Life in the Trenches: A Survival Guide for Defensive Linemen | Youth1

Life in the Trenches: A Survival Guide for Defensive Linemen

By now you’ve probably heard the phrase, “life in the trenches” used by either your coaches or your teammates. It’s a very popular phrase that’s used to motivate linemen to take ownership of their position when they are on the field.

Life in the trenches is not glamorous. Rarely praised and often ridiculed, it is a not a position for the weak.

Nowadays the impact linemen have in the game is tremendous. Long gone are the days where linemen simply hold blocks and leave the tackles to linebackers. Linemen are expected to make big plays but because the game has changed so much, it’s important to understand the tangibles needed to be a force up front.

Glenn Deveaux, Camp Director at Camp Lineman, who offers an aggressive schedule of camps around the nation provided exclusively for offensive and defensive linemen told us, "Sound principles and techniques are critical for development of young defensive linemen. Understanding the basic fundamentals of the position and practicing with good form gives an athlete the best opportunity to maximize their talent. Size and speed will only get you so far, but when you add sound technique, that takes you to the pinnacle." Glenn speaks with all the on-field knowledge to back it up, as a former Pitt Panther and Seattle Seahawk's running back.

To make more of an on-field impact as a Defensive Lineman, incorporate these key principles in your game:

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QUICK FEET

Quick foot ladder drills are a great way to increase foot speed.

There are over two dozen workouts that can be performed using the foot ladder, including the lateral snare and the snare drill.

For the lateral snare, simply line up vertically against the ladder and try to get each foot in the square, moving quickly down the ladder. How will this translate on the field? In any sport, repetition is the key to success but sometimes it’s not always easy to remember everything you’ve been taught and execute it. Linemen are constantly told to keep their feet moving at a fast pace and doing this exercise several times a week will eventually become a habit.

Do not neglect ankle and calf exercises as those two parts of your body not only have to carry your weight as you move, but will be the two body parts you utilize the most when you are facing off against your opponent.

Everything from the way you change direction to how quick you explode off the line will rely heavily on the strength in your lower body.

As a youth athlete, it’s not safe to spend a lot of time in the gym, so performing these workouts should be kept to a minimum.

HAND PLACEMENT

Playing in the Trenches is about much more the how strong you are in the weight room. LIfting too early or too often in most cases causes stiffness that mostly can not be undone. The game is much easier when the right techniques are applied. Hand placement and positioning are vital elements; as well as playing with low pad level. It's all about controlling your opponent and having enough separation to get off and make plays.A good lineman is not afraid to get his hands dirty. When you line up against your opponent, you have to have the mindset that you are going to get your hands on him and control him before he gets a hold of you. Williams, a former lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the University of Connecticut also said it’s important to have control over the guy that’s in front of you.

Hand placement and positioning are vital elements; as well as playing with low pad level. It's all about controlling your opponent and having enough separation to get off and make plays.”Hand placement and positioning are vital elements, as well as playing with low pad level,” said Julius Williams, a former defensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “It’s all about controlling your opponent and having enough separation to get off and make plays.”Playing in the Trenches is about much more the how strong you are in the weight room. LIfting too early or too often in most cases causes stiffness that mostly can not be undone. The game is much easier when the right techniques are applied. Hand placement and positioning are vital elements; as well as playing with low pad level. It's all about controlling your opponent and having enough separation to get off and make plays.

 

PASS RUSH

There’s nothing more gratifying for a lineman than sacking the quarterback. And for a defensive end, the feeling is even better knowing you had to get past a really good right or left tackle. The key to getting past the mammoth in front of you is a combination of speed and technique.

One technique every defensive lineman must have is hand checking. According to stack.com, the best way to perform this drill is to line up across an offensive lineman, being no more than arm’s length apart. When your opponent attempts to put his hands in your chest, you should swap his hands away immediately. That quick delivery of force will either knock him off balance and force him to move to the left or the right – and that’s when you should make your mad dash to get to the quarterback. Forcing the pocket to collapse and putting the quarterback on his back could be one of your best assets once you get the hand checking drill down.

RUN DEFENSE

Your ability to read and react will be a key factor in making plays in the run game. As a lineman you will have to diagnose which way the offensive line is shifting as they try to make a way for the running back. Have you ever noticed that when teams take another team’s ability to run the ball, they struggle?

This is what coaches call forcing a team to be one dimensional. The University of Alabama is infamous for doing that. They pride themselves on being able to stop the run, which forces teams to throw the ball. Typically, in college football (or at any level), most teams are not loaded with multiple receivers, so that puts another wrinkle into your opponent’s game plan.

TECHNIQUE

No matter your size, if you don’t have the strength you need to move your opponent, it is going to be a long game. However, Williams says spending too much time in the weight room can have a negative impact on your ability to stay loose. At the end of the day, technique is what is most important.

“Playing the trenches is much more than how strong you are in the weight room,” said Williams. “Lifting too early or too often in most cases causes stiffness, that in most cases, cannot be reversed.”

As a lineman, you want to be disruptive, so its important to utilize every drill. It may seem like a lot at first, but with more practice you’ll be able to put everything together in one game.

SPEED

The foundation of being a good lineman starts with your agility. As a big man, speed is crucial because you will have to learn how to carry your weight. Offensive linemen come in all shapes and sizes but if there’s one thing that will remain constant is the fact that you will have, on most, occasions, a rather large human being in front of you that is the on the same mission as you.

Stack.com suggests doing sled or resistance band sprints, resisted partner band sprints, the resisted backpedal. Working on your 40-yard dash time is also a great way to work on your speed. There are no special drills required. Simply grab a friend or a parent to time you so you can track your progress.

Playing in the Trenches is about much more than how strong you are in the weight room. Lifting too early or too often in most cases causes stiffness that mostly can not be undone. The game is much easier when the right techniques are applied. Hand placement and positioning are vital elements, as well as playing with low pad level. It's all about controlling your opponent and having enough separation to get off and make plays.

To work on these skills under the guidance of Pro and College coaches, register in one of the camps offered by Camp Lineman for real results in your game:

 

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