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The characteristics of a solid offensive lineman remain consistent regardless of offensive style. The traits of explosion, balance, flexibility and coordination are as important in the Wing-T as any other style. The unique aspect about being a top line performer in the Wing-T offense could be understood with the following thought. An outstanding offensive lineman regardless of level will succeed in any offense, however, where a below average lineman will not be successful with certain offenses, this individual can be a standout performer in the Wing-T. As all offensive line coaches know, we get the players who are too slow to play defensive line, too unathletic to play tight end, and too ugly to play quarterback. In brief, we get not the best of the rest, but simply the rest. In most of our situations, we cannot recruit the best players, but are expected to mold together a cohesive and effective offensive line that will execute. The unique aspects of the Wing-T offense provide a perfect opportunity for the development of coaching a below average player to perform at a high rate of effectiveness and efficiency.
4 reasons why the Wing-T lineman can “get it done”
Angle Schemes. A basic philosophy of the Wing-T offense is to have schemes that call for a block in at the hole, a block out at the hole, and a block through the hole. When you angle block, the area of impact on the defender is on the side and at the hip. A smaller offensive player who knows his tools of the trade can move a larger body easily with the right technique.
EXAMPLE OF ANGLE SCHEMES
Man Schemes. There are plenty of zone blocking schemes in the Wing-T offense, but there are also a great deal of man schemes. Most of these require lateral double team blocks and a 2 on 1 situation with obvious benefits.
EXAMPLE OF MAN SCHEMES
Offensive Mis-Direction. With the mis-direction involved in the offense, there are frequent opportunities to block a defender whose eyes are in the backfield. The Wing-T is a series oriented offense with plays that compliment one another. With mis-direction and complimentary plays, a confused defender is easily blocked.
EXAMPLE OF MIS DIRECTION
Multiplicity. There are numerous offensive blocking schemes in the Wing-T. I have always believed that 10 run schemes on top of the pass protection schemes is a good number. The variety of schemes you use should depend on the experience of your players. It’s not the number of schemes you have, rather the number your line can execute that really matters.
3 Arguments for the Wing-T lineman
There are many advantages offensively to running the Wing-T offense, but the greatest advantage is that you can have success with not only great natural linemen, but also with those players who may not be effective in other schemes.
The “finesse” misnomer
The finesse mis-nomer. A Wing-T lineman is not a “finesse” player. The assumption of the word “finesse” when speaking about the Wing-T lineman is inaccurate. Sure there are some times when a defense is “schemed” and cannot find the ball, but for the most part, the mis-direction of the offense simply adds to the effectiveness of the lineman. The Wing-T offensive lineman should never be told that he is a finesse player in a finesse offense. When it comes down to it, on 4th and short, you better be able to get movement off the line of scrimmage, and linemen need to know that. When a lineman has learned the correct progressions and techniques of being a dominant player and that skill is matched with the backfield actions of the offense, you have a very potent package.
Intelligence. Those of us involved in football realize that the offensive line is consistently the group with the highest G.P.A.. The line coach needs to use this to his advantage. Many times we tend to underestimate the capacity of this group to learn. Load your linemen early with schemes and line calls, force them to understand that they are the smartest bunch on the field and never underestimate their mental capacity. Sure at game-time they need to execute, but stretch them to the limit to really determine when you have reached the overload point, and then back off. Linemen don’t have to be the sharpest tools in the shed to be effective in the Wing-T, but certainly smarter than their counterparts on the defensive front.
The lineman as a skilled player. There is no more skilled player on your offense that an effective offensive lineman. A skill by definition is a learned or acquired trade. We talk in terms of our linemen becoming “master craftsmen”. The quarterbacks, receivers and running backs are the gifted ones whose talents have allowed them to be picked first since kindergarten. These kids have been running, throwing and catching for years before they start organized football. I would ask you this. How many times have you walked by a primary school playground and seen a kid duck-walking or pushing one of his teachers across the schoolyard with a flat back? My guess is none, and if they were, they would be sent to the principal’s office with the other bullies. Linemen are the most skilled players on the field; make sure they understand that.
Your linemen come to you every day to sharpen their skills, and learn their trade. With the techniques and coaching points in the following sections, you will gain the knowledge and have an understanding of how to teach your Wing-T lineman to become the most skilled player on the field.
As stated earlier, every good line coach has a progression, or organized way of teaching the basic techniques involved in line play. In the Wing-T offense, this is commonly referred to as “shoulder skills”. Before delving into the specifics of the shoulder skill progression, let me clarify the shoulder block.
THE SHOULDER BLOCK
The shoulder block is, I believe, the most effective way to teach offensive line play. If polling offensive line coaches across the country, there are guys who teach shoulder blocking and those that do not. Most coaches I have met teach aspects of both, and it is difficult to find a quality line coach that does not see the benefit of teaching striking with the shoulder at some point in their progression. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to teach line play in various offenses using different techniques, but I am a believer that the progression of shoulder blocking is a very effective technique.
There are three important reasons why the shoulder block is the most effective way to teach line blocking.
Safety. Striking with the shoulder is the safest way for your linemen to contact an opponent. Shoulder blocking does not facilitate leading with the head, or striking with the eyebrows and hands, which can cause serious injury when executed poorly. As coaches we are all cognizant of the health risks involved in the game of football, and teaching the shoulder block or striking with the flipper is the safest technique available to the offensive lineman. The safety reason alone should be enough.
Effectiveness. Teaching the shoulder block is the single most effective way to teach your lineman three things:
Finishing the block
One of the basic truths of Wing-T offensive line play is that the shoulder he initially strikes the defender with is opposite the foot with which the lineman first steps. In other words, if the lineman is to strike with his right shoulder, the first step is with the left foot. This truth holds true most, but not all of the time. If you get your linemen realizing which shoulder to contact with, their footwork will become automatic.
The location of the “hole”
Another truth of Wing-T line play is that most of the time, because of the number of man blocking schemes involved in the offense, they will be asked to have their “head in the hole”. If your right tackle blocking a 5 technique realizes that a play with an inside attack area is called, he will understand that his head needs to be in the hole, thus will execute a right shoulder block. In understanding this progression, he will quickly deduce that the first step needs to be with the opposite, or left, foot. As you can see, the teaching time for the line coach can be greatly reduced and the understanding of the correlation between first steps and shoulder contact can cause an average player to at least get in the way of a defender quickly.
The direction in which the block is finished
Thirdly, the offensive lineman will understand easily the direction in which his block is to be completed. Remember that the Wing-T is about lateral holes, not vertical ones, and that blocks are finished more down the line than off the line. With an understanding of shoulder contact and footwork, the offensive lineman will continue to finish his block in the direction of contact and “take a picture” of the ball carrier or open hole with his tail pad. A smaller, undersized player executing the shoulder technique can be helped with the shoulder block as his primary mode of contact.
Powerful contact surface. The body mechanics of the properly executed shoulder block create a more powerful initial strike on the defender than any other technique. The large surface area of the forearm, and the power that is created with the upward and outward movement of the arm allow for a jarring punch into a defender in close proximity.
GENERAL COACHING POINTS
The organization of the drills which the Wing-T offensive lineman will use to become an effective player is presented and is to be taught as a progression. By definition, a progression insinuates that before moving to step B, step A has to be learned or more accurately, introduced. You cannot expect your linemen to become masters of the individual drills prior to moving to the next step, however, it is important that the progression is used. When teaching the progression there are a few philosophies of coaching that are important to mention that remain consistent in all drills.
Mass Teaching. Teach all your players, make sure each lineman can hear the instructions of the coach and give them short, concise, understandable coaching points or “catch phrases” along the way.
Mass Repetition. Your players will learn by doing and going through the drills, not by listening to a coach for 5 minutes, and doing limited reps. Make sure to use meeting time for discussion, and practice time for work. As the linemen begin to understand the coaching points offered, they will quickly be able to coach themselves.
Use Video and Coach off the Tape. With the affordable cost of video equipment and the availability of the technology, it is important to coach the linemen from behind. The backside view is a tremendous teaching tool. You do not have time during practice to slow everything down and spend too much time in any one area. Use video, and evaluate and teach off of the tape. The linemen will appreciate the individual attention and will learn a lot from watching themselves.
RUN GAME PROGRESSION
The run game fundamentals are segmented as follows:
The basic technique involved in striking with the shoulder from a standing non-strike position through a run and hit progression.
Footwork or “Routine”
The basics of the stance, and the four initial steps the lineman will be asked to execute in the run game. Also introduced and taught here is the initial “get-off” from the line of scrimmage.
With the shoulder strike, footwork and maintaining/finishing the block concepts introduced, the individual block period focuses on the 1 on 1 blocks the Wing-T lineman must execute within offensive schemes.
Since combination blocks are 2 on 2 or 3 on 2 situations, the linemen will now together execute separate individual blocks in coordination with their adjacent lineman and work on the execution of these combination blocks.
Fundamentals and Coaching Points
In each of the main segments of the offensive line practice progression, there is a short list of fundamentals that each segment will function to reinforce. Keep these fundamentals and coaching points in mind so that both you and your players understand what the main “objectives” are. Also included in each section will be recommended organization, practice modalities and commands to be used to allow you as the coach to effectively mass teach and allow for a maximum number of repetitions by your skilled players.