Trend #4

Block Destruction

Designing a Block Destruction System

When Hudl released Pete Carroll’s “Hawk Tackle” progression back in 2013 it was all the rage and for good reason. The rugby style drill work gave coaches an alternative to head-on-head collisions with the intent to both alleviate impact and lessen the threat of concussions. Since then many programs committed wholesale to the change by incorporating the rugby tackle and reaped the benefits of a healthier and competent tackling unit. 

This commitment comes with a cost. It’s some defensive coaches’ opinion that with so much an emphasis on tackling, the area of block destruction has been neglected. “There was such a big emphasis on the Seahawks’ tackling principles over the past few seasons that we noticed a lack of teaching in our defense regarding block destruction,” said NAIA Champion University of St. Francis (IN) co-defensive coordinator Joey Didier. After all, what’s the purpose of tackling if you can’t get to the ball carrier? So, as a result, Coach Didier is spending a lot of time this spring teaching half man leverage principles and transitioning their block destruction into a system similar to that of the Seahawks’ tackling.

He’s not alone. Many coaches are working to model their own block destruction program to teach how to get off blocks. 

Why It’s Trending

The “plus one” quarterback run game is forcing defenses to balance up. The infusion of RPOs and quarterback runs are pitting eleven potential blockers (add the quarterback) against 11 potential defenders. This means somebody will need to get off a block to make a tackle. So now more than ever it’s essential to develop a system to teach how they are getting off that block. 

How It’s Being Implemented

In 2014, Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash, now the head coach at Rutgers who also is a rugby tackling disciple, developed a system for block destruction, which he called the “difference.” It breaks down blow delivery into two phases, the “difference” and “strike and snag.” The difference is done after stretching and strike and snag is done during pre-practice stretch. During the season, the difference is worked every Tuesday and strike and snag on Wednesdays. Using these modules, the Buckeye defense went from 26th to 2nd nationally in scoring defense. 

According to Coach Ash, the ability to get off blocks and pursue to the ball helps your team’s ability to tackle and cut down on explosive plays allowed. “Your players’ ability to get inside hand position on an opponent can change your teams’ performance on defense, offense and special teams.”

The “difference” pits offensive and defensive players in a one-on-one situation in a battle of inside hand position. Players go helmet-to-helmet (little spacing) with the intent to lock out their opponent and gain separation.

This transitions into the strike and snag drill which teaches defenders the fundamental of gaining separation (strike) from the blocker and pulling him (snag) away from his body. It concludes with a finish through ten yards. 

This all culminates with what Coach Ash calls the “Circle drill,” which is a one-on-one full contact drill where a yard line separates players. The entire team gathers around two players that collide and compete for inside hands with the goal to drive the opponent and finish him on the ground. It’s a high intensity period. 

Now this spring, coaches are taking that model and tailoring it to fit the needs of their personnel and the offenses they will defend in the fall. Jamie Marshall, the defensive coordinator at Lindenwood University (MO) has taken the “difference” and will morph it into a progression.

He will start with a day one progression of inside hand placement, which teaches defenders to get their hands inside their opponents’ and accelerate through the block.

From there, he builds to a quick draw hand placement where players will fight for inside hands. Once a player loses inside hands, he is taught to fight to regain positioning.

Coach Marshall is also progressing Ohio State’s Strike and Snag drill a step further this spring to coach an “edge” position for defenders who are force players in the run game. They are taught to work half a man keeping outside in positioning on the ball carrier.

Once players understand the concept of the Strike and Snag, Coach Marshall will progress to the one-man moving sled where defenders are asked to strike and snag on the sled and pursue an inside out course on the ball carrier.

Finally, in order to teach perimeter block destruction, particularly in the college game, Coach Marshall will work on two cut block techniques. His garbage can cut drill, where defenders are taught to pursue to ball carrier while eliminating a potential cut block by a lead blocker.

In order to teach defenders how to protect themselves against moving cut blocks, Coach Marshall is working on his flying agile bag cut block drill. These types of blocks are prevalent against option teams. Here, the defender is taught to get his hands down to protect themselves and then accelerate to the ball carrier.

When developing a block destruction system the goal is to start basic and progress from there. Coaches are beginning with teaching hand placement then progressing to the ultimate goal, which is the Circle drill. “Once the team understands the concept, then we progress the drills from there,” said Coach Marshall. “Each day we pick and choose which part we want to work on and emphasize that with the drill selection for the day. We are working five minutes in every skill session we are doing in the off-season. We will carry that through our spring/fall ball practice schedule.” 

This spring, Joey Didier, the co-defensive coordinator with the NAIA national champion University of St. Francis will fine tune his block destruction progression into a circuit like system which will stress the following scenarios: destructing crack replace, destructing FB/H kick out blocks, destructing lead pullers and leveraging zone and gap blocks. The circuit will be done every day in camp.

Continue to Trend #5: Two High Eyes

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X&O Labs 2017 Football Trends