Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vertical Set

I want to give some insight into vertical set pass protection. 

I used traditional kick slide technique for my first 4 years as a coach and discovered vertical pass sets about a year ago.  I began researching the technique and drills, began meeting with coaches, and watched some coaches teach it.  I learned most of what I know about vertical setting from Brian Hamilton, head Coach at Concord HS, in Concord, CA where I live.  I think he is one of the best OL coaches in northern CA and his team won the NCS D-2 Championship this season.

The vertical pass set is ridiculous simple... walk backwards as fast as you can.

Now to traditionalists they will say everything about vertical setting is wrong, the backward retreat will get you bullrushed, you have no leverage and power blah blah blah, the fact is if you coach it right it isn't true, and it is in my mind the simplest form of pass protection and I think it is superior to kick slide

What is it basically?

Vertical setting is essentially the OL equivalent of a backpedal. 
We retreat backwards away from the LOS , looking for all 5 OL to remain on the same vertical plane. 

The OL steps should go
Inside - Out - Inside - Out

basically we always step with the inside foot first, and then the outside foot.  for all 90s protection we take 4 steps back before dropping we "Anchor".  Many teams only use this protection but I still use a separate 60s protection, that is the same thing but for 2 steps.

The vertical portion isn't that difficult to teach, you just need reps.  We just start working our kids to backpedal, but with big steps.  I try to get them to cover ground in those 4 steps, the whole purpose of vertical setting is to be as deep as possible when we make contact.  The kids will feel goofy, look like crap at first, and some might tumble, but keep working it, they will get better and better each day.  By the season some of my OL had better feet than our corners.

Vertical setting is about getting depth, and keeping the 5 OL on the same level until contact is made
It really is easy to teach the base idea, but the devil is in the details.  You have to really work what I call the Anchor

So traditionalists will tell you setting like that will leave you high and with no leverage, and this is semi true, the anchor is what remedies this and helps us regain leverage.  Once that 4th step hits, we DROP our butt right now, to resume that "perfect pass pro posture" that kick slide coaches think they and they alone possess.  The anchor is about when an OL will decide who he is taking.

Vertical sets are so wonderful to me, because the depth and timing of the steps allows you to see any twists or blitzes that might occur.  If any stunt is on, it is happening right in front of my OL while they are setting, they anchor right when they defense should be showing their hand, and then boom we are ready to punch and work our feet.

For those who think we have given up all leverage by backpedaling remember this... SO HAVE THE D Linemen!!!
some of you are thinking, a bull rush will kill them, DL will be right underneath them coming out of their 3 point

well take a look at this DE's stance...

Look at his butt up in the air, all that power stored in those coiled hips... well guess what by the time he reaches us (because of our depth) he will be much more upright, and he will have lost a great deal of his power.

If we anchor after that 4th step, then WE will be the low man, and WE will have the leverage advantage.

Go ask anyone of your DL to do a 5 yard get off, I guarantee by yard #5 he has risen a ton and his body is pretty much upright

We want to be 4-5 yards deep when we make contact
-we start out 1 yard off the ball by alignment
-we try to get those extra yards off of our vertical set

We feel that if we have to make your DL sprint 5 yards before contact, that will take 1 full second.  So before contact we have already blocked you for 1 second.  Now all i do is ask my OL to stay in that man's way for 2 more full seconds (this is whatever you normally teach for pass pro, punch footwork, countering moves, all of that doesn't change from whatever you normally do)

That is 3 seconds, my QB should have it off by then

You would be amazed at how many times I saw opposing DL just stop rushing... they flat out quit because they got tired of chasing my OL just to get even with them, then having to work to get around them, then having to work to get my QB on the ground...
They would get off the ball, see it was a pass, and just stop their feet.

After this season I am a firm believer in what vertical setting can do for you.  My JV team for example, we had somewhere between 250-300 pass attempts on the year, we gave up 5 sacks total.  I think that is a pretty damn good job of pass protecting.

One game alone we threw the ball 42 times and only gave up 1 sack. 
The vertical sets allowed my guys to see every blitz coming.  We never gave up a sack due to scheme, all 5 sacks were just a case of one kid beating another 1 on 1, that's football you win some, you lose some... but I will definitely take somewhere near 300 pass attempts and give up only 5 sacks.

The worst part about traditional pass pro in my mind was the quick sacks... sometimes a kid lunges out and the DL swims over him right at the snap, and he is in the backfield instantly, blowing up the QB.  We never have that now, there is no chance for the instant play because that DL has to run 5 yards before he even gets into position to be able to work a move.

No BIG hits on the QB.  With this system, and the fact that everyone (even if they are HORRIBLE) is at least slowing the other guy down, I have found that the QB sacks we do see in our program are more pull down, grabbing type sacks, never the BIG collision.

All in All, vertical setting is more effective than traditional kick slide, and I think it is very easy to teach.  It isn't fancy, not a whole lot of technique, you can get away with telling your kids, run backwards as fast as you can... and you're half way through coaching it ;)


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  2. Great post. I love the concept, and have wanted to experiment with it for several years.

    Do you think it is better suited for a smaller or bigger OL? Or does it matter?

  3. I really do not think it matters... I had 2 big kids, and I had 3 smaller ones.

    Obviously smaller kids will be quicker at it, and they will need to get good at the anchor, because many people will start off trying to bull rush them, thinking small guy and hes backpedaling, should be easy to bull rush

    but my guys handled it well, because we practiced it. For bull rush I teach them to always stay square, keep fighting to establish leverage and hop the feet back... they can not step backwards once they make contact, too easy to get run through on bull rush. They get lifted, then hop both feet back simultaneously to re-establish leverage and keep doing this.

    I tell them that the only way they can get beat is for the man to literally run them over onto their back. I will take that because by then the ball should be off. Pass protection is a matter of getting run over slowly, You have to preach to your kids that getting run over is ok, everyone wants to be all big and manly and you see kids give up and let a guy bull through one shoulder, and that it unacceptable to me

    If you are gonna beat me you have to completely 100% go straight square through me and run me over, and oh by the way im gonna try to take you down with me. Biggest problem I see with pass pro from bad teams is OL get lazy or arent willing to keep working until the whistle. Pass protection is hard as hell, you have to be willing to fight a fight that you know no matter what you will eventually lose, you just have to be willing to get your Ass kicked for 3 seconds so the QB is clean. It is ok for you to get put on your back as long as it means the QB isnt on his!!!!

  4. Great post and comments as well! I have two questions though that have also come up concerning the technique. First, how can this deep of a drop match up with the QB drops and throws. Second, if you were more balanced with the run would you still feel the need to teach the technique? Specifically can it be taught from a three point stance?

  5. Conservative,

    QB is at 5 yards, quick game is just catch step and throw, getting it out quick, we literally almost dont need to touch anyone, it is often gone before we even make contact up front

    on drop back, he takes 3 step drop in gun. The depth is something your QB has to get used to, he will often be surrounded by his OL and he has got to get comfortable with guys around him, but the benefit is that its his guys back, no defenders are near. Our tackles will still run guys past the QB once they anchor and latch on, so he still has ways out of the pocket if he really gets pressure. QB may get a little cramped in the pocket, but he isnt getting touched thats the thing. A slight shuffle to one side or the other and the ball is off

    This can be done out of a 3 pt stance aswell, although if i was teaching it i would teach from 2 pt stance first, until they get comfortable with it, then progress to 3 pt stance. Ive seen teams do it out of a soft 3 pt stance and blanced 3 pt stance, just need to really snap the upper body back and push off hard

    If you want to be in a heavy run dominate stance then it will slow you up going back, they are two totally conflicting ideologies

    However i think a regular balanced 3 pt stance you can pull from, you can also vertical set from

  6. Do you have any game footage of this??

    What does the center do? What ever foot he feels most comfortable with?

  7. I have footage of this, I just need to work on getting it off HUDl and posting it here. Ill get some up

    I teach Center to step back with the foot to the side he is going, so if he is responsible for going a certain side (depending on front and roger/louie call from F)this helps him square up and split the man

    Against a head up NT that he has man to man, whatever he feels most comfortable with

  8. Thanks a lot. Im really interested in vertical sets. They seem to eliminate a lot of teaching scheme wise and just boil it down so you can work on a few things and get good at it.

  9. Do you see any problems from running this from under center?

  10. I think the most glaring issue with running this under center is the center's vertical set, it worries me that he might be right on that QB for those first couple steps, not sure never tried it so I dont know how the snap exchange would be affected by the vertical set

    As far as everyone else goes I think it is doable, but you need to work with your QB on getting depth in his drop. Even in gun there will be some congestion around him as he throws so under center his depth is key on his drop

  11. What kind of a protection scheme do you use with this technique coach?

  12. Coach,

    I've never coached it, but I've studied it with the Franklin materials. It is incredibly simple to grasp both in technique and assignments. Good breakdown by the way.

  13. Coach,
    I saw Folsom use a lot of this protection this year out of their empty look. It looked like they varied it from a 1 step to a 4 step depending on the pass concept. If the guard is uncovered do they work inside out and if a blitzer comes off the edge does the tackle fan out and the guard take over? Do you have any cut ups? Thank you.

  14. Are you in gun? Can this work under center at all? I'm worried about getting 3 step passes getting knocked down by DL because they aren't engaged right away and get know get their hands up.

  15. Do you use a different technique for play-action? Have you noticed a decrease in effectiveness of play-action since you began using the vertical set?

  16. Can you talk about the centers steps in this vertical pass protection? Does it change because the rest of his lineman are one yard deeper?

    1. His technique is the same... He does not have an inside or an outside because he's in the middle so he will "drift" some to the nearest technique or to the called side if it is a half slide protection schematically

  17. Great posts-any film on this at all? posted online? Thanks

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