a 3-techinque is one of these examples. We want our outside shoulder on the defender’s inside shoulder. We use the mirror dodge drill (explained below) to teach this. The shoulder works for us because it’s a better reference for the players because they get taught to split the crotch. I always tell them to identify the hard point of the defender. The toughest thing to block is the tackle on a wide five-technique defender because of the speed. We identify the hard point of the defender. If I’m setting and I see inside shoulder I know he’s probably going to use a speed to swim or a speed to power rush. Or if I know that a 3-techique is starting to push on a wide rush and I’m to the man side, I’m probably expecting some D/E twist. I keep my guards on a 45 angle rather than a flat step. I coach the tackles up because they are matching their set based on how wide the defender is. I talk about meeting that defender on an intersecting angle of where he is going to be. If he’s going with his shoulder straight up the field, I will tell that tackle to vertical set and play basketball. Keep your separation. If he doesn’t want to make contact with him, don’t make contact with him. If that player is wide, we will usually go vertical two steps and then out on a 45 degree angle to meet him on the intersecting angle.”
JS: “We say leverage is an advantage, which I got from Mark Ferrante the offensive line coach at Villanova University. If you are lined up against a jet (outside) rusher, you already have leverage. He has to get around you or through you to get to the quarterback. If you are lined up against a guy inside of you, he has leverage. Leverage dictates the way you block someone. We talk about two types of rushers. A “jet rusher” is one who is wide while a “giant rusher” is one who is two-gapping the blocker. Against a jet rusher we make that player come to us by setting vertical. The wider he is, the deeper we set. Against a giant rusher, no one has leverage which means we need to establish it (leverage) and then maintain it.”
Drills to Emphasize Footwork in Man Protection
The following drills, complete with coaching points, illustrate the drills our contributors use to teach the proper footwork in man protection schemes.
Z Drill: Western Michigan University
The Z Drill incorporates the kick and post footwork of offensive linemen in pass protection. The key is to keep lateral and vertical movement while maintaining the proper base (Diagram 6).
Inside Hand Stab Drill: Western Michigan University
This drill used by Brian Callahan at Western Michigan University, teaches the importance of using the post (or inside) hand in pass protection. Coach Callahan talks about “squeezing our pecs” to get tight hand placement. The aiming point of contact is where the defender straps up his pads. Once the lineman makes contact, Callahan talks about “blocking him with our knees” to prevent leaning (Diagram 19).
Researchers Discover the 44 Most-Trusted
Drills Top O-Line Coaches Use to Teach
Pass Protection Every Day
By Mike Kuchar,
Senior Research Manager
Everything is connected... The eyes control the feet and the feet control the hands.
How can you expect a lineman to block a pass rusher if his eyes are not set on an aiming point?
How can you expect a lineman to effectively stalemate a rusher with a punch if his feet are not in the right place?
As J.B. Grimes, the offensive line coach at Auburn University, famously said: "The foot bone is connected to the shin bone. The shinbone is connected to the knee bone. The knee bone is connected to the..." You get the point.
This is why my team and I set out on a course of study to research the drill work that offensive line coaches are doing daily to reinforce the eyes, hands and feet of offensive linemen in pass protection.
We call this brand-new special report...
The Man Pass Protection Drills Study
This in-depth special report includes offensive line coaches from some of the most successful programs in defending the passer at both the FBS and FCS level.
In fact, the offensive line coaches that contributed to this special report surrendered a meager average of less than 1.5 sacks per game.
What you will see in this special report are 44 everyday pass protection drills from some of the most efficient offensive line coaches in the country. These drills include corresponding coaching points with practice video illustrating exactly what these coaches do to reinforce the techniques needed in man pass protection.
Here's a quick look at who contributed to this special report:
- Herb Hand, Offensive Line Coach, Penn State University
- Art Kehoe, Offensive Line Coach, the University of Miami (allowed 1.6 sacks per game in 2014)
- John Strollo, Offensive Line Coach, Ball State University (13 sacks allowed in 2014, 12th in FBS)
- Cameron Norcross, Offensive Line Coach, Fresno State University
- Brian Callahan, Offensive Line Coach, Western Michigan University (allowed 1.8 sacks per game in 2014)
- Chennis Berry, Offensive Line Coach, Southern University (8 sacks allowed in 2014, 4th in FCS)
- Vin Giacalone, Offensive Line Coach, Valparaiso University (5 sacks allowed in 2014, 1st in FCS)
- Brandon Jones, former Offensive Line Coach at East Carolina University (371 passing yards per game in 2014, 3rd in FBS), currently at Cal Berkeley
- Jonathan Leible, Offensive Line Coach, Central Connecticut State University (11 sacks allowed in 2014, 10th in FCS)
- Ryan Stanchek, Offensive Line Coach, Alcorn State University (7 sacks allowed in 2014, 3rd in FCS)
Here's exactly what this study includes...
My research staff and I studied the most effective everyday pass protection drills from some of the best offensive line coaches in the country. These are the very same drills our contributors use everyday that resulted in the low average of just 1.5 sacks per game.
The Man Pass Protection Drills Study is presented in three cases...
Case One: Drilling the Feet of O-Linemen in Man Pass Protection
Of the contributors in this study, more than half suggested that the feet are more important than the hands and the reasoning is simple... the feet put an offensive lineman in the best position to stop an inside charge and allows them to get enough vertical depth to defend an outside charge. While many offensive line coaches teach different techniques on the punch, the footwork to get him there remains vital.
Here's a small sample of what you'll find in this case:
- How Coach Callahan varies the footwork of his offensive linemen when blocking a head-up alignment, outside eye alignment, outside shoulder alignment and wide shade alignment.
- Why Coach Strollo classifies two types of rushers: a giant rusher and a jet rusher... and the footwork he uses to teach his players to block each.
- Why identifying the "hard point" of the defender is key to negating an up field pass rush.
- The difference between a "trail technique" and a "cover up technique" that Coach Berry uses to teach his guards and tackles respectively.
- The Z Drill used at Western Michigan to incorporate the kick and post footwork of offensive linemen.
- The Sets and Redirect Drill used at Central Connecticut State University to teach offensive linemen how to block tight outside shades, wide outside shades, head up shades and far inside shades.
- The Set, Punch, Mirror Drill used at East Carolina which teaches offensive lineman to keep their pass demeanor while focusing on an aiming point on the rusher.
- The Christmas Tree Set Drill that Coach Hand uses at Penn State University to defend the following rushes: wide alignment defender on kick foot, tight alignment defender on kick foot, wide alignment defender on power foot and tight alignment defender on power foot.
- When Coach Kehoe will use a jump set, lateral set and vertical set... and how he drills each of them.
- The Posture with Sandbags Drill to teach the proper pass demeanor for offensive linemen.
- Plus video on all these drills.
Case 2: Drilling the Hands of O-Linemen in Pass Protection
While the feet come first, the hands come second. In case two, we researched the various ways in which offensive line coaches were teaching the placement and strike force of the hands in pass protection.
Here's a small sample of what you'll find in case two...
- The medicine ball progression used at East Carolina University to train the hand placement of offensive linemen.
- The Circular Force concept that Coach Strollo is now teaching at Ball State, which reinforces the "torque" and "throw" element of pass protection.
- The Wrench Drill Coach Strollo uses to teach linemen to regain leverage on defenders who have "stacked them" in a pass rush situation.
- The Tunches Punches Drill used by Coach Kehoe at the University of Miami, which is modeled after martial arts techniques.
- The Dig Drill that Coach Callahan uses at Western Michigan, which reinforces stability on the post foot to defend counter moves.
- The Batter Up Drill used by Coach Giacalone at Valparaiso University, which emphasizes the timing of the punch technique.
- The Bear Claw Drill used by Coach Hand at Penn State which teaches offensive linemen to maintain pad leverage when defending against the bull rush.
- Plus video on all these drills.
Case 3: Identifying and Blocking First Level Twists
While many of the techniques in the previous two cases can be applied when blocking stagnant or stationary targets, the greater issue in pass protection is coaching players how to defend movement particularly at the first level. This case is devoted to the techniques and drill work associated with defending E/T and T/E games, zone pressures and man pressures in pass protection.
Here's a small sample of what you'll find in case three...
- Each contributor weighs in on what pressure indicators they teach their offensive linemen to identify pre-snap, including the responsibilities of the center and tackles in communication.
- Why Coach Stanchek at Alcorn State University always teaches his guard and tackle to use a vertical set when defending a 3-techique and a 5-technique aligned to the same side even in the quick game.
- The "Use Technique" that Coach Callahan uses at Western Michigan to defend to outside rushers in odd front structures.
- Why Coach Leible at Central Connecticut State University tells his linemen to "bang the penetrator and accept the looper" against the twist game.
- Why Coach Berry at Southern University teaches his linemen to "shuffle to the looper" against the twist game.
- The Sled Switch Drill used by Coach Giacalone at Valparaiso University which teaches linemen to communicate and react quickly to twists.
- The Three Man Weave Drill used by Coach Berry, which teaches the three technique progression of stopping the penetrator and shuffling to the looper.
- The Sin Drill used by Coach Callahan, which is the only circumstance that allows for the dropping of the post foot in pass protection.
- The Games Drill Coach Kehoe uses that pits a guard and tackle against two rushers in man protection.
- The Odd Front Man Scheme Drill used by Coach Leible which teaches uncovered guards to mirror block, the bubble linebackers in odd front structures.
- Plus video on all these drills.
This brand-new special report, The Man Pass Protection Drills Study, includes over 46 videos featuring practice, game and tutorial videos.
You'll be able to read about the drill and coaching points and then watch these same drills in real practice situations.
These are drill videos directly from our contributors!
The full special report, The Man Pass Protection Drills Study, is available right now in X&O Labs' exclusive membership website, Insiders.
Join X&O Labs' Insiders. Go Here.