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Basics of the Offensive Line
written by osugrad21 and exhawg (6/5/2004)

Offensive line play is an intricate game of angles, schemes, and match-ups that will usually decide the outcome of a game. The realm of offensive line play is a vast area of techniques, audibles, and adjustments that cannot be completely covered in this forum. However, hopefully this series of blogs will help to answer some of your questions regarding the line.

We will start out with the absolute basics of the offensive line and then use ExHawg's expertise to explain the differences in Zone blocking vs. Drive blocking.

Golden Rules of O-Line play: First and foremost, an offensive lineman must always keep his head up and his helmet to the playside. In other words, the helmet must always be in between the ballcarrier and the defender. Next, the feet must NEVER stop moving. Dead feet equate to zero push at the point of attack which causes a stalemate. The defense wins in a stalemate situation. Finally, the block must be carried out until the whistle blows. A great offensive lineman will finish his block whether it ends in a pancake or driving the defender into the sideline.

Splits: The term Splits refers to the spacing between the offensive lineman. Although the splits will change with various offensive philosophies and situations, the common split rule is 2-3-3. In other words, there should be two steps between the center and guard and three steps between the guard and tackle or tackle and tight end. In passing situations, short yard situations, or trap instances, the splits can be lessened or widened according to the play.

Ten Essential Offensive Line Blocks
1) Drive Block--The drive block is the simplest of blocks in that it is a one-on-one matchup with the defender. The lineman will fire off low and fast to meet the defender. Once the contact is made, the helmet will slide to playside and the feet will churn to drive the defender out of the running lane.

2) Read Block--The read block is exactly like the drive block except that the lineman will "read" the direction of the defender and simply assist him in that direction. The back will read the block and make the appropriate cut.

3) Hook Block--The hook block is usually designated for the tight end or the tackle if the ball is being run to the weak side. The hook block happens when the lineman takes a quick step to the outside then seals the defender inside. This is frequently seen on sweeps or quick tosses in order to allow the back to turn the corner on the defense. If the hook block is unsuccessful, the defender can move laterally to stretch the play thus giving the defense time to pursue the play and stop it.

4) Double Team--The double team block is self-explanatory. Two lineman will bear down on a defender, the most immediate threat to the play, to negate his potential of clogging the running lane. For instance, many off tackle plays will call for the tight end to come down hard to assist the offensive tackle. This leaves the fullback to "kick" the defensive end and open the running lane for the back.

5) Trap Block--The trap block is usually performed by the guards. If an outside trap is called, the tight end will either veer release to a linebacker or double team the defensive tackle. This leaves the defensive end free to penetrate into the backfield. The trap comes from the backside guard who will "pull" down the line to kick the exposed end out of the play. The fullback will usually fill the hole left by the pulling guard while the tailback will take a jab step, as if following the fullback, but then counter back to get in the hip pocket of the guard. The running lane is created as the back cuts off to the inside of the guard's block.

6) The G Block-- Although the terminology is widely varied on this block, this type of block occurs when the playside guard or tackle will pull to lead the play. For instance, many forms of the toss sweep will have the guard or tackle G to lead the back to the outside. The philosophy in this block is that the defender who is left unblocked will not be fast enough to hinder the play.

7) Seal or Cutoff Block--This type of block occurs on the backside of a play. If the ball is being run to the opposite side of the line, the backside lineman will seal off the defenders by turning them away from the ballcarrier. This is used to prevent backside pursuit from busting the play.

8) Fold Block or Cross Block--The fold or cross block is when two offensive lineman take advantage of pre-existing angles by "X-ing." For instance, if the play is coming off-tackle, the tight end may fire down on the defensive tackle to wash him inside while the tackle fires off to the tight end's outside pocket to block the defensive end. This type of block is based on timing and communication. The lineman must be clear on which blocker will fire first and whether it will be to the inside or outside.

9) Combo Block--A combo block is a temporary double team block where one player will peel off of the double team to move onto another block...usually a linebacker. For example, if a combo is called for the guard and tackle, the tackle will fire down on the defensive tackle while the guard "posts" his helmet into the defender's chest while working his helmet to playside. As soon as the guard has favorable position on the defensive tackle, the offensive tackle will peel off of the double team to move onto the second level and seal the Mike linebacker.

10) Cut Block--The cut block is used on plays like quick passes where the defender must be taken down quickly to open a passing lane. In this block, the lineman will immediately fire into the legs of the defender to cut his legs out. This block is also called the "pee hole" block for obvious anatomical reasons.
Well, I'll break the ice ... GREAT PIECE!

I always assumed that the "G (spot) block" had something to do with the phrase "Not tonight I have a headache" :wink2:

Seriously, keep up the outstanding work. These short "tutorials" are fantastic.
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This, as well as all previous Blogs, have been great. I've kind of known some of the info in this and other Blogs but not to th extent you guys have been presented. And of course, some of it I didn't know at all.
Thanks Guys
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I don't want to split hairs here, but that was an incomplete breakdown. Anyone who's watch Ohio State football for the past couple of years knows that one of the most important parts of any play is pulling up your pants afterward.
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KSB, this was a basic coverage of blocking technique. I'm sure osugrad21 and exhawg will be releasing the intermediate coverage of blocking and line technique very soon. In that I'm sure you'll fine a detailed explaination of "pants hitching", proper "crack display" while in the three point stance, and the taboo explaination of game time "pee-pee dance". :tongue2:
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Stepo had a few excellent combo blocks....

in the 2003 Fiesta bowl, one of which I believe led to Clarett's overtime TD. Stepo covered up Vilma and allowed Clarett to side step Taylor and run through a D.J. Williams arm tackle. I think that was the scenario.....a thing of beauty in my book.
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