Coaching Tips for the Defensive Line & Stances by Coach Andy Bryson
After being around a couple of good defensive line staffs at LSU and SLU, I can say with certainty that there is no way to reinvent the wheel when it comes to coaching defensive line. The most important thing to understand is that the basics of d-line are never really finished being taught. Even at the collegiate level, pre-game consists primarily of stances and starts.
The most basic coaching tip for the defensive line is the stance. Believe it or not, there many guys recruited to play college ball that need help with their stances. There are only three stances a d-lineman can get in: a 2-point, 3-point, and 4-point. Now when do you get in one of these stances? It really depends on what type of defense you are running, where the alignments are, and what gap coverage you are teaching. Every coach is different and teaches their guys different ways to attack the gaps, however here is how I have been taught and the way I teach these stances.
4 Point Stance
A 4-point stance is a great stance if you are trying to stop the run. It is effective against the pass, but not quite as good as the 3-point stance. To get into a 4-point stance, have your athletes spread their feet shoulder width apart and take a half step back with one foot so their back foots big toe should be lines up in the middle of the up foot. Then have them squat and put both hands on the ground then walk both hands up two small steps so that their back is level, head is up, so they should have a level plane from their head, shoulders, and hips. From this angle, the athletes will have a 45 degree angle on the snap and this will put your defensive linemen’s feet on the line-of –scrimmage after the snap and help with the leverage.
This should give your players an advantage over the offence line post-snap. First the 4-point stance should be used when you have your players lined up in the 0, 2, 4, or 6. This way the athletes can play the man and close up their primary and secondary gaps. I know that talking about secondary gap coverage at the youth level is unheard of, but if you have a Nose Tackle and that can understand that if he gets his hands on a Center and closes up both A gaps, then a Tail Back will have no choice but to bounce to a B or C gap. The more you make a Tailback think behind the line of scrimmage, the better the opportunity of making a tackle for a loss. This is one of the reasons why I like the 4-point stance, you can line up right on your man.
(See Also) 10 Fundamentals of Defensive Line Play
A 3-point stance is an adaptable stance because it is able to change between stopping the pass and the rush. To get into the 3-point stance, again spread your feet shoulder width apart, then with your inside leg take one step back where your inside foots big toe is lined up with your outside leg’s heal. Now bend down and walk your hands out two small steps. Your inside hand should be the down hand and it should be in line with your back foot. From this position, the athletes will be able to fire out of their stances at that 45 degree angle which will give them the leverage they need to win their individual battle. This stance is the bread and butter of the d-line as it can be used to defend every gap. The athletes outside hand, or the hand that is not down, needs to be in a ready position. I always say it is like when a boxer gets into the ring, he always has his hands up to protect himself. It is the same in football, because the offensive lineman is going to try and block whomever is in front of him by throwing up his hands and getting a hold of him on the a hold of their numbers.
The 2-point stance is used primarily by fast defensive ends and outside linebackers and only on passing downs. Generally I do not recommend this stance to a defensive lineman unless he can run a sub 4.7 40 time.
Coaching Point: the feet, no matter what stance, should always be pointed up field like in a sprinters stance. Also the player’s eyes should be on the o-lineman’s hip that is in front of him instead of down the line looking at the ball. This way they stay one step ahead of the o-lineman.
Now these are just the basic stances used in football. When they are taught correctly the athletes will automatically fire off the line at the correct angle and have the proper leverage on the offensive linemen. Also, if these stances are used correctly, the athlete’s footwork and takeoff speed will improve.