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The Eyes Have It!

Whittier's defensive linemen are trained to locate the football with their eyes WHITTIER COLLEGE HAD its finest season in 25 years in 1998. We won our second straight SCIAC championship, nine out of our last 10 conference games, and wound up with a record of 7-2 (5-0).

We finished first in the conference in defense and ranked 18th nationally. We increased our sack total by 11 and our hurries by 24. We had six All-Defense selections, including an H.M. Division III All-American, and the Defensive Player of the Year (1997) in the SCIAC.

Our defensive philosophy under Defensive Coordinator Steve Garcia has never strayed. We are a multiple-front attacking defense that gets to the football with 11 people.

On the defensive line, we range between 215 and 245 pounds, which makes us one of the lighter defensive teams in the conference.

But size isn't a criterion in our philosophy. Our defensive linemen know that they must be able to run and be a playmaker. Their 40-yard times do not impress me. Their tackles and sacks do.

We want our defense to be sound and we want our linemen to have the athletic ability to make it work. We give them the freedom to be extremely aggressive, and have them use a lot of blitzes, stunts, and movements to dictate tempo and disrupt the offensive timing.

We pay a lot of attention to the A, B, C's (fundamentals) and especially the "eyes." Even when they are on the move up front, we want our linemen to keep looking for the football. You cannot make tackles and sacks if you do not know where the football is.

All of us have had linemen stop moving their feet upon making contact and linemen who could drive a one-man sled 20 yards or run a fast 40, yet seldom made a play in the game.

We teach our defensive linemen to do everything while locating the football (determining the play). Every drill requires the player to look for the football. We implement this in four ways:

1. By the number. We have injured players, managers, or myself continually holding up numbers behind the players in the drill.

During our warm-up get-offs each day, we will have our defensive linemen call out numbers as they see them.

During our time on the one-man sled, we will hold up numbers for the defensive linemen to call out.

We even utilize the numbers during cross-over one-on-one pass-rush work with the offensive line.

2. By the ball. We utilize drills with the ball as the target for the eyes. We simulate three, five, and seven-step drops and throw the football. We also move the pocket and throw and we are always looking for fumbles.

3. By the ball-carrier. We have the players do a lot of work on redirecting their movement on toss or sweep, trap and counter.

The defensive lineman must locate the ball and run. Every step that isn't taken toward the path of the ball will reduce the defensive lineman's opportunity to make a play.

We want our linemen to be sideline-to-sideline football players. Our defensive tackles can make that play for us because they are taught not to stop on a play that is going away from them; they must react immediately to the play.

4. By misdirection. though few teams in our conference use a lot of deception on offense, every team has some kind of thing it can do, whether it is a bootleg, counter, draw, screen, reverse, or option.

We work on these things by constantly showing them to the players to get them used to seeing them and increasing their awareness of them, especially in key situations.

Defensive linemen must coordinate their eyes and feet simultaneously: To feel the offensive line blocks happening in front of them and see where the ball is going. They don't have to look directly at the offensive linemen once they determine formation, pre-snap tendencies, and the weight distribution of the offensive linemen.

The offensive linemen won't have the football. The QB will have it. Every second a player wastes locating the football with the eyes will coast him an opportunity to make a defensive contribution on that play (via a tackle, sack, or hurry).

Our goals on the defensive line are to be playmakers. We aren't waiting for things to happen. We aren't there to sacrifice ourselves and create openings for others. Our job is to get to the football and make a play that will change the momentum of the game in our favor.

We work on quickness and speed and being athletic and finding the football. We train the eyes to work in harmony with the body. We don't hesitate in anything we do. We want to make things happen!
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Author:Lindheim, Gifford
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:799
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