Guide for Coaching the Linebackers
Stop the Run
The number one priority of a linebacker is to stop the run. Linebackers must react fast, play fast, and be aggressive. They cannot sit back. Linebackers should be 4 yards off the football. Being 4 yards back will allow the LBs to get down downhill to their gap assignment. It also gives them some room to adjust their downhill path in case the running back changes direction. This will also allow the linebackers to get momentum and rip through or take on blockers. You do not want the linebackers caught up in the mess on the line of scrimmage-they will have no pursuit angles. It all starts with a good stance. They should be on their toes, hands out, and look ready to go!Relentless Pursuit
Linebacker have to get to the football. They must play fast and aggressive. Linebackers must play downhill and never quite on the play. It is vital that they secure their gap and pursuit to the football. The attitude of the defense starts with the linebackers. You want them to play tough, fly around, and make plays. Every single linebacker should be getting to the football. They must play whistle to whistle. When linebackers are pursuing they cannot go around blocks, they must rip through the blockers. It is important to take good pursuit angles to ball carrier because that will take away any cut back space. Do the pursuit drill every single practice:
Teach the mentality that linebackers cannot allow themselves to be blocked. They must rip through all blocks. Running around or dodging blocks will take the linebacker right out of the play and they will give up all their leverage. Here is an excellent article on The Rip Move for Block Destruction.
Block destruction and sure/safe tackling is vital!!! You want to work tackling every single practice. This means working non-contact and some live tackling drills. Form tackling drills, tackle tackling dummies, and use tackling sleds for all non-contact drills. Here is the ultimate guide to tackling safely and with proper technique.
The middle linebacker, aka the MIKE is responsible for calling out the strong side of the offense’s formation. The MIKE must make sure his defense is aligned properly and ready to go. The middle linebacker is pretty much the QB of the defense. You want an aggressive kid playing the middle linebacker position. You want a kid that has good speed, toughness, and is a leader. The middle linebacker will usually have a deep middle zone in zone coverage or will have a running back in man to man coverage (depends on the defense). The MIKE linebacker will probably be responsible for the QB, especially against teams that utilize their QBs in the running game. The middle linebacker must play run first! My defensive coordinator loves to blitz the middle linebacker. It is a high reward, lower risk blitz play. You want the linebackers to be aggressive but also disciplined.
The outside linebackers, much like the MIKE need to be aggressive and tough. The outside linebackers also need to very good athletes. The outside linebackers will usually have to play inside to out. The outside linebackers will have to defend the power & sweep play as well as playing pass coverage. The outside linebacker will have to take on blocks and blow up off-tackle plays. The two most common plays in youth football is the sweep play and the off-tackle/power play. The outside linebacker will play a huge roll in stopping those two plays. These two plays will be coming right at the outside backers.
If you are playing a 53 defense, the outside linebacker will be responsible for C-gap. If you are in a 44 or 34 defense the outside line backers will have contain. Outside linebackers have to be able to destruct blocks, tackle well, and play pass coverage. Many times in man to man coverage the outside backers will be responsible for the tight-end or a running back out of the backfield. In zone, they will usually play the flat or hook/curl zones. Pass coverage responsibility depends on the defensive scheme you execute and the opposing offense. The outside linebackers in our defense are usually our best overall athletes/players.
You always want to pride your defense on creating turnovers. Taking away and gaining possessions in football is huge! The team that creates the most turnovers will usually win the game. Creating turnovers starts with relentless pursuit to the football. When your defense tackles you can have the initial defender secure the tackle and the rest punch at the football. You always want to secure the tackle above all. If your entire team is getting to the ball carrier you will naturally create turnovers. Linebackers will play a large role in pass coverage as well. We will do a turnover circuit every single practice. We will work on stripping the ball, scoop and scoring, and pass coverage/tip drills every single practice after warm ups.
(See Also) 5 Reasons Why You Should Stack Your Linebackers
(See Also) “Tap the Hip” Linebacker Drill
(See Also) Linebacker Read Drills