Rather than focus on a scheme, or a specific type of block, I want to focus on HOW I teach blocking and the progression I can and do use for ANY type of block.
I am a big believer in breaking skills down into smaller, more digestible pieces. Beginning in Spring Ball I will focus on each individual step we will take in our blocks. For the sake of this article I will be using examples and video from a basic “Down Block” but the PROGRESSION can be used for any kind of block.
There are 3 basic “phases” to all blocks and I break it down as follows
- – First step – the step itself will change depending on the play and type of block but we can agree we want to be gaining some ground (either vertically or horizontally) as well as maintain good pad level
- 2nd Step – This is the contact step. Most OL coaches will agree this is when we will make contact with a defensive lineman. Bringing the hips and hands with a violent punch is critical.
- 3rd step -FINISH, we continue to work the feet with a good base and continuing working to maintain the block through the whistle.
Obviously this is a simplification but any block on a 1st level defender is going to include these 3 facets.
The OL and myself need to be speaking the same language from day 1. They need to understand what I want them to do, and I need to relay what I want in a clear and concise way. To make it easier on us I have created a teaching system I use for ALL of our drills. This terminology applies to the exact tempo I want a drill done at, as well as a CUE i include to help them associate what they need to be doing.
My tempo terminology is
I will get back to that more shortly. As far as drill progression itself I will begin Spring Ball in the most basic form of drills possible… on Air. From there we progress to working on bags. Eventually we will begin blocking actual defenders.
Whether we are blocking on air, on bags, vs a defender, or any of the above in a chute I will control the drill with MY tempo terminology.
Cadence – Stomp – Drive
This is a step by step breakdown of our first 3 phases. I use 3 different cues to get what I want from the OL.
Our cadence will trigger the first Step of the block. All OL will freeze after this Step. At this point I am checking for the pad level I want, the step I want, and the general body positioning I want. If any part of this is not what I want, we will start over. You DO NOT get to move on until you can do the 1st step right. When I feel good about their first step I will yell
on Stomp, the OL will bring their second step by STOMPING it into the ground, bringing their hands and hips with them delivering a powerful strike (can be hands, flipper, or shoulder depending on what you teach). I have found that by EMPHASIZING that the OL STOMP it becomes more powerful/assertive than asking them to take a 2nd step. They will freeze at this point as I check that they have done what I want before moving on to the 3rd phase (some coaches call this position “Fit”). Next I will yell
This is their cue to begin driving the feet with a wide base. We want to take as many short POWERFUL steps as possible, pounding all of our spikes into the grass/turf. This is not “buzzing the feet”, they need to be POUNDING and I frequently yell “POUND, POUND, POUND”. They do not get to stop the drill UNTIL I BLOW THE WHISTLE. Having severe punishment if they let up before my whistle drastically improved how long we maintained blocks in practice and in games. It changed our entire OL’s attitude of what it meant to block and we began finishing blocks better than any time in my coaching career.
Here is a video I shot working a down block with the STEPS Tempo (please excuse there is no whistle, just shot this for the blog after our season ended)
2 Step is the next part of my progression and is actually my favorite tempo to use. The problem with going step by step is I noticed my OL would often LAG between the 2nd step contact, and beginning to drive their feet when we tried going into full speed drills. It seemed like it took them too long after bringing their hands and hips to go into driving to finish the block. With 2 step I simply announce “2 Step” to the OL and they know the tempo of the drill.
We begin with our Cadence and freeze after the first step. This allows me to still check their pad level and first step. This first step is usually the first thing to break down if you are doing a lot of full speed reps so I like being able to freeze it and check to make sure a kid is doing what I want. Now I will call stomp but rather than striking and freezing, the OL will bring the 2nd step, stomp it into the ground, bringing hands and hips violent AND go directly in to driving the block working to finish it. They do not freeze after the 2nd step like my “STEPS” approach. This helped get rid of that lag between contact and driving. I use 2 step the majority of the time because IMO it is a happy medium between the breaking down of steps and assessing their steps, and the game like appeal of a full speed rep. We still block through my whistle. You have to be pushing your kids to finish in EVERY drill.
Here is a video I shot working a down block with the 2 STEP Tempo (please excuse there is no whistle, just shot this for the blog after our season ended)
The last tempo I use would be considered the highest level of skill mastery, and that is to use a full speed rep. For the drill I simply just call our cadence and they will put all of the pieces together into the block at full speed. There is no stopping and checking/assessing. When an OL is struggling to block at full speed the answer is to ALWAYS go back to working STEPS or 2 STEP in order to diagnose exactly which part(s) of the skill your OL is breaking down on.
Here is a video I shot working a down block with the FULL SPEED Tempo (not a great rep, the kid was a little rusty)