Tackling and Ball Disruption

Presenter: Vernon Hargreaves (Defensive Ends/East Carolina University)

Tackling is all about an ATTITUDE.


  1. Head & Eyes up, in a good base.
  2. Approach under control - short, choppy steps. Always be moving forward.
  3. Get close, hit through the target. The "Tackle Area" is within a yard to 1 1/2 yards from the ball carrier.
  4. Club Up - shoot the arms, grab cloth, emphasize the hip roll.
  5. Accelerate the feet on contact, with good hip roll through.

Side Tackle

  1. Head in front of ball carrier, the head should never be behind. Hit high in the Numbers.

Gang Tackling

  1. Take a shot at the Ball Carrier as long as he is standing up.
  2. Punch the ball carrier and force fumbles.
  3. Get everyone to the football.

Open Field Tackle

  1. Tackle high - aim at the chest. Put your face on the ball carrier (or tackle Chest to Chest, different way of saying it).
  2. Take a side, and force the runner to go one direction. Inside players should give him a one-way go, to the sideline. Never give the ball carrier a two-way go.
  3. Grab cloth. Hold on and wait for help. On an open field tackle, you are not trying to punish the ball carrier, just get him to the ground.
  4. Drop your hips and come to balance. You never want to 'break down,' but get choppy steps in balance. If you break down too far from the ball carrier, you will lose him or be run over. Break down in close quarters to him. Come to balance so that you can move, hips under you. Don't over-extend looking for a highlight tackle.

Tacklers want to stay on the backside hip and force it to the sidelines. Coach Hargreaves gives the command "FEET! FEET! FEET!" on contact, to remind players to run their feet through the tackle. This is one of the most important parts of tackling. When they hear that reminder enough, it becomes reaction, but you have to make it a reaction for them.


No Pads - Summer or early season with no pads on, players will rip off a bag and get to the backside hip of a ball carrier. They get used to being in the right position, but there is no contact.

To help Running the Feet - Use the One-Man sled, fit into it and give the "FEET! FEET! FEET!" command, they have to run their feet to move this one.

Working back off the block - Working against a cut-back by the running back. They take on an OL block as the RB moves one direction. RB then cuts back, they work off block and back to make the tackle.

Get leverage on your gap and the ball carrier is going to cut back anyway. Show color in the gap and you force a cutback.

Create drills that simulate game situations. For example, Coach Hargreaves created a Flare Drill for tackling a running back running a flare. He had LBs having trouble making the play. They had to learn to get their inside hip on a flared back, in open space. Usually when they had man coverage on him.

More on Tackling

The Hitting Area is within a yard, come to balance there and drive feet through.

If the ball carrier's shoulders are square, yours should be square too. If he turns to run, you have to turn your shoulders somewhat to run with him, but you don't want to turn and run all the way unless you have to. Keep position on the inside hip. Eyes are always looking at that inside hip.

Don't panic because a guy is fast. Just run him to the sidelines. Don't give him a two-way go by over running him and opening up the cutback. Use the sidelines as an extra defender. Coaches can help by incorporating real football into practice time.

Forcing Turnovers

  1. Fumble Recovery Drills: Work recovering in a pile, and also work Scoop & Score Drills.
  2. Strip Drills: Over the Top, Punch Through, 2nd Tackler Strip, Sack Fumbles. In 7 on 7 and Team, we aren't killing eachother tackling but we always want to try to strip the ball!! It helps the back with ball security too.
  3. Line Games - Get Penetration!
  4. Blitzing

My Notes

Coach Hargreaves used a lot of footage from the video he made with the Miami Hurricanes in 2003. Hargreaves was with the Hurricanes from 1998 until 2006, including a National Championship in 2001. That video is available at the top of his page. All of the drills described were shown from that video as well. I think this would be a good video to show to your kids, not just from a technique standpoint, but from the standpoint of the attitude of tackling and gang tackling displayed in it.

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