There is one absolutely hidden and poorly coached aspect of offensive line blocking. So many coaches fail to coach it up, but they look for buzz words to try to get the kids to fix the problem. I’ve only run into one or two coaches who actually practice this critical aspect of offensive line blocking, and each one experiences tremendous success and never really has a problem with this issue.
Want to know the best part of that? One coaches youth football and one coaches college, so you know it’s applicable every where.
Now, this is run blocking specific. I detail it in my e-book, Developing a Physical and Aggressive Offensive Line, but it’s not found in many other places. So I’m going to give you a sneak peak right now, for free.
The secret to offensive line blocking is sustaining blocks. Finishing the block. So many coaches look for a phrase to fix the problem, but that won’t do anything – trust me, I tried and failed at this for a long time.
Then I quickly realized that I never truly coached up finishing blocks. As a coach, I focused on so many other intricate aspects of offensive line blocking, but the finish is truly important. It doesn’t matter if you have a great fit, a good get-off, and great hand position if you don’t stay on the block through the whistle.
Offensive Line Blocking: Use a WhistleThe first step you can take for finishing blocks is to actually use a whistle as an offensive line coach. Your kids need to respond to that noise in a game, so why do you use anything besides it on the practice field? Before I started actually doing my finish drill, which I will describe below, using a whistle showed a marked improvement in sustaining a block.
Before using a whistle when coaching offensive line blocking, I bellowed “BREAK!” or something like that. It wasn’t effective, and I was doing a poor job for the athletes I coached.
Offensive Line Blocking: The Finish Drill
Okay, so here’s the meat and potatoes. The offensive line blocking finish drill is my favorite drill. You can do it on it’s own to an extent, but it really flourishes as an add-on task to your drills once you do it a few times.
Let’s start with the basic drill. As an offensive line coach, you tell the kids you’re doing the finish drill and that you’re going to start them in their fit position on a block. On your verbal or whistle command, they will begin blocking. Once you blow the whistle, they must slightly narrow their base, accelerate their feet, bench press and exaggerate hip roll without losing their feet.
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Now, that sounds like a lot, but give it a try full speed. Anything less than full speed on the finish drill makes it ineffective. It may be sloppy at first from a technique perspective – and that’s okay, actually this may be the only drill where that’s okay, because we’re really focusing on effort and focus. We’re coaching up the skill of blocking through the whistle, so the main key is they listen. The rest will come with strength and athletic development. We want the effort there.
Now, you’ll have a few stragglers. The kids need to do execute the finish after the whistle is blown. I’d do this with a group of 3-4 to start. If you see a slacker (aka they just kind of push off the kid, or they don’t execute the drill at all), tell them that’s a lack of effort and if they do it again it’s up-downs. Have the same group go again. If you slack off, do up downs. If they keep slacking off, I like to make the slackers count the up downs for their teammate while they stand there. Remember, we’re not looking for execution on the finish drill, we’re looking for effort and focus.
Offensive Line Blocking:The Finish Drill Add-On
Once the offensive linemen understand the importance of the finish drill, begin to work as an add-on to your other run blocking drills. Really, every run blocking drill we did last year I used it. I reminded them to work the finish. Now, I didn’t make them do up-downs if they failed here as much, because we wanted to focus on something else, but if we got a lot of slacking, I’d stress that point.
So, if we’re doing down blocking, the kids would go for the pancake so to speak after I blew the whistle. It worked especially well for pulling drills, even though out kick out drills we used shoulder blocking so it had to be modified to just the footwork.
Again, the focus is on the effort to block through the whistle. Without a doubt, this drill transformed how well we stayed on blocks. If we had problems with blocks, it came from the start, not the finish, which is one less thing to deal with.
Eventually (after about a week), we never did the finish drill for offensive line blocking on it’s own. It becomes part of what you do. I also think this makes your offensive line more physical. You have to stress no late hits, but you over-exaggerating the process is a great way to ensure that kids actually block through the whistle.