Simple blocking rules can take an offensive line a long way

By Tom Bass | Posted 3/29/2018

Jim sent the following question:

What are some simple but effective blocking schemes I can introduce to my team’s offensive line this fall? I coach fifth- and sixth-graders, so they're ready to handle more, but I’m not sure how much more.

There are a couple of rules I learned over the years when coaching offense. The first is to make every player’s assignment clear and concise. The goal is to eliminate the “I thought” response concerning the blocking by a player on any given play.

We also want to decrease hesitation that comes when a player isn't sure what to do or who to block. We want our players to keep the advantage of knowing when the play begins and to be moving on the snap.

For your age group, start by teaching three basic run blocks: Drive (straight-ahead block designed to drive the defender back off the line), angle (blocking to the inside on the first defender on the line, stopping penetration and pursuit) and hook (blocking to the outside on the first defender on or off the line).

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As an example, any time we called a play that required a lineman to drive block, their rule for the player they'd block would be:

  • In (any defensive lineman lined up in the gap to your inside)
  • On (any defensive lineman lined up in front of you)
  • Linebacker (any linebacker lined up in front of you or to your inside)

For the center, the drive block rule is adjusted to:

  • Off (any defensive lineman lined up in the gap opposite the side of the play
  • On (same as above)
  • Linebacker (same as above)

The instant the offensive lineman breaks the huddle and moves to the line of scrimmage, they can determine which defender is theirs to block based on the order above.

The second rule is to have blocking assignments for the offense grouped, so the player learns one rule for a group of plays that you want to include in your offensive scheme.

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This area includes all plays run in the guard-center and guard-tackle gaps – for example 10-11 QB sneak, 32-33 fullback plunge, 24-25 halfback dive or 34-35 fullback slant. In this way, we can group eight inside running plays all with the same blocking assignments for the offensive line at the side of the attack.

Later, we can add a 24-25 halfback dive cross, where the tackle and guard cross block with the tackle first; and a 34-35 fullback trap, where the offside guard pulls and blocks the first defender who shows.  

Group off-tackle plays the same way: 26-27 halfback power with a double-team block by the tackle (drive rules) and tight end (angle rules). A 36-37 fullback belly uses the guard and tackle hook rule and tight end drive rule.

Finally, our wide outside runs are: 28-29 halfback sweep, with tackle and tight end angle rules with a guard on lead pull; 28-29 halfback toss, with a guard hooking, a tackle pulling and a tight end on an angle block. Later you might consider 8-9 hole QB options.

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In review, I suggest the following:

  • Design your scheme and blocking rules to match and reflect the blocking techniques you're asking the offensive players to execute.
  • Try to group your blocking schemes to be utilized in specific areas of your formation you desire to attack.
  • Add descriptive terms to the play call to change the overall blocking scheme you want the team to use.

Fewer plays run with precision and an attacking mentality is far better than an offense with many plays where the players are confused and act with hesitation.

Coach Tom Bass has been a 30-year NFL coach, technical writer and advisor for USA Football. He's also the author of several football coaching books, including "Play Football the NFL Way," the only authorized NFL coaching book, "Football Skills and Drills" (Human Kinetics) and "The New Coaches Guide to Youth Football Skills and Drills."

This is an updated version of a blog that originally published May 12, 2014.