When teaching the offensive line the importance of preparation, I always refer back to a quote I heard from a Navy SEAL that I strongly believe:
“Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”
— Derek Warehime (@CoachDWarehime) February 23, 2018
This quote describes the significance of everything we teach our players. Everything matters! Everything from having a pencil in a meeting to making the right call at the line of scrimmage. If we allow our players to fall short on even the most minor detail, it will cost our unit somewhere along the way. My goal as a coach is to prepare my players for the most difficult moments and to have prepared them so well for that moment that they can always revert back to their training. No circumstance should ever overwhelm them.
SMART, TOUGH, DEPENDABLE
Being an offensive lineman is one of the most unique and difficult jobs in all of sport. Offensive linemen are typically the worst athletes on the field and must be trained in a much different way than most positions in football. In order to play this position successfully, one must have a few important intangible traits.
The first is intelligence. This is a very mentally demanding position to play; if there is hesitation at the line of scrimmage, disaster is soon to follow. Offensive linemen must be trained very hard when it comes to the mental side of the game – whether it be in the meeting room, during walk-throughs, or at practice.
The second and probably most important trait all offensive linemen must possess is toughness –mental and physical. The mental side of toughness refers to both intelligence and the ability to push your body with your mind under difficult circumstances. Players must be put under pressure every day – during the off season, in meetings, and throughout practice – to develop mental toughness in preparation for game day. Physical toughness is non-negotiable. If a player does not like contact, then he will have a difficult time playing this position at a high level. Physical toughness is more than having the courage to strike. Offensive linemen must also have the ability to be physical while playing with technique, which will allow them to finish a block.
The final trait a player must have is dependability, which does not just mean using the technique has been taught. This is something that must be proven every second of every day. If a player cannot be trusted to be where he is supposed to be, when he is supposed to be there, both on and off the field, then it will be hard for him to be trusted during a football game.
MEETING ROOM: The first phase of teaching takes place in the meeting room. When the time comes to teach players, a coach must be extremely organized and detailed. The goal of a teacher is for his students to absorb the information given to them. In order for this to take place, a teacher must be clean, clear, concise, and direct. The meeting room should be clean and distraction free. The players should be expected to come to the meeting room prepared for work, with materials necessary to take notes. When teaching, the players must sit up straight with both feet on the floor and have their eyes on the speaker. It is important that the players are engaged in the discussion and it is vital that they speak with confidence when asked questions. In the meeting room, the objective is to teach players to communicate the language they are being taught and to show them what they are doing well or where they need to improve.
WALK-THROUGH: The next phase of teaching is getting the players on their feet walking through the information covered in the meeting room. Again, it’s important that the players understand the expectations in the walk-through setting, which are the same expectations that exist in the meeting room. The intensity should pick up in a walk-through and the communication should be very clear. Players watching must pay close attention and take mental reps while in a walk-through. The intent of walking through is to ensure the players understand their assignment on each play, the communication applied to their assignment, and the technique that must be used.
INDIVIDUAL DRILLS: Phase three of teaching involves individual drill work. During these opportunities in practice, it’s vital that players understand not just the emphasized technique, but how the technique applies to the schemes they were taught in both the meeting and walk-through setting. Every drill should have a specific purpose and should reinforce exactly is going to happen on a live rep. The emphases during drill work should be footwork, hand placement, and pad level.
LIVE REPS: The final phase of the teaching process is live reps in either group or team drills. Live reps should take place toward the end of practice to ensure that the assignments and techniques have been taught and learned throughout the process of repetition.
PRACTICE FILM EVALUATION: In preparation for the next day of meetings, walk-through, individual drills, and live reps, it is important to watch film and evaluate the execution of the schemes and techniques from the completed practice. It’s important to review practice film with the players. During the next meeting, they must be shown what they did well and where they need to improve.
In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate how unique and difficult it is to be an offensive lineman. Every member of an offensive line unit is required to be the smart, tough, and dependable. These demands exist every day. After a job well done, there will be no pat on the back; there will be no article written about them in the newspaper; there will be no recognition of a job well done from anyone outside of the offensive line unit. It is vital that the pride and bond within the offensive line unit is strong. Unit members must embrace the challenges of training together, overcome difficult circumstances together, and hold each other accountable every second of every day. When the training process is executed properly and the unit bond is formed, there will be no obstacle to great to overcome.
The fate of all of us depends upon the conduct of each of us! – Alexander the Great
Derek Warehime enters his second season at Texas in 2018. He will coach the Longhorns’ tight ends after coaching the offensive line the previous three seasons under head coach Tom Herman at both UT and Houston. Warehime joined the Houston staff after three seasons with New Mexico as the Lobos’ tight ends coach, adding the title of run game coordinator in his final season. Prior to his time at UNM, Warehime spent two seasons as the offensive line coach at Sam Houston State. Warehime worked for two seasons as the offensive line and tight ends coach, as well as the strength and conditioning coordinator, at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. He was the offensive coordinator in 2009. Warehime spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons as a graduate assistant for the offensive line at Rice. He was also the assistant video coordinator during that time.