Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Stopping the Pass in Youth Football

Stopping the Pass In Youth Football With Your Defensive Linemen

One of the reasons most drop back passes in youth football are not successful is the QB rarely has good sight lines to his intended targets or he has to alter the trajectory of the ball to get it over the heads of oncoming defensive linemen. Yet the drop back pass is still the primary pass scheme most youth football teams use to try to throw the ball.


The reason my personal teams have more interceptions in the last 6 seasons than the opponents have completions has more to do with our defensive line play than it has to do with great secondary coverage. In fact we have more interceptions returned for TDs (5) than our opposition has TD passes (0) or even completions inside our 20. We do not gamble much on defense, we feel we can control the game with our base defense and techniques with a few timely stunts called based on offensive alignment nuances. We don�t play blitz guessing games that often lead to cheap scores by the offense. While we probably make fewer QB sacks than most teams, we allow far fewer completions and get far more turnovers. Our defenders also rarely run past the QB giving him open field running room on scrambles and cheap first downs.

How do we do it? First we play under control and do not blitz every down with blitzers running past the quarterback. Most of our interceptions are made by our linebackers in the under zone coverage scheme we use. Our defensive linemen put controlled pressure on the QB in these situations, our defensive ends contain and we shut down the QBs passing and viewing lanes.

From the first week of practice we teach our defensive linemen to recognize and react properly to the pass. Rather than doing endless rip, bull rush or swim move drills, we combine them with form tackling and pass recognition progressions to the drills. Example: When doing a swim move drill on a stationary tall dummy, add a player standing in the QB position at typical handoff mesh depth. After the proper swim move has been executed and the defender is at his proper predetermined landmark, if the QB has the ball in his midsection a perfect �fit� form tackle is executed on the QB in the drill. On the other hand, if the ball is at the QBs chest level or higher, the defensive lineman must yell pass, put his hands high in the air and rush to the QBs face. So this is a 3 in 1 drill, a penetration technique drill, form tackling drill and pass recognition drill. Getting youth defensive linemen to put their hands in the air is one of the most difficult things to do in youth football. It has to be drilled constantly and the players have to be held accountable to recognizing the pass, yelling pass, getting their hands in the air, continue to penetrate and take away the vision sight lines. This is not an intuitive movement, the kids have to be drilled to quickly search their backfield key and recognize if it is a run or pass. Just coaching a defensive linemen to swim or rip is just part of the puzzle, as most defensive lineman run right past ball-carriers. This defensive drill and others are in Chapter 5 of my book.

Last season my personal team played a very good team that ended up 8-1. They were a team that passed the ball well all season. They threw the ball 31 times against us without making a completion in a 38-0 win for us. While their team had a few nicely drawn up football plays, their QB threw a nice ball and the receivers ran descent patterns, we were in the QBs face all day. He rarely had lots of time or open lanes to throw through. While we only recorded 2 sacks, we got one interception and they didn�t move the ball very well, which is the end goal.

Remember when coaching youth football the best and simplest way to stop the pass is with your defensive lineman. To heck with 3 different coverages that rob your team of valuable practice time and confuse the kids. Measure success by how many first downs and touchdown the opposition has gained by throwing the ball, not sacks and interceptions. Some coaches fail to remember that the goal is to score more points than the opposition, stats and pretty big plays mean nothing.

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