The main thing, play #1, the hub of the wheel, the hammer, God’s play. The power off-tackle has been a staple of football offenses since its inception. Today, many coaches, regardless of offensive system, still build their entire offensive structure around this play. Thus, coaches should develop drills to help improve aspects of the play, as well as the overall mentality of their players in response to it. In the single-wing offense, the formation itself is designed with the emphasis pointing directly at the off-tackle opening. However, the drills I am going to discuss today were originally borrowed from the double-wing offense, a close cousin of the single-wing, and adapted to fit our system. I give credit to Steve Calande for many of these coaching points. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor are the drills anything earth shattering, but it is my hope is that, as I did, you may be able to adapt and use these drills for your offensive system, even if it is not the same as ours.
Drill #1: Power Alley
I wholeheartedly believe in naming your drills for quick recognition, as well using poignant coaching phrases that players repeatedly hear emphasized. Power Alley is perfect setting to emphasize these coaching points.
Power Alley is essentially a standard gauntlet-type drill, where a running back progresses down an alley of defenders, who are either popping the back with a pad or trying to strip the ball. However, in this version of the drill, we place defenders with tall heavy bags at various locations to emphasize opening the off-tackle hole, as well as pressing the opening with force and aggression.
We tell our backs not to cut in Power Alley, but rather to be their own blocker in a campaign to gain 5 tough yards. We use phrases like: “Drive for 5!” In an effort to get more reps for other key positions, we will also integrate the other backfield positions, as well as the funnel puller (in our case, the inside tackle). One key coaching point we use is creating the analogy of popping a zit. While this may be an unpleasant image, it is an appropriate teaching tool for high school boys. We tell them to continue to press and squeeze the alley until you pop out the other side. This image usually clicks and they understand the objective of the drill.
Drill #2: Pull & Pancake
This drill is intended to teach blockers how to finish and pancake a defender. This is a great drill to use early in the season, or with younger or inexperienced players. Finishing through a block and pancaking a defender may not be a natural movement for some, and this is a SAFE way for them to experience it and learn what it feels like to truly finish. In addition, this is a drill that your players will love. It can be a good way to pick up a lackluster practice or reward your players.
Really this drill can be done with any play, but here it is diagrammed for our power off-tackle play. We are able to teach the finer details of the kick-out block and the funnel pull, while ending with the pancake into the crash pit. The defender to be pancaked is told to hold the bag in a sturdy manner and to give with the blocker. Instruct them that this a safe drill and will not hurt, and their job is to get pancaked. Because of the hand shield and large half-rounds forming the crash pit, there is plenty of padding to fall safely. I think you will see your players start to enjoy the drill very quickly. Yes, there are other reactions these defenders may show, but remember the objective of the drill – to run your feet, finish, and pancake the defender.
Drill #3: Power Hour
Power is an attitude play. It can be an entire identity for a team. If you want this to be your best play, a play that you call when you absolutely must have a yard, you need to develop this mindset in your players. Power Hour is the best drill for cultivating this confidence in your players.
To begin, line your offense up at the 3-yard line against a standard defense and run your power play. It is your job as coaches to put excitement into this and convey the importance of being able to get 3-yards with every attempt. Make scoring over the goal line a big deal, no matter what the circumstances. From here, run nothing but your power plays over and over, or as long as entire hour. Have the offense immediately line up with no rest and run the play again. Push them physically and mentally. As they begin to score regularly, stop the drill and add a twelfth defender. Then repeat. As success is attained, continue to add defenders on defense. Maybe it takes 15 defenders to stop the power play. Maybe 20. The most we have scored against is 26 players on defense. The point being, when it is 4th and 1 and you talk to your players in the huddle, you can look them in the eyes and say: “Look, we got 3 yards on 26 defenders, I know we can get 1-yard here!” At this point, they will be sold and you will have an identity play.
I do feel it is important to warn coaches, do not do this drill or add defenders too quickly. Make sure your players know their assignments and can execute well against a standard defense. We want this drill to be a confidence and morale builder, not the opposite. With some units, you may have to stick with doing the drill for 15 minutes against a standard defense. Later, maybe it is 30 minutes and you are able to work up to 12 or 13 defenders. The point is to establish the mindset of success with the power play, no matter what the defense may do; that the power play cannot be stopped by the defense, only by our lack of execution. We have done this drill for as short as 10 minutes, or as long as an entire hour, as the name suggests. Sometimes we do it to continue to build on success, and others to cleanse our souls of a soft game or practice. We truly believe that you cannot practice soft and expect to play physical.
I hope these drills and coaching points mentioned here can provide a nugget you can integrate into your offensive practice. Power has many moving parts and those parts have to be practiced with meticulous detail. If you truly commit to improving your power play and your players’ response to it, I think you will find the rewards you are seeking.
Fear The Wing!