O-LineWorld

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ProFootballWeekly did a nice job pointing out an overall lack of talent at the very important tackle position in the National Football League.  With the league moving further away from the nostalgic “ground and pound” ideology that’s been the bedrock of the NFL and deeper into being a “passing league”, this talent drought is alarming.

I’d take it a step further and proclaim the issue is beyond the tackle position singularly but collectively within every position along the offensive line.  There are several key factors outside of professional football as to why....

  • The progression of spread offenses that has trickled down to youth level football.  Football is a game of copycats where the NFL and NCAA football are the trendsetters. The success of offenses like the Saints and Boise State has driven the market towards “copying” these styles of play.  This trend has placed a strong emphasis on developing perimeter athletes while forsaking trench development.  The basics of blocking are an afterthought at the developmental stages of football.

 

  • Emphasis on 7 on 7 camps.  This is a mere extension in the growth of the spread style of football.  While the “skill” players are getting better, offensive linemen are engaging in “busy” work instead of intensive focus on developing a learned skill set.
  • Antiquated image of what an offensive lineman is.  The old idea of big belly’s and man boobs as a prerequisite to being a “hog” is hampering player development.  Defensive players have evolved as we see defensive lineman as fast as running backs and linebackers that are as big as what used to be defensive ends.  The overall bodyweight of offensive linemen has increased while the body composition has taken a belly flop.  This imagery is commonplace at every level but most egregiously at the youth level.  The fat kids are placed on the offensive line, while the leaner kids with big body’s are placed on defense.  This inadvertently cultivates a disdain for offensive line by the youth playing it because it’s not fun getting ran around every snap by kids that are better athletes than you currently are.

 

  • Systemic lack of teaching.  It’s one thing to be a coach while it’s another to be a teacher.  Offensive line is a learned skill that has to be taught and what we see now is a lot of coaching taking place.  There just aren’t enough good teachers along the offensive line now which unavoidably leads us to where we currently are.  It’s difficult to have good kids without good parenting.  I don’t believe that all coaches have had to have played offensive line to be good at teaching it but it helps.  There’s a lot of “chalk board” talk that takes place where things sound good in theory but not in reality.  This is once again a byproduct of spread offenses where “creativity” is king.  There’s not much creativity to a good steak, it’s straight forward just like offensive line play.  Lastly, many of the “old school” coaches are retiring and the new crop of young video game generation coaches are taking their places.

 

  • Nostalgic views on strength and conditioning.  This is an offset of the antiquated imagery of offensive line but more harmful.  There’s nothing worse than a fat guy that has been improperly trained, it’s an injury waiting to happen.  Some guys may have a higher percentage of body fat but have been trained in a balanced program that has at least structurally created a balanced, stronger, more explosive player.  Excessive aerobic conditioning while allowing bad dietary habits creates a fat and weak athlete.  With the focus still being on pressing ability and not pulling, offensive linemen are exposed to structural imbalances and building strength that doesn’t ideally transfer to the field.

These are my top five reasons but there are more.  There are several others that ProFootballWeekly point out in their article such as scouting and that’s an issue that deserves it’s own post.

 

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Comment by Kevin Pollino on October 5, 2012 at 9:22am

Could not agree more. As an assistant varsity coach at a small high school, I have witnessed first hand the declination of success caused by the "know it all" dad / coach at the feeder programs.

   The elementary football programs are bosting their un-defeated seasons while the varsity teams cant find enough players period, let alone players with a good fundamental back round, willingness to prepare and the know how to compete attitude. Give the ball to the biggest, fastest strongest players at the youth level, add in ten amazing never thought of plays and you cant be beat...

   Well in the meantime, the forty smaller, slower players are forgotten about and they find ways to leave the sport all together. I watch their body types change into lean mean cross country track stars and soccer players.

   As a varsity coach I have tried to help at the youth level and was literally run out. A few years ago, my two sons played on the 3rd / 4th grade team. Their coach moved onto greener pastures at the Junior High Level, leaving the team without a coach. I agreed to help the team on two conditions; we will devote our time (all of our time) to every player and 2nd, the scoreboard will have no bearing on my rotation and/or play calling. I had 51 players on the team and ended the season with 48 and they all moved on with what I though was a fundamental understanding of the game. (at least as much as we could teach in 11 weeks) One step at a time. Well, I went 0-8 with 3 offensive concepts and one defensive system. At the start of camp, I ran a small combine. I used tug of war drills, sumo drills with bags, cone drills etc to fit players into position that I thought they naturally would be successful. That meant big strong studs on the line and not in the backfield carrying the ball. We focused on stance, step, algnment, feet, hand placement, hat placement, leverage...fundamentals of one scheme up front, Inside, One, Over Outside. The defense learned real outside contain/gap control mentality, get off teh ball, win gaps. Basic but effective defense.

   well after an 0-8 season, I was asked to step out of the way for a coach that again is winning games. Well, my 48 players went to the next level, 5th and 6th grade and went 8-1-1. And the varsity team that I have assisted for 15 years cant find a win this season.

   I know I got on my soap box here but we have a real problem with this sacrifice players and "the game" to focus on the almighty win at the introductory levels. Can of worms I know... but its my opinion.

 

Comment by Erik Krumm on October 2, 2012 at 6:14pm

Do you think the ever expanding use of the 2 point stance for Offensive lineman could be hurting them as well? I have always felt to be a good run blocker I needed to put a hand on the ground. 

Comment by Matthew Graham on September 17, 2012 at 5:05pm
Awesome write up. And I see it even here in Australia. Our oc gets upset because the line doesn't do what he wants but we never get to see him.
We also have the problem of your big and slow so your on oline. all though to my coaches credit, we just changed our second string qb into a tackle.
Its rough how we are treated. but its always been part of playing in the trenches

Dwight Stephenson


Kevin Gogan

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