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By Nathan Linsey, Defensive Backs/Special Teams Coordinator, Emporia State University (KS)

Traditionally speaking, Emporia State football has been known more for its prolific offensive outputs than its defensive production. That was, until the defensive staff made an earnest effort in improving tackling by breaking into five tackle groups instead of three. In doing so, the Hornets improved in nearly every defensive category. In this exclusive clinic report, defensive Backs coach Nathan Linsey details the five in-season circuit drills the defensive staff will incorporate on a weekly basis to improve tackling. Read the report....


By Nathan Linsey
Defensive Backs/Special Teams Coordinator
Emporia State University (KS)
Twitter: @CoachLinsey



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Here at Emporia State University since 2012, we have traditionally finished in the middle of the pack as far as our defensive numbers and statistics. If you look at the numbers over the years, the takeaways were there and the tackles weren’t. Following the 2014 season, when we finished 4-7, I went back through each play from that season and tried to figure out why we weren’t successful. After reviewing the film, the biggest concern was our inability to complete our tackles. Far too often, 3-4 yard check downs/runs were turning into 8-10 yard gains and 10 yard completions were turning into “explosive plays.”

That off-season going into spring ball we decided to focus on tackling in more detail to put our players in a better chance to be successful. Going into spring ball, we decided to break into five groups instead of three we typically did to focus and get into more attention to detail with how we were practicing our tackling. This also allowed us to have smaller groups at each station to allow for more reps. Each coach was responsible for teaching a phase of the “Hornet Tackle” and allow the players to carry out the drill. The five different drills involved with the Hornet tackle was our Leverage/Tempo Drill; Outside-In Hornet Tackle; Inside–Out Hornet Tackle; Roll Tackle; and, Profile Tackle.

Leverage/Tempo Drill

This drill really stressed the importance of your inside-out tempo of the ball carrier. We set up a cone every 5 yards for 20 yards and split up into 2 lines; one line being the ball carrier, the other being the tackler. The tackles starts about 2 yards behind the ball carrier about 10 – 15 yards away. On the whistle, the ball carrier will take off at a moderate pace (60-70%), slowing down and chopping their feet at each cone as if he were to cut back on the tackler. The tackler would pursue always keeping good inside out leverage with eyes on the ball carriers hip, “taking the air out of it.” Once the ball carrier would slow down at the cone, the tackler would square up his feet into the “near foot, near foot” technique to keep good leverage. The tackler should never overtake the ball carrier. Once the tackler reaches the ball carrier, he should tag off on the hip and the next group will continue.

Continue to the full-length version of this report…

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  • Coaching points and drill film of the Inside Out/Outside In Leverage tackle drill that Coach Linsey uses to teach the target zone on leverage tackles.
  • The variation of the Roll Tackle Drill that Coach Linsey uses to train both the close and the finish of the tackle.
  • Coaching points and drill film of the Hornet Profile Tackle Drill that Coach Linsey uses to teach in-the-hole or short yardage tackles.
  • Bonus: Practice Video!

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Just like anything you do in the coaching profession, if you want to get good at something or improve at something, you must make it a point of emphasis. We are constantly showing clips in the film room of guys that lost their leverage and what they could do to put themselves in a better position to be successful. The one thing as a coaching staff that we saw through the 2016 season was the attention to detail our guys took in becoming better tacklers. This has really been a two-year process and there is still a lot of room for improvement, but we have noticed a significant change in our missed tackles in those two seasons. Our defensive numbers have also shown that as well. There are a lot of different variables that play into a good defense, but we feel our ability to tackle has helped us get off the field in critical situations and cut down on the number of plays.


Meet Coach Linsey: Nathan Linsey started out his coaching career at his Alma Mater Emporia State University as a graduate assistant in the fall of 2011. He worked with the defensive ends for a year and then transitioned back to the nickels in 2012. Following the 2012 season, he was hired as the full time secondary coach and recruiting coordinator. Linsey then added the Special Teams coordinator title in 2014. He is very thankful for the opportunity he has been given by Head Coach, Garin Higgins. 



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