Vertical set 2.0

One of my more popular articles to date  has been my post on Vertical Set Pass Protection.

Now that I have 2 years of experience with it I have decided to write a follow up to share how my feelings regarding vertical setting have changed over time.

First I want to say that I still really like vertical setting and it is something I believe in. However we ran into some problems last year that required a slight tweak to how I teach it.

Our QB last year just don’t get enough depth to feel comfortable with vertical setting. Because of the backwards nature of vertical setting there will be some movement of the LOS back on to the QB’s lap; our QB was perceiving this as pressure even when there was no one coming free. Most HS kids struggle to throw when there is anything near them and with vertical setting you’re likely to have your OL’s backs near you.

What I did was shorten all of our sets to 60s protection, 2 steps backwards rather than 4. This is the opposite of what most air raiders are doing at the college level, most of them use only 90s protection (4 step) for everything but we instead use a 2 step vertical protection on all drop back stuff. I found it made us more solid inside, and most importantly it mentally/psychologically/emotionally helped our QB feel more comfortable.

Because initial contact is a little quicker the OL needs to stay engaged longer. I think it actually helps us on our jailbreak screen. That Offensive Lineman can sell pass block, and sell that he’s been beaten before releasing. I noticed that with our deeper 90 sets on jail that my guys would really whiff on their man in a hurry to get out.

When you NEED depth:
I still allow my tackles to use a traditional vertical set (4 step) if they have a true speed rush guy coming off the edge repeatedly, but this was rare because we down block a lot (DE is really looking for block down/step down).

The other case where the deeper sets help is for blitz pick up, but I found that teams were limited in the stunts they would use up front and we work blitz pick up so often that we didn’t need the extra depth to sort out who was blocking who.

FAQ: Vertical Setting Under Center?
Another issue I want to address is vertical setting while under center. I’ve been asked this dozens of times by other coaches via emails and PM’s. After using this for 2 years it is my opinion that you can not use a 4 step vertical set while under center, I just don’t think the QB can get deep enough fast enough. Now I do think a 2 step vertical set like I use exclusively now can be used under center.

Now some may say, “if you’re not getting as vertical why not use traditional kick slide steps?”

I still find the inside-out backwards run of vertical setting to be easier to teach and more natural than kick sliding.

In our spring drills I will have them work the 2 step set and dropping anchor about 2.4 million times, I will also have them do 5 yard sets as well so they will be able to set deeper if they need to utilize that skill at a later date I also feel that helps them improve the speed of their 2 step vertical set.

What began in the middle of last season as a band aid will now serve as our base way of teaching things. I was worried when I first made the change just because I didn’t know what to expect but I really liked our results and our protection became visibly better after we made the switch.


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