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Defensive line get off – The key to winning on the line of scrimage

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By Eric Gerlach, Defensive Line Coach
Cabrillo College

    During spring and summer, when your team is not in pads, teams seems to put a lot of effort in 7 on 7’s and might overlook line work. Yet you always hear coaches saying "the game is won on the line.”  Spending time in the spring and summer working on getting off the ball will make an enormous difference come fall.  By working these drills, your players will be faster off of the ball, and will be knocking the offensive line back.

Getting Off the Ball

    One key to getting off the line of scrimmage is being quicker and faster than the man standing across the line. As we all know, you cannot count on always having guys that are faster than the O-line, unless you work on it. Training keys to work on are triggering aggressively on movement, staying low, and knocking the offensive line back.
    Defensive line drills should be started with some sort of movement trigger. We want to condition them to react to movement and not sound. We like using a ball to start many drills. We also will incorporate a generic cadence in the drill so the players can work on tuning out the sound.
    An example of this is a five-yard get-off on ball movement. Two players at a time will help create competition to win the drill. Have them line up in a stance and see who goes five yards fastest.

Drill 1:Tennis Ball Get-Off

    Players go one at a time. The coach is three yards from a player. Player will start in a stance.  The coach will hold a tennis ball out to the side.  When the coach throws the ball down it will bounce back up. The player gets off the ball as low and as fast as he can when the coach throws the ball, trying to get the ball before it hits the ground again. It is okay for them to dive for the ball because we are working on first step explosion. You can move back farther from the line as the players get better at the drill.

Drill 2: Belly Busters

    This drill is done on a multiple player sled.  All spots on the sled are covered by players. The remaining players form a single file line at one end of the sled. The players covering the spots on the sled will start in a stance. The coach will begin giving out a random cadence. On ball movement (having a football on the end of a stick really works well for this drill) the players explode out of their stance as low and hard as possible. They take only their first two steps and drive the sled back with their hands.  As they knock back the sled, their arms and body will become extended. They will then land on the ground on their bellies. The player on the end of the sled will now go to the end of the line. The other players will move over one spot and the next player in line is on the first spot. This will create a rotation, multiple reps, and ample rest. 

  Coaching keys are to watch their steps, make sure there are no false steps (stepping back) and that they are coming out low. Having a fast, aggressive, and low get-off will give you a nice edge on the line. Playing on your opponent's side of the line of scrimmage will greatly disrupt blocking schemes such as pulls and traps. Good get-off makes it difficult to be reach blocked.


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