Teaching offensive linemen to be skillful in their pass set takes efficient reps, and patience. Always work for quality vs. quantity. There are several aspects that need to take place in the pass set: timing and stability of the punch, the contact point of the punch, even weight distribution, and the eyes.
An effective pass set consists of:
- Get out of the stance/footprint (snatching the down hand off the ground).
- Create and transfer force.
- Pre-snap separation or create separation in the set.
- Maintain half-man relationship (take away the defenders’ options).
- Maintain even weight distribution.
- Be patient but violent.
- Hand carriage. No lower then the belly button and no higher then the sternum.
- Punch-timing and punch zone recognition, hand shake distance.
- When striking the defenders don’t break the elbows.
- Power of the eyes.
The objective of the punch is to apply penetrating force through the defender, which will redirect the defender’s force/mass. A critical aspect of the set is the awareness of the punch zone, which is created by timing the punch. What is the punch zone? The punch zone is the optimal distance in which and offensive lineman can violently strike the defender by creating penetrating force while maintaining proper posture and even weight distribution.
With that said, timing of the punch is a byproduct of efficient feet. Having efficient feet will put an offensive lineman into a position to effectively use the hands when the punch zone is recognized. Therefore, the feet are critical because the upper body is very dependent on the lower body. Also, to be effective in the pass set the feet and hands have to work together. To earn the punch, you must first win with the feet.
The punch zone will vary for each offensive lineman. The punch zone is based on an individual’s length, the length of his arms, and his athleticism. Due to punch zones varying, each individual lineman cannot be put in the same box; in other words, one size does not fit all. When striking the defender, if the elbows break, penetrating force will be lost. Think of the punch as handshake distance. It is important to remember the punch is short extension with compact explosive movements.
The punch is a whole body movement. Engaging the scapular rotators and locking and engaging the lats along with other muscles will create explosive power in the strike. When striking the defender, do not lean on the hands. Also, the head should never follow the hands or weight distribution will be lost. If the punch is early, the offensive lineman will lose balance by reaching and leaning forward which does not allow for the ability to redirect.
Any time an offensive lineman is reaching out with hands on his initial movement, his weight will be pulled forward, getting overextended and losing balance/power. Once out of balance, he no longer has the ability to apply force or react or redirect. Therefore, do not lean on the defender. Instead, get the hips under the feet. If the optimal punch zone is not created, punch late rather then early.
The contact point in the punch is the heel of the hand. Don’t strike with a flat hand or all power will dissipate through the body. Don’t strike with the fingers because penetrating force will not be applied. When striking the defender, open the hands, which will create a larger surface area. The punch is short extension or a short jab. Think of a boxer when striking; penetrating force will be created with a short jab.
However, unlike a boxer, the lineman must externally rotate the thumbs away from the body to create stability in the punch. By rotating the thumbs away from the midline of the body and punching low plane to high plane, torque and lift are created. When striking the defender, the elbows should rub the ribs.
Another aspect of the punch is the hand carriage, which is critical. Do not carry the hands too low or too high. Carry the hands between the belly button and the sternum.
Work for optimal horizontal leverage with the hands. Optimal horizontal leverage is to have a thumb-to-deltoid relationship when striking the defender, keeping the hands open to create a larger blocking surface. The closer your hands are together, the more likely the defender will knock both hands down at the same time. Plus the body has a pivot point at its center. If the hands are too tight on the punch, it will allow the defender to rotate the shoulders right or left creating a soft edge.
Maintaining the body’s centerline will create equal weight distribution 50/50. What is equal weight distribution? Draw a line from the midline of the body to the ground, which is the body’s centerline of gravity. By maintaining a centered position, stability is created. Also, the base of support is determined by how wide apart the offensive lineman’s feet are. The feet should not be too wide or too close.
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However, each individual offensive lineman will have a different base of support based on length. Thus, to maintain stability an offensive lineman must maintain even weight distribution on his feet. Both feet need to be firmly planted into the ground before the strike can take place. Never punch off the kick foot. Always work for short quick decisive steps along with maintaining a post-staggered relationship. Two short quick decisive steps will beat one long step any time. Don’t drop the post foot. If you lose your hip, you are giving the defender a direct path to the quarterback. All movements need to be compact and explosive with no wasted movement. The goal is to have violent feet and violent hands.
The heaviest part of the body is the head; if the head is down, the eyes are down as well. Therefore, the body will follow the eyes. The eyes should be focused on the surface area on the defender that is going to reach the offensive lineman first. Get the eyes on a landmark. When striking the defender, bug the eyes so they do not blink on contact.
This article was written by Ken Wilmesherr, offensive line coach, Southwestern College.