Designing Tackling Systems – Bonus Case: The Buzzword Catalog of Tackling

Aug 10, 2017 | Tackling, Defense, Fundamentals

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar



Football is a game of short bursts and shorter words, so in this case we wanted to provide coaches with the specific verbiage our contributors are using to teach tackling. While some of these words may be familiar, there are different ways to say the same thing to your players and a coach never knows which words will stick. We asked our coaches the following question:

Which common buzzwords do you use to teach tackling with your players?

Mount Union University Buzzword Catalog (Chris Kappas, Defensive Coordinator)

Full Speed as Long as Possible: “We talk about going full speed as long as you can to close out the space (between you and the ball carrier). You can’t give defenders a landmark because it’s a feel thing. It’s not three yards, etc. The goal is to get that near foot shimmy to step on that ball carrier’s toes. You have to break down close enough where he can make moves but you need to be far enough where he can’t run straight through you if you miss the arm tackle.”


Lindenwood University Buzzword Catalog (Jamie Marshall, Defensive Line Coach)- Rugby Style Emphasis

Tracking the Near Thigh: “We talk about tracking the near thigh (instead of the near hip) because as you track the ball carrier the near thigh always tells you where the receiver or the ball carrier is going. Your eyes can get lost if it’s up on the hip because that can lead to the belly button. We went to the near thigh. Wherever your eyes are looking your body is going to take you. We talk eyes to the thigh, wrap and squeeze. You can’t look at the hip if you’re asked to contact the thigh.”

Shoulders Through Thighs: This pertains to the finish component of the roll tackle where a defender’s shoulders makes contact with the ball carriers thighs.

Run or Roll: This pertains to the decision that the defender makes post contact on whether or not to run through the tackle or roll through the tackle.


North Dakota State University Buzzword Catalog (Matt Entz, Defensive Coordinator)

Hit Up Position: “We don't use the phrase coming to balance because I think it brings out some different thought processes for kids. If I just said ‘be careful to keep your balance,’ the general player will widen his feet and drop his center of gravity where his footwork is outside of his frame. Now if that ball carrier changes direction I’m going to have to step underneath myself to recover. What we talk a lot about is getting to a hit up position where my feet are under my armpits.”