Stop YAC and Know Your Tacklers with Coach Vince DiGaetano

By Eliot Clough | Posted 9/4/2019

Coach Vince DiGaetano, special teams quality control coach at Fordham University (N.Y.) knows the ins and outs of tackling. DiGaetano is also one of several college coaches across the country serving as a Master Trainer within USA Football’s nationally endorsed Heads Up Football program.

There are two primary pieces of advice Coach Dig emphasizes: Stop yards after contact (YAC) and know your tacklers. 

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“[Yards after contact] really measures the effectiveness of your ability to tackle,” says DiGaetano. “We’ve talked with players over the years [and] we could look at missed tackles, but we really want to measure our effectiveness of being able to knock players back.”

Another reason YAC is a key piece the Island Park, N.Y. native focuses on is the fact that those yards can add up quickly. “We point it out to our players,” says Coach Dig. “If someone is about 6 feet tall and they just lay out, that’s about 2 yards. You look at these things about being able to fall forward as opposed to being knocked back, and [if the opponent falls forward] over the course of a game, those [yards] really start to add up.”

According to DiGaetano, in order to stop those yards after contact, one must know their tacklers. This process starts in the offseason. “There’s so much that goes with leading up to closing space when making tackles with leverage, with off-setting carriers, with fitting up gaps,” says DiGaetano. “When you watch enough of it in the offseason and you really do spend enough time analyzing the tackling, you get to a point where your eyes shift [and] your coaches’ eyes shift to what the outcome is going to be based on the approach to the football. And you really can coach up from that perspective of it too. In that set of time, you really learn that no two tacklers are alike.”

DiGaetano takes the time to learn from film, but also says he uses spring ball where his athletes are allowed to put the pads on. “College football has got the advantage and some states [at the high school level] have the advantage of being able to go full pads in the spring, so they’re able to implement a little bit more [tackling],” says DiGaetano. “Some people have a summer programs, camps and stuff like that, but to really be effective at [coaching tackling] you really have to know your tacklers.”

The tackling specialist then makes reference to a quote he heard at a clinic. “I heard this, actually from an offensive line coach,” laughs DiGaetano. “He said, ‘I coach everything from the feet to the eyes.’ So knowing where they place their feet on contact, knowing where their dip and bend is going to end up being is so key that you’ll almost end up being able to guess what the outcome is.” 


Your defense is only as good as each tackler. Equip your staff with a common language, a systematic teaching progression and evaluation tools to coach better tacklers.