Offensive Line Splits And Levels
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jun 26, 2015

FirstDown PlayBook does football drawings and Football PlayBooks as a vocation. So to talk about the importance that we put on well drawn football diagrams that help you communicate better with your players would be redundant.

However, a football drawing does not and really should not show every small thing that happens on  a football play. In fact, we used to have a saying in our Tight Ends’ meeting room in Buffalo that went “Don’t let the drawing get you in trouble”.  Football drawings are designed to show assignments and scheme not technique.

Here’s an example. When we draw the inside zone for you we like to give you a nice clean picture with assignments clearly displayed. The Offensive Line is our focus here. The big guys are all on the same level at the line of scrimmage and all of their splits are exactly the same. Well, if your offensive line plays the real game like this they are playing at a severe disadvantage.
O-line Pic

Good Offensive Line coaches and good Offensive Lines are very aware of splits and levels. This all starts as the Offensive Linemen are waiting at the line of scrimmage for the next play or for the few of you that still huddle, as your Offensive Line is breaking the huddle and coming to the line of scrimmage. Once they have the play (A run play in this case) they immediately want to identify the front they are blocking.

If they are checking the inside zone to the shade as shown in the two drawings then they should immediately be thinking about their splits and levels. The F Tight End is working by himself so to split that Will LB out some is going to help his cause because he can open a hole horizontally as well as vertically for his Running Back.

O-line levels

Depending on the course of the RB the left Guard can anticipate the Mike LB mirroring the Back on the snap. He will do himself a big favor if he will get a little depth off of the ball. This will help pick up any line stunts in the event that the Defensive End comes inside and the Mike scrapes over the top.

Once again, based on the Running Back’s path the right Tackle may want to get a little depth off of the ball, but what he definitely wants to do tighten his split some. Most four down Defensive Lines take great pride in their ability to create penetration and disrupt blocking schemes. 3 Techniques make a living doing this. The right Tackle needs to offset this with his split. A tight split will allow him and the right Guard to get movement on the 3 technique Defensive Tackle to the second level. After that they can adjust off of what the Sam LB does.

Veteran Defensive Line coaches will teach their players to read levels and splits. How much of that actually gets communicated in a game is debatable but it is valid enough to consider. Good Offensive Lines will keep normal splits as they wait at the line of scrimmage or as they break the huddle and initially come to the LOS. It’s only when they get down into their stance that they cheat the split vertically or horizontally. By this time the Defensive Line is usually frothing at the mouth for a sack or a tackle for a loss and don’t notice the last second adjustment.

Now please don’t get us wrong here. We are not introducing anything that is novel or earth shattering. As we mentioned earlier, good Offensive Line Coaches have been coaching this for years. Here’s what we will say though, it’s an easy thing to over look as you get in the world of scheme and assignments. It can be particularly easy to overlook in the Offensive philosophy that wants to run as many plays as fast as you can and coach them in the meeting room.

So as you begin your installation with the players when they report for summer practice in July or August put this small but important thing on your daily reminders. If you reinforce it early then the players will take ownership once they see the benefits.

FirstDown PlayBook is a comprehensive football coaching website that is constantly growing.

FirstDown PlayBook is on Twitter , Google+  and  Facebook.