This report focuses on developing the shaded nose guard. Every four-down front plays with a shade nose, and he's usually the anchor of the defensive line. One aspect of our research that we've found interesting is 39.5 percent of four-down front coaches play exclusively with a shade nose and a three-technique. They don't cross train them. This tells us that these positions are specific, and they have to master different techniques. We also found that they are built in different ways physically. While we often visualize a shade nose guard as a massive defensive lineman always eating up two blockers, the reality is this may not be necessary: our latest survey showed that 39% of defensive line coaches prefer their NG to be 5'10 or shorter and one-third of the coaches would rather play with a quicker, smaller type (under 210 lbs.).
The fact is, of the six primary run blocks a shade nose guard must defeat only two are combo blocks. In reality, great nose guards come in all shapes and sizes, but two qualities all coaches agree a great nose guard must possess are not debatable: Being Physical and Mental Toughness.
For the purpose of this report, the six primary blocks and schemes a shaded nose must defeat are below. They will all be clarified later in this report.
- Reach Block by the Center
- Double Team
- Power Scoop
- Loose Scoop
- Joker Scheme
Case 1: Stance, Alignment and Key
Our nose guard survey responses included coaches on the college, junior college, high school, junior high school and youth league levels. The majority of coaches teach an inside hand down, inside foot staggered stance with a foot to crotch alignment (41.8%). The most frequent visual key being taught is the "V" of the neck, which 56 percent of coaches emphasize. The most effective way to coach each of these three areas is still to be highly debated and sometimes depends upon the individual player. Three outstanding and successful defensive line coaches, one high school, one FCS level college coach, and one professional defensive line coach gives us three different ways to coach stance, alignment and visual key.
The University of Delaware defensive line coach Phil Petite teaches all of his front to align 15 inches off the ball with their inside hand down and inside foot back. "Because we play against so many offenses that use zone blocking schemes, our first step was up field. But we were always getting our shoulders turned and playing behind the block. Now aligning off the ball allows us to play downhill with force. The first step is still a 6-inch step and the second step depends on the blocking scheme." Petite does give his kids a "jet" call in long yardage which tightens them up so they can get off the ball and get to the quarterback.
Even though only 6.5 percent of our coaches teach their players to use a tilted shade technique, it still is prevalent in some levels of football. Former New York Jets defensive line coach Kerry Locklin, who spent eight years at Fresno State, gives his nose guards the freedom of playing a true, shoulder-squared shade or a tilt-shade. "Playing a tilt is different and you have to work at it because his visual key is now the back-side guard," says Locklin. "At Fresno State, we worked the nose guards vs. a center and two guards pre-practice for fifteen minutes a day. He has to rep it and develop a feel for each blocking scheme but still attack the center with each block. His tilt is about 45 degrees with his inside hand down and inside foot back. Horizontal alignment may be a little different for each guy, the best alignment for him."
While only 14 percent of defensive line coaches surveyed teach a footwork visual key, Tom Beason, defensive coordinator at Wichita Northwest High School in Kansas, would coach it no other way. "We play exclusively outside shades and key the outside foot. We got this from the University of Kansas a few years ago, and I love it. The offensive lineman can give us one of only three things:
- If his outside foot is at me or outside me, I attack the block with outside leverage.
- If his outside foot stays still, I know now he is releasing inside, so I have to attack his outside half, close down hard and move with my gap.
- If his outside foot is back, I rush the passer.
"Giving them only three things makes it a lot easier to teach and the players understand it. Plus, keying the outside foot keeps them lower on the snap."
Case 2: Defeating a Reach Block and O-Scheme
The reach block by the center and the O-pull are paired together because these are the two primary run blocks the shade will get from the center only. Block recognition between these two is critical and with repetition the shade will be able to react to either without hesitation. While only 16% of coaches teach the shade to attack and rip up field vs. a reach block, over 40% teach an "attack the center mentality" by controlling the front side A gap and crossing face vs. a cutback into the back-side A gap.