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Coaching the O'Brien Line (part 1)

The O'Brien (OB) is basically three plays. Two run plays and one pass play.  While this seems exceedingly simple, it get significantly more complex when you take into consideration there are multiple different blocking schemes.


If you are interested in the actual blocking schemes then please review the discussion in “The O’Brien Blocking” Here we are going to focus on the drill that we use to teach the basic GOD technique.


Gap On Down (GOD) is the standard for most offensive lines and the O’Brien is no different.  Whether it is junior high or first year high school players, everyone learns GOD blocking.  We set up our basic line formation (Figure 1 series) and then we have coaches (or experienced players) stand in varying positions and then ask players “Who do you block and WHY?”


Important coaching tip. There are of course exceptions to the rule. However, if a player does not know who to block. Tell them to rely on GOD. You will prevail with GOD and more often than not be correct!


The sequence that we make the players go through is 1. Is the defender in my "Gap" 2. Is the defender head up "On" me 3. If neither 1 or 2 then which person "down" (direction away from where the ball is being run) do they block


Important coaching tip. Do not accept a simple guess like "I block down". Make the player tell you why they are blocking down. Anyone can guess. We desire that they know why.


In Figure 1a, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I block my gap

  • OR - There is nobody in my gap, nobody on me, so I block down which is the LB toward the center)


In Figure 1b, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I would block my gap

  • OR - I would block my gap (realizing the IR has to block gap putting the defender in his gap)

In Figure 1c, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I would block my gap (not the guy head up on him)

  • OR - I would block my gap (realizing the IR has to block gap putting the defender in his gap)


In Figure 1d, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I block my gap

  • OR - I block my gap

In Figure 1e, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I block my gap

  • OR - Nobody in my gap, nobody on me, I block down (on is directly in your face. Not 2 yards or more away from you)



In Figure 1f, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I block my gap (Not the defender head up)

  • OR - I block my gap (Not the blitzing LB)



In Figure 1g, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran sweep right:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - Nobody in my gap, nobody on me, so I block down

  • OR - I block my gap



Here are a few tricky ones. This is second level understanding. Not to be used on junior high and freshmen!

In Figure 1h, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran counter left:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I block my gap

  • OR - Nobody in my gap, nobody on me, so I block down


In Figure 1i, the answers would be for each position would be if we ran counter left:

  • Center - I block my gap

  • IR - I block my gap (dont block head up)

  • OR - I block my gap (dont block head up)


Once we have walked through these scenarios, we run through these same formations and blitzes in real time. We average about one rep every 20 seconds. We record the drill and do not stop the drill to coach athletes on what they did wrong. Instead, we go through the film and point it out to them on film so they can see the entire picture of what was happening.


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