Morrisville State College (NY) is one of those programs which still enforces blocking technique for wide receivers on the perimeter and it does so by teaching them to understand four distinct categories: pre-snap identification of defenders, approach, attacking/maintaining leverage and engagement. In this exclusive clinic report, wide receivers coach Kenneth Tinsley details the drills that correspond with each of these components. Read the report.
By Kenneth Tinsley
Wide Receivers Coach
Morrisville State College (NY)
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Perimeter blocking at the wide receiver is very critical to the run game. Making a block at the 2nd and 3rd level of a defense can turn a small gain by the ball carrier into an explosive play, even a touchdown. Great blocking not only comes from effort and desire, but also from sound technique, fundamentals and understanding leverage.
It is also important to note that blocking as an outside receiver can be different than blocking as a slot receiver. Today we are going to go discuss some drills and fundamentals on how to put the wide receiver in the best position to make a block and how do adapt it to the position that they play.
Here are the points of emphasis that we focus on when teaching our receivers to block:
- Understand the run scheme - Knowing the direction of the run and who the ball carrier is will help the receiver to know which angle they need to take to their blocking responsibility and use proper technique that corresponds with the run scheme.
- Active hands and feet - If a receiver is constantly active with their hands and feet, then they can react quicker to the defender. Once the receiver is not actively moving, the defender can work around them and make a play on the ball carrier.
- Force the defender to have to go through your body to get to the ball carrier - As a receiver, we never want the defender to have free access to the ball carrier. If the receiver can put themselves into position to force the defender to come through their body, then the ball carrier will have a high success rate of gaining yards and creating explosive plays.
- Never leave your block to find another defender – Too often, I have seen receivers leave the guy that they are blocking to go for a knockout shot on a defender who is well behind the play. This has often result either in penalties or the first defender that was block ends up making the play. Once the receiver is engaged on his blocking assignment, he must maintain that block for as long as possible.
- Play full speed in between the whistles - With good technique and effort, the receiver will be very successful in blocking. He must never take a play off. As a coach, you have to get your players to buy into blocking. You never know when you can create opportunity for someone else to score. One thing I tell my receivers is “As a receiver you have to be able to score with or without the ball in your hands.”
When we teach the blocking process, we break it down into four distinct categories. Each of these pieces can be drilled individually and grouped together to build the receiver’s blocking skill set. The categories are as follows:
- Once the play is called and the receiver aligned, the receiver should quickly identify their target and follow their rules and responsibilities to be successful in their block.
- Come off the ball hard at full speed and come to balance.
- Breakdown about 2-3 yards from the defender then work to close the distance between you and the defender. A slot receiver would need to get their responsibility quicker because they are closer to the run so their reaction time will be faster than an outside receiver.
- Keep and athletic base. Feet about shoulder-width apart, knees bent, chest up, and biceps against the rib cage with the elbows pointing back. When the elbows are pointing back this will force the hands up. Hands open, thumbs pointing to the sky.
- Keep the feet and hands active.
Attacking and Maintaining Leverage
- The receiver should attack the leverage of the defender and to maintain that leverage. The receiver needs to put themselves in position that will force the defender to come through their body.
- For example, if the receiver is on the right side and the run play is an inside zone play to the right, then the receiver’s attack point is the midline to the play side number of defender which would be the inside number.
- Some coaches want to the receiver to be directly square in front of the defender which is fine. What I teach my receivers is to protect the run scheme. So if the run play is inside, the receiver is going to have an inside attack point. If the run scheme is to the outside, then the receiver will have an outside attack point.
Strike and Engage
- When a receiver is engage with a defender, the receiver is either “in-phase” or “out-of-phase.”
- “In-phase” is when a receiver is squared with the defender while engaged in the block.
- “Out-of-phase” is when a receiver is engaged with a defender in the block and the defender pulls away.
- Once the receiver is in position, the receiver must react first. The smaller the gap between the receiver and defender the faster the receiver must react. The receiver doesn’t know exactly where the ball carrier is so the receiver but be aggressive to the point of attack and strike first.
- Once engaged keep arms strong and not fully extended. The receiver will have more control if their arms are strong. Get the receivers to think their doing a bicep curl once engaged with a defender.
- Eyes up, chest up, wide base and power step as fast as possible. Once a receiver’s base is narrow or arms extended the defender is in more control and can easily toss or shed the receiver.
Continue to the full-length version of this report…
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- The Pivot Step Drill used to teach WRs to block the inside leverage of a defender for inside runs.
- The J Step Drill used to teach WRs to block the outside leverage of a defender for outside runs.
- The Hip-Flip/Strong Arm Drill used to teach WRs to stay square on blocking defenders when they are out of phase.
- The Outside Receiver MDM Drill used to teach outside WRs to identify and block the correct defender in two-high coverage structures.
- The Slot Receiver MDM Drill used to teach slot WRs to identify and block the correct defender in one high and two-high coverage structures.
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It is important to make perimeter blocking a priority in the run game. Good solid blocking on the perimeter can lead to explosive plays. The technique and blocking rules use on the perimeter should be tied to the run scheme and the drills should be able to game time situations. Lastly, it all comes down to effort. If your receivers buy in and believe that they can “to score with or without the ball in your hands” then you will see great things happen in the run game.
Meet Coach Kenneth Tinsley: Coach Tinsley just completed his first season as the wide receivers coach at Morrisville State College. In his first season, Coach Tinsley helped guide stand-out receiver Marcus-Jackson Conner who was named to the Empire 8 2016 Sportsman Team. Marcus finished in the top ten in receptions, receiving yards, average receiving yards per game and average catches per game in the Empire 8. Prior to Morrisville, Coach Tinsley served as the Wide Receiver Coach at Bates College for two seasons where he coached the two-time back-to-back (2014, 2015) All-NESCAC receiver Mark Riley.
Prior to Bates College, Coach Tinsley served as the assistant offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Eastern Senior High School in his hometown of Washington, D.C. Coach Tinsley is a Graduate of Central State University (Cum Laude) where he played Tight End for the Marauders.