When it comes to defensive football, there are base fundamentals that hold constant regardless of the era the game is being played in, the level at which it is being played, or the scheme that is being implemented. Block destruction is critical to being in the position to talkle. See how coach Thier coaches his backers to get rid of blockers here...
By Jason Thier
University of Mary (ND)
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When it comes to defensive football, there are base fundamentals that hold constant regardless of the era the game is being played in, the level at which it is being played, or the scheme that is being implemented. When we talk to our defensive players about these fundamentals, we are referring to the things that we get to control on defense. These are the components that the offense cannot dictate.
It all starts with the pre-snap fundamentals, like alignment and stance, that place the defense in a position to be successful before the ball is put into play. Once the ball is snapped, it is about being relentless in three basic fundamental groups:
- Getting Off the Ball: The fundamentals of a great first step and keys.
- Getting to the Ball, The fundamentals of pursuit and block destruction.
- Getting After the Ball: The art of tackling and taking the ball away from the offense.
Whether a player is on the line of scrimmage or playing in the secondary, these pre- and post-snap fundamentals must be present on every play in order for the defensive unit to have success. For this clinic report, I will focus on the post-snap defensive fundamental that often gets over looked, block destruction. I plan to outline how we teach our linebackers here at the University of Mary to attack and beat blocks and when we want them to “get dirty” vs “stay clean.”
Next to tackling, block destruction is the most important fundamental skill every linebacker must master. With the exception of when a linebacker is being read on an option play or RPO, a linebacker is assigned to be blocked by an offensive player on every run play. With the primary responsibility of linebackers being to stop the run, block destruction is a skill that must be practiced every day until it becomes an unconscious reaction by your linebackers. For the purpose of teaching, I break down block destruction into these simple parts; mentality, base, hit, and escape.
Block Destruction Mentality
It all starts with the mentality. They have to want to do it and they must build the mentality over time. Here are the coaching points we use to develop the mentality that we expect.
- “He comes, I come”: The linebackers must work to attack the blocker the same way they would attack a ball carrier.
- “Be a hammer, not a nail”: Linebackers must be the ones delivering the blow, not receiving it. We want to be able to see the body of the blocker jolted or rocked back upon contact. Block destruction takes a certain level of physicality in order to be successful.
- “Can’t go one for one with part time blockers”: If a running back or wide receiver is assigned to block a linebacker, it must take more than one of them to get it done. It is not ok to be occupied or blocked by part time blockers.
- “Holding doesn’t exist”: If a linebacker is being held it is because he is allowing himself to be held. It is our job to make it so obvious that the ref has to throw the flag.
Continue to the full-length version of this report…
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- How Coach Thier alleviates the main issues in using the proper base in block destruction, including having the far foot too forward on contact, over striding on contact and no hip bend.
- The One-Step Approach drill which teaches the proper stagger and strike for LBs on block destruction.
- The Five-Yard Approach drill which teaches LBs how to use open field block destruction techniques.
- The Hit and Escape Drill that coach Thier uses to teach the proper strike point on contact and the correlating escape mechanism LB’s should use based on leverage.
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When it comes to the fundamentals of playing defense, block destruction must be treated with the same level of importance as pursuit, tackling, and takeaways. It needs to be practiced every day in practice, whether it is a warm up drill or put into a team circuit. By teaching your linebackers the fundamentals of proper block destruction (mentality, base, hit, and escape), you are filling their tool box with what is needed to play the position at the highest of levels. Thank you for taking the time to read this report and I hope that it helps you and your team in the upcoming season. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Meet Coach Thier: Jason Thier enters his fourth season as the defensive coordinator at the University of Mary after joining the program in January 2014. While serving as the defensive coordinator, he also works with the team’s linebackers. In his first three seasons, Their (rhymes with fear) has mentored and coached one pre-season NSIC Defensive Player of the Year, two pre-season all-Americans, one AFCA 1st team all-American, and four All-NSIC linebackers. Thier has coached at least one all conference player each of the eight seasons he has been in college coaching.
Before coming to the University of Mary, Thier served as inside linebackers coach at FCS University of North Dakota in 2013, where he coached one All-Big Sky linebacker. Prior to working at the University of North Dakota, at the age of 24 Thier became the defensive coordinator at NAIA Division I University of Montana Western for two seasons (2011-12). Thier was also responsible for linebackers one season and defensive backs the other. In 2011 the defensive secondary was ranked second in the Frontier Conference and the squad had an all-conference defensive lineman and linebacker. The 2012 squad doubled its win total from the previous season, takeaways increased by 13 and a defensive back earned all-conference recognition.
Thier began his full-time coaching experience at Augustana University, formerly Augustana College, as a graduate assistant. While there he worked one season with defensive backs and a second with linebackers while also serving a year as the video coordinator and kickoff coordinator. In 2009 the Viking finished 8-4 overall to place third in the Northern Sun and earn a spot in the Mineral Water Bowl. Augie followed up with a trip to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals in 2010, posting an 11-2 record and winning a playoff game for the first time in school history. All three of Thier’s linebackers earned All-NSIC honors and one was All-Region.