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By Sam Gooding, Former Offensive Line Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, Dakota State University (SD)

With the multiple looks that former Dakota State University (SD) offensive line coach Sam Gooding received from defenses each week, it was clear that the classic "covered/uncovered" principles in his zone schemes could not always account for every player in the box. So he and his staff had to scrap his former and devise an entirely new system, which is divided into the three categories: the base "Front" (Under, Okie, etc.), the "Box" (number of players at LB depth in the box), and "Tags" (different descriptors for small adjustments). In this exclusive clinic report, Coach Gooding details how this naming system allowed his players to quickly analyze a defense pre-snap and adjust their blocking rules accordingly. Read the report...


By Sam Gooding
Former Offensive Line Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
Dakota State University (SD)
Twitter: @CoachSamGooding

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When analyzing the defenses that we saw in the 2015 season, we were astounded to see so many different looks. Teams tended to have similar strategies to stop our base plays, but the alignments that they operated from were wildly different. Not only that, but each basic front had so many subtle variations that the blocking schemes could look completely different against similar fronts with slight adjustments. This placed quite a bit of stress on our offense, specifically the offensive line. The emphasis of this article is not specific techniques or schemes, simply how we sought to solve this problem through defensive identification.

Front Description

The first step in alleviating the problem was developing a more detailed, yet intuitive way of analyzing fronts on film. An Over front with two LBs in the box is not the same (and is not blocked the same) as an Over front with two LB's in the box, a DE reduced to a 5-tech to the TE side and a LB walked up into a 9-tech. The front ID system that we began to use was divided into the three most descriptive categories for us: the base "Front" (Under, Okie, etc.), the "Box" (# of players at LB depth in the box), and "Tags" (we had different descriptors for small adjustments, like LBs walked up at different points on the line, etc.). Together, this naming system allowed us to quickly analyze a defense with breakdown data and see how a defense liked to align before we even began to watch film in-depth. We also saw quite a few benefits with the offensive line being able to come to the sideline and accurately describe to us what they were seeing on the field.

Front ID Pre-Snap

On the field, pre-snap identification needed to be simplified much more in order to identify combo blocks and ensure that all players were accounted for in the box. Our up-tempo offense placed a premium on our players' abilities to quickly ID a front, make their calls and play fast. To do this, we installed a "Point" system, similar to what many schools across the country use to establish a standardized method of identifying blocks that can be used in all run plays as well as pass protection. To illustrate the way we used this system, we will focus on our inside zone for the run game and our 6-man half-slide pass protection. We will also briefly look at how we apply it to other runs/protections.

As with most schemes, we borrowed quite a few ideas from multiple coaching staffs to establish the system that would work best for us, much of which came from the staff under offensive coordinator Bill Cubit at the University of Illinois. I would be amiss if I didn't credit this staff for what they did so well.

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  • How Dakota State uses this defensive identification system to block its most productive run concepts.
  • How Dakota State uses this defensive identification system in its pass protection concepts and how it helps identify pressure.
  • Narrated game cutups on how this system is applied to Dakota State’s run and pass concepts.

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While it is impossible to completely eliminate assignment errors, creating a standardized defensive ID system has helped to mitigate mistakes and keep our offense playing at a high level. When looking at our personnel this year, we had some very talented players in skill positions that put the impetus on placing a hat on a hat and letting athletes be athletes. As long as we had everyone accounted for, “home run blocks” were not necessary to get explosive plays (although they always help) because our skill players were talented enough to make plays in both tight and wide spaces. We saw the benefits of this system as we again produced the top offense in the North Star conference while nearly doubling the number of passes attempted per sack allowed. The simplicity of the system also helped us to maintain our speed, as we saw an increase in the number of plays per minute from 2015 to 3.37 this year.

Meet Coach Gooding: Sam Gooding has just finished his first year as the Offensive Line Coach and Special Teams Coordinator at Dakota State University after beginning as a Graduate Assistant and the Tight Ends Coach in 2015. Prior to coming to Dakota State, Gooding graduated from the University of Illinois after 3 years of working with the football program under head coach Tim Beckman. Since he has been there, Dakota State has finished with a top 25 offense in the NAIA each year. This year, Dakota State achieved their first top-25 national ranking since the NAIA poll was originally released, rising as high as #18 this season on the back of two wins over top-25 teams.



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