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A Quick, Simple, High Rep Progression for Defeating Blocks

by: Tim Cooper
Defensive Coordinator • Butler University
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Repetitions with four different ways to defeat blocks – the rip, punch, slip and cut techniques – will help improve your overall defense.

One of the many great things about being at Butler University is being centrally located and having so many terrific football programs very close to use as professional development resources. Let’s be clear, no one is inventing a new defense. However, there are many different schemes, philosophies, fits, terminology, etc. This is where I think all defensive coaches need to start. You need something to “hang your hat” on. For us it is our base defense, which is a 4-3, cover 4. We know that we can defend any formation, or play, with our base defense. The reason for establishing a base defensive philosophy (system) is because all your individual drills and group work need to be relative to what techniques you use in your system. In other words, practice what you play and get really good at it.

Our linebackers are “fast flow” backers. This simply means that we teach four basic block defeats. All of them involve showing up and surfacing past the blocker. We are not a “2 gap” unit but a single gap defense. The number one basic key in a single gap defense is being able to “clear up” the picture so that the next man can fit off of you. Therefore, you can never get covered up by a blocker. The four block defeats I coach are the rip, punch, slip, and cut defeat techniques. We’re going to concentrate on a quick, simple, high rep progression of teaching these block defeat techniques. The progression also incorporates reading a key and understanding leverage relative to a ball carrier. 

Teaching of the RIP TECHNIQUE

When “ripping” through a blocker, you must minimize the surface area the blocker can make contact. It is imperative that you run (cross over) and get your shoulders turned downhill. The shoulder turn will decrease the surface area for the blocker. When you “rip” in the first drill of the progression (Diagram 1) there is a slight side step, so you can press upfield (vertical) after you surface through the blocker. The coaching point I emphasize the most is when ripping (with the inside arm) make sure your hand actually crosses your face. This move will make sure there is good shoulder turn. 

Diagram 1.

Next we add in the aspect of reading a key and transitioning the eyes to a “down block.” The key in this drill is the RB. The LB will read a key to press the line of scrimmage (LOS) either to his right or left. Once he has made his initial key and presses the LOS, he encounters a blocker. This is where he needs to execute a “rip” technique and continue his pursue to the ball. I will set two potential blockers to the LBs right and left with the LB in the middle looking at his key (Diagram 2). Both blockers will come out and attack the LB in the middle. The LBs key will give him the direction of the play and the side that he needs to defeat the down block. In this drill the LB needs to see his key, then transition his eyes to the blocker that he needs to defeat and finally back to the ball carrier. 

Diagram 2.

Finally we will use this drill (Diagram 3) to teach pursuit angles and fits, and leverage in relation to the ball carrier. Again, being a single gap, fast flowing LB unit, I do not talk a lot in terms of “gaps.” It’s about sprinting to the heels of the defensive linemen as fast as we can and making them right.

Diagram 3.

Teaching of the PUNCH 

The “punch” needs to be an explosive upward movement that shocks your opponent. In order to do this, there are several coaching points that must be executed. You must start to transition into a power stance, with your inside foot up, and step with the inside foot into the blocker while punching. To achieve maximum power you need to have your arms locked out and finger tips up. I have gone away from teaching thumbs up and elbows in. Now I coach fingers up, heavy hands and lock out. We are not trying to control this block but we are punching and showing up in the next gap. 

Teaching of the SLIP

The “slip” is used as a curve ball. For the most part, you have three pitches – fast ball, change up and curve. The “rip” is your fast ball, “punch” is your change up which is what you use 95% of the time. The slip is generally used when blockers are “over reaching” our players out in space. Ultimately, you want to be able to use your speed and athletic ability to make the blocker miss – this is what we call “slipping” the blocker. You will give a hard shoulder fake to simulate a rip then go under the block as tight as you can. We call this a “credit card” position. Your body position will be square and get into a quick shuffle. The point of this is to “stack” the blocker so that he cannot turn back into you. The next step is to quickly transition back into a run and get to the ball carrier with your correct leverage. Again, we don’t use this as our number one block defeat technique; however, it does become very helpful when it comes to using alternative techniques to defeat blocks.

The three step teaching progression can be used with all three of the block defeat techniques and some of the steps you can combine techniques. For example, in the “2 on 2” drill, I will instruct the frontside LB to use a punch while the backside/tracking LB will use a rip.

I really like this progression because part of developing good linebacker play is teaching them that playing linebacker is not a world of “absolutes”. There is some “gray” area and ultimately you have to get to the ball. I do think it is possible to develop vision and an aggressive attacking mentality in your linebackers. We keep our keys simple. Our motto is “see key – go!” Trust what you see and commit to it.

About the Author: Tim Cooper was named an assistant football coach at Butler University in March, 2010. Now in his sixth season on the staff, he serves as both the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Cooper has also coached at both Miami (Ohio) and Carroll College. He most recently served as a defensive quality-control coach at Indiana. He began his coaching career at DePauw and was a three year starter at the school, earning four varsity letters.


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