Drill Bits: Line Technique

Off-season work is about "getting the basics of the game to become second nature," as one Penn State practice observer explained. From winter to preseason practices, the players conduct a wide array of drills, some of which we review more closely in our Drill Bits series. In this edition we review line drills on both sides of the ball focused on enhancing the players' fundamentals and technique.

Technique & Fundamentals

The Penn State coaching staff works a variety of drills through the spring and preseason practice sessions to "help the players refine their basics of their game and overall technique," as one observer explained. The overall objective of this work is to make the fundamentals of their position second nature to help enhance their overall play.

Dummy Snaps

Overview: As one observer explained, "One of the most vital aspects to offensive success is the split second from [an offensive lineman's] stance to their engagement of their assignment." One way Penn State works this is by getting the linemen in their stance and having them "set their" block" on a tackle dummy.


TE Mickey Shuler pummels the dummy.

This drill is fundamental to helping the player "snap out of their stance and set their block with an impact." Offensive linemen are not the only players who work this drill. According to another observer, "The linemen make their living setting blocks, so they do it regularly, but the tight ends, running backs, wideouts - most offensive players will be setting blocks in certain schemes, so they get work in this."

Benefits: This drill focuses on getting the linemen to refine their downed stance, but it also "works setting their base, footwork, hand placement and overall control of their power. It's not about trying to just run over [an assignment] - the player needs control in order to direct the movement to open up holes. A lot of young guys come in and just try to bulldoze off the line. The veteran [defensive linemen] just drop a shoulder or step out to let the young player take himself out of the play."

Rush Drills

Overview: This is a basic drill that the defensive front seven will run which set a series of "barriers" (see below) that serve as the offensive line. From here, the front seven will run through various schemes. The coach will stand in the quarterbacks position and call out/change the scheme the unit will run.


Coach Vanderlinden runs the front seven through a blitz rush drill.

The unit will use this drill to work blitzing schemes and coverage schemes. "Both the linemen and 'backers benefit from this since it gets added position reps in for them."

Benefits: This drill helps the linemen with their positioning and penetration skils, as well as their "space assignments." It helps the players on the line to understand what their counterparts on each side are doing and the area they are responsible for. "It helps them to work together and works their footwork off the snap."

The linebackers get a good set of work in this drill as well, focusing on their reads and the "coordination of their play with the D-linemen." They also "practice their motions, like their blitz angles or coverage on the wings."

Penetration Work

Overall: These drills typically take a one-on-one or two-on-two set up which pits the offensive and defensive linemen against each other. The basic drills starts with the linemen in their downed stance. About 10 yards deep from the starting position is a tackle bag (an upright padded figure - see below).

On the whistle the defensive lineman engages his offensive lineman assignment with the goal of making contact with the tackle bag. This drill "can be incredibly intense - it really fires up the guys."


Chimaeze Okoli attacks to reach the bag.

Benefits: This works both sides of the line. For the defensive linemen it allows them to bring together their rushing technique - shoulder position, rips, swims, sweeps and overall hand positions. It also works their speed and footwork and "assignment management. As one observer said, "It's all about making the corner and hitting that bag, so they just pull it all together. This is a great drill for Larry Johnson to see what he needs to work on with a player - which isn't always fundamentals, it can also be intensity or aggression."

For the offensive linemen, they get to work their footwork, hand positions, lateral movement and overall strength. "This drill is tough for the [offensive] linemen - they're getting no help, so it's almost like they are playing corner trying to beat a wideout to the route. It is a drill that really separates the great ones - it can really expose weaknesses."

Check out previous edition of our exclusive Drill Bit series:

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