Building an offensive line: What it takes for high school linemen to play college football

By Keith Grabowski | Posted 3/11/2018

Photo via Henry Herald

Coach Herb Hand has established some of the most explosive offenses in NCAA history. In 2016, he reunited with Gus Malzahn at Auburn University as the offensive line coach. There are certain things he seeks when recruiting offensive linemen.

While breaking down film, Hand puts a heavy emphasis on linemen who exhibit flexibility.

“The first thing I always check when we put the film on is flexibility. Can a guy bend? Can he bend his ankles? Can he bend his knees? Can he bend his hips? Can he get into a stance? If a guy has stiff ankles (or knees and hips), that’s hard to fix. We like guys with great flexibility,” Hand said. 

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Thus, flexibility is an integral part of any offseason regimen and a key to extending a lineman’s playing career.

The second item that Hand looks for is foot movement.

“I like guys who can move their feet, that are not heavy-footed. That doesn’t mean I want guys who are playing on their toes. I think that’s an issue as well. I want to see guys with their cleats in the ground that can play with a base and keep their feet moving and not get off-balance a lot. You don’t want to see guys on the ground because they are playing too top-heavy. They are playing too much on their toes and not able to keep their cleats in the ground,” Hand said.   

As a result, linemen should continually work on footwork and technique during the offseason. Simply working agility and speed ladder drills aren't enough, because these drills don't practice the “cleats in the ground” technique that Hand mentions.

Lastly, Hand looks for intangibles.

“We want guys that are tough guys and understand the physical aspect of the game, guys with a finisher’s mentality," said Hand.

“Probably the most important part of it, and it’s becoming more important as time has changed in the last 15 years or so, is that you want guys that love football. I want guys that love the game. When you get to the college level, you better love this game, because it's a huge commitment.” 

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Hand also offers insight into the best methods for developing a highlight video.

“Make sure that the first three minutes have some 'wow' factor that makes me want to watch the rest of it. If the highlight doesn’t catch my eye, I’m probably not going to watch the game film,” Hand said.

Hand’s recommendations for developing an effective highlight reel include displaying an ability to:

  • Play with a low pad level. Be sure every clip displays your ability to bend at the hips, knees and ankles to keep your pad level below the defender.
  • Play with balance. Pick plays where you utilize leg drive and effective technique, rather than plays where you lean on a defender and push.
  • Block on the second and third levels. Include plays that reveal your ability to block a defender in the open field and that you possess the speed to get there.
  • Finish the play. Go from snap to whistle. If a play shows you stopping early, you don't want to include it.
  • Ability to pass-protect. Coaches realize you might not pass a lot in your offense, so if that's the case, don't worry. Find a few good clips of you one-on-one stopping a pass rusher.
  • Try to include various types of blocks. For example, a combo block, a trap block, a pull, lead block, etc. Again, coaches understand that offenses vary, so don't worry if you don’t have a wealth of options.

This is an updated version of a blog that originally published Jan. 3, 2017.