Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Defensive Line Play-"Running the Circle"

Yep, it's just that simple...

Keeping with the theme of defensive line play, let's look at how a defender should wrong arm a kick out block.  Whether this block is from a pulling guard, H-back, or a fullback, it does not matter.  The elements of being able to execute gap exchange are essential for those choosing to use a gap scheme defense.  As with anything, we will look at history first and then describe the technique itself. 

As with most of my stuff, none of it is original.  I have a dear friend who played defensive line at a some small colleges in the Midwest and he learned this technique and he passed it on to me.  As I've gotten into writing and discussing my philosophy, techniques, and videos, people have asked me about how I teach the wrong-arm technique.  Wrong-arming, or "splattering" as we referred to it at my last job, is not a new technique.  The good ol' boys at Miami back in the mid 80's put the offensive world on its ear when they developed this technique, and all but eliminated the triple option from existence.  Gap exchange was born, and the technique spread throughout the land like wildfire.  As with any technique and how it spreads, the more diluted the technique gets, from the original inventor, the more different things become.  Not to say this is bad, as I think many coaches have been able to put their "spin" on techniques to make them better, so this "dilution" is NOT a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, this dilution is what led us to the topic of this very post!

"I knew we were up to something good!"

When I first encountered wrong-arming it was in college, and boy was I startled by it!  Being an offensive lineman, and pulling down the line only to have your legs taken out from under you was quite different than what I was used to in high school.  The way it was taught by the defensive coordinator where I went to school, was for the defensive lineman to attempt to cut the blocker in half, or essentially cut the blocker down.  This served to create a pile, and an absolute mess in the backfield.  So, as my experience playing, eventually led to coaching, this is how I started to teach the wrong-arm.  Nothing wrong with this at all, and for years I had some success doing so.  Until one day, when I went to a small local clinic, and even though I wasn't paying much attention to what the guy was talking about at the clinic, I do remember he made the comment "Never trade one-for-one, always play plus one on defense".  I've never forgotten this, and to this day, it's is very much a part of my defensive philosophy.  Never did I know it was going to tie into how I was coaching my defensive linemen.

Later in my coaching career, I coached with a guy who is literally the best defensive line coach I know.  He doesn't know much "big picture" stuff, but when it comes to actual defensive line play technique, I'd be hard pressed to find a better coach on the subject.  Well, for six years he was my defensive line coach, and he introduced me to the topic of "Running the Circle".  He was taught this where he played college football, and he explained it to me, much the same as the clinic speaker did.  Never trade one-for-one.  Running the circle keeps the one-for-one from happening.  When you cut the blocker, or simply "stone" the blocker, you have effectively traded one-for-one.  When you run the circle, as you will see, you now are back to "plus one" for the defense.

Running the Circle
What does this technique involve?  Quite simply, it's wrong-arming, but taken one step further.  When the defender has recognized the kick out block and is going to wrong-arm the blocker, he will attack the inside, or up field breast plate.  Now, before I learned this technique our aiming point was the up field hip.  Not any more, we don't want to cut anyone and we want our defender in a position to still be able to make a play.  As the defender runs through his aiming point, he attempts to elevate the breastplate of the blocker.  The defender does this by accelerating on contact.  By attacking only half of the blocker, this begins to turn or "spin" the blocker in place.  Effectively you have still wrong-armed, or gap exchanged, even though you've not created a huge mess, you are still closing gaps with bodies.  As the defender continues to accelerate and spin the blocker, he should attempt to completely turn 180 degrees from his initial contact angle.  This is called "Running the Circle".  The video shows the technique better than I can probably describe it however. 

DL Play - Running the Circle - Deuce and OJW from Barry Hoover on Vimeo.

The idea here is that the blocker is now neutralized, as he's only getting half of your defender, and your defender has still effectively exchanged gaps.  Secondly, the defender is still on his feet, and by making the 180 degree turn, he can now do one of two things.  The defender can either help chase down the running back who has spilled outside to the primary force player, or he can fall back in on the running back who has been caged in by the primary force player and is trying to cut back.  One immediate area I saw instant results with this technique was that every now and then we had the GT counter (counter trey) cut back into the playside A gap for big gains on us.  Not often, but when it did, sometimes it was quite deadly.  Once we installed this technique as our base technique for wrong-arming, we never saw the cutback hurt us again on the counter. 

Running the circle can also be utilized by the interior defensive linemen as well.  Basically any lineman that is executing gap exchange and wrong-arming does this technique for me.  As you can see in the video, the technique makes life difficult for opposing blockers.  Offensive coaches don't mind trading one-for-one, but one-for-none is what they get when you teach running the circle.

So as you can see you are now playing defense 11 on 10, which is what you want.  Again, you want to be "plus one" in every way you can when it comes to defending offenses, and the running the circle technique allows you to do this.