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Speed Report: Specific Speed Techniques and Drills for Outside Linebackers

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Outside linebackers move through many types of speed changes. Sound mechanical control is vital if they are to be successful at each movement phase conducted. The thrust of this article will be directed towards sharing nuggets for outside linebackers. As indicated in the October issue on ‘Increasing Your Linebacker Speed’ once mechanical effectiveness is attained then we can move on to position specific movement applications. This month I will focus on specific movement aspects for some of the more basic assignments required for outside linebackers.

The Most Critical Movement: The First Step

All movement whether linear, lateral, short, long, etc., must develop from the first position step taken. The first step needs to be in proper relation to the center of body mass. This establishes the foundation for the succeeding strides that follow. Being in good position with the first stride prevents the athlete from having to take two more strides to regain effective movement balance and limb control. Wasted adjustment strides impede the velocity that's needed to arrive at point B in the shortest amount of time. Spend some time with your OLB’s on their first step position. The relationship of footstrike placement to body mass is the key for all movement transitions for OLB's.

Movement Traits: Minor, Major

Let's look at position specific speed traits that add value to your program. We thought it would be of service to coaches to zero in on the primary functions of the OLB. We'll start from the most common set positions and focus our viewpoint to effect movements. We will add specific skill techniques that will allow your OLB's to perform at a greater rate of velocity.

Many times, as I have stated in past articles, an athlete can execute a movement procedure accurately and produce a major impact to velocity change. I term this occurrence as a ‘minor-major’; that is, a minor change of accurate movement application control that has a major speed impact effect. Very often subtle changes are all we need to have happen to induce dynamic field speed results. Let’s never forget, football speed is different than linear speed because of displaced momentum which changes the body position and limb sequence significantly. The end result of this displacement of weight and momentum is the difference between progressive acceleration and altered direction change acceleration. The end result of this procedure is called football speed, not linear acceleration and velocity maintenance. The latter refers to track and field sprints with sustained velocity maintenance. OLB's don’t run 100 meters but do perform cyclic speed movements as do 99.9% of all football players.

Let’s Get Specific: OLB Drills

Diagram 1: Line of Scrimmage Step-Drop Drill - This drill has the OLB up on the LOS. His inside foot is even with the outside foot of the last lineman outside (on the LOS). The first move is to step inside. As he does, his upper body and hip stay over the footstrike and his torso is upright with his eyes forward and level. His chest is over the mid-thigh on this position step. This step is quick with the knee lifted up and down. Force on the inside step is then applied to the ground to push off to a lateral run. His elbows are in, arms at a 90 degree angle and the elbow is locked. His shoulder joint is active, knees are up on each step and he runs left over right or right over left continuously (as a lateral run). The shoulder rotation must be extremely aggressive during the drop phase. When the OLB reaches the necessary point to level off and base-up to the LOS, he must step under the hip with the inside foot while keeping the elbows in and shortening the arm cycle rotation at the shoulder. This action will control the center of mass as he squares to the LOS for further activity required beyond this procedure.

Diagram 1: Line of Scrimmage Step-Drop Drill

Diagram 2: Base to Backpedal Drill - The athlete has a base stance facing the LOS with the upper body forward (over the knees with the eyes forward). Arms are in a 90 degree angle with elbows in to the sides. The shoulder rotates rapidly front to back as he pushes forward with the foot, creating more force while the shoulder controls the leg cycle speed. At the end of the backpedal the athlete must plant to a certain direction. As the extension plant occurs, the athlete must turn his foot at the last second towards the direction he wishes to release. As the foot strikes the surface on a downward impact, the energy of the force given to the ground delivers back and up through the leg, torso and head alignment. This creates a vertical and horizontal impulse that propels the body forward. It's important to activate the shoulder simultaneously with the down force of the plant. The leg cycle remains active while the maximal force to the ground is applied. The result: mass impact of instant force to re-direct momentum. The arm activity keeps the leg cycle active cyclically to accelerate body velocity for each stride. At the end of the backpedal, work on various angle release plants with maximal acceleration for ten or more yards.

Diagram 2: Base to Backpedal Drill

Diagram 3: Downhill Speed Release Drill - This movement is where the OLB is set in the apex alignment between the inside receiver and the end man on the LOS. The force application on the outside leg is a key to generating momentum downhill rapidly. The arms must rotate vigorously at the same time the force to the ground is applied. The force then moves the static weight initially as the arm rotation creates cyclic limb movement. The shoulders, eyes and hips must stay square to the line of scrimmage as the OLB moves downward (I refer to this as a ‘downhill slide technique’).

As the OLB reaches the LOS, he steps under the inside shoulder and decelerates the shoulder joint rotation drastically to decel the velocity for a controlled base-up position. From this position he is quickly in position to redirect energy to the situation he sees. He does that by activating the arm rotation quickly several times to enact the leg turn.

Diagram 3:Downhill Speed Release Drill

Diagram 4: Quick Multi-Movement Drill - This drill is a two step burst at the first cone. Then plant with an extension plant to a quick shuffle, two shuffles (keeping on the balls of the feet and shoulder width while shuffling) to a plant forward two steps to a breakdown to base control. The keys are quick shoulder rotation for two steps and freezing the arm activity in an L position at a 90 degree angle while shuffling. The outside leg extends to the quick plant to redirect forward. Again, the shoulder is activated rapidly front to back at the exact moment of plant contact to the surface. The result: ballistic thrust forward a second time to make the play. The drill speed is 100% through the phase changes. First, plant to shuffle step with the inside foot under the inside hip. The torso stays erect and over the mid-thigh on the plant to shuffle placement positioning. Then, stay over on the shuffle to have the center of mass, in relation to the outside footstrike, plant to a forward burst.

Diagram 4:Quick Multi-Movement Drill

Diagram 5: Outside Speed Control Drill - Curve speed is very useful for an OLB on pursuit activity. The elbows stay in close to the body, the athlete should lean inward with the torso and rotate the shoulder aggressively which will induce tremendous leg speed. He then decels by shortening the arm rotation down abruptly while at the same time keeping the upper body over the footstrike. He then plants to a lateral slide and keeps his hips and shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. To breakdown, the OLB shortens his arm rotation and keeps the foot base shoulder width.

Diagram 5:Outside Speed Control Drill


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