Vertical Set

I want to give some insight into vertical set pass protection.

I used traditional kick slide technique for my first 4 years as a coach and discovered vertical pass sets about a year ago.  I began researching the technique and drills, began meeting with coaches, and watched some coaches teach it.  I learned most of what I know about vertical setting from Brian Hamilton, head Coach at Concord HS, in Concord, CA where I live.  I think he is one of the best OL coaches in northern CA and his team won the NCS D-2 Championship this season.

The vertical pass set is ridiculous simple… walk backwards as fast as you can.

Now to traditionalists they will say everything about vertical setting is wrong, the backward retreat will get you bullrushed, you have no leverage and power blah blah blah, the fact is if you coach it right it isn’t true, and it is in my mind the simplest form of pass protection and I think it is superior to kick slide

What is it basically?

Vertical setting is essentially the OL equivalent of a backpedal.
We retreat backwards away from the LOS , looking for all 5 OL to remain on the same vertical plane.

The OL steps should go
Inside – Out – Inside – Out

basically we always step with the inside foot first, and then the outside foot.  for all 90s protection we take 4 steps back before dropping we “Anchor”.  Many teams only use this protection but I still use a separate 60s protection, that is the same thing but for 2 steps.

The vertical portion isn’t that difficult to teach, you just need reps.  We just start working our kids to backpedal, but with big steps.  I try to get them to cover ground in those 4 steps, the whole purpose of vertical setting is to be as deep as possible when we make contact.  The kids will feel goofy, look like crap at first, and some might tumble, but keep working it, they will get better and better each day.  By the season some of my OL had better feet than our corners.

Vertical setting is about getting depth, and keeping the 5 OL on the same level until contact is made
It really is easy to teach the base idea, but the devil is in the details.  You have to really work what I call the Anchor

So traditionalists will tell you setting like that will leave you high and with no leverage, and this is semi true, the anchor is what remedies this and helps us regain leverage.  Once that 4th step hits, we DROP our butt right now, to resume that “perfect pass pro posture” that kick slide coaches think they and they alone possess.  The anchor is about when an OL will decide who he is taking.

Vertical sets are so wonderful to me, because the depth and timing of the steps allows you to see any twists or blitzes that might occur.  If any stunt is on, it is happening right in front of my OL while they are setting, they anchor right when they defense should be showing their hand, and then boom we are ready to punch and work our feet.

For those who think we have given up all leverage by backpedaling remember this… SO HAVE THE D Linemen!!!
some of you are thinking, a bull rush will kill them, DL will be right underneath them coming out of their 3 point

well take a look at this DE’s stance…

Look at his butt up in the air, all that power stored in those coiled hips… well guess what by the time he reaches us (because of our depth) he will be much more upright, and he will have lost a great deal of his power.

If we anchor after that 4th step, then WE will be the low man, and WE will have the leverage advantage.

Go ask anyone of your DL to do a 5 yard get off, I guarantee by yard #5 he has risen a ton and his body is pretty much upright

We want to be 4-5 yards deep when we make contact
-we start out 1 yard off the ball by alignment
-we try to get those extra yards off of our vertical set

We feel that if we have to make your DL sprint 5 yards before contact, that will take 1 full second.  So before contact we have already blocked you for 1 second.  Now all i do is ask my OL to stay in that man’s way for 2 more full seconds (this is whatever you normally teach for pass pro, punch footwork, countering moves, all of that doesn’t change from whatever you normally do)

That is 3 seconds, my QB should have it off by then

You would be amazed at how many times I saw opposing DL just stop rushing… they flat out quit because they got tired of chasing my OL just to get even with them, then having to work to get around them, then having to work to get my QB on the ground…
They would get off the ball, see it was a pass, and just stop their feet.

After this season I am a firm believer in what vertical setting can do for you.  My JV team for example, we had somewhere between 250-300 pass attempts on the year, we gave up 5 sacks total.  I think that is a pretty damn good job of pass protecting.

One game alone we threw the ball 42 times and only gave up 1 sack.
The vertical sets allowed my guys to see every blitz coming.  We never gave up a sack due to scheme, all 5 sacks were just a case of one kid beating another 1 on 1, that’s football you win some, you lose some… but I will definitely take somewhere near 300 pass attempts and give up only 5 sacks.

The worst part about traditional pass pro in my mind was the quick sacks… sometimes a kid lunges out and the DL swims over him right at the snap, and he is in the backfield instantly, blowing up the QB.  We never have that now, there is no chance for the instant play because that DL has to run 5 yards before he even gets into position to be able to work a move.

No BIG hits on the QB.  With this system, and the fact that everyone (even if they are HORRIBLE) is at least slowing the other guy down, I have found that the QB sacks we do see in our program are more pull down, grabbing type sacks, never the BIG collision.

All in All, vertical setting is more effective than traditional kick slide, and I think it is very easy to teach.  It isn’t fancy, not a whole lot of technique, you can get away with telling your kids, run backwards as fast as you can… and you’re half way through coaching it 😉


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