Inside the Helmet: FB Blocking

Former Nittany Lion running back explains the keys to opening holes in short-yardage situations. From pre-snap analysis to contact with a linebacker, find out a few keys to blocking.

In this edition of our exclusive Inside the Helmet series, former Nittany Lion fullback Matt Hahn reviews the key elements of blocking success on short yardage situations. Hahn was instrumental in helping Tony Hunt eclipse 1,000 yards in 2006. He was also a major factor in helping pave the way for Rodney Kinlaw's 1,000-plus-yard season in 2007, blocking for him in eight games before being sidelined with a season-ending ACL tear.

Inside the Helmet: Fullback Blocking

The wham, power or iso block is a fundamental play every fullback must be successful at in order for a team to have a successful running game.

It is fourth and short and there is one thing going through my head as a fullback — bulldoze the man in front of me. If that happens, we will have a new set of downs, and although my contribution will most likely go unnoticed by the fans watching the game, I will know that I will have won a personal battle with the defender on the opposing team.

We set up in the I-formation as usual on the short yardage play. Our “power” personnel have entered the game; two tights ends and two backs are considered as the “power package” to provide added blocking to open up space to move the chains.

The play is called to the left side of the line and, as usual, I am called upon to be the lead blocker. My job is simple — block the linebacker and move him back at the point of attack.

Step 1: Defensive Analysis

Before the play, many thoughts are going through my head. The first thing I focus on after breaking the huddle is the defensive alignment. I notice the outside linebacker lined up tight on the line on our tight end's outside shoulder. This tells me that, more than likely, the tight end is going to reach block the defender on his outside half. Basically, the tight end will put his helmet on the defender's inside number forcing him in an outward direction off the snap.

By looking at that alignment I know that my path more than likely will take me up inside the tight end's block, where I will be taking on the middle linebacker who will be filling in the hole at full speed.

As I am in my three-point stance I continue to survey the defense. I take a quick glance over to the safety to see if he has dropped down into the box, which would indicate he is possibly coming in on a blitz off the edge. If that happens, then he becomes my blocking assignment.

I take notice of his body language and have a pretty good idea that he will not be blitzing on this play. Defenders definitely give you clues when they are coming. During my football career, I have never seen a linebacker or safety blitz from a flat standstill position. The key to picking up blitz is being aware of where defenders are on the field and the situation and reading the clues they give you.

My focus now turns back on my linebacker assignment. Before the snap I see the 'backer chopping his feet and inching up toward the line. Because of the situation and his body language, it is certain that he will be coming to fill in that whole fast. Here his main job is to make the tackle or blow me up, stuff the hole and allow one of his teammates to wrap up the ball-carrier.

Step 2: Mental Prep

I mentally prepare my self for the collision in the hole. It is at this point where you shift mindsets. Now that the scheme analysis has taken place, it's time to become a football player and make something happen. You let your toughness and instincts take over. You have mentally prepared for a massive collision and focus on winning the battle.

The ball is snapped, and sure enough the tight end widens his man out. This move opens up the hole. Just as suspected, my linebacker assignment is now pushing to fill the hole quickly to clog up the lane.

Step 3: Physical Attack

It's time to play — the winner of this mini-battle is going to be the man with the best leverage. As I get into the hole I feel the running back right behind me in my back pocket. I know he is following me and counting on me to lead him to the first down.


The collision takes place. I focus on making contact, while keeping my hands on his inside in order to control him. Next my leg power comes in. I drive my legs as hard as possible and begin to feel the defender's knees buckle. Like a chain reaction I feel my force begin to overpower him. He loses his positioning and gets driven out of the hole, hence opening up the lane for the running back to grab the first down.

There is no better feeling when you make contact and you feel the running back cut off your block. At that point you realize that you were a major part of helping your team get a new set of downs and a new opportunity to put points on the board.

The key is pulling together a sound analysis of your situation (reading the clues), boosting your mental toughness and combining your fundamentals and physical aggression.

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