Devising Sufficient Mid-Season Tackling Time (What’s too much, what’s not enough)

Sep 3, 2017 | Tackling, Defense, Fundamentals

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



The following research was conducted as part of special report on “Designing Tackling Systems.”

Practice Time in Tackling 

Once these issues are identified a decision has to be made on how much time needs to be devoted in-season in correcting these issues. Coaches are asked to balance the necessary time constraints made at every level of football with the priority that proper tackling warrants. We asked our contributors the following question:

What is your training method in teaching tackling? Do you do more of Circuit training? Grid training? Done on position groupings only? How much is done in-season?”


Contributor Key (in Alphabetical Order):

Joey Didier (JD): Defensive Coordinator, University of St. Francis (IN)

Vincent DiGaetano (VD): Defensive Analyst, Wagner University (NY)

Matt Entz (ME): Defensive Coordinator, North Dakota State University

Chris Kappas (CK): Defensive Coordinator, Mount Union University (OH)

Jamie Marshall (JM): Defensive Line Coach, Lindenwood University (MO)

Matt McLagan (MM): Defensive Coordinator, Northern State University (SD)

Jay Niemann (JN): Defensive Coordinator, Rutgers University

Mike Siravo (MS): Defensive Coordinator, Temple University

Eric Schmidt (ES): Defensive Coordinator, North Dakota University


Editor’s Note: All of the drill work mentioned below will be detailed with drill video in the later cases of this report.

JD: “We train our tackling in every practice through circuit training. One of our three coaches is the ‘expert’ on our staff in regards to one of our three tackling phases: track the near hip, shoulders roll through thighs, run or roll. That coach leads a drill in a ten-minute circuit daily either in full or no pads. We keep our players in their position groups as they rotate through the tackle circuit. In season, we spend about thirty minutes a week on defense with a ten-minute circuit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We also spend 10-15 minutes a week on special teams tackling.”

VD: “We have a combination of training methods between circuit and position. We have developed within our circuit more position specific drills based on angles and frequency of types of tackles our position players are making. We also work on them playing off of blocks. In season, less time is spent on the circuit training and more time is spent working on tackling in individual drills. Realistically, a 5-10 minute segment is used each practice day with a tackling focus.”

ME: “We do a lot of circuit stuff early in spring and in camp. We make up a circuit that is a carry over for all groups, but then as we progress into fall camp we will do more position specific. It’s hard to mimic defensive line tackling. There are a lot of one-arm tackles going on up front. A defensive lineman only does those things with half his body. What we do three weeks before the national championship game, we will go back and treat it like fall camp. We go back to day one stuff where we are going circuit stuff again. If we are not going to have a circuit, we will try to find a way to get a tackling finisher in INDI for your first five minutes. For circuits, we will do a five-minute circuit in-season for five minutes total because we use 24 periods and exactly two hours full pads. We are always in a thud mode when we practice. We are getting ample tackling examples in practice. Emphasis is not taking him to the ground. Tackle high, keep eyes up and let go once we feel the thud. We let backs and receivers finish.”

CK: “It’s all circuits, but in some of the stuff we will do individual instruction. We don’t say we’ll work ten minutes of tackling, but each coach will find a way to work it in his drills at least once a week. We will do a circuit or drill every single day.” 

JM: “We will use one or two days during the season at five minutes per day. They are position specific and where we are going to be in space making tackles. If they are a 22 personnel team, then we need to work more in the phone booth or will be spread out in space. It’s specific to game planning that week.”

MM: “Our tackling teaching is primarily done in circuit training and defensive group drills. The process starts with multiple days of circuit progression and leads to defensive group drills. At that point, we will recycle the drills for repetition or evolution. Position groups will also integrate position specific tackling within their individual time. We will not reach this point until we feel we have a sufficient foundation to our tackling system. Our tackling system progression will take us through five practices (progression: static drills, on-feet drills, on-feet tracking drills, finish drills, full defensive group drill). At this point, we will recycle drills for repetition or evolution. Position groups will integrate position specific tackling within their individual time. After our initial progression, we will practice a tackling area of need/choice in approximately two-thirds of a week’s practice.”

JN: “Our individual drills are centered on the problems we’ve had in the previous day’s practice sessions. Defensive linemen may not need the same work as defensive backs do such as open field progressions. It’s a combination of circuit and individual tackling. We would like ten minutes of the circuit in fall camp and then five minutes of the