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Michigan Inside Zone Blocking Drills

Posted by Gavin Southworth on

Coaches, do you find yourself in situations where you have the perfect play design in the run game, but you just aren’t quite executing the way you’d like to?

Maybe it’s trouble effectively executing double team blocks and climbing to the next level, or maybe it has to do with your players not taking proper leverage when approaching the defenders that they’re blocking.

Coach Sherrone Moore, Offensive Line Coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator at the University of Michigan, has put together a great two-part video series on the Michigan Football Offense. 

Watch the video below to hear his explanation of how they coach inside zone blocking drills, or keep reading to see more.

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - The Chute

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - The Chute

Michigan's wrinkles and gadget plays in the run game are well-known, but in order to get better at the nuts and bolts of this offense, it all starts with the chute.

The first set of drills that coach Moore implements into his practice routine take place under the chute. In the photo above, the players are repping a base blocking drill. Coach has his lineman wear handcuffs to stress good hand placement on the defender and to create muscle memory of good technique.

Michigan’s lineman practice these drills in cuffs every day to create extensive repetition and ensure that they are prepared to use proper technique on game day.

Again, the purpose of this drill is to imitate a base drive block. This start of this block occurs in 2 steps. The 1st step allows the lineman to plant his first foot in the ground and time up his second step with his hand movement at the same time.

This synchronized motion allows the lineman to have an effective aiming point with his hands which he will fit underneath the chest plate of the defender and accelerate his feet to get off the ball.Each lineman does this drill with both his left and right foot leading to rep experience on both sides of the field.

Coach Moore stresses keeping your players’ pad level low, striking firmly through the numbers, and bringing their knees through the thigh boards. This is the most important part of the block. The lineman’s hands are simply there to make contact, but the knees are what creates the push downfield.

In order to put your players in the best position to succeed, stress that they gain enough ground on their initial step off the ball so that their second step doesn’t need to be too long. However, make sure their step isn’t so large that they create an awkward base for themselves on their second step.

Offensive Line Drills - 2nd Level Blocking Drill

Michigan Offensive Line Drill - 2nd Level Blocking Drill

Michigan’s next drill teaches getting off of double team blocks and climbing to the 2nd level. They do this by scraping off the 1st level double team and then targeting the first defender that shows upfield and running through him. 

As the defense moves laterally, it is important that your lineman learn to pivot their hips in order to absorb and combat directional change which can be easier said than done. This process can be aided by players using their hands to steer the defender where they want to go.

There are two progressions to this drill: the first whistle, which signals to get off the ball and the second whistle, where the defense will move either right or left depending on the coaches signal pre-snap. This helps teach the players not to guess where the defender is heading and to stay disciplined with their movement.

This drill combines the skills of striking and controlling directional movement as blockers must maintain bodily control after the defender reacts to their initial strike and picks a path to pursue the ball. This is when lineman must be able to rotate their hips and remain in control.

It's important to remember there are specific distinctions between coaching up the double team on a zone scheme compared with a gap scheme like counter. We go into more detail on the Michigan counter play HERE.

Offensive Line Drills - Base Drive Drill

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - Base Drive Drill

Next, coach Moore runs through some more base drive drills. The emphasis of these drills is to get off the ball quickly and accelerate their hips towards the defender based on where the pressure is coming from. By having quick hips, it makes it much easier for a blocker to control defenders.

Another important takeaway is that even though you want to quickly close the distance between the blocker and defender, you don’t want to be reaching for him. Extension in the run game is bad. Rep your players keeping their hips square to their target and getting tight to him to prevent his ability to detach and find the ball.

Michigan Backside Double Team Blocking Drill

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - Double Team Blocking Drill

Here coach Moore is working some double team drills for the backside of inside zone. 

The aiming points here are simple: the backside guard works through the inside half while the backside tackle is trying to get his helmet inside as well and work through the double team and eventually climb to the 2nd level.

Repetition of this drill is as important as ever. Instill the instinctual habit into your players of aiming to cover the defenders numbers as fast as possible and stop thinking through the process. The faster your play speed, the more effective the inside zone concept can become.

Frontside Double Team Blocking Drill

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - Frontside Double Team Blocking Drill

On the front-side, the guard and center are taught to create a vertical path but not too high with their angle of approach.

The guard will drive through the inside hat of the defender and the center will put his body between the inside hat and attempt to drive the block back across.

A key concept with this section of the block is the one step decision. On the first step off the ball, the blocker will read the hip of the defender and determine what course of action to take next. If their hip goes away, the blocker will climb. If the hip stays, the blocker will take it over and knock it down before he climbs.

Michigan Half Line Drill

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - Michigan Half Line Drills

Another useful tool coach Moore uses to perfect his blocking schemes is the half line drill and segmentation of his run game. Coach Moore teaches his concepts in sections to different groups of lineman bit by bit before he puts it all together. This makes it conceptually easier for the players and maximizes the crispness of his blockers’ paths.

In the diagram above, the right tackle singles the DE while the guard and center double at the snap, followed by the guard climbing to the 2nd level.

Off Ball Drills with Tight Ends

Michigan Offensive Line Drills - Michigan Off Ball Drills with Tight Ends

Finally, coach Moore shares his preparation for different defenses by repping blocking schemes against off ball looks with a TE in the game. By making this a regular part of practice, his players are prepared for multiple in-game looks and aren’t caught hoping that the defense subs into a certain look or personnel package.

When prepping for multiple scenarios, Michigan also drills their blocks and timing to minimize the impact that these looks have on their offensive strategy.

Conclusion

There are a few key takeaways from this presentation.

First of all, it's important to develop good hips to maximize control of defenders, even when practicing the double team blocks. Make sure you're repping the correct strike/hand placement and driving knees through the thigh board after making contact.

Just as important is to play fast. Rep getting off the ball quickly and creating quick trigger instincts, and beat that defender across from you to the punch.

Finally, practice perfect 2nd level blocking. The quicker and more effectively you’re able to get blockers running downfield, the better chance you have of springing a run for a big play.

Want More?

See even more from this video series on the Michigan Football Run Game HERE.