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Afraid of Gap Penetration When You Pull Linemen?

Gap Filling For Pulling Linemen in Youth Football

Some youth football coaches fear that by pulling their linemen, they will leave big gaps in their offensive line that can easily be filled by defenders and cause negative yardage football plays. On the face, that argument may have merit, but when you look at the details it just doesn’t.

If your offensive line has splits that are like you see from Texas Tech on TV, 2-3 yards, pulling would open up huge gaps in your line. However, in my offense our linemen are foot to foot. There are no splits and with shoulder width stances and the gap left by a pulling youth football lineman is 1 yard or less.

The defenders do not know the snap count, so any offensive lineman has an advantage over the defense as far as getting a head start on the snap. We also have all of our offensive linemen with the exception of the center, off of the line of scrimmage. This allows them to pull much easier and allows our other offensive lineman to easily cut off any penetration by any defender by taking a simple short step to the inside, something we rep every day in football practice with our linemen. Since our backs also know the count and the defenders don’t, our backs are usually long gone by the time a blitzing defender gets into our backfield. In fact, despite playing against every standard and junk-yard defense known to man in the last 6 seasons, our first team offense has had just one negative yardage play.

Even if there is a defender right over your pulling linemen, a very simple blocking rule like GOD; inside gap, on, down will put another offensive lineman on the defender covering your pulling player. If a defense decides to cover everyone on your offensive line or go to a GAM type defense, then don’t pull. There would not be a defender to block if your puller made it to the point of attack anyway with those defenses. If a defense blitzes a linebacker he is most often on or close enought to the line of scrimmage to be blocked by the rule or legally cut or crab blocked. If the blitzer comes from a spot off the line of scrimmage there is no way he will be quick enough to make the play, unless he is a Lawrence Taylor clone. We love it when our opponents play those type of defenses, we don�t have to bother with pulling, will still have a double team at the point of attack and will block the unblocked defensive lineman with a kick-out block by one of our backs.

If you have an extremely slow and unatheletic lineman that has problems covering gaps for pulling linemen, have them make a simple but effective crab block. See the posts on crab blocking for more details on that here in the tips section. Gaps left by pulling linemen are not a problem in youth football if your team uses the above techniques.

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  1. Todd Greenwell

    Coach, “We also have all of our offensive linemen with the exception of the center, off of the line of scrimmage” Where are they lined up?


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