Thursday, February 17, 2011

Talking OL with Hudson Houck

I was going through my notes from 2010 and found a conversation we had with Hudson Houck from training camp in California that I thought I would share with you this morning. Houck has been a coach in the NFL since 1983 and has been the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line Coach twice, from 1993-2001 and from 2008 to present. We were talking about his coaching concepts and various other items and I transcribed a bit for you to check out:

Sturm: What is the Hudson Houck Philosophy? I recently read someone say that “Hudson Houck is the yin to Alex Gibbs yang. Gibbs takes undersized zone blockers while Houck specializes in getting the most from massive earth movers.” What do you think of that characterization of your work?

Houck: I think that Alex and I are good friends and his style is very successful in that you reach block, and then you cut people on the backside and you find running lanes. And then, it goes with the bootleg game and the naked game where now you have a Quarterback who rolls out and helps hold some of those people inside so you can get on them.

Where you struggle sometimes with that is in straight “drop back”, because now you can get push up the middle because you have smaller linemen.

So, our idea is, let’s get bigger linemen, so they don’t get the push up the middle and the Quarterback can step up in the pocket and you can throw the ball down the field. And we do a lot of “team-type” blocking; double teams on people and try to move them and also kick people out. And really, we want to open a hole for the runner, #1, ok. And then #2, we want to wear the other guys done. If you are playing a nose tackle for instance or a “3-technique”, and you got two guys pounding on you the whole game and they are good sized guys at the end of the game you slow down a little bit.

I remember some of the Washington Redskins players talking about how some of their players got the “Larry Allen flu” the night before the game. Apparently, that is well documented by their team members – they got tired of getting worn down. I think that is a major part of the game. It is still a physical sport. And like boxing, if you keep get so many hits in the nose, then you start to think, “whoa, let me back off a little bit”. I think that’s part of it and we try to do that.

Sturm: I hope I am not understanding these concepts. The idea of the smaller linemen, often times we are using trapping and surprise tactics and routes to the defenders, whereas with your bigger guys, isn’t it the guy in front of you? I know you like to pull guards, but for the most part it is straight ahead, right?

Houck: We still have kick-out plays and down blocking plays, but we try to work a lot off of double teams. We try to get two guys on one guy and then have a third guy pull around them, and that type of thing.

Sturm: What is the toughest thing for a young lineman at this level? Is it the blitzing and the confusion that defenses try to create in this league?

Houck: Yeah. It is the speed of the defense. Young guys come in and have no clue how fast everything is. And, there are pretty good players on defense. And there are pretty good coaches coaching them that put them in the right positions and give them the right stunts to use. I think movement is one of the major issues.

Sturm: Now the way personnel goes and everyone loves the 3-4 these days, what about the “joker” type player? That seems like such a concept where players are now hybrids that can either rush or drop into coverage and it is up to your guys to figure that out.

Houck: Yes, and that is in the nickel fronts primarily, and you have to determine who the guys are who are coming. And in preseason there are so many different numbers coming in and out of there that you really don’t know who is coming. You don’t have a 5 game look that says, “ok, this guy is their rusher”. It may just be a linebacker coming, but you have to point that guy out – or the Quarterback has to point that guy out - and then the line has to react accordingly and you go from there.

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