Tap the Hip Linebacker Drill for Youth Football

Linebackers are the heart of the defense and must be able to make consistent tackles in a variety of different situations. Sometimes linebackers have to make tackles in a confined space. In these scenarios, while the linebacker must take on and defeat a block before making the tackle, they normally don’t have to worry about tackling the ball carrier in space. The other place where linebackers have to make tackles is in the open field. Sometimes this is the result of a sweep play that has gotten to the edge or a pass over the middle. In these situations there normally isn’t a block to defeat but because of the open space the ball carrier has more room to make the defender miss. In these situations it’s critical that the linebacker takes a great angle and takes away the possible angles the runner can take.

Tap the Hip Linebacker Drill for Youth Football

The “Tap the Hip” drill is a great drill to get any defender, but especially linebackers, to learn how to cut the field in half and force the defender to a side. In the Tap the Hip Drill the linebacker and ball carrier start on cones 15-20 yards apart from each other. 5 yards in front of the runner is one cone called the cut cone and there are two cones on a 45 degree angle from that cone (the set up is demonstrated below).

Tap the Hip Linebacker Drill for Youth Football

Tap the Hip Linebacker Drill for Youth Football Set Up

The drill should start with the coach saying go or blowing a whistle. When the drill starts the ball carrier should run at the point cone and make a cut to either cone. The defender will start on the go of the coach and cover ground coming forward. As the runner approaches the point cone the defender should be watching the hip of the ball carrier while moving forward to limit the open space. When the ball carrier gets to the point he should plant either foot and cut towards one of the two cones. When the ball carrier does this the defender must get on his inside hip and continue to close ground on the ball carrier. To simulate the tackle the defender will touch the inside hip of the runner as he runs behind him.

The Touch the Hip drill is designed so that defenders can work on taking the proper angle to make open field tackles in a non-contact setting. There are a couple of key points that coaches need to make sure they are watching to make the drill effective.

The most important coaching point is making sure that the defender gets in, and maintains, a great pursuit position when the ball carrier makes his cut. We define a great pursuit position as inside leverage with an angle to make the tackle. We stress inside leverage so that the ball carrier cannot make a cut to the inside. A great pursuit position forces the ball carrier to continue his line and which brings him either to the sideline or an easy angle tackle. Many time the defender will lose this inside leverage which allows a ball carrier to make a cut back. We use the phrase “don’t get over the top” to tell the defender to be patient and maintain his inside leverage.

The other main coaching point is to make sure the defender continues to move forward. When defenders do not move forward they give the ball carrier more room to make a move and also gain more yards. Instead as the ball carrier is moving forward the defender must be moving forward in control and eliminating the potential room for the ball carrier to make moves.

The best part of this drill is that it tends to be a self-correcting drill. Many times the players can feel when they lose inside leverage. When the players can feel themselves make mistakes they are able to get immediate feedback into what works which allows them to make the necessary corrections.

(See Also) Coaching Guide: Youth Football Linebackers

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