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Coaching the O'Brien Line (part 2)

The next step for us is teaching how to block the cross and pull blocking that is integral to being able to run our counters and block good on good. When we say "good on good" we are referring to our best blocker blocking your best defender.

For us, the best blocker is the Inside Receiver (IR). However, it is often that the opposing defense will move their best defender to Defensive End (DE). If our Outside Receiver (OR) or Fullback (FB) are unable to make the necessary block we will cross block (Figure 1).

The cross block will have the IR pull behind the OR. We will require that the DE spill out and the play will always run inside the block on the DE. The OR also will make sure that the defender spills out as well.

Coaching point: It is very important that the blockers understand that they should have an aim point for their hand placement and a goal for which direction the defender is going to be blocked. We tell players, we don't care if he beats your block so long as he spills the correct direction.

We will also pull the IR on several trap / counter plays. The IR will pull regardless of whether the defender starts head up on him or in the gap. The trap or counter is called because the defender (in red) is trying to cross the IR and stop the sweep. The IR will pull down the line and block the DE so that he spills out while the Center will block the defender so he spills out as well. (Figure 2)

Coaching point: The inexperienced IR will try to chase the DE. This means he will not pull down the line and will instead go for the spot where he thinks the DE is going. The result is he ends up wrong footed and allows the DE to cross his face and make a play back inside (Figure 3). This is corrected by making sure they pull down the line and don't chase the DE

Hand placement is another key element to blocking that we coach. Unlike 11 man football where the goal is to move defenders backwards, we are looking in the O'Brien to direct defenders (what we term spill) the way they are most likely desiring to go. In sixman, it is rare to face a defender who is going to play level to the line of scrimmage (LOS). Instead, they are usually trying to fit through the large gaps the offense has created in its formation.

The result of the formation entices defenders to go in our out. We coach our players to use this to our advantage. For example, if we want the OR to for the DE to "spill out" then we instruct them to put their right foot in the center of the DE, their right hand in the center of his chest and his left hand on the front of the defender's right shoulder pad. (Figure 4)

This technique is more akin to Judo then it is to power blocking. It is about leverage and using the defender's momentum to take him where he wants to go.

Coaching point: The hardest thing to get an athlete to do is to understand the concept of spilling. They will consistently allow the defender to cut back across their face. This is the result of not being corrected and allowing them to form poor habbits. The more you focus on the outcome of the blocks and spend less time being concerned about the cuts of the RB the more effective you will become at running the ball.


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