By Matthew Popino
Former Linebackers Coach
Fitchburg State University (MA)
Our tackling philosophy is based off of rugby tackling and shoulder-leverage. Rugby tackling affords our players a safer and more efficient tackling method. It enables players to play fast, physical and fundamentally sound defense without the fear of injuries. This tackling philosophy doesn’t just address the tackling in itself, but gives a simple and clear understanding of where players fit into the defense. Shoulder-leverage tackling communicates how force and scrape players work together. No matter what defense you may run, there are players who are forcing the ball outside-in (force) and inside-out (scrape). We break up these fundamentals into four categories:
We first teach our players leverage and understanding how their leverage fits into the defense. They must understand the importance of keeping their leverage on the ball carrier. Most missed tackles are caused by players losing their leverage. This is seen when an inside-out (scrape) defender over runs the ball carrier and allows a cutback or an outside-in (force) defender goes inside and allows the ball carrier outside. These common mistakes can be eliminated by the use of shoulder-leverage.
We preach near foot and near shoulder of the defender to the near hip of the ball carrier. Everything is predicated on the near hip. The near hip is our target and their eyes must be locked in on this point. Our players must keep their eyes on their target as they approach. We preach to keep the ball carrier on your near shoulder and to force him to the help, creating a vice. As you can see below in diagram #2, we have a right shoulder tackler and a left shoulder tackler or a force and scrape player. This now puts the ball carrier in a bind.