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By Justin Iske

Offensive Line Coach

Fort Hays State University

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If you are a turn protection (half-man, half-slide) team like we are here at Fort Hays State, the number one job of your o-line coach is to figure out which way you want to slide your protection each week. The purpose of this article is to give you a few ideas that will help you make this determination without confusing your players.

What Is Turn Protection?

In the simplest terms, turn protection is a half-man, half-slide protection with the center, playside guard, and playside tackle responsible for a gap; and the backside guard and tackle manned up on a defensive lineman. (See Examples in Diagram 1, 2, and 3).

Diagram Notes:

  1.  We call the weakside gaps X, Y, and Z.
  2.  "Rush" is just our term for the weak side End. (End, Tackle, Nose, Rush)
For specific on how Coach Iske's team calls the protections,  click here to join the Insiders.

Five, Six, or Seven-Man Protection

One of the reasons we use turn protection is because we can incorporate five, six, and seven-man protections with the same rules for the offensive line. We can also run three-step, five-step, seven-step and even some play action concepts while using the same basic principles of protection. The less your guys up front have to think, the more aggressive and confident they will play. The QB and running backs are the ones that adjust.

Definitions of Protection

  • Five-Man Protection: Any blitzer to the man side is the QB’s responsibility
  • Six-Man Protection: RB or FB is responsible for blitzer to the man side.
  • Seven-Man Protection: Both backs will check to the man or slide side, depending on the call.

One thing that is extremely important, for shotgun teams especially. Do not always align your back to the man side of your protection pre-snap. The first thing most defensive coaches will look for when attacking protections is any pre-snap giveaway to which side you are sliding your protection. Realize that they watch film just as much as you do and if you align the back to the man side all the time, you are going to see every blitz ever invented to that side on a weekly basis. Going under center or in the pistol eliminates this issue. But so does simply having the back cross the QB’s face post-snap (with or without a flash fake).

For details on how Fort Hayes State determines how to slide vs. different fronts / looks,  click here to join the Insiders.

Pressure from the Shade Nose

We have found that a lot of teams like to bring pressure from the shade (nose) side of their defense. But they have a heavy down & distance tendency for when they like to bring pressure. In that instance, you need to make a decision as a coach. You have three options:

  1. Slide to the three technique all the time. This will make you vulnerable to their favorite blitzes, but will mean you are solid on normal/run downs.
  2. Slide to the shade all the time. This will make you solid against their favorite blitzes, but leaves you with one-on-one match-ups with both your guard and tackle to the three technique side.
  3. Have one rule for normal/run downs and another rule for passing situations. This can be the best of both worlds…if your center can handle it. If not, you have chaos.
To see game film of Coach Iske's turn protection, click on the link below:


It is important that you give your players specific and simple rules for what you want each week. Realize that you aren’t going to be in the perfect protection call every play. Trust the percentages that you come up with through film study and have clear and concise coaching points for your guys. There are certain games where we will have one rule for all situations (i.e.: slide to #14 because he is their favorite blitzer). Other games, there may be a certain rule for normal/run downs and another for passing situations (i.e.: slide to the three technique on normal downs, but slide to the boundary on 3rd and medium or 3rd and long because that is where they like to bring their nickel pressures). You as a coach must determine how much information your center can handle. You can’t give a player a checklist of three to four things to look for and then expect him to play well. Give them one or two (at most) things that they need to be aware of and practice the heck out of it all week versus the scout team.

Finally, when you set up your game plan, make sure that you have contingency plans. What happens if my left tackle goes down and a terrible match-up is created? What if they break their tendencies and are hurting you with pressures? Have answers for issues before they come up so that you can get them handled on the sidelines and/or at halftime to get them corrected. Just because you gave your center a set of rules before the game, don’t marry yourself to those rules no matter what. In football, things change quickly. When things go wrong, your players look to you for answers. If you don’t have any, you are sunk. If you can put them in a position to be successful, then they will play their heart out for you every play.

I would like to thank our head coach, Chris Brown, and offensive coordinator, Justin Schreiber, for helping me with putting this article together. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us here at FHSU anytime.

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