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By Vince DiGaetano, Program Analyst for Football, Wagner College (NY)

Drilling tackling without knowing what your players need to be drilled on is a waste of time. Find out how Coach DiGaetano breaks down their film to focus each position on the tackling skills that they need the most. Read the report...


By Vince DiGaetano
Program Analyst for Football
Wagner College (NY)
Twitter: @CoachDig



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From a defensive perspective, there is only six different ways from a play to end; tackle, incomplete pass, out of bounds, penalty, takeaway or a score. On average each season you find that 70-75% of all plays defended end in a tackle. With that being said, is that same percentage of time reflected in your practice schedule?

The offseason is a great time to go back and see what you are doing well in the realm of tackling so that you can address the areas of need throughout the offseason and into the next. This report is meant to focus on fundamentals, planning and corrections in the area of tackling. I began looking at how our players tackle after 2012. At that time, I was at SUNY-Maritime and I set out to create a plan to improve on it in the offseason and preseason. The focus was on finding what specific corrections need to be made by position and player. Since then, we have built this into a program that has changed the way that we practice out tackling.

Classifying Tackles

We assess missed tackles by failure to secure the ball carrier and stop the play. If the tackler is able to get the ball carrier down they are considered tackle. If the ball carrier gains additional yardage, it would still count as a tackle, but a correction also applies. We have also spent a lot of time calculating the yards after first contact. 

The percentages are all based on the amount of total times that they play would end in a tackle, missed tackles also, to apply the correction. Each of the plays are graded based on the fundamentals applied to the tackle. 

With this information in hand, we are able to spin it forward to working the proper drill work to correct these issues in winter workouts (weight room, etc.) or in spring. We are looking to work two specific concepts.

  1. Drills revolve around 3 main areas. Tracking/approach, Form or rugby/roll (below the waist)
  2. Corrections are based on 4 main areas. Approach (buzz), Hitting position (hit), force (shoot), secure tackle(rip)

This that information in hand, we the construct our drill time accordingly based on need and the progression. Once we master approach, we work on next phase. Interior guys will have more form. Perimeter more rugby roll. We change approach based on position group as well.

We try to steal time and apply these concepts to all seasons. In the weight room, we focus on squeezing from the lat muscles to secure tackles and preach the shooting of the hips in the explosive moments. Terminology remains consistent in the weight room and work outs. In the spring, we spend a little more time advancing progression. Take a little more time to do non-contact work. This gives us an opportunity to slow down and teach a little more. It also gives us an opportunity to get new coaches to staff involved and trained as early as possible. 

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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, you’ll 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:

  • How Coach DiGaetano breaks down missed tackles into the following four categories: straight-on vs. angle tackle, leverage and pursuit tackle, leverage vs. sideline pursuit and position specific.
  • The corrective process he and his staff uses to address the following fundamentals in the off-season as it pertains to: approach to the football, ability to get in a good hitting position, ability to deliver force on a ball carrier and securing the tackle by getting ball carrier to the ground.
  • How types of missed tackles can be correlated into strength and conditioning development in the off-season weight program.
  • A downloadable PDF of the yearly tackling analysis report that Coach DiGaetano uses after each season.

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My research on tackling has taught me that a focused, fact-based approach to teaching the process will render the best possible results. Remember that not all players make the same types of tackles and all teaching and correction of tackling does not have to occur with contact or with pads at all. This offseason is the perfect time to address these issues. The angle to the ball dictates the path to the ball and how non-contact drills can be corrected to put player in the best position.  For that reason, make sure that the types of tackles you are making fit into the scheme you are playing.

Meet Coach DiGaetano: Vincent DiGaetano in his second season in the role of Defensive Assistant, having previously worked on the defensive side of the ball for several football programs within the New York City metropolitan area. Most recently, DiGaetano was the linebackers coach at Nassau Community College in 2015, having previously spent 10 years on the staff at SUNY-Maritime. From 2008-2014, the 1999 Wagner College graduate served as Defensive Coordinator for the Privateers, which followed a three-year stint (2005-07) where he served as Special Teams Coordinator at SUNY-Maritime from 2005-07. In 2014, DiGaetano was a finalist for AFCA Division III Assistant Coach of the Year. Since 2012, he has served as a Master Trainer for the USA Football Heads Up Football program.



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