By Shaun Weaver
Gettysburg College (PA)
Editor’s Note: Coach Weaver enters his seventh season as a member of the Gettysburg coaching staff and his sixth as the defensive coordinator in 2012. Weaver will also coach the linebackers for the seventh straight season this year. Prior to his arrival at Gettysburg, Weaver served as the defensive line coach at Bemidji State University in Minnesota from 2004-05. He also spent two seasons coaching the defensive line and serving as the junior varsity defensive coordinator at his alma mater, Wilmington College in Ohio, from 2002-03. Weaver guided his players to multiple postseason accolades at both Bemidji and Wilmington, including coaching one to All-America status at the latter.
Being able to blitz effectively is a vital part of being a good defense. Aggressive zone or man pressure calls can help your defense get more stops if executed well. One area that is many times neglected is teaching the actual technique that your players blitz with. You want to teach your players to be aggressive but not blindly run themselves out of plays that are there to be made. We teach our players basic guidelines to blitz technique that can be applied to both edge or interior blitzes to help maximize their production with any type of blitz calls.
The main teaching point we try to focus on when teaching proper blitzing technique is to get our players to not break stride while blitzing. Too many times you see players throttle down when blitzing to decipher what’s happening with the play. A slower moving target is much easier to block. Sprinting at an aiming point through potential contact makes a blitzer much more disruptive. Teaching sprinting aggressively at an aiming point takes lots of practice and drill work. Players have to trust the technique and get enough reps to feel comfortable with it. Drill work to teach the technique will be covered later on in the article.
Part of getting players to feel comfortable with this is teaching them how to protect themselves as a blitzer. Sprinting with shoulders forward and hands up puts the players in a position to attack and protects them at the same time. We compare blitzing to being a fighter. If you are going into a fight then you need to keep your hands up and protect your chest. If you go into a fight with your hands down and your upper body exposed then you are going to get knocked out. Those simple teaching points give players great confidence to blitz with full aggression and not to break stride on the way to making a play.
Teaching aiming points to blitzers gives your players a specific landmark to attack and also helps the player run a straight line to that point. Having a specific aiming point for edge and inside blitzers helps your overall blitz schemes become more effective. Keeping the blitzer on a straight line teaches them proper angles while blitzing and not to waste steps. How you word your teaching of this can also help effectiveness. Sprinting at the aiming point to the ball puts an emphasis on the blitzers to be productive when blitzing while also executing their responsibility.
When a player doesn’t make a play or is in the wrong position in a blitz, you have a specific aiming point you can reference which can correct most blitz issues. If the technique is right and there is still a break down on the blitz, then the aiming point is usually off.
As an edge blitzer we teach an aiming point of the deepest shoulder to the nearest RB/QB to the ball. This will cover all formations in both under center and the shotgun. This angle allows the blitzer to be aggressive as long as they attack in a straight line to that point. Make sure they understand that the edge man on the line of scrimmage may expand as their first threat to block them. A proper angle will make them difficult to block. As an edge blitzer, our players know they are a force player and must make the play or force the play inside to our help. They must be direct and physical. Do not create space but limit or take away the ball carriers space. If the ball tries to bounce outside of us we must redirect on the run without breaking stride. If the ball stays inside of us, squeeze to condense space and make the play.