The fan vocabulary has a laundry list of key words and phrases that must be yelled out at every game or it just doesn’t feel right. “Tack’L,” (don’t forget to read “The Art of Tackling”) “Git ‘im,” (Don’t forget to read “I like the way you move” or “Maybe he’s born with it”) “Run/Pass the ball!” “C’mon O-Line!” and “Block some bodee!” are just a few of my favorites.
The Twitter fan loves, “Stop with all those RPO”s” whether it was a Run-Pass Option or not, and of course “Fire some bodee” is on that list, too. The TV announcer calls everything ‘zone read’ whether there’s zone blocking or not, and everything is an RPO even if it’s blatantly a called screen or play-action pass.
Back in August of 2019, I covered how the Florida Gators picked up 10 sacks, five hurries, and 16 tackles for loss (yeah SIX-TEEN) in the Orlando showdown (read that here) with the Hurricanes. At the time Miami had done such a terrible job of recruiting and developing offensive linemen that a freshman two-star in Zion Nelson had to start against the Gators defense. It was ugly and yet Miami could’ve won that football game.
Is the Miami offensive line, offensive scheme, or coaching in 2020 as bad as it was in 2019- not even close! Manny Diaz purged Dan Enos et al and replaced him with Rhett Lashlee. Lashlee might get caught up in tempo too much to have polish at times, but he’s certainly a massive monumental adjective on adjective upgrade over Enos.
So what about that O-Line that you want to “c’mon?”
The way that I do it
“There are three ways of doing things around here: the right way, the wrong way, and the way that I do it.” Infamous words from Sam “Ace” Rothstein (portrayed by Robert DeNiro) in the movie Casino. I’m not telling you my way is right or wrong, it’s just the way that I (really the way LeCharles Bentley) do it.
Many moons ago, Allen Mogridge was the offensive line coach at UCF, and killed the idea of “six inch steps” and “J” and “L” steps for me on the offensive line. Instead, his plan was to take an appropriate distanced and angled step for the individual’s body, and into the crotch of the defender. If it’s a wide-9 and you’re an offensive tackle- no 6” step is going to get out to that wide-9. In order to block that some bodee, you’d have to swing open your hips to get your outside foot into his crotch.
To be fair, most of my grievances are specific to OL play lol. But here we go:— Tom Blazer (@TBlazer5AS1) January 12, 2021
5 man sleds
Ladders for “fast feet”
“You’re too high in your stance”
“Your pad level is too high”
Pad level = leverage
‘Low man wins’
Rolling of the hips
6” step( )
I could go on.
Fast forward nearly a decade later, and I’m a full believer in the Drive-Catch method used by LeCharles Bentley and his OL Performance crew. Bentley’s book, Building the Block, is written in a scientific manner that shoots a bit over my head at times, but once you read it a couple of times and watch the videos it really starts to make sense. Once it clicks, you won’t want to go back. The mentality, the technique, the science- it all starts adding up, and I use the drive-catch method in coaching running backs, too.
Blocking: the best vs. the ‘Canes
Quenton Nelson is the best guard in the business today. He has nearly flawless mechanics both as a blocker and a runner. Nelson keeps a balanced stance, he adjusts his back angle depending on the play. Short yardage his back is flat, butt up. Typical down and distances his chest is raise a little more. But with his feet, he keeps a balanced stance and avoids tipping plays.
Below- DJ Scaife has seen his mechanics diminish over the past season and a half. That could be the constant shuffling around on the offensive line, and the fact of having three OL coaches already in his college career. But his steps are long, narrow, and he’s lunging. The UVA defender lets Scaife run, knowing he’s off balance.
Below- Nelson is cutting off this defender on a run going away. He’s going to ‘out’ block the back side defensive end. Nelson is all wrong from the jump. Look at his footwork. His left foot that is off the ground is going to land on his tip toe- making him an easy target to push off balance. His arms are back and away, not allowing for a quick strike on his man. His waist is bent instead of sinking the hips, which puts his chest down.
When he attempts to strike, he has to lunge into his man. That allows the defender to slide off of him, because Nelson lacks balance in this position. As you can see, the defender rips off easily and makes the play from the back side.
Below- Look at the Colts OT. He’s lateral lunging where he’ll land on the balls of his foot, with a balanced foot. His elbow are in towards his body, for that powerful strike you see in the middle image. Eyes up, chest up, it’s like finishing on a landmine with a soup bone attachment.
Below- Corey Gaynor takes too far of a step. His balance is all wrong. He doesn’t have a good gait between his two legs. I’m all for a forward step at a defender if that’s where his crotch is, but it has to be in control, chest up, square base. UVA’s grown men just throw him aside. It’s an embarrassing display.
Bottom rack is the Indy center. He steps into the crotch of his defender but more laterally, better balance, and stalemates his man. His feet stay square and he keeps his hips in a power position.
Below- And now just the piss poor stuff that’ll make you shake your head. The top three images are of the back ups, sure, but one is a JUCO transfer and one has made starts in orange and green for years. They fail to identify a guy standing in front of them, and leave him to walk directly into the QB... it’s really, really bad.
The three images on the bottom rack are a center-guard combo where both players come off of the defensive lineman (some real JV stuff) and then an OL bent completely over being rag dolled.
Below- Patience in the pass protection game is key. The center and guard communicate, the guard helps inside on the 1-tech (nose tackle) with his eyes up on a second threat. When the center has the 1-tech the guard helps with the defensive end because there’s no additional pressure.
“C’mon O-Line!” needs to be “C’mon H’s!” sometimes, too.
Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan are poor blockers. Actually, for ACC players, they’re both terrible. NFL teams won’t be looking to have Jordan inline as a tight end. He’ll be more of a big body receiver as a professional as his blocking at Miami has proven it’s subpar. Can he work on and improve his game? Absolutely. It would change in the weight room, with a technical focus, and with a willingness that only a million dollar paycheck can provide.
Mallory will be penciled in as the starter heading into ‘21. The ‘Canes will face off against the Alabama Crimson Tide program that has Nick Saban’s onus on fundamentals mixed with Dr. Rhea and Coach Ballou’s S&C programming. Mallory needs to increase his willingness to block, his technique, and his S&C in a hurry.
Below, Top rack- His approach is off balance, he’s sitting back rather than bringing his hips through, and he’s smoked on the play. Mallory’s block is the key to this play getting outside but if he’s this unwilling you either need to stop putting him in bad situations or sit him until he has more desire.
Bottom rack- It’s 85 again. This time he approaches the block all wrong. He’s bent at the waist, his chest is down, and his hands aren’t inside. He’s immediately off balance and thrown away as such.
You can tell from Rhett Lashlee’s play calling that he is used to much better perimeter blocking than what the Miami wide receivers and TE/H’s provided in 2020. At SMU, his outside guys allowed for screens, RPO’s, and RB swings to be ran with much more effectiveness than what Miami could provide.
Below- Outside of Mike Harley, there was a lot to be desired from the poor perimeter blocking of Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory, Dee Wiggins and Mark Pope. On the top rack you can see Miami completely miss on the most dangerous man and nearly give up a pick six on a screen.
The bottom rack shows SMU’s WR/TE group and their much superior blocking outside. You can see a lot of what Lashlee ran at SMU in ‘19 is what he ran at Miami in ‘20 when it came to the screen, swing and RPO game- but it worked much better with willing and able perimeter blockers.
Much like Nick Saban, I’m a fundamentals over everything else kind of guy. Before you start adding more plays and formations to the playbook- you have to have the base concepts mastered. Window dressing CAN go a long way to mask deficiencies, but if you can’t block up front all the motions and RPO’s don’t matter anymore. It simply becomes fundamental football, or the lack there of.
Above- Those are a few drills I’ve used with Offensive Linemen in the past.
Top left- working on fundamentals from the knees is key to involving your eyes, hips, and hands to work on punch mechanics.
Top middle- We start working on stance, steps, and strike. “GHP, right, left-and-punch” is the cadence I use as the coach.
Top right- Now we work the lock and drive. The players start engaged already, flat back, feet under hips, eyes up. On “Go” the OL will drive the DL with bent elbows, on “finish” he will lock out and drive him out for 5 good hard steps.
Bottom left- Typical combo drill. Both players step inside, foot together, inside arm striking and outside arm pumping. The goal is to work the DL into the LB’s lap before coming off.
Bottom middle- We’re doing a hands drill for conditioning and hand fighting. One OL starts inside with leverage, the other outside on the shoulder. Every time I yell “switch” they hand fight and switch roles from driving against the OL to being the OL and driving back.
Bottom right- There’s yours truly looking kinda lean (pre-arm surgery) working a drive-catch pass set drill. Key is to drive off the instep and quad of the opposite leg to the direction you’re going.
Above- I truly enjoyed listening to Nelson talk about O-Line play. It was a treat as a former center/guard. If I’m going to study someone I try to learn from the best and adapt it to the talent that I have. The key to any fundamental is having the relationship, commitment and discipline with your group. Have them trust you (triad of trust, as Urban Meyer puts it), hold yourself accountable to coach your ass off and the athletes accountable to the fundamentals, and then have the discipline as a coach to be early and prepared, and then demand that same discipline from your group.
It is personal discipline that sets someone like Nick Saban, or Quenton Nelson, apart from the pack. Do you have the personal discipline to not only watch for and examine every step, but also the commitment to hold yourself and others accountable every single day. It takes a ton of mental focus and energy (and cuban coffee) to hold true to those three Core Values. It’s easy to cave in and spare their feelings for your sake, or theirs. It’s easy to just scream “MF” at someone and not really coach. It’s hard to use Radical Candor and earn that trust or Relationship.
And after all this- that’s all coaching is. Relationships, Commitment and Discipline which will lead to trust and growth.
“Lead, follow, or get the hell out of my way!”- George Steinbrenner.