Offensive Line Play: The Proper Stance

In Football Content, Offense by Ryan SwingleLeave a Comment

In offensive line play, the stance is the most important element of the game. If a player is not in a proper position to effectively move after the snap of the ball, the rest of the play is doomed before it even starts. The following points will show you exactly how to get lined up pre-snap from any position on the line in order to efficiently move off the the ball post-snap.

The key elements to the stance of any offensive line position are depth of stance, correct hip alignment, and proper weight distribution. If these three areas are in the right position, the athlete will be able to effectively move to their post-snap landmark with maximum force generated from the lower body.

Depth

Many offensive linemen have trouble identifying how low they need to get in their stance. Some get too high in their stance, because this position feels more comfortable to them. As a result, they do not have proper leverage or the ability to generate maximum force coming off the ball. Others have the coaching cue low man wins engrained in their head, and as a result they get so low that they have to raise up post-snap or lose the ability to move effectively coming out of their stance.

This is one of the more difficult areas of the stance to coach, because there is no one answer across the board. Every athlete’s body is built differently, and in turn the depth of every stance will be slightly different.

An effective way to determine proper depth of stance is to start in an athletic position with your palms on your front hip flexors. Start to push your hips back and sink your butt with hands naturally moving down your quad and eventually passing over your knees. Once the angle of your wrist folding over your knee and the angle of the knee bend naturally match each other you are at proper depth. If a space between the wrist and knee develop you are too low.

Hip Alignment

Hip alignment is crucial to being able to gain ground towards your landmark out of your stance, regardless of the play. If your hips are in proper alignment you simply have to change the amount of force through your drive leg and adjust the angle of your course with your catch leg to get to where you need to be, rather than changing your stance depending on the play.

Your hips will follow your knee, which also tends to follow your foot, so proper knee and foot position will dictate your hip alignment.

First, both feet should be slightly outside of shoulder width creating a sturdy “A-Frame” base. Starting with your inside leg closest to the ball, this foot and knee should be pointing directly toward the line of scrimmage. Then with your outside leg, bring the outside foot back with your toes aligned to the halfway point of the opposite insole of the inside foot.

Next, turn the outside foot to a 45 degree angle. This will allow for a proper pass set with that foot taking you on a 45 degree angle in your set. However, if you stay in this position your hip will be flaring open causing for your gate to open in a pass set and not enough force being generated to move effectively when moving inside in the run game.

In order to get the outside hip in a proper alignment, the athlete must pull their outside knee back into a neutral position getting as perpendicular to the line of scrimmage as possible.

Weight Distribution

This area of the stance tends to be an issue for younger offensive linemen, but still applies to all levels. The number one thing to remember when thinking about weight distribution is an offensive line stance and a defensive line stance are drastically different as the movement required by the two positions are also extremely different.

First, weight should be evenly distributed between the heels and feet. It is important to have the entire foot or “every cleat in the ground”. If your entire foot is not in contact with the ground pre-snap it is very hard to get it their post-snap, and if you can get it there it is wasted movement. This is because the larger surface area generating force through the ground the more power will be generated allowing for you to move the defender.

The other big point to focus on with weight distribution is the ability to pick up your hand in a three-point stance. There should be no difference in weight distribution between a two and three-point stance. The only difference between the two is simply placing the outside hand on the ground.

An effective way to see if a player has too much of a forward lean or unequal weight distribution out of a three-point stance is to pull the down hand out from under them in their stance. If they fall forward they need to shift their weight back.

The Center

The center has a slightly different stance has he is aligned directly over the ball. There is no inside or outside foot to refer to, nor do they have the ability to drop one foot slightly behind the other.

The goal for the center post snap is to essentially turn into a guard depending on which direction they are moving. In order to effectively do this, the center must slightly open both hips as a guard would with his outside leg.

To do this, start in the same athletic “A Frame” position with both feet parallel to each other. Then pull the toes up and rotate on both heels until both feet are slightly pointing out in order for the hips to turn into a slightly open position. This allows for the center to effective pass set in either direction or effectively generate upfield or lateral force in the run game.

The same rules for depth and weight distribution apply with the center simply resting his hand on the ball to snap it.

Conclusion

The stance is the base building block of offensive line play. In order for an athlete to effectively carry out their block, they must be set up for success from the start. If the athlete can determine proper depth of their stance, get their hips in a proper alignment, and their weight correctly distributed, they will be able to effectively move off the ball and maximize force generated to move defenders.

Other Points to Consider

  • It is important to actually take time during practice to go through step by step on how to get into a proper stance
  • Brush up on the stance throughout the year as this can be a forgotten but crucial aspect of offensive line play
  • Teaching this stance helps take the head out of the block promoting player safety
  • Don’t arch the back in the stance, pretend there is a rod running from your butt to your neck in the stance

Related Questions

What do offensive linemen eat?

Offensive linemen tend to be bigger so a higher caloric intake is necessary to maintain size. However, it is important for them to move effectively, so it is important to eat in a way that allows them to put on healthy lean mass.

What is a pass set?

A pass set is the way an offensive lineman blocks to protect the quarterback on a pass play. There are many ways to teach a pass set, but usually they move at a 45 degree angle to cut off the defenders path to the quarterback.

How big are offensive linemen?

The size of offensive linemen isn’t as important as many think. Sure there are benefits to functional strength and size, but technique is the main emphasis over size. Average size vary by level, but most NFL linemen are roughly 6’3″ and around 300 pounds.

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