Shoulder Blocking vs. Hand Blocking in the Delaware Wing-T
by Bryan L. Schaumloffel
“Grab your jersey with your hands and extend your elbows out, that way the refs can’t call you for holding!”
That was the advice given to me by my father in high school. That was the way his coach taught him in the 1950’s. The problem was I was playing high school football in the late 1980’s where I was allowed to extend my arms into a player. When I was in college I was taught to cock my arms back like I was a gunslinger and pull my six shooters out of the holster and drive the heels of my palms into the defenders chest and grab underneath his armpits for a “legal” hold. Times have changed a lot in football. Rule changes have been made that give the offensive lineman a tremendous advantage on blocking. When I watch the classic football games on TV it amazes me that the offensive line was able to block anyone rushing the passer while blocking with their hands tight inside to the body. Today in the pass happy NFL and Fun and Gun offenses of college football most people are aware of the rule that allows offensive lineman to extend their arms while blocking a defender. As teachers and coaches of the Delaware Wing-T many of us have held on to the “old fashion” shoulder block technique. Many of us pride ourselves in teaching the basic “shoulder skills” each August.
With more zone blocking concepts being integrated into the Wing-T package many people have abandoned the shoulder blocking concept. Even the University of Delaware toyed with the idea of using the hands technique on their zone and scoop blocking schemes. Does the teaching of the hands technique need to be added to the skills we teach our blockers? We teach our ends to stalk block using this technique on the perimeter. Even the Delaware Wing-T teaches modern passing blocking techniques using the hands. Is it time for the Wing-T to modernize its blocking techniques?
First lets look at the blocks that a Wing-T linemen would use. One of the advantages that many coaches like about the Wing-T is that you do not have to have the big strong lineman to create holes for the backs. In the traditional Wing-T a team could capitalize on the down block and the angle that it generated to provide openings for the running backs. Most of the time a Wing-T blocker will use one of the following blocks: down, base, fire, trap, and reach. Most people would agree that a player generates more power with the shoulder block on the down, trap, and base block. But what about the fire and reach blocking schemes? Are we asking our blockers to block people one way when there is an easier way? Speaking from experience I believe that using the hands technique is much easier on the reach and scoop block then the shoulder block. Like anything else coaches add to their offense, practice time is always a consideration. Like most coaches we spend a lot of time teaching and practicing the shoulder skills. Is there enough time to practice both the shoulder block and hands technique within a regular practice schedule? There are coaches doing it but are they sacrificing something else by doing it?
I have always been a traditionalist when it came to the Wing-T and used the shoulder technique on all blocks. Like clockwork I looked towards Newark, Delaware each spring to learn the latest Wing-T techniques and schemes. But now, with the Wing-T forever dead at the University of Delaware can coaches finally get out of the “book” without feelings of guilt because we are not running the true “Delaware Wing-T.” Can coaches break the mentality that some of us had that, “We can’t do that because Delaware doesn’t do it!” I know not all coaches that run the Wing-T felt that way but I know there were a lot. It should be interesting to see the direction that Wing-T takes in the future. Is the abandoning of the shoulder block in the Wing-T offense a trend that we might see?
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