In 2016, Southwest Baptist University improved from a 4 win 2015 season to a 10 – 2 record and a Top 25 ranking nationally. One of the major factors to help the Bearcats achieve this was being able to reduce the number of total sacks by over 40%. This reduction in sacks helped produce an offense that finished the season 10th nationally (NCCA Division 2) in Total Offense and 36th in Passing Offense (1st in the Great Lake Valley Conference in both categories). In this exclusive clinic report, offensive line coach Anthony Vitale details the 10 every day drills he uses to train the hands and feet of his offensive lineman in pass protection. Read the report.
Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Southwest Baptist University (MO)
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SBU utilizes a variety of protections within our passing system. One protection that the offense uses often is a 6 man, half slide, drop back protection. This concept, founded primarily in the principles of the 2/3 Jet protection concepts, is a basic scheme that allows for simple blocking rules (see Diagram 1). The protection relies heavily upon fundamentals, technique, and execution by both the Offensive Line and the Running Backs. Our staff feels that in order for the passing game to be successful while utilizing this protection, the Offensive Line must be physical and fundamentally sound in their execution. We are able to achieve this aggressive posture and technical execution through a heavy reliance upon a series of protection drills that cover not only the fundamentals of the position, but also the situations that Offensive Line must be aware of and prepared to handle.
Hips & Hands
We utilize a version of the Hips & Hands drill almost every day. We use this series of movements to emphasize both the movement of the hips as well as the pass protection strike and body position. The only movement we will get the hip all the way through is the first phase (6 PT start). In this phase, we are coaching the Offensive Line to explode through the bag and drive his belt buckle to the turf. While there is a slight hip roll that accompanies the pass protection strike in the second and third phase, the emphasis is more on a violent hand strike while keeping tight hands and elbows.
The first drill we will use, especially during spring practice is Resisted Sets. This drill is designed to help increase the Offensive Lineman’s set speed. The Offensive Lineman will take a variety of sets against a resistance band. We will generally have the Offensive Line take 4 – 6 steps into his progression but will never allow drill to go long enough that the resistance forces poor mechanics in the set. Regardless of the set we are having the Offensive Line take, we are looking for low pad level and a second step that matches the length of the first. We are looking for a hand carry with the thumbs slightly below the chest plate. We will also include assisted sets in the progression. We always finish with sets vs. air (no assistance or resistance) when we incorporate this drill into our workout.
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- Coaching points and film of the Sets on Line Drill, which drills the following sets: two-step cover, four-step cover, two-step post and four-step lateral sets.
- Coaching points and film of the Sets and Jams and Sets and Redirects Drill, which emphasizes the strike and post-snap movement of offensive linemen.
- Coaching points and film of the Fit and Press/Lift and Redirect Drill, which teaches correlation of the strike and footwork vs. various defensive movements.
- Coaching points and film of the 3-Cone Redirect Drill, which emphasizes a quick change of direction based on defensive line movement.
- Coaching points and film of the Two Bag Drill, which combines skill sets of low pad level, lateral redirection and strike points.
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The overall scheme developed by our Offensive Coordinator Phil Staback does an outstanding job putting our players in advantageous positions. Our staff believes however, that no matter how complex this game becomes, aggressive, fundamentally sound and determined Offensive Lineman will always be the key to success up front. We try to incorporate a variety of drills that emphasize the fundamentals of protection that we believe in. We place tremendous emphasis on practicing physical and with outstanding tempo. In each of the pass protection drills listed, we will focus on effort and violence of the strike before anything else.
Meet Coach Vitale
Coach Vitale is entering his 18th season coaching Offensive Line. He began his coaching career as the Offensive Line Coach at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA under Coach Kevin Rooney. During his time there, Notre Dame held a record of 122 – 25 and won 3 CIF Southern Section titles. Following his stint at Notre Dame he was the Offensive Line Graduate Assistant at Lindenwood University (St. Charles, MO) and helped the Lions in a successful transition into NCAA Division II and the MIAA Conference. Coach Vitale is now the Offensive Line Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Southwest Baptist University (NCAA D II, MO). SBU completed the 2016 season with a 10 – 2 record and as co-champions of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.