By Zach Turner
Defensive Backs Coach
Kenton High School (OH)
The screen game has become a huge part of the spread offense attack. Screens put our players in a situation where they must defeat a block on the perimeter and tackle an athlete in space. That is a challenge for most defenders and in turn, for all defensive coordinators.
Here at Kenton High School, we do not change our scheme based on what screens a team runs. We just align our defense to make sure we are never outflanked based on the offensive formation. In addition, we have incorporated a series of drills that teach our defensive backs and outside linebackers proper technique and screen fits to shut down our opponents’ screen game. We teach that screen fits are just like run fits in any defense. This allows our players to understand their leverage and how to pursue the football. Our defense has been in the top 3 in pass defense three of the last four years and a lot of that has to do with our ability to defend the screen game.
Teaching Block Destruction
When teaching block destruction we focus on using our hands properly and being the aggressor. We believe you cannot defeat blocks unless you are the aggressor, the more physical player. Much like offensive and defensive line coaches talk about the “low man wins,” we say the player whose hands strike first wins the battle. Whether it be an offensive player blocking or a defensive player destructing the block. We also never use the terminology of “beat the block” that is not good enough. You can beat a block by running around it or dodging it. We say “destruct the block” because this implies destroying the block through aggression and technique.
First, I have to say we did not create it this. This idea came from Ohio State and they called it “the difference.” It blended so well with our core values of destructing blocks that we had to use it. The difference is split into two separate drills. The first drill is what we call “The Difference” the second drill is called “Strike and destruct”.
The difference is a competitive drill for us. Sometimes we use this drill as an offensive vs defensive drill and sometimes we will pair up our defensive players. No matter how we incorporate it, we want to have our defensive players be extremely physical and win the battle.
We start this drill by having player’s toes on the line and facing one another. We then have our players get into an athletic position and on the whistle both players compete to get their hands inside and lock out their hands. The player whose hands our inside and have locked their arms out is the winner. We will do this several times during the drill. On average, the drill lasts five to ten minutes and is a great practice starter because it sets a completive tone for the practice.
When working this drill, we always have these coaching points for our players:
1: Eyes on Target
2: Hairline to chin
3: Wrist Close Together
4: Elbows tight to rib cage
5: Violent Strike and Extend
We start out with the difference at least three times a week in pre-season and once during season. After introducing that drill and working it for a few weeks, we will move on to strike and destruct with our defense only.
Our strike and destruct drill is set up the same way as our difference drill but we take it one step further. Instead of just striking their opponents and extending their hands, the players will now strike, extend and destruct the block. While destructing the block they will replace the offensive player to the side of their screen fits. For example if they are an outside in player they will destruct the screen to their outside arm. Once the screen is destructed we tell our players to replace the offensive player. This allows no angle for the offensive player to come back and block our players unless it is in the back.
Additional Block Destruction
Along with the difference, we teach additional block destruction in our individual time. We believe you cannot just rely on one way to destruct blocks. It is also important to remember that not all high school players are strong enough to strike and snag defenders in order to destruct blocks. Therefore, in our indy time we teach and work a number of different techniques. Each position is different and I will discuss how we break down block destruction with our defensive backs and outside linebackers.
When teaching defensive backs proper block destruction, we focus on a few feature moves to go along with the difference and the strike and destruct. We always work a progression with our screen fits.