Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Flexbone-Coaching the Running Backs and Receivers

Running Backs
The running backs in the flexbone offense are quite unique in that the slot backs are part running back and part wide receiver, while the B back would probably be the one back in a spread offense or the tailback in a pro style of offense.  This mix of ability allows the flexbone coach to distribute the players in a unique manner when coaching the backfield of the flexbone offense. 
       When looking for B backs, the top item to look for is a good runner.  Would this guy be a tailback in a pro style offense?  Can this player carry the ball 20 to 25, even 30 times a game?  Durability and toughness are other attributes B backs must have, as these players are going to get hit constantly in this offense.  A B back that’s a good outside runner makes the offense that much better. 
       Slot backs are quite a unique breed of athlete.  They are part wide receiver, part tight end or H-back, and part running back.  To be quite honest, these are guys that aren’t B backs or quarterbacks or wide receivers.  They are basically the leftovers.  A lot of coaches want really fast good slot backs that can stretch the defense, horizontally and vertically, however this is by far, not necessary.  The top ability a coach should look for in a good slot back is the ability and willingness to block in space.  The slot has one of the toughest jobs in the offense, especially if being run in states or leagues that do not allow the use of below the waist blocking, commonly referred to as cut blocking.  The slot must be able to have good feet and quickness to block defensive backs, while having the strength and durability to block linebackers on occasion.  The blocks being asked of the slot are not devastating or long-lived, however they do need to be effective.  Small B backs or wide receivers, or even undersized tight ends make good slot backs.  If the slot can run and catch, that’s an even bigger plus for the offense, but it should not be the priority when selecting players to play the slot back position.  Slots do need to be able to run a variety of routes, and having the ability to catch a football is also very important.  The idea here is that the slot should be an unselfish, blocker first, runner second and receiver third.

Coaching the B Back
The B back has a variety of individual drills that they can do throughout a practice.  Stance and start are very key to the performance of the B back.  The stance of the B back is the exact same of that of a track sprinter.  The feet are shoulder width or narrower, depending on individual comfort, while the weight is completely forward on the down hand or hands.  The B back may utilize a three or four point stance, as shown in Figure 11-1.  The back should be flat, with the buttocks slightly above the head.  The head should be up, with the eyes forward and the neck bulled so that the B back can see from right tackle to left tackle. 

Figure 11-1 (B back stance)
       On all inside run plays the B back should use the same steps as an offensive lineman making a block.  The first step is a short, six-inch power step.  In this segment of exploding out of their stances, the back should remain flat, and the shoulders should not elevate at all.  The eyes should go to the aiming point in an attempt to read the defense, regardless of whether the B back is running the ball or blocking.  To drill the stance and start of the B back, the coach can do the stance and start drill similar to that of the offensive linemen.  The B backs can all align in front of the coach and work on getting in the proper stances.  Once this technique is mastered the start can be perfected.  The coach, should have the players take the proper steps with both the right and the left foot.  Again, first step should be a six-inch power step in the direction of the play.  The second step should be a step that gains ground.  The entire time the B back is coming out the stance, the pads should only slightly elevate.  A good way to keep the B backs low is to utilize the chutes, as shown in figure 11-2, or the gauntlet as shown in figure 11-3.  Both of these equipment items will go a long way in keeping the B backs low out of their stances.

Figure 11-2 (Chutes)

Figure 11-3 (Gauntlet)
       As with any running back in any offense, simple agility drills are extremely important.  These drills will not be discussed at length in this text because they can be found in any good coaching manual on coaching running backs.  The drills, however that are specific to the B back’s development within the flexbone offense will be discussed, and the first of those drills is the mesh drill.  The mesh drill is really a drill for both the quarterback and the B back, however early on in the teaching process of the offense, the running backs coach can play the role of quarterback.  In the mesh drill without the quarterback, the coach can simply have the B backs line up in their normal alignment behind the quarterback and take their normal steps for the various option runs such as midline, inside veer and outside veer.  The coach, or quarterback will take their proper steps and utilize the proper footwork and ball handling techniques in this drill.  This drill gives the B back a feel for when the ball is being given to them, or pulled on a keep read.  This is a very important skill to master in the flexbone offense because a large majority of the plays within the offense are option oriented.  The B back has a very simple rule on all option run plays that they are involved in.  If the ball is there when they get to it, they simply take it.  This simple rule keeps the B back and quarterback from having any exchange problems, and also facilitates in a young quarterback who may be having trouble reading a particular defender.
       Another item that can be added to the mesh drill is the V.  The V is two, two-by-six pieces of lumber bolted together (as shown in figure 11-4) that can be widened or narrowed to represent the path that the B back should take.  Another item that certainly will help is a fire hose with all the positions and gaps named on it, such as the one shown in figure 11-5.  These items are not needed, but are extremely useful teaching tool that will make the coach’s job that much easier.

Figure 11-4 ("V" drill)

Figure 11-5 (Firehose)
Coaching the Slot Backs
The slot backs are to the flexbone what the tight end is to the pro style offense.  These athletes are probably the  most versatile athlete on the field.  Slots need to be able to run, catch, and block in space as well as block defenders inside the box.  These job requirements require a unique type of athlete as well as a unique method of coaching.  It is recommended that the slots have training both with the running backs as well as with the receivers.  For this section, the running back drills for the slot backs will be discussed.
       As with any position in any sport, stance and start is a key element of properly training any athlete.  Slots, must learn to use the proper footwork and have a good stance when executing the plays they are associated with in the flexbone offense.  The stance, is a bit different than that of a typical running back.  The feet are narrower than shoulder width to no wider than shoulder width, with the inside foot in toe to heel relationship (see figure 11-6).  The elbows should rest on the thigh pads, with little to no weight on them.  If the slot gets lazy and puts weight on the thighs, this will cause them to false step.  The chin should be over the toes and there should be some slight forward body lean. 

Figure 11-6 (Slotback stance)
       The alignment of the slot varies with the assignment being asked.  The slots should have the flexibility to align based on their ability to get the task at hand performed.  For instance, if asked to run a vertical route, with an overhanging defensive end or outside linebacker the slot should have the freedom to widen their alignment so they may get into the route quicker and with less interruption from the defensive player.  If the slot is called on to be the pitch back on a option play, where there is a no motion call, or Nomo, call, then the slot should be able to tighten their alignment more than normal.  This flexibility based on ability is what makes the slot back position that more effective.  As a base rule, the slot should align, with their inside foot on the outside foot of the offensive tackle.  The slot should be close enough, that when they rock forward they can just touch the buttocks of the offensive tackle. 
       Motion is a key component to the job a slot back must do.  Since most motions are not called, the slot must learn when and how to properly execute these motions.  The first motion, is the two-step motion, which as the name implies, means the slot will take two steps toward their aiming point before the ball is snapped.  The aiming point is the heels of the B back, as shown in figure 11-7.  The cadence is a rhythmic cadence which allows for the slot to leave at a certain part of the cadence, which was discussed in Chapter three.  On two step motion, the slot, upon hearing the s in the word set should push off the outside foot, opening the inside foot to where the toe is pointing to the aiming point.  The inside arm should rip open, in a manner similar to a pulling lineman, so that the head, and shoulders rotate around so the slot can see their aiming point.  Once the first step is in the ground and the weight is transferred, the slot should gain ground with the second step in an attempt to get to full speed by the time the slot reaches the aiming point. 

Figure 11-7 (2-Step Motion Aiming Point)
       Tail motion is a deeper motion, that still has the same aiming point as two step, however the position the slot should be in has changed from being two steps to that of being behind the B back when the ball is snapped.  The slot should now leave on the r in the word ready of the cadence.  The slot uses the same mechanics as two step motion, however they continue to accelerate toward the aiming point, all the while gaining speed.  Once at the aiming point, the slot should run flat, with the shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage (as shown in figure 11-8). 

Figure 11-8 (Tail motion)
       Twirl motion is a called motion, that involves the play side slot going in motion, then returning in the direction of the motion to execute a blocking assignment or to run a pass route.  In twirl motion, the slot should leave on the e sound in the work ready.  As the slot opens toward the same aiming point as both tail and two step motions, the slot should not be attempting to gain speed, but yet be going at enough speed to fool the defense.  When the ball is snapped, the slot should plant off of the deepest foot, as shown in figure 11-9, and then turn back to the inside, as the slot heads off to wherever the particular assignment has them going. 

Figure 11-9 (Twirl motion)
       There are other called motions, but these are standard motions that do not involve the timing that twirl, two step and tail motions involve.  The coach should strive to make sure that the timing is consistent for the motion with all the slots.  Any error in timing can throw off the timing of the entire play in the flexbone offense.
       Once the motions have been drilled and installed, then the slot must learn to catch the pitch.  This one skill can make or break the power of the flexbone offense, as having slots that cannot catch the pitch can lead to turnovers, which in turn, generally lead to losses.  A good drill that will teach both motions and the skill to catch the pitch is to set up the fire hose (please note that the fire hose must contain accurate landmarks on it to represent the offensive linemen) with the proper landmarks such as the B back's heels marked with a dot or cone (see figure 11-10).  The coach can act as the quarterback for this drill, or the quarterbacks can be added to work on their timing and footwork as well.  Various plays within the offense can be called and have the slot execute their motion assignment and then work on receiving the pitch from the quarterback or coach.   As with any catching skill, the key is the receiver's eyes.  The eyes must see the football, and look the football in until the ball is secured. 

Figure 11-10 (Landmark drill)
Another drill, that you can use to mix up the monotony of everyday practice with the slots is to do the bad pitch drill.  The bad pitch drill is similar to the landmark drill, but instead of good, clean pitches, the coach will actually execute a bad pitch.  It is inevitable, when running this offense you are going to see a bad pitch.  Of course, you would love to see bad pitches kept to a minimum, however there is nothing wrong with being prepared for when something goes bad.  In this drill, the key coaching point is to be sure the backs understand, no matter what, do not attempt to pick up the football.  This point must be drilled because if not, this will only lead to turnovers.  The backs need to be concerned with one thing and one thing only, getting back possession of the football.  Both the Bad Pitch drill and the Landmark drill work on motions as well as other ball carrying skills the slots will need in the flexbone offense.

Coaching the Wide Receivers
When selecting wide receivers, look for larger players here.  Not all receivers are created alike, but if you can, choose larger players to play this position.  It's quite ok if the receivers you select might play tight end or H-back in other styles of offense.  The main key for the selection of your receivers needs to be the willingness to block first.  Obviously you are looking for players who can catch the football, but this is a skill that can be worked on through drills, so don't count out a guy, just because he can't catch.  The more versatile the wide receiver, the more you can do within the offense without having to substitute.

The wide receivers in the flexbone offense, are often the forgotten foot soldiers of the offense.  To be successful, this mantra must be discarded, as the wide receivers make the flexbone offense work, just as much as any other position on the field.  Flexbone receivers, must be able to block, and must be able to block in space.  In this regard, the slots and receivers can be coached together, because this is a skill that will be utilized by both positions.  In states where blocking below the waist is not allowed, it is imperative that the coach teach his skill position players proper open field blocking techniques.  The wide receiver, will have to execute three basic blocks, the stalk, the push-crack and the crack.

The Basics of Wide Receiver, Stance and Start
As with any position, in football, the stance and start are critical.  For the wide receiver, stance and start can be an everyday drill (EDD).  There have been countless articles written for both books and the Internet on coaching wide receivers.  There is no intent here to "reinvent the wheel", however, don't underestimate teaching proper, basic techniques to your receivers.  

The stance of a receiver, should be an elongated, two-point stance, with all of the receiver's weight on his front foot.  It is preferred that the receivers, if aligned as the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL), then they will put their inside foot up, whereas if aligned inside, and off of the football, the receiver will align with his outside foot up.  The foot stagger, helps to time up route running in the passing game, so that the receiver will be at the proper depth, when running his routes.  The chin of the receiver needs to be over the front toe t slightly ahead of the front toe.  The back foot is resting on the ball of the foot and has very little weight on it.

A basic drill when teaching stance and start is to align the receivers along a line with a coach placed in the middle of the group of receivers, as shown in Figure 11-11.  The receivers should look to the coach and get aligned in their stances.  Upon inspection, the coach can adjust any stances as he sees fit.  To further this drill, add in the start.  The first thing the coach should drill is the receiver's first step.  This step, which should be no longer than six to eight inches in length, is the receiver's power step.  This step allows the receiver to come to balance and be able to take on a defensive back (DB), if the DB was in a press alignment.  On this first step, the weight should transfer from the front leg, to a more balanced stance, now having 50 percent of the receiver's weight on the old front leg, and 50 percent on what was the old back leg (old meaning prior to the snap).  In the drill, the coach should get the receivers to all take their first step.  It will be easy to see who has taken too large of a step or too short of a step.  Correct accordingly and repeat this drill, working both feet.  As the receivers progress, don't have them go on a snap count, but have them go on the coach's movement.  The coach can utilize a ball on a stick much like that of a defensive line coach (as shown in Figure 11-12), or they can simply move their foot or arm to simulate the movement of the snap.  By doing teaching the receivers to look for movement, the coach is eliminating the chances of a false start.  Due to their proximity away from the football, receivers some times have difficulty hearing the snap count.  By utilizing movement on motion, the need for the receivers to know the snap count becomes a moot point.

Figure 11-11 (Stance/Start drill)

Figure 11-12 (Stance/Start ball)

The stance and start drill is a great EDD that can be worked to reinforce weight transfer, proper stance, proper route running and blocking technique.  It is recommended that this drill be utilized at least once a week during the regular season to keep the receivers sharp in their fundamentals.

Teaching the Stalk Block
Some coaches might see writing about this skill as a forgone conclusion, but this is not the case.  If you are reading this, do not gloss over this section, as mentioned above, if you cannot cut where you play, you had better invest in the teaching of open field blocking. 

Once stance and start have been mastered, then the coach can progress on to blocking.  Blocking for a receiver isn't much different than that of an offensive lineman, however, it is how the receiver gets to his block that is drastically different than that of the offensive line.  Receivers typically have to travel greater distances to get to their assignment than do their larger counterparts on the offensive line.  This increase in travel is due to the space in which the receivers must operate.  This space, and being able to block in it, will separate average receivers from good ones.  

A great drill to start off with, that teaches great body position, eye discipline and footwork for blocking in the open field is coined mirror drill.  The mirror drill is easily set up, as shown in Figure 11-13.  All that is needed is four cones and two players.  One player is the blocker, the other player is the defender.  In this drill, the receiver, must place his hands behind his back, and take a stance much like an offensive lineman would in pass protection.  The receiver wants his butt down, feet shoulder width or slightly wider, with the head and chin tucked back.  On command the receiver should start to foot fire (rapidly chopping the feet in place, or what some coaches refer to as shimmying).  The coach should let this foot fire segment last a second or two before giving the second command.  On the second command the defender will attempt to move side to side to gain leverage on the blocker.  The idea behind this drill is that once the blocker gets his leverage, he must move his feet to maintain this leverage.  Blocking leverage is critical in creating running lanes for the ball carrier.  The idea in mirror drill is simply to work the feet, which are the most critical part of the receiver when stalk blocking.  The feet must always be in motion.  The receiver should never quit buzzing his feet during the drill.  The feet should also stay at least shoulder width apart through the duration of the drill.  The feet are where most receivers lose blocks, or get holding penalties thrown on them.  Failure to move the feet or keep the feet properly spaced, result in the loss of leverage on the defender.

Figure 11-13 (Mirror drill)

As this drill progresses you can really ramp up the intensity with a drill named Escape from Bagdhad.  This drill is good for any offensive or defensive position as it teaches blocking in space as well as escaping from blocks.  The drill is set up, as shown in Figure 11-14 with a five yard by five yard box of cones.  In this set of cones will be three players.  One is coined the rabbit, or runner.  The rabbit is the ball carrier, or person who must not come in contact with the second player, the defender.  The defender's aim is simply to tag or touch the rabbit.  The third player is the blocker.  The blocker must keep the defender away from the rabbit.  The rabbit can move around within the box, but if he leaves the box at any time, it is counted in favor of the defender.  On command the defender will work to get around the blocker, while the rabbit works to keep the blocker between himself and the defender.  The blocker should use the mirror drill technique to stay in front of and keep leverage on the defender.  The drill is usually done for a four or five count at which time, coaching points can be made and new players rotated in.  This drill gets quite competitive and the players have a lot of fun with it.

Figure 11-14 (Escape from Bagdhad)

Teaching the Push Crack and Crack Blocks
These blocks are very similar in nature, as the only difference is the angle of attack.  A simple drill that works this technique is obviously called crack drill.  This drill can be done with only the receivers, or can be coupled in a group drill with the slots to mimic the offense blocking the perimeter of a defensive scheme.  However you choose to do it, some of the finer coaching points of the crack block are:

  • Head position.  This is a must, and will hurt you if you choose not to drill it.  The receiver must have his head in front of the defender at all times when crack blocking.
  • Feet.  Again, feet come into play, even on the crack block.  It is not enough for the receiver to make contact, especially if the defender is much more athletic, or larger than the receiver.  
  • Hands.  Positioning the hands should be no different than that of the stalk block.  
  • Eyes.  Pre-snap don't give away the intentions of the offensive scheme, but the receiver must locate his defender.  Once the ball is snapped the receiver should lock on to this defender and work to keep his eyes on the near number of the defender.
  • What to do if the defender gives you his back.  This is truly important.  Many coaches, I've been around do not drill this technique.  When this happens, the receiver must now become exactly like a basketball player setting a screen.  Basically put, the receiver should get in the way, but not get called for clipping.
The push crack is executed by the receiver by releasing vertically off the LOS as if to run either a vertical route or stalk block.  As the receiver does this, they will eye the near safety.  If the safety is in a backpedal, then the receiver will continue to push vertically down the field.  Once the safety stops the backpedal and transitions forward, the receiver will then break on an angle to intercept the the safety and block him with the correct technique as shown in Figure 11-15.  

Figure 11-15 (Push crack block)

When executing the crack block, there is very little to no vertical stem by the receiver, as illustrated in Figure 11-16.  Depending on the location of the defender being blocked, the receiver may actually have to step flat down the LOS to block this defender.  The receiver should push off the back foot, in order to get the shoulders turned down the LOS, while getting his eyes on the near number of the defender.  As the receiver approaches the defender, the receiver should look to strike the defender with the head in front of, and out of contact, of the block.  The upfield hand should look to pin the near arm of the defender, while the inside hand looks to make contact with the far breastplate of the defender.  The upfield arm is very important in making sure that the defender does not slide off the block and be able to get back into the play.

Figure 11-16 (Crack block)

There are many other receiver drills out there that coaches can use.  A good tool for receivers with catching the football is to throw tennis balls early on.  By doing so you require that the receiver use his fingers and hands, rather than allowing his body to come in contact with the ball.  Another concentration technique is to use paint to paint the numbers one through four and five through eight on the points of footballs.  Make the receiver call out what number is "up" when they catch the football.  Couple this with the concentration drill of having the receiver start out with his back to the coach and on command turn around to catch a football.  This drill requires the receiver to get their head around and find the football.  A good tip for this drill is to do it near a fence, backstop or wall.  If these items aren't available, then have the other receivers work as fielders for any missed balls.  By doing this you minimize the amount of time you have spent chasing footballs.  Some other drills are utilizing the two-man sled for blocking drills that work on foot drive, the one-handed fade drill that also works on receiver concentration, and the routes in traffic drill are ones that come to mind.  No matter the drill, the idea is to assure that the coach is working on the necessary skills the receiver needs to have to perform their task within the offense.

Slots, when not working on run plays that involve them as a runner may work with the receivers.  This division of practice time will be discussed in a later post, but it should be noted the slots will need to be drilled in most, if not all, of the receiver drills mentioned here.

It is imperative that throughout all of these drills that anywhere ball security can be drilled, it should be.  Ball security is something many coaches take way too lightly.  In any drill that involves the carrying of the football, coaches need to stress the little things such as "high and tight" and wrist above the elbow, and three points of pressure to ball carriers.  Don't just talk about these things, drill them.  There are several tools on the market today that do this, and so many ball security drills out there it would take weeks, or even months to write about all of them.  Whatever skill position you coach, make ball security a priority in your EDD's.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Flexbone- Coaching the Offensive Line

The offensive line in any offense is the most important part, and the Flexbone is of no exception.  Properly training the offensive line in the techniques needed to block defenses is paramount to any coach interested in running the Flexbone offense. 
       The flexbone offensive line is made up of five players with varying uniqueness to their positions.  The center, by far, should be the best offensive lineman of the five.  The reason for this is that the center may be called upon to block a noseguard by themselves, which is a tough task, especially with having to snap the football.  The guards are the larger, more physically imposing, and stronger of all the linemen.  The guards need to be able to move players aligned directly over them, but still be athletic enough to pull and trap or lead up on plays such as the Rocket Toss.  The offensive tackles would most likely be tight ends or H-backs in other offensive styles.  The tackles need to be athletic enough to block on the second and third levels off the offense, however they must also be decent enough of a lineman to block a defensive end or help out on a double or triple team block with the offensive guards.

The major difference in the offensive line, in say a pro-style offense versus the Flexbone is the stance.  When looking at typical offenses the offensive linemen (OL) are allowed to have their buttocks’ lower and their chests more upright as they want to read and react to a defender’s movement.  The Flexbone is not a reactive offense, yet it is a proactive offense that attacks the defense before the defense knows what has hit it.  The stance of the OL in the Flexbone is one where the buttocks is higher than the head and is more of a traditional sprinter’s stance. 
       To start, the OL should have their feet no wider than shoulder width apart.  By utilizing this framework the OL can move laterally as quickly as they can forward.  The OL wants to have at least a 60 percent to 40 percent weight ratio of weight on their down hand versus weight on their feet.  If this is a problem, the OL is recommended to utilize a four point stance (both hands on the ground instead of one).  This weight ratio, ideally, should be in the 70 percent on the down hand, and 30 percent on the balls of the OL’s feet.  The weight ratio described is one that sets the Flexbone OL apart from many other offenses, because of so much weight forward.  The idea behind this technique is again, that of a sprinter.  The OL, in the Flexbone, want to knock a hole in the defense, not react to the defense’s movement and get in their way.  The OL’s back should be flat with the buttocks rising slightly above the level of their helmet (as shown in Figure 10-1).  The down hand should be out in front of the facemask with the appropriate weight placement.  A good test is to take and slap the OL’s hand and see if he rocks forward.  If the player falls forward at a steady rate then there is plenty of weight on the down hand.  If the player does not fall forward, then the player needs to put more weight on the down hand.  If the player falls rapidly forward, then the weight needs to be adjusted back from the down hand and transferred to the balls of the feet.

Figure 10-1 (Basic stance)

In all of football there is no greater component to success than footwork.  More football players are defeated in their first step than in any other progression of their footwork.  The offensive line is no different, in that the first initial step is as critical as it is to any other position on the field. 
       The first step, or initial step, for the offensive linemen is a six-inch power step.  This step, should be in the direction of the play, and should be a step that gains ground into the defense.  The chest should not elevate on the first step, yet should stay centered over the lineman's center of gravity, or be slightly forward.  The hands should come from their normal position and move to that in a ready-to-punch motion (figure 10-2).  The head and eyes should be focused on the aiming point, depending on the type and direction of the block.  This first step, if too long in stride, will cause the offensive lineman to become off balance, and they will thereby lose power in their striking ability, or ability to adjust to the defender's movement.  If the initial step is too short, then the lineman cannot get to his aiming point before the defender has reacted, making the block that much more difficult to control.  This initial step is the most crucial part of the blocking process and must be conditioned through countless repetitions.

Figure 10-2 (Hand placement)

       The steps an offensive lineman will take will vary depending on the type of block that is being made.  For instance, a lineman on the front side of a play, executing a base block, will take a more forward and direct step attacking their landmark.  On the backside of an offensive play, if the lineman is scoop blocking, then the initial step will be much flatter, as the angle of attack by the offensive lineman is much greater when they are attempting to cut off any backside pursuit.  No matter the type of block, the initial step, cannot be too large or too small, or the block will surely fail, leading to the demise of the integrity of the play.

Types of Blocks in the Flexbone Offense
  The types of blocks in the flexbone offense vary depending on whether or not the offensive lineman is on the play side or the backside of the play.  Technique may vary, but the goal is the same for any of these types of blocks, stop the defender from gaining an advantage over the offense by stopping his initial charge and then moving him in a direction that gains the offense yardage by reestablishing the line of scrimmage.
Play Side Blocks
       Play side blocks are of the following types:
Scoop or Zone
Double/Triple Team

A base block is simply as the term implies, basic. What this means is that the offensive lineman will be attacking a defender, with either inside or outside leverage, depending on the direction of the play, and will be attempting to lock on to the defender and stay engaged in the block for the duration of the play.  The base rule for a player having to execute a base block is to check outside, on, over, inside when looking for who to block.  Once the assignment is calculated by the lineman, then they will step with the play side foot and engage the near shoulder of the defender.  This defender, may or may not be on the line of scrimmage, so it is unwise to tell players who to block, but better yet give them a hard and fast rule on where to block instead.  Base blocking is a very simple block to imitate in practice by the use of such drills as King of the Boards (figure 10-3), or the chase linebacker drill  (figure 10-4).  These drills, though basic in nature, will solidify the principle of base blocking.

Figure 10-3 (King of the boards drill)

Figure 10-4 (Linebacker chase drill)

       Veer blocking is a block that will called upon by the flexbone offensive lineman quite often, because of the direct nature of an option offense and the need to not block certain defenders.  When executing a veer block, the offensive lineman will do very similar to the technique employed by defensive linemen when they utilize the rip technique.  The offensive lineman, will step with the foot opposite of the direction play and then take an elongated second step, turning the shoulders and dipping the outside arm to the ground in an attempt to get skinny and not make contact with a defender on the line of scrimmage.  The lineman will then use the rip technique to drive their arm up through any contact that may be made by a defender aligned over them or to the outside and attempt to get the shoulders back square and replace the defender (figure 10-5).  It is of the utmost importance that the veer blocking lineman, not allow themselves to be moved or washed down the line of scrimmage when executing this technique.  This washing technique is utilized by defenders in hopes of having a linebacker or secondary player run free by utilizing a two-for-one mentality.  When the defense can play two-for-one the impact of the triple option is greatly reduced, if not negated.

Figure 10-5 (Veer block, replacing the defender)

       Loop blocking is similar to veer blocking, in that the offensive lineman will try to elude the defender aligned over them, however instead of stepping away from the direction of the play, the offensive lineman will step in the direction of the play.  The steps for the loop block are exactly the same as the veer block, except that the lineman will step with the play side foot, use the rip technique and then attempt to get the shoulders back square as they go to block a second, or third level defender (figure 10-6). 

Figure 10-6 (Loop block)

       Scoop blocking is very similar to the traditional inside zone block.  The lineman will step with the play side foot and attack their aiming point in an attempt to engage the defender and maintain the block for the duration of the play.  The lineman has a simple rule, they will block anything that crosses their path in an area that goes from their nose, to the nose of the next offensive player in the direction they are blocking (figure 10-7).  If the defender, stunts away from the offensive lineman's path, the lineman does not block this defender, yet merely gets a hand on them to allow the next offensive lineman to overtake the defender.  Scoop blocking is more common on the back side of plays, than the front side, however certain plays in the offense do require that the front side players also scoop block.

Figure 10-7 (Scoop block reads)

       The double team block is one that occurs quite often, and sometimes goes hand-in-hand with veer blocking.  Each offensive lineman will step in the direction of the defender to be blocked.  The idea here is that both offensive lineman will weld their hips together as they attack their respective aiming points, which is usually the near shoulder or near number.  As these lineman come together, they are to get hip-to-hip and work to drive this defender off of the ball and into the next level, blocking any second level defender with the defender they double teamed.  Some coaches teach this block where one player is to come off at some point and block the second level defender.  The preferred method, is to block this second level defender with the initial push of the double teamed defender.  The only time an offensive lineman will leave a double team is once the block has moved to the second level and the offensive lineman can clearly disengage the first level defender.  This is a key component to double teaming a defender, as many times when a lineman leaves the first level defender, the double team block breaks down, and the first level defender has a chance to make the play for a minimal gain.  By securing the first level defender, and altering the second level defender's path to the ball, whether blocked or not, the play now has a greater chance of gaining positive yardage, than if the double team was not allowed to fully develop.
       The triple team, is also very similar to the double team in that movement of the first level defender is paramount, however there are now three components to the block instead of two.  In a triple team block, as illustrated in figure 10-8, there is a point blocker, and two supporting blockers.  The point blocker is the blocker who has the first level defender aligned over them once the ball is snapped.  This blocker will execute a normal base block, attacking their normal aiming point as if there were no help on the play.  The support blockers will take a step with the foot closest to the defender they are to triple team, and just like with the double team, the three offensive lineman will attempt to weld their hips together.  By getting the hips together, there is little chance the defender can split the block and get any penetration.  As with the double team, the triple team block should look to block second level defenders with the body of the first level defender.  The unique point about the triple team block, is that a blocker can come off quicker to block a second level defender than if the block were a double team.  This is due to the nature of the block having an extra blocker involved and allows for the point blocker to better gain control of the defender, quicker than they would had the block been a double team.

Figure 10-8 (Triple team block)

       The fan block is a type of block that is only used on certain plays, but is best defined as a block that requires a blocker to block a defender that is one full man in the direction of the play.  The midline play is one play where this type of block is required in the flexbone offense.  On the fan block, the offensive lineman will step with the play side foot and attack the near shoulder of the defender in an attempt to wall off this defender.  The idea here is that it is okay if the defender gets up field penetration, just do not let this defender fall back in on the play (figure 10-9).

Figure 10-9 (Fan block)

       Pulling involves having a lineman remove themselves from their current position and lead a play, usually to the outside.  An example of this can be found in Chapter Seven under the play Rocket Toss.  In this play, the play side guard will pull out and around the formation to help cutoff backside pursuit.  When pulling, a lineman will open with the play side foot, pointing down the line of scrimmage, and use the back foot to push and gain ground.  The chest remains over the thigh on the first step, much as the blocker would do when executing the normal initial step.  The play side arm of the blocker should rip open quickly as the blocker throws this arm towards the play side hip, in an attempt to get the shoulders to open up and now be perpendicular to the line of scrimmage (as shown in figure 10-10).  Once the blocker has opened up and is running down the line of scrimmage, they must read where the first opening is, and look to turn up in this opening.  When they turn up, the blocker should read the defense looking inside to outside for the first opposite colored jersey to show.  When this defender shows, the blocker should attempt to step on his toes as he blocks the defender in space.  The offensive lineman does not need to make a vicious, or overpowering block here, they simply need to put their body between the defender and the ball carrier.

Figure 10-10 (Pull technique)

Backside Blocks
        Backside blocks in the flexbone offense are of the following types:
The trap block can be executed by a tackle or guard depending on how the coach wants to block this type of play.  Trap blocking involves the offensive lineman opening in the direction of the play, by turning their first step either perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, or slightly into the line of scrimmage.  The blocker then pushes off of the back foot and heads into the line of scrimmage looking to block an unblocked first level defender coming across the line of scrimmage.  The blocker should attempt to get their head on the up field shoulder of the defender as well as having their up field hand on the back or hip of the defender to prevent this defender from falling back in on the play. 
With defenders being taught the wrong-arm or spill technique, trap blocking has become increasingly more difficult.  This is where the log block comes into play.  The log block is simply where a trap blocking offensive lineman, will work for outside, instead of inside leverage on the trap defender.  What this does, is basically take the defender and use their momentum against them, and attempts to wash them down inside opening up a run lane outside of the defender’s position.  The blocker should execute the log block exactly like the trap scheme, however upon contact, the blocker should work the head and hands into an outside position on the defender, as shown in figure 10-11.  Once outside leverage has been made, the blocker will now move their feet in an attempt to wash the defender down inside and create an opening in the defense.

Figure 10-11 (Log block)

Pass Blocking
Although not a staple of the flexbone offense, the flexbone offensive lineman is not unlike any other offensive lineman in that they need to be able to protect the passer and be proficient in the various pass protection schemes within the offense.  There are three basic protections in the flexbone offense as discussed in Chapter Eight, and these are as follows:

Big on Big
Turn back

The technique utilized by the offensive lineman varies between the protections, so in this section the technique for each type of protection will be broken down.
       Good pass protection involves that a lineman does not get their head too far forward, and this must be stressed in individual pass protection drills.  The lineman, should utilize their normal stance, however they may shift a bit of their weight back on their heels if in Big on Big (BOB) protection. 
       For slide protection, the lineman is only focused on knocking the defender back off the ball in an attempt to stun the defender's rush, and to give the appearance to second and third level defenders of a running play.  The offensive lineman can maintain a normal stance, and on the snap, fire off the ball in a manner consistent with that of a run block.  The lineman should step in the direction of their respective gap with the corresponding foot, as shown in Figure 10-12.  The lineman will deliver a controlled blow to the defender and drive the defender backwards for two steps.  Any more than two steps, and the lineman could be called for an ineligible receiver downfield.  A lineman that is uncovered should also fire out the standard two steps, again to give the defense the perception of a run play.  The ball should be away by the time the defender has a chance to react to the pass, so the lineman needs little in the way of pass protection technique after the initial blow has been delivered, however it is wise to teach the players that once the second step is met, then regular pass protection techniques can take over. 

Figure 10-12 (Slide protection)

       In big on big or BOB protection, the lineman will use a slightly more passive approach to protecting the quarterback.  The lineman should put be in a more balanced stance than their normal stance, with less weight out on the down hand.  On the snap, the lineman should push off with the down hand, and pop their head and shoulders back in a rapid, single motion.  The lineman, should attempt to bull the head and neck back as far as possible so that they may still see their defender, yet keep the head out of the block.  The hands should also come up in this first step and be in a cocked, coiled, ready to strike position.  The back should be straight, and there should be no forward body lean (see figure 10-13).  Forward body lean is what gets an offensive lineman beat when protecting the quarterback.  The lineman should look as though they are sitting in a chair once they have popped out of their stance.

Figure 10-13 (Proper pass protection technique)

 The footwork for BOB protection is very simple.  The lineman should drop their outside foot, keeping the shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.   Another area lineman get beat is by turning their shoulders, allowing an easy inside move for a defender.  As the defender approaches, the lineman should strike a controlled blow to the near peck of the defender in an attempt to stymie the rush.  Once this blow is delivered the lineman must now read the rush of the defender. 
       If the defender is on a hard charge, the offensive lineman, should sink the buttocks, lock the hands on the chest pad of the defender and actually sit down in order to slow the rush.  The offensive lineman does not want to be pushed back into the quarterback, so he must slow this bull rush technique in a manner that slows the defender, yet keeps the head and shoulders out of the block.  Once this initial charge has been stopped the lineman should now be ready for the defender to make a counter move such as a rip, swim, push-pull, or spin.
       If the defender comes off the ball hard, and makes a rip move (figure 10-14), the offensive lineman should leave the near hand on the defender's near pectoral muscle, while sliding the off hand down to the defender's hip area.  Once the hands are in place, the offensive lineman should push back in the direction the defender came from with the near hand, while pushing in the opposite direction with the off-hand.  This hand placement and push technique should create quite a discomforting twisting motion of the upper body of the defender.  Once the hands are in place, the offensive lineman can now turn his shoulders in an attempt to run the defender by the quarterback.

Figure 10-14 (Rip move)

       The swim move is defeated in a similar manner to that of the rip move, in that it is done with proper hand placement.  When the offensive lineman recognizes the move, they should again, leave the near hand in its original position on the near peck of the defender.  The off-hand should now come off and attempt to grasp the forearm area of the defender.  The feet should keep shuffling in order to keep leverage on the defender, and the off-hand should continue to push the defender in an attempt to get the defender off balance. 
       The push-pull move is one of the deadliest moves a pass rushing defender can utilize because of the quickness in which the move happens.  The push-pull is a very deceptive move in that the move appears to mimic a bull rush, but once the defender has made contact and gotten a hold of the lineman the snatch the lineman in one direction or the other in an attempt to clear the blocker on their way to the quarterback.  The key to stopping the push-pull is that the offensive lineman not allow the defender to get their hands in proper position to grab the offensive lineman.  The defender is taught to get the hands inside and extend and then snatch the offensive lineman.  The push-pull move cannot be initiated if the hands of the defender never reach their mark, or the hands are removed before the defender can execute the snatch portion of the move.  The technique utilized by the offensive lineman is quite simple, if the defender does get their hands into the chest of the offensive lineman, they may use either a downward chopping motion, or an uppercut motion to free themselves from the grips of the pass rusher.  This move is down by releasing the defender and then either slapping the hands downward, or ripping the hands upward through the forearms of the defender.  Once free, the offensive lineman should reset and be ready to deliver another blow to the rusher.  A key defeat point of the push-pull move is that the blocker gets their head and shoulder too far forward and into the defender, allowing the defender to use the blocker's weight and lack of momentum against them.   For this reason, it is imperative that the pass blocker keep their head and shoulder back at all times.
       The spin move is another move utilized by pass rushing defenders, however this move is not all that hard to defeat.  The spin move is usually fairly easy to spot due to the lack of contact that a defender will make prior to executing the spin.  Once the offensive lineman feels the spin move being executed, they should push off the defender and slide the foot nearest the defender back quickly to regain leverage on the defender.  As the defender has their back turned to the blocker, the blocker can execute short choppy pops to the back and kidney area of the rusher.  The key here, is dropping and resetting on the spinner.  If the blocker does not get enough depth, then the spin will roll right off of their near arm and shoulder and the defender will now be past the blocker and on their way to a sure sack.
       When utilizing turn back protection, the technique is no different than BOB, only the initial steps are different.  The offensive lineman should take a step, similar to that of when they execute a scoop block on their first step.  Once the play side foot is in the ground, the blocker will now pivot off that play side foot, and drop the backside foot, so that now the shoulders are perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.  Once this initial footwork is complete, the blocker can execute the normal pass protection as described prior.  The key to winning with turn back protection is that the lineman must understand they cannot lose a defender to their up field shoulder.  The rule here is always make the pass defender go around the blocker and through the backfield to get to the quarterback.  The quarterback will be sprinting away from this rush, and the defender's efforts are negated (see figure 10-15).

Figure 10-15 (Turn back protection, correct and incorrect)

       In all pass protection schemes as with any scheme for that matter, footwork is essential.  When involved in pass protection the offensive lineman cannot allow their feet to ever be less than shoulder width apart.  Nor should the offensive lineman ever stop their feet when blocking a pass rushing defender.  The feet should be kept moving, and all weight should be on the heels so that the blocker's weight cannot be used against them, as when a defender executes a pass rush move, such as the push-pull. 

       This is not meant to be an end-all-be-all guide to how to block in the flexbone offense, yet more of  a starter's guide.  With the advent of vertical set pass protection and other styles of blocking techniques the sky is the limit when it comes to teaching the techniques of blocking in the flexbone offense.  The key here is proper technique that can be taught clearly to the players, and executed without fail by the players.  The offensive line is by far the most important unit on the field in any offense, and the flexbone is no different.  The head coach or offensive coordinator that does not see that the offensive line is coached properly, will surely fail at whatever offense they so choose to run.