How Mount Union, NDSU and Temple Talk Tackling

Dec 23, 2017 | Tackling, Defense, Fundamentals

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

Editor’s Note: The following research was conducted as part of special report on “Designing Tackling Systems.”



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.”

“Near Foot, Near Foot”: “We are always attacking the near number or near pec of the ball carrier. We want to make sure we maintain the stagger position on the swoop (inside out) tackle.”

“Finish”: “We want our defenders to have eyes on the ball carrier’s throat with his hands in the holsters and grabbing cloth.”

“Head to Near Pec or Near Number or Near Armpit”: “We never teach having the head across. We tackle with our chest.”

“Keeping the Cup”: “We will have a pursuit player, force player and fill player in the cup always. For example, if we are playing a coverage such as Tampa two with the Mike and the back runs the check down because the Mike is dropping. The Will or Sam work a compression tackle with the Mike linebacker filling the cup. We should have three on one in our tackling situations. They have to understand where my leverage is and where my help can be coming from. They have to know if they are leverage players are spill players.” 

“Suck the Air Out”: Used in open field tackle situations where the defender must close ground (suck air) on the ball carrier.”

“Jump off the Diving Board”: Used as a metaphor when defenders lunch at ball carriers without moving their feet.

Temple University Buzzword Catalog (Linebackers coach Mike Siravo)

“Grab Skin”: Rather then teaching to grab cloth, Coach Siravo teaches his players to grab the skin of the ball carrier to emphasize the clamp in tackling.

“Yell at Your Feet”: This emphasizes the quick feet movement needed after contact on a tackle.