Category Archives: Offensive Line

NIU’s Empty Formation QB Power / Counter Combination Play

Northern Illinois has a pretty nifty offense. It seems to be all the rage these days. However, when you watch the film, the vast majority of the offense relies heavily on the old, reliable power blocking scheme. In this case, since they run QB power from an empty formation, they’re kicking out the end with the guard in this specific usage of the power scheme.

You may consider this a trap play, but it’s using the power blocking concept (specifically the “counter” play scheme, with the QB’s read acting as the “wrapper” typically filled by the fullback or pulling tackle).

They run a lot of QB power, and this article will focus on their combination QB power play with the jailbreak screen. Continue reading

Hidden Secret of Offensive Line Blocking

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. Continue reading

Inside Zone Blocking: Simplify Your Running Game

Are you already feeling behind coaches? The season is a few weeks away for most high schools and colleges, and many teams running game is already behind. Well, if you’re ever in doubt when it comes to a good running scheme that will simplify both technique and mental workload, consider Inside Zone blocking.

Notice how I didn’t say Inside Zone. I said Inside Zone blocking. Why so specific? Because Inside Zone blocking can be used in any scheme, it is essentially dummy proof, and the rules are simple. While over-simplification can get you in trouble, inside zone blocking is a relatively safe concept if you’re kids are struggling with other inside running schemes. Continue reading

Eliminating False Start Penalties

Yep, every offensive football coach deals with false start penalties. Every coach tries to deal with it after they notice the problem. Coaches, here’s your issue, it’s too late if it’s already a problem. Sure, you may help the issue. But if your offensive line coach AND the quarterbacks coach didn’t start planning it from day 1, you’re going to have issues.

Why do I say the quarterback’s coach as well? Because the Quarterbacks have to change their cadence on every snap in team as well so the whole offense gets used to it.

Changing The Cadence in Practice – Offensive Line

I feel like this year, our freshmen squad is tremendous at going on multiple counts. Why? We addressed it right away. If they jump, it’s up downs for everyone. I gave them a free-bee or two on the first couple of days, but after that I’ve been very strict on it.

Every time we did any drill, I would give them a count. When I don’t give them one, they ask. That’s when you know they respect the importance of going on a different snap count, even in practice.

Changing The Cadence in Practice – Quarterbacks

Quarterback coaches should make sure their QB’s change the snap count. When a play is given in the huddle early on, tell the QB what snap count to go on. If you can’t remember to do this, build it into your script. Next to the play, write “on 2″. Quarterbacks should change the play count they’re directly calling a play. Working on timing with the backs? Have the QB dictate the snap count. Working inside with just the line or in 7 on 7? Have a different snap count.

Understand that certain plays probably should go on certain snap counts, especially with younger players. Running jet sweep? Go on one or on set. Running a play with jet motion across the formation, go on two. Defenses will start to tee off on jet sweep or other plays like this if you don’t do these things. So drill it in practice with those specific plays.

If quarterbacks aren’t drilled on changing the snap count, they’ll constantly use the same snap counts in team drills or in games. Then your team will get used to it. Teach the importance of why you change the snap count. Let’s remember how it can be important.

  • Keep the defense from jumping the count
  • Disguise a play call (like jet sweep)
  • It can get us free yards or a free play
  • Identify a blitz/coverage

Teaching the players to understand the importance of changing the snap count will hold them more accountable across the board. When importance is placed on an element, it also earns focus from the players. A lot of coaches say a snap count is imporant, but don’t really explain the full depth of it’s importance. Don’t make this mistake.

Conclusion on Snap Counts

Make sure you start every season by emphasizing their importance by personally changing them up in your drills. Don’t accept failure in this regard, and make sure you emphasize the importance overall.Also, make sure you check out

Why Offensive Line Coaches Need to Understand Defensive Run Fits

I’ve touched on the topic of offensive line coaches understanding defensive run fits in the past. But it is absolutely critical that offensive line coaches spend time with their defensive coordinator in order to understand how defenses defend plays. Then, the coach needs to take this information to the next step and equip their plays to be better prepared for well coached teams. I’ll use a simple example, weakside iso versus a 4-3 over cover 4 front, to show the importance of understanding defensive run fits.

Offensive Line Coaches Understanding Run Fits: “The Play Looks Wide Open Coach!”

Or… “It’ll be there all day!” Then it’s not. We’ve been there as O-line coaches. The defense makes an adjustment. For instance, below is an example of weakside iso versus the 4-3 over front. Every offensive line coach licks his chops when he sees this. There’s a big, natural bubble, and all we have to do is get a body on a body.

Weakside I Formation Iso versus 4-3 Over Cover 4

Weakside Iso versus 4-3 Over

I always assume the defensive coordinator is smarter than me. They’re not giving me a huge bubble unless they’ve got a way to protect it. In other words…

It's a Trap!

As many o-line coaches find out the day after film, while we draw it up and it looks perfect, the execution kills us. That’s because good defensive teams understand run fits and they do them so often that this play get’s clogged up. As you can see below, it was indeed a trap. The Mike linebacker has strongside B, the safety fills outside, and the Will linebacker plugs the kickout by the fullback. In other words, it’s hard as heck to get movement on the double and get to the Mike linebacker with a traditional horizontal combination block through the nose tackle.

4-3 run fits versus I formation Weakside Iso

Notice the bad angle for the combo to keep the Mike from Inserting Inside the Fullback

The Mike scrapes to B gap, and inserts inside of the Will linebacker, who should be taking the block on with his inside shoulder. Even if the Will linebacker takes it on wrong, the Rover is there. We can’t account for the Rover unless we get into some double tight sets OR use a receiver and get to him. So let’s assume the Will does forces it back inside.

On top of this, the Sam is probably flying to strongside A gap because the backside safety can take C gap. So now, we’re in a tough spot. ┬áThree linebackers who are scraping fast towards the play. We’ve got to combo a nose AND hope the backside tackle takes a great path to the strongside linebacker.

Offensive Line Coaches Understanding Run Fits: Offensive Line Technique

As an offensive line coach, need to understand how your conference opponents will insert their run fits against your run game before the season starts. Why? Because then you can really focus on teaching the skills necessary to play their run fits, not where they are going to be at the snap.

Want More Offensive Line Material?
Order Strong Football’s first e-book, Developing a Physical and Aggressive Offensive Line. In it, you’ll find…

  • Establishing Every Day Drill
  • Details on the “Finish Drill” to teach kids to block through the whistle
  • Working with an offensive coordinator
  • How to build confidence and communication between linemen

For instance, in the diagram below, we see a vertical combo block on the nose tackle through to the Mike. You may not get the dominating combo, but you will get a body on a body. The crease here in the 4-3 over weakside B gap is big enough naturally that the tailback should have no problem punching it through if the guard and center can get some vertical displacement on the nose and just come off to the Mike.

Weakside Iso versus the 4-3 Over Cover 4 with better technique

Notice the vertical combo on the nose tackle to the Mike.

The tailback also needs coaching here. He needs to trust that his linemen will come off off onto the Mike. If he cuts back at the line of scrimmage, he will run into cutback defenders. He should stay inside, true to the hole. It probably won’t be terribly clean, but he should be able to punch it through for 5 yards if not much more.

We also see the tackle and guard on the backside stepping tight together. This is almost a zone combination. Some coaches would say combo the backside defensive tackle to the Sam linebacker. I feel that the tackle, even on the vertical combo, can step too hard and knock the defensive tackle into the A gap in this scenario, closing that window for the linebacker, which in turn makes him press tighter to the playside because well coached linebackers go to the next open window. I’d rather have the backside of the offensive line here use a mentality like, “you two have those two”, and really zone through. So that way, if the 3 technique works into the offensive tackle, the guard can slip off for the Sam. If the defensive tackle gets hands on the guard, like he probably will, the offensive tackle will step inside (no matter what he’s doing that) and work on a 45 degree angle inside up to the Sam.


By taking time to understand how the Mike will flow (aka, his run fits), I will know to coach our guys to use a vertical combination block in this scenario, rather than a horizontal combo. Some offensive coordinators may need to be “schooled” on why that nose tackle shouldn’t be completely blown away by the combo. You need to care more about getting to the backer on this play. For winning teams, while it’s nice to physically dominate the defensive line, it’s better simply to get a body on a body so that way the running back can use his vision. So overall, when scheming plays, you need to make planning for a defense’s run fits a priority. is a place you should visit today. They have some great drills that can help you.

Football Practice Drills: Top 3 O-Line Drills

I believe every football coach needs a resource from year to year that documents their top football practice drills. Not only is it a good way to document what you do, the critical coaching points, and the purpose of the drill, but it also great to have in your back pocket if you ever change coaching jobs.

To help get you started, here is a list of my 3 favorite o-line football practice drills. In addition to this post, I also have another post on everyday football blocking drills. Hopefully they will help get the juices flowing so that way you can start building your own football practice drills notebook.

Football Practice Drills: Stance and Starts

Football Practice Drill Purpose: Quickly working on the technique necessary for main blocks

Football Practice Drill Length: 10 minutes

In these offensive line drills, I quickly work on the footwork, handwork, and proper body position and explosion for most of our baseblocks. Within the first few practices, this drill can be finished in about ten minutes.

We start by just stepping with a specific foot, called by the coach, in one direction, then we do it with the next foot. We then rotate. Next,we just explode off the football, going about five yards, emphasizing 6 inch steps, a wide base, and hand punch on the second step. We do this with both feet.

We will then down block both directions, against air, reach block, and pull.

From here we have a defender turn around, facing away from the blocker, who is in a two point stance. We work on our fit here, and our linemen emphasize wide base, elbows in, and then finishing through the coaches whistle (or on a second whistle). By finish, I mean accelerating the feet, shortening steps and benching the defender off of us. We again do this with both feet. The reason we do this with the defender away from us is it forces him to give us resistance, or else the blocker will push him over.

We will now emphasize driving the guy off the football, so we will put it all together and explode from the 3 point stance. The defender will face the blocker (unless we’re having a problem with the defenders escaping blocks, in which case I’ll have the defender face away and actually move in different directions, forcing out blockers to follow and stay on the block.)

We may also work some pass pro in, and if we passed more I’d probably work it everyday. Whether it was a quick mirror dodge drill, or and handwork drill, we’d do it real quick.

Football Practice Drills:Combo and Pull

Football Practice Drill Purpose: Execute a trap/wrap pull and a combo to a backside backer

Football Practice Drill Length: 10 minutes

This drill may be perhaps one of the toughest to make sure you get the defenders reactions correctly. I try to work this drill several times a year.

The drill has 3 offensive linemen and 3 defenders. I usually have the pair of offensive linemen on the outside and the puller two yards away. The defenders depend on what play we’re emphasizing, but usually the combo has the defender on the outside shoulder of the middle offensive linemen. If we’re kicking out, I will put one linebacker (for the puller) outside the outside-most blocker. Like I mentioned earlier, the linebacker we’re comboing to will be in a number of locations, depending on our point of emphasis.

Coaching points for this football practice drill include emphasizing the combo block waits for the linebacker to get to them before coming off and to make sure the puller maintains his presence on the defender. Coaching the defensive reactions on this play is critical as well. If the team you face spills, work against that. If the linebacker plays over the top, work on that. If he comes underneath, work on that.

Football Practice Drills: Mirror Dodge

Football Practice Drill Purpose: Using no hands, just focus on footwork of pass pro

Football Practice Drill Length: 7-8 minutes

I usually setup four cones for this football practice drill. I typically make them all about 5 yards from each other, making a square. There is a defender and an offensive linemen. The defender starts outside the box, right behind the imaginary line made by the cones. The offensive line is inside the box, in a perfect pass pro stance. I often tell them that they need to sit in their chair. I don’t use hands with this drill, as I believe pass pro is mostly footwork. The defender will work side to side, and the offensive linemen will mirror him, maintaining his leverage. The offensive linemen must give up ground grudginingly. This is my favorite pass pro football practice drill.

Conclusions on Pass Pro Football Practice Drills

I hope you enjoyed this. Like I said before, I believe organizing your favorite drills is critical going into every offseason. Having a list in your back-pocket will help you in having something when you get a few extra seconds for a football practice drill during individual. A list of your favorite football practice drills will also help you when networking, whether its in an interview, doing a clinic talk, etc…

Wisconsin Offensive Line Drills

Wisconsin Badger Football Offensive Line Drills

These two videos of Wisconsin offensive line drills (well, actually just one) comes from the 2011-2012 spring practice season. Obviously the Wisconsin Badgers’ offensive line was very successful under the tutelage of Wisconsin offensive line coach Bob Bostad. Much of that is due to the little things, aka offensive line drills like these. This first video, which I found on Youtube, does a great job showing a very physical offensive line football drill on the one man sled.

Wisconsin Badger Offensive Line Drills: One Man Sled

Wisconsin Badger Offensive Line Drills Technique for One Man Sled

I hope you notice specifically the hip movement. In my opinion, this football drill on the one man sled works a number of things. Not only does this offensive line drill focus on the stance and start of the offensive linemen, but it also works on finishing. If you watch around 15 seconds into the video, #56 (sorry to pick on you) is being instructed by the coach. It’s hard to see, but you can tell he doesn’t work the finish portion of the drill, something I believe is very critical to incorporate into every football drill, not only offensive line drills. He doesn’t finish the throw, and you can see the coach making some motions, likely indicating that was the focal point of their conversation.

Basically the offensive linemen fires out of his stance, engages the sled for 2-3 steps, and on the final step disengages by rolling the hips and throwing the defender (aka the finish). Wisconsin does this finishing or throwing motion a lot, you will see it in their combination block offensive line drills (if you can get your hands on that tape). They do it with sand bags as well. This action not only helps the hips rotate, but it also helps on the combination block. When the blocker disengages for the linebacker, he can propel himself (giving much needed momentum), and also help the blocker remaining on the defensive linemen to get better head position. That head position is an often over looked aspect on combo blocks, and it’s very hard sometimes for offensive linemen, who are comboing, to “replace their face”/get a better position on the defensive linemen after their help leaves.

Another item we can take away from this is the tempo. I like the fact that the coach just says “go”. He coaches on the run too. His points are very quick, emphatic, and by doing this he takes an offensive line drill which could very easily become a lazy drill (aka … 1 man working with a huge line waiting) and makes it into a high energy, quick moving and explosive drill.

The only critique I may have of this offensive line drill is the fact that there seem to be false steps. Often times, when your only taking 1-3 steps in a drill, it’s hard for an offensive linemen to really get their feet underneath them. You’ll see some players, like #78 at around 54 seconds, struggle with the extra step. It is hard to adjust for this. I would just tell the kids to take the extra step if they need it, rather than have them struggle over the execution of the drill. But that’s me, and who am I to criticize the Wisconsin offensive line? Obviously Wisconsin has been the master of offensive line drills.

Wisconsin Badger Offensive Line Drills: Pass Protection

The video below contains pass protection offensive line drills. It actually could very easily be a position warm up for the group. There are actually two drills in here. These offensive line drills uses equipment that every team should be able to afford (basically, an agility latter).

The first drill in the video actually is clearly a warm up for the other offensive line drills in the video. The linemen are high, so essentially their working on their hand punch and separation, while giving up ground and maintaining a wide base. The players should be informed that they should play high for this drill. Again, it’s a warm up to get the legs and arms loose.

The second offensive line drill incorporates an agility latter. The offensive linemen kick slides down the latter, before taking a power step after two kicks. This gets the legs working, and maintains the good base. Notice how the linemen keep their hands high and tight, ready to strike, even when there is no threat. Even when practicing offensive line drills on air, the hands should be in proper position because the weight of the arms can affect balance, among other things. Also, it prevents bad habits from developing.

Next, you’ll see one offensive linemen working against two defensive linemen. This works the hips and hand eye coordination, while maintaining balance. The offensive linemen, in this drill, wants to get separation and make contact while not getting over extended. Again, notice how the linemen work down a white line, so they can check their base and make sure it’s wide.

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Finally, you see a reaction based offensive line drill. The offensive lineman has one hand on one threat, while he maintains his eyes on another defender. As the linemen he is eyeing rotates away, he brings his eyes to the defender he has a hand on and makes contact good contact to prevent that defensive linemen from crossing his face.

Conclusions on the Wisconsin Offensive Line Football Drills

First, thanks to Wisconsin 24/7′s youtube channel for putting this up. These are both great videos. Overall, I hope you liked this analysis of this offensive line drill and I hope to add some more in the future. For other great football videos, check out