How to Build and Coach Your Offensive Line

Crafting the per­fect offen­sive line isn’t easy, but vet­er­an coach Chris Fisher has some tips to for­ti­fy your front five.

How to Build and Coach Your Offensive Line

Crafting the per­fect offen­sive line isn’t easy, but vet­er­an coach Chris Fisher has some tips to for­ti­fy your front five.

Coaching the offen­sive line is a spe­cial task. It is a unique unit with­in a team that the rest of the offense relies on in order to do their job. The offen­sive line must work togeth­er and trust each oth­er on each play of every prac­tice and game. It is a men­tal­ly-chal­leng­ing posi­tion to coach and why I love coach­ing them.

One of the biggest chal­lenges year to year is find­ing the five play­ers to fill the line. For starters, we’re not typ­i­cal­ly work­ing with the best ath­letes on the team. We are sent kids who don’t real­ly have the skills to play any­where else. On top of that, most of them all believe they should play anoth­er posi­tion. I have nev­er coached a line­man who wouldn’t imme­di­ate­ly change posi­tions if giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty. Most believe they can play on the defen­sive line or be a tight end, line­backer or fullback. 

I have to chan­nel my inner Liam Neeson from Taken to get them to under­stand their role. If you’re look­ing to play anoth­er posi­tion, I can tell you it’s not going to hap­pen because you don’t have the ath­leti­cism. What you do have is a par­tic­u­lar set of skills and body type that trans­late to the offen­sive line; skills that I will help devel­op for you to be a reli­able, con­tribut­ing, and extreme­ly impor­tant mem­ber on this team; skills that can help this team be suc­cess­ful each week. If you embrace being a line­man right now, then we can start work­ing towards becom­ing a great team.” 

I would love to have my pick of strong, big bod­ied play­ers with great feet, but most high school coach­es don’t have that lux­u­ry. I must find them from the 20 to 30 kids sent my way each year. 

Let’s start with cen­ter. Coaches always talk about the O-Line need­ing the most intel­li­gent play­ers, and the cen­ter is the ful­crum. My cen­ter needs to be able to iden­ti­fy the defen­sive front and where the strength of the defense is, then com­mu­ni­cate this with the rest of the line. On top of that, they have to be able to snap and step quick­ly to their block­ing assignment. 

The first thing I look for is relent­less effort. I need a cen­ter who will work to stay in front of his assign­ment and do every­thing he can to keep him from mak­ing a play. We use the phrase get run over slow­ly” to describe what hap­pens to the cen­ter at times. Our best cen­ters have been guys who could exe­cute these skills: com­mu­ni­ca­tion, snap­ping, quick steps, and relent­less effort.

Guards are my guys who can move but work bet­ter with some­one next to them. I have had ath­let­ic guards who could pull well and over­take the next down line­man on out­side zone, and I have also had guards who were larg­er peo­ple movers that smoth­ered their man. Either body type requires the guard to have active feet and the vision to look for work. Many times our guards are uncov­ered and are called upon to help the cen­ter or the tack­le, or to look for a line­backer threat­en­ing their gap. They must be able to antic­i­pate their assign­ment because they are not always imme­di­ate­ly engaged at the snap. Guards have to know when to do what they are coached to do, but also be able to impro­vise at times and do what it takes to get a block.

Ideally, tack­les have the abil­i­ty to work in space. Many times they are put in a one-on-one sit­u­a­tion and they must be able to han­dle this solo assign­ment. They must be able to set the edge and keep faster, more ath­let­ic defen­sive ends from get­ting into the back­field. Tackles must have vision to see who is lined up over them as well as those off the line out­side and away from them. They must have a sense of mul­ti­ple threats on a sin­gle play and be able to com­mu­ni­cate to the guard who he will pick up so the guard knows where to look for work. Tackles are the soloists of the choir. They are the ones who stand out to peo­ple and their per­for­mance, for bet­ter or worse, is the most notice­able of all offen­sive linemen.

Each indi­vid­ual must use their skills to exe­cute their assign­ment on a giv­en play, but their per­for­mance is linked. If four do their job and one fails, dis­as­ter is immi­nent. Playing on the offen­sive line requires all five to work togeth­er and indi­vid­u­al­ly at the same time. They must rely on and trust each in order to be suc­cess­ful. They are the Five Musketeers – all for one and one for all. It is a chal­lenge and a priv­i­lege to work with them every day.

Chris Fisher is the offen­sive line coach for Ridge Point High School in Missouri City, Texas. He is a 17-year coach and mem­ber of the Texas High School Coaches Association. Fisher is also the founder of the Twitter chat net­work #TXHSFBCHAT. You can fol­low Coach Fisher on Twitter @coachfisher_rp and @TXHSFBCHAT. You can also learn more about #TXHSFBCHAT on his web­site txhsf​bchat​.com.