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The Drills Report - New Mexico Linebacker Drills & Techniques

by: Osia Lewis
Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, Univ. of New Mexico
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Our defensive package is the 3-3-5 out of which we execute multiple fronts, stunts and blitzes. I will talk about the two types of man technique we use in our package: blitz technique and over technique. The focus will be the key coaching points that we emphasize each day.

Man-To-Man Pass Defense

There are two types of man-to-man pass techniques that we use. Our linebackers will play a cautious man-to-man when they don't have help in the deep zones. We call this Blitz Technique. When our linebackers have deep help they can play more underneath and aggressive. This is our Over Technique. We drill and practice both every day.

1-Blitz Technique (Man)

A. Align normally for the defense called. Don't give it away but try to have inside position as your responsibility.

B. Read run or pass on the first step. Once the pass is shown, work to your man responsibility. Slide up and in to establish inside position on the receiver.

Coaching Points:
• Concentrate hard on the running back – do not look at the QB.
• Build a wall and take away the inside. You want the inside foot up and the outside foot back with hips turned at a 45 degree angle to the receiver.
• You must force the receiver outside. Get on his inside hip and deny an inside release.
• Concentrate visually on his inside hip.
• Maintain a two or three yard cushion on the receiver.
• Collision receiver if he tries to run inside or upfield. Get into his hip pocket, turn towards him and run with him. Be ready to run deep if his hip stays flat (See Diagram 1).

Diagram 1

Deny the receiver an inside release by position. The inside foot is within a two or three yard cushion. His inside hip comes towards you (See Diagram 2). Having good inside position, turn into the receiver and run with him.

Diagram 2

If the receiver breaks laterally, break parallel to him. Make sure your angle is deep enough to maintain a two to three yard cushion. If the receiver breaks upfield, you will be in position to break with him or collision him. Make sure you overplay him inside and turn towards the receiver (See Diagram 3).

Diagram 3

Always look for the ball when the receiver looks and when you hear a 'ball' call. Play the receiver's hands and eyes to find the ball. You should play the receiver with your inside arm in front while keeping your outside arm behind him to make the tackle. Always play through the upfield shoulder of the receiver if you do not have a play on the ball. If the receiver is running up the sideline when the ball is thrown, look over your inside shoulder for the ball and reach up with the outside arm (See Diagram 4). This helps your balance and running stride. Never look back at the quarterback or up for the ball; rather, read his hands.

Diagram 4

2-Man Technique with Deep Help: Over Technique

Align in normal defense that’s called. Concentrate on the WR once pass is shown.

Coaching points:
• Deny inside release or moves.
• Play more underneath. Don't forget you have help deep.
• Let the receiver get even with or slightly ahead of you so you can play underneath on out or up moves; do not let him run inside.
• Chase the receiver staying inside and even to slightly behind – in his hip pocket. Work underneath and concentrate on his hips.
• Do not look at his head and never drop back as in zone. Always stay close up to your man.
(See Diagrams 5, 6 and 7 for examples of receiver routes and how to play them).

Diagram 5

Diagram 6

Diagram 7

In both of our man techniques we emphasize concentration on our man. Concentrate on his hips as we cover him with hands and eyes on him when the ball is thrown. After the throw, we want to first secure the tackle but we will go for the interception with a good jump on the ball. We are an aggressive group at the University of New Mexico and our man technique is very important to us. We work on it daily. Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on our defensive drills and techniques.

Osia Lewis recently completed his fifth season as Defensive Coordinator for New Mexico. He previously coached at the University of Illinois. He was a four-year letterman and decorated linebacker at Oregon State from 1982-1985.


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