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By Mike Fossum, Offensive Line Coach, Wisconsin Lutheran College

Like most small schools, D3 Wisconsin Lutheran College struggles with having consistently bigger offensive linemen. So they’ve adjusted their inside zone schemes to fit their spread offensive personnel by widening the A gaps up to three feet and stretching the B gaps up to 4 feet at times. This width has forced defenses to quickly define themselves, putting the OL in advantageous leverage positions. Because of this inside zone concepts have become man-to-man situations with very few double teams. In this exclusive clinic report, Offensive Line Coach Mike Fossum details the drill work he uses daily to work proper leverage on zone blocks at the first and second level. Read the report....


By Mike Fossum
Offensive Line Coach
Wisconsin Lutheran College

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There are many challenges in coaching NCAA Division III football, but having consistently huge/physical offensive linemen is certainly one of them. At Wisconsin Lutheran College, we have been working for years to reduce our inside zone play to the simplest form possible to fit our personnel and our spread offense (wide splits and no tight ends). Our A gaps are typically 3 feet in width and our B gaps can get as wide as 4 feet at times. That width has forced defenses to quickly define themselves and puts our OL in advantageous leverage positions while also creating natural seams for our ball carriers. If our players understand what they see in front of them and know how to use their leverage, then we are able to effectively execute the zone/read play as a base part of our offense.

The drill sequence that I will demonstrate in this report will cover a few of the fundamentals we believe in for blocking the 1st and 2nd level within our zone scheme.

Body/Leverage Drills

I am a big believer in having players understand what a good “fit” position is as opposed to a bad “fit” position. One of the real keys to great OL play is being able to correct yourself when you are out of position. We have a series of body/leverage drills that help with this.

Bad Block Drill

Here we are training the body to recover and understand how a proper fit position feels. A blocker starts out in a good fit position, squatting in front of a defender with inside hands, head up and a solid base (knees under armpits, toes under knees). The defender slowly walks backward while holding the blocker’s elbows. The blocker keeps his feet stationary and allows his body to get way out in front of his feet. Just as he is nearly going to fall forward we have the blocker widen and fire his feet, lower his hips and raise his eyes to “recover” back into his starting fit position. This is very much a low speed drill and is really all about body awareness for the blocker. On the demo video you’ll see a good look at this drill, the only coaching point I’d emphasize more is bringing the head/eyes upward during the recovery action.

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Base/Anchor Drill:

This drill trains a blocker to respond to resistance. I call this the “moment of truth” in any block. Anytime we reach the contact point, we want to lower our hips while widening and firing our feet. This drill is setup with a blocker in a good fit position and a defender holding onto his shoulders/upper arms. The blocker must be able to lean in on the defender. We start by simply having the blocker drive back the defender with no real resistance. When the defender chooses, he drops anchor and the blocker encounters resistance. It is a great way to train the body to respond by lowering the base, widening the feet and chopping them.

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Continue to the full-length version of this report…

Join X&O Labs’ Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and you’ll get instant access to the full-length version of this report—including access to everything X&O Labs has ever published. Plus, if you join today, you’ll also receive up to 4 FREE books mailed directly to your home or office. Here’s just a small sample of what you’ll find in the full-length version of this report:

  • The drill work Coach Fossum uses to teach his OL to unlock their hips on their first and second steps to out leverage a first level defender.
  • The drill work Coach Fossum uses to speed up the footwork and strike point of the second step.
  • The Near Knee drill work that Coach Fossum uses to train the eyes of uncovered linemen in the zone scheme.
  • The drill work Coach Fossum uses to train the eyes and feet of his OL on the backside cutoff block.
  • How Coach Fossum drills his OL to quickly identify a second level LB and block him with the proper leverage in zone schemes.
  • Plus narrated film of all these drills.

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I hope this gives you a few more ideas for building and perfecting your team’s technique during this season. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. Thanks again to X&O’s Labs for the opportunity to share some of our fundamental drills with you. Many thanks as well to the OL coaches from whom I have absorbed schemes, drills and knowledge from over my 17 years of being an OL coach. The community of OL coaches is tremendously kind with the sharing of information, and I hope I’ve helped to continue that tradition in some way with this article/film.

Meet Coach Fossum: Mike Fossum has been a member of the Wisconsin Lutheran College football coaching staff longer than any other coach, as he enters his 18th season as an assistant for the Warriors. Fossum serves as WLC's offensive line coach and director of football operations. Wisconsin Lutheran was second in the NACC in rushing a season ago, gaining 1,687 yards with an average of 4.0 yards per carry behind Fossum's offensive line. Wisconsin Lutheran boasted two of the league's top seven rushers in Jared Bruemmer and Pat Mathieson last season. WLC won the league's rushing title in 2009 with 138.6 yards per game and has ranked second as a team four times since. 

Fossum had five seasons of experience at the NCAA Division II and III football ranks prior to his appointment at Wisconsin Lutheran. His most recent assignment was as an assistant coach for two years (1997-1998) at Division I-AA South Dakota State University for head coach John Stiegelmeier. There he worked primarily with the defensive secondary, and assisted with special teams and scouting. For three seasons (1994-1996), Fossum coached the defensive line at his alma mater, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. During his stint, six linemen earned all-conference honors and one was selected to the all-region team.



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