Once again, the C.O.O.L. Clinic played host to some of the most innovative minds in OL. So, I wanted to provide what I felt were the most important nuggets of these presentations.
By Mike Kuchar
Co-Founder/Senior Research Manager
Once again, Cincinnati played host to some of the top coaches across the country when over 350 offensive line coaches poured into the Millennium Hotel Downtown to expound upon the finer components of football—leverage, footwork and hand placement. While many times our off-season editorial schedule prevents me from attending most clinics, this one is always a must attend annually. And as this was my eighth COOL clinic, it may have been the best. Normally, the speaker lineup features a packed run down from both the collegiate and professional ranks, this time around there were some nuances. An entire crew from NFL Films was following the clinic’s host (and former Cleveland Brown offensive line coach) Bob Wylie as he continues his reality television show career stemming from the success of HBO’s Hard Knocks.
It also featured a first-time player presentation as Browns offensive line members Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter and Austin Corbett converged on educating the clinic base on the nuances of the inside and outside zone schemes. I was able to stay through the entire presentation list (save for Coach Butch Barry of the University of Miami), so I wanted to provide what I felt were the most important nuggets of these presentations. We segmented our research into one key trend coaches should expect to see this fall in the common areas of offensive line play.
This is usually my favorite part of the clinic, where coaches like longtime NFL offensive line coach Paul Alexander tell us that he truly grasped the meaning of leverage while studying a glass bird antique in his mother-in-law’s home. (Don’t ask, long story).
It’s where coaches show graphics of pendulums and turbo prop airplanes to define leverage. Perhaps the most practical usage of leverage came from former NFL offensive lineman and entrepreneur Scott Peters talking about “triangulating” on contact. This emphasizes how to attack a soft target by not attacking down the middle. The coaching point is to get dominant foot back at the contact point. Known as the “teeter” technique, it’s an uncoiling action where weight shifts forward before contact. In order to get this taught, Coach Peters teaches these drills in shoulder pads without helmets where starts from the fit position and works backwards. He also encouraged drilling with human partners rather than sleds. More of Coach Peters’ teaching progressions can be found at https://www.tipofthespearfootball.com/
Utilizing the “Pry” Technique on Inside Zone Schemes
The University of Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman spent a great deal of time talking about how he teaches the “pry” technique for his inside zone scheme. Commonly known as the slam back technique, uncovered offensive linemen both front and backside work to clear up entry points for the back by executing a back shoulder lift with their near leg and near shoulder on a defender. According to Coach Pittman, it alleviates linemen from working too lateral to chase a second level linebacker and keeps the inside zone tight. Coach Pittman talked about working not to “plussing” the inside zone out to account for potential box defenders. “If you start chasing a linebacker, you’re out of the pry world,” he told the group. “You don’t get the vertical seams you need to crease the play.”
The 45 Degree Track on Wide Zone
Before the hot talk even got started on the outside zone scheme, Coach Alexander made an important distinction between wide zone and outside zone. Outside zones are full reach concepts, where wide zone concepts emphasize working more vertical footwork with 45 degree departure points. According to Coach Alexander, the outside zone concept has been affected by lag techniques of defensive linemen who will eliminate cut points by playing on the backside of zone blocks (for more on the lag technique, see X&O Labs newest special report on Phase Two: 4-2-5—available in the Insiders).
Dwayne Ledford, the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Louisville University is hell-bent on teaching his covered linemen not to flip their hips, but to get to the outside V of the neck aiming point and working on a 45 degree angle while uncovered linemen work a three step rule to make decision on either blocking defensive lineman or climbing to second level. “The reach block is more efficient when you try to drive defenders off the ball,” said Oregon State offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.
Near Point Kick Technique in Gap Runs
While he wasn’t an official speaker at the clinic, University of Cincinnati offensive line coach Ron Crook told a private clinic session that he refrains from using the word “logging” when instructing the backside Guard to kickout on counter schemes. Instead, he talks about “trapping the near point” of the defender, whether it be the front shoulder or backside shoulder of the C gap defender. “If he wrong arms, we just trap his outside shoulder,” Coach Crooks told us. “Logging has too passive a connotation and causes him to get too much depth. The H-back as the wrap puller just reacts off the trap block.”
Low Hands in Pass Protection
The concurrent theme of pass protection this year was the emphasis on having low hands. In his presentation, Coach Alexander provided reel after reel of All-Pro NFL linemen engaging defenders with hands at are below the sternum of pass rushers. “The inside hand controls the chest and the outside hand governs the speed of rusher,” Coach Alexander told us. “If you go from low to high with hands (and not high to low) it’s impossible to lunge. The hips will come naturally.” Another innovative coaching point was allowing pass protectors to break the cardinal rule of being less powerful with the post foot in preventing an inside rush. Coach Alexander talked about using that post foot on more of a 45 degree angle to stop penetration. It absorbs inside rushes a little more effectively than lateral footwork.
Of course, these are simply brief talking points on what I found to be the key coaching takeaways based on scheme. For those that are interested in studying each presentation of the clinic in its entirety, the 2019 COOL clinic DVD is ready and available. Go here to get your copy: http://www.thecoolclinic.com/dvd.htm