By Brian White
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
In conjunction with our Strength & Conditioning staff, our program has developed a series of drills our offensive linemen will perform during the off-season and during our spring practice. Our offense is an up-tempo offense that prides itself on our pace. We want to ensure that we practice such a manner that will prepare our offensive line to operate at a fast pace while improving their skills.
Additionally, we sought to develop a series of off-season drills that would not only simulate the accountability each offensive linemen have to each other on gameday, but improve the comradery of the unit as well. This report will detail the core of the program we put together.
The Tire and Ladder Drills are two drills preformed simultaneously to maximize efficiency and develop accountability in the unit. Our offensive line is split into two groups, one performing the Ladder Drills and one performing the Tire Drills. The amount of reps performed by the Tire Drill group is dependent on how quickly the Ladder Drill group finishes their set.
Ladder Drills are a great way to develop foot quickness, which is an important skill for offensive linemen. Additionally, we wanted to extend the benefit of the Ladder Drills from the feet to the hands. offensive linemen need to have quick hands to be effective blockers and strong shoulders to maintain their health and strength throughout the season. Many offensive linemen suffer injuries to the labrum and/or AC joint. Performing the Ladder Drills with hands is designed to help prevent these injuries. The Ladder Group will perform their specific footwork pattern on their way down the ladder and then repeat the pattern on their hands on the way back.
Tire Punch & 1 in
The first set of drills is Tire Punches and 1 in on the Ladder. On the Tire Punches, we stress the offensive linemen to maintain a great pass pro demeanor. We look for the whole foot on the ground with the weight on the insteps. The feet should be active throughout the entire drill, meaning that the offensive lineman will pound his insteps into the ground while never raising the feet too high. The ankles, knees and hips should be bent to produce proper power angles. We pay particular attention to how the lineman carries his torso and his hands. The spine should be sucked in and the chest should be puffed out. The elbows should be touching the ribs and the thumbs placed together.
The Tire Punch is especially effective in developing punch timing. The offensive linemen are paired up on opposite sides of the tire and punch the tire one at a time. This creates movement from the tire that forces the offensive line to strike at the appropriate time. The punch should be delivered when the tire enters the “Strike Zone.” This is the area where the punch can deliver an appropriate amount of force to stop the defender’s charge and create separation. We define this area as the “Watch Area,” or the point where the defender is in the area where the offensive lineman’s wristwatch would be if his arms were extended out in front of his body.
The Ladder Group will face straight ahead and place 1 foot in each grid on the ladder on the way down. On the way back, they will place 1 hand in each grid. We stress hand quickness and a firm punch into the ground. Just as we want to hear the feet of the offensive line pounding the ground, we want to hear the same from the hands. Once the Ladder Group has finished their set, then the Tire group will be able to move on to their next exercise.
Tire Flip & 2 In
In the next set of drills, the Tire group will again be paired up and flip the tire back and forth. We stress great hip flexibility in this drill. To pick up the tire, the offensive lineman must push his hips backwards to sink down and grip underneath the tire. The force to lift the tire should come from the feet pushing against the ground and driving the hips up. Tire Flips are an effective method to overtrain our run blocking technique. On a run block, we want to lift the defender out of the ground and climb underneath the defender to get our hips onto his hips. We illustrate this point the first time we teach the drill by first asking each offensive linemen to push, pull then lift the tire. Then we ask them to lift the tire with their hands far apart followed by lifting with their hands close together. We use these two teaching exercises to demonstrate why we want each offensive lineman to block with tight hands and lift the defender.
On the Ladder, the next exercise is 2 in each grid. The setup is similar to the 1-in drill, but now 2 feet will be placed in each grid on the way down and two hands on the way back. Emphasis is placed on the speed of the double tap in each grid.
Tire Front Squat & 1 In Carioca / 2 In Shuffle
On the third and fourth sets of Tire exercises, the Ladder group will perform two consecutive series of drills. The Tire Group will Front Squat the tire. Based on the weight of the tires used, adjustments to the number of men working on each tire may need to be made. The weight of our tires requires three men to work on each tire. The Front Squat is particular effective in developing communication and accountability. All three offensive linemen on the tire must be coordinated in the timing, depth and tempo of their squat on movement up and down. Usually, one leader will step forward on each tire to set the pace of the drill.