December 20, 2010 • Football

Football: Iowa’s 6-minute tackling circuit

The University of Iowa football team prides itself on a hard-hitting defense that typically ranks in the Top 10 nationally in points allowed. Head coach Kirk Ferentz uses this six-minute tackle circuit to improve the tackling skills of all his defenders. Within this circuit are three drills — Chute Drill, Eye-Opener Drill and Follow-Thru Drill.

Ferentz says the first and most basic concern of this circuit is safety. These drills are intended to provide a safe and effective method of tackling while focusing on proper tackling technique. Each drill has a different approach to getting to the ball carrier, but once contact is made, the tackler must display these four elements of a sound tackle:

CHEST TO CHEST: It is imperative that a defender makes contact with the chest, not the helmet. Not only is contacting a ball carrier with the helmet unsafe and illegal, it is an unsound way to tackle. Ferentz instructs his players to keep their eyes up when making a tackle.

ROLL YOUR HIPS: To execute a sound tackle, Ferentz says a defender must become hip-to-hip with the ball carrier. If a ball carrier can keep a defender away from his hips, then he has the advantage. Rolling the hips prevents the ball carrier from being able to keep separation from a tackler.

CLUB THE ARMS: The tackler wants to club the arms and grab cloth on the ball carrier. The idea is to make sure the tackler wraps up the ball carrier.

FOLLOW THROUGH: This is a necessary step to finish the tackle. Just making contact is not enough, the defender must drive his feet and hips through the tackle.

Have players remain at a station for two minutes before rotating to the next one. Have coaches stay at their station and only instruct one drill.

Chute Drill

The Chute Drill focuses on close-quarter tackles.

Ferentz tackling1DIAGRAM 1: Chute Drill. Lay three to five agile pads on the ground about two yards apart. Position a tackler across from a ball carrier at opposite ends of the “chute” and perpendicular to a selected line of scrimmage. Each “chute” has a tackler and a ball carrier standing opposite each other.

On the coach’s whistle, the ball carrier steps toward the tackler. The tackler attacks the ball carrier, strikes and follows through. The next tackler and ball carrier execute the same drill in their “chute.” Repeat this until each tackler has gone, then reverse it so the ball carriers are now the tacklers.

Eye-Opener Drill

The Eye-Opener Drill focuses on side tackles.

Ferentz tackling2DIAGRAM 2: Eye-Opener Drill. Lay three to five agile pads on the ground about two yards apart. Position a tackler three yards to the side of the agile pads facing the ball carrier. Position the ball carrier only 1 yard to the side and facing the agile pads.

On the coach’s whistle, the ball carrier runs at a three-quarter speed alongside the agile bags having the choice to turn up into any of the “chutes.” The tackler must shuffle his feet and remain square to the ball carrier. The tackler maintains his inside-out leverage on the ball carrier. Once the ball carrier determines the lane he wants to run through, the tackler must enter the “chute” and make a form tackle. Once the ball enters the chute, this drill turns into the Chute Drill.

Follow-Thru Drill

The Follow-Thru Drill emphasizes following through when making a tackle.

Ferentz tackling3DIAGRAM 3: Follow-Thru Drill. Position a stationary ball carrier in front of a large yellow mat. The ball carrier is holding a hand shield in front of his chest. Position a line of tacklers facing the ball carrier about three yards apart.

On the coach’s whistle, the tackler attacks the ball carrier and executes a full-speed tackle, bringing the ball carrier down to the mat.

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