Practice tip: In-season drills must have focus and purpose

On USA Football:

You’ve been through the grueling weeks of camp when fundamentals were taught and concepts were learned. At this point in the season, the drills that teach a single skill need to be repurposed to include multiple fundamentals and techniques. Doing this saves time and allows coaches to focus on specific techniques and strategies that must be employed to beat this week’s opponent. Before proceeding into the setup of specific drills, here are some general parameters for deciding on what will be worked and how to set it up. Make the drill game specific. In other words, if it doesn’t happen on the field or isn’t teaching the muscle memory and application on game day, the drill has little value. This starts with making sure your warm-up drills – usually done with little or no equipment – have specificity. Most important is that the players understand how that drill appears on the field. Visualization of what is happening in a real situation adds value. In the videos below the drill is shown, then the game application of the drill follows…read more.

The following video included in this article is from my interactive book The Zone Offense:  Build a Base detailing the specifics of the inside zone play.  It is packed with game and drill video, animations, and information on using the zone play and building an offensive system.  It will be released early in the off season.

My company, Coaches Edge Technologies is dedicated to providing in-depth coaching materials so that we can help build a better coach, a better, player, and a better team. Check out our website for cutting edge materials that can help you right now.

Drill Happy? A quick note from Coach Mountjoy


Too many coaches are “DRILL HAPPY”.  Joe Bugel said that when he first coached the O-Line for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, he came to practice with a large stack of 5×8 index cards containing his O-Line drills.

Woody told him “you are not in the entertainment business – toss those damned cards away & just teach the O-lineman how to drive block, reach block, & down block”.

How do you do this?  No “drills” are needed – you just line a defender up on the blocker & just DO IT!

PS:  You don’t need a bunch of boards, sleds, dummies, ETC.  Those things are NOT found on the field on game day!!!


My company, Coaches Edge Technologies is dedicated to providing in-depth coaching materials so that we can help build a better coach, a better, player, and a better team. Check out our website for cutting edge materials that can help you right now.

Pete Carroll’s “Heads Out” Tackling – A Must See For Coaches

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Pete Carroll was asked a question about “Hawk Tackling” at media day.  Here is info on his tackling system.

Having spent the last five years as a an offensive coordinator, my view on tackling was “avoid tackles.”  Now that I am involved with coaching my 11 year old son, my concern with proper tacking form is much more focused.  I had learned about Heads Up tackling over a year ago, and the system teaches some sound principles.  However, Pete Carroll recently released a video on tackling that takes the head completely out of the tackle.  As he explains in his video, it is based on the techniques used in rugby tackling in which the head is completely removed from the tackle to avoid injury.  As I did my own research into rugby tackling technique, I found that this tackling is built around safety, and especially putting less stress on the head, neck and spine.

Comparing the  coaching points found in rugby tackling videos with Carroll’s, the terms and techniques used are very similar.  One of the best videos that show the comparison is a video featuring rugby coach Pete Lam.  The techniques and explanations he uses in his video provide great rationale behind why this type of tackling is sound.

Both the Carroll and Lam spend time talking about tracking.  Carroll uses a visual which he refers to as the strike zone.

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In other words, the strike zone is the area between the shoulders and thighs.  Lam tells his players to focus on the core.  He begins with a simple demonstration on why a tackler must focus on the core of the ballcarrier.  Focusing on the core allows the tackler to get in close enough to make a safe tackle.

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Lam then makes a point similar to a coaching point made in the Heads Up program about the position of the arms.  Again, his simple demonstration makes it clear to his players that this is a strong position which prevents injury.

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Face up is another coaching point.  In the next set of photos, the difference of face up and face down can be seen, not only that it causes a problem with tracking, but that it puts the spine in a dangerous position.

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Lam continues the explanation of his tackling technique in the video.  It is a great introduction into the tackling that Carroll shows in his video.

One key point that is worth emphasizing is that Carroll never talks about “head across the front” as a coaching point. This is a coaching point that has been around a long time and can still be heard on practice fields everywhere.  In theory, the idea is that getting the head across the front provides a better leverage position to stop the momentum of the ball carrier as it gets more of the players body in front of the ball carrier.  The pictures below show that this coaching point can put the head and neck in a very vulnerable position.

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In studying rugby tackling, this technique is not taught.  The technique involves getting the right shoulder to the ball carrier’s right shoulder, or the left shoulder to the ball carrier’s left shoulder.

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The Seahawks teach the same technique as you can see in screenshots of their drill and screen shots of the examples they use in the video.  More often than not, you will not see the head in front, but rather the tackle made with what Carroll refers to as “shoulder leverage tackling.”

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Rugby coach Wayne Smith explains this type of shoulder technique and its safety as well as other techniques that Carroll is using in the video below:

Pete Carroll states in the beginning of his video, “[We want to] maintain the physical integrity of the game while developing safer tackling techniques. We desire to play the game as tough as it is meant to be played while also making the game safer.”  The techniques shown do not make for a softer type of play.  You can see from the examples that there are some physical hits being made.  What’s great about these techniques is that they can be done in shorts and t-shirts.  This means that working on tackling technique can be done year-round making the game both better and safer.

Our great game of football is under attack. It is our duty as coaches to become better teachers of the game, and strive to coach the best and safest techniques. Carroll’s tackling video is a great starting point.


My company, Coaches Edge Technologies is dedicated to providing in-depth coaching materials so that we can help build a better coach, a better, player, and a better team. Check out our website for cutting edge materials that can help you right now.

Get more repetitions in your drills by using more footballs

On USA Football:

Quarterback is one of the most technical positions in all of sports. The quarterback not only has to process mentally but also needs to perform the fundamentals and techniques of the position with great precision. In order to maximize the repetition of our quarterbacks’ skills, we incorporate two footballs into many of the drills. This allows the quarterbacks to get more work, and other positions can work with the quarterback as well One example of this is the in the zone option drill. This drill allows the running back to work his mesh and ball security skills and allows the quarterback to work his hand off, read and pitch mechanics…read more

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I have been working with some great coaches to put together interactive coaching manuals that blend text, diagrams, animations and videos.  While I would have liked to release those earlier, there are great concepts in each manual that are worth learning now.

Dan Gonzalez shares his knowledge in Developing an Offensive System – Part 1:  The Need for Change.  I’ve shared my thoughts on his navigation tags.  It’s a cutting edge tool that can be adapted to improve any offense right now.

Bill Renner is an authority on kicking and punting.  He has created a manual on each topic.  His manual, Core Drills for Developing Football Kicking Skills is available now.  He does a great job in teaching you exactly what to do to develop a kicker.  He also released a book on protecting the QB from spread formations.  The video and teaching are outstanding.  Again, he is able to share his knowledge in a clear and concise way.  This protection has only allowed an average of 1.1 sacks per game over the last decade.  Check out Pass Protections from No TE Formations.  

Rob Zeitman has developed one of the most potent rushing attacks in NCAA Division II football.  His teams averages 317 yards per game on the ground.  He shares his base running game concepts, the inside veer and the midline from the short pistol or what he likes to call “The Show Gun” offense.  The Show Gun Offense: Inside Veer is available now.

The first book in this dynamic format is my book titled 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays.  I have released this by chapter as well as creating a version of the play action chapter for the iPhone.  My second book provides a template for setting up the structure of your offense to turn it into a system rather than a collection of plays.  It’s the first of a 4-part series.  Get The Zone Offense:  Create a Structured System for your iPad or Mac.

I am excited to share our ever growing library.  Other “coming soon” titles are just a glimpse of what we will be offering.  Check out the entire website:


Linebacker Downhill Shuffle Drill

This post is by Mike Passerrello. Mike was on my coaching staff at two different high schools and he has coached at the college level as well. Mike is a great defensive mind. His bio is below:

Head Coach Firelands High School 2011-Present
2011 First Time in School History Playoff Qualifier
First 10-0 Regular Season since 1973
Conference Coach of the Year
County Coach of the Year
Division 3 Northeast Ohio Coach of the Year
Broke 35 Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Records since 2011
First time in 14 years Firelands has won 3 game or more in consecutive years

Downhill Shuffle Drill
One of our number one linebacker drills is what we call the “Downhill Shuffle Drill”. It is a great drill to use from summer until the end of the season. The basics are explained in the next slide but as the season goes on the variations are endless. Depending on what we will be facing from our opponents I am able to add a variation into this drill to better prepare the players for Friday night. In the past few years I have been able to add up to 15 different variations to this drill but to maximize our practice time the players know when I say, “Downhill Shuffle Drill” they line up and are ready to go waiting to see if we are doing the drill or adding something new to it.


Variations of the Downhill Shuffle Drill

1. When Coach blows whistle the LB and RB will turn up field and it turns into an eye opener drill.

2. When Coach blows whistle the LB and RB (now is a FB) will turn up field and it turns into an Iso Drill

3. After the second cone the RB as the ability to try and cut back on the LB. The LB must fill and make a great open field tackle

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the different variations of the drill you can contact me at

On AFM: Coaching the big skills: QB, RB, TE

In my column in August 2012, I discussed the evolution of the modern tight end, gave examples of how a tight end or h-back could be utilized in a spread offense, and gave suggestions of how to begin integrating this position into your offense.
Read that article here.
We are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient in our practice and getting as much as we can out of our individual and group periods. We use different variations of periods and try to add components and skills as we see fit. One area in which we were able to do this was by incorporating our tight end and h-backs into our period which we normally worked quarterbacks and running backs together.
One drill we do each day is called “run timing.” Typically, the period we work this in is during a 5 minute block during extra point and field goal practice. We take our running backs and quarterbacks to midfield and work all of our footwork, mesh points, and aim points. The quarterbacks work on the specifics of carrying out their fakes…read more

Learn more about our pro style pistol offense in my iBook which can be purchased from your iPad here:

New on AFM – Maximizing Practice Time – Receivers/QB

Getting more from less – creating drills to maximize practice time – receivers/quarterbacks
We constantly look to find efficiency in how we drill and practice. After initial teaching and installation, our drills move from working single skills to working multiple skills in order to get the most from the time we have available. Even in situations where we are trying to fix a recurring problem we saw on film, we will work other skills within the remedy drill, though the emphasis will be on fixing the problem.
I’ve been filming practice since my first high school head coaching job in 2000. At the time we did not have an editing system, but we were able to pull film clips and show our players when needed. For the most part, that film was for the coaches to evaluate how well we were teaching and getting the execution we needed from our players. We were able to see where we still needed to improve and design our practices accordingly. Today’s technology allows us to do much more in terms of not only using that film and information with our coaching staff, but also allows our players to view video of practice even immediately after a play. Here is an example of what can be done on the field to give immediate feedback to players. I am positive that this type of use of technology that can be seen in the video below from the University of Nebraska will be something that continues to grow within coaching.

If you have an iPad available, filming some of your individuals drills and showing a player right there on the field can give him both the feedback and the instruction he needs to execute a skill properly. An injured player, student manager, or even you as the coach can target a player or two, or you can film a drill and show exactly what you are looking for during a water break. There are many possibilities of what can be done to improve performance with immediate feedback. This is something we will be incorporating in camp and throughout the 2003 season. I will be sure to report back on what we found to be valuable teaching methods.
One tool that each coach has is a basic drill record. This is a list of skills and accompanying drills that each position is required to perform in our offense. The skill list record gives our coaches a visual of what their individual position is required to perform, and the frequency with which they have practiced it. It allows them to see the last time the skill was worked. As the coach modifies or combines drills to work more of these skills, he can check off more boxes on the drill record….more on AFM

If you own an iPad, please check out my iBook, the first coaching resource of its kind,101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays. This is a resource that has principles that can apply to any offense. You can get it from the iBookstore:

When it shows up on film: OL combo block

I wrote on this topic in detail in a clinic article on AFM titled “Distort and Displace with Double Teams.”

We are able to be efficient in teaching our combo because the block applies to both our zone and power schemes.

Here are clips of two different phases of our combo drill. In the first we are really emphasizing staying on the block and getting vertical displacement.

In the second clip we are working the combo vertically and then coming off to the linebacker.

Obviously, with the time we spend on this technique we want to see it show up on film. Here it is in game video on our power play. The left guard and left tackle take the defensive tackle vertically before the guard comes off to the linebacker who has played over the top.

Learn more about our power play and other components of our offense in 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays which you can get on your iPad from the iBookstore:

When it Shows up on Film: WR Comeback

Special thanks to our O-Line coach, Tony Neymeiyer for showing me this clip from “The Karate Kid.” Mr. Miyagi understands the importance of drills. Coach Neymeiyer shared this with his players to make the point that everything they do is for a purpose. Everything they practice will show up on the field.

This week’s installment highlights a drill we use with our players to teach and reinforce proper toe-knee-chin alignment, referred to by Dub Maddox as “zero position.” In this drill the receivers work through each hole in the ladder focusing an getting to that zero position and then breaking back down hill at the top of the ladder.

The second phase of this drill involves everything that the first does, but we add a catch at the end as they break back down hill. The only thing I would like to see adjusted in the drill is where the thrower is placed. I’d like to see him throwing from right next to the ladder so that the spot they are training their eyes to get to is inside like it will be in an actual play.

Here is the game application of the comeback by the same player that is in the drill.

Dub’s book Headset to Helmet can be purchased here:

My iBook 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays can be purchased from the iBookstore on your iPad here:


When It Shows up on Film

Validation for everything you do as a coach on the field and in the classroom is when you see that skill that is constantly drilled in practice show up on game film. The ultimate goal of practice is that the physical skills being taught are directly applied and successful in the game.

Here’s an example of a simple drill we do with the quarterbacks daily. It’s called the concept call drill, and it’s a great drill for mental repetitions. We typically use this drill when field space is limited, when we want to rest arms for a little while, or simply in pre practice to mentally rep each concept that we have on the script. This is a drill that Dub Maddox and Darin Slack outline in their R4 book, From Head Set to Helmet. You can purchase this outstanding coaching resource here.

In this clip, the quarterbacks can be seen working their eyes and feet through the progression, and finish with a B-gap escape (Release).

This type of movement of the eyes and feet through the progression can be seen in the following game cut-up. The QB starts to the left and moves across to his right finding a receiver and throwing him open.

Another drill we work daily is a planned B-gap escape. This is the natural place for our quarterback to leave the pocket in our protection if he has exhausted all options down the field in working through his progression, or if pressure flushes him to the backside. This is another daily drill. The quarterback basically has two options: the B-gap is open and he can maintain his status as a passer looking for any receiver on that side or a late opening receiver working towards him as he begins to leave the pocket, or as he begins up into the pocket, the defender closes the gap and he must release outside of the B-gap getting around any outside rusher. The drill is shown here:

Game application of the drill can be seen in the next video clip.

Seeing what you work on everyday in practice certainly justifies all of the hard work in drilling. It also provides you with good feedback on how you are spending your time. How often are you seeing those drills/skills replicated in a game? Scale your use of your drills based on the frequency of which it happens in the game.

I will be writing on this topic much more during spring practice which begins for us on April 2nd. You will see posts on American Football Monthly and on this website. I primarily use AFM for offensive clinic articles, and post smaller tidbits here. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or suggest topics. My email is

My iBook, 101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays can be purchased on your iPad through the iBookstore by clicking the link below: