Lane Mailbag – Explaining the Offensive Line

Image from gcobb.com

We haven’t done a Mailbag in a while. A reader sent us an email and asked how one can tell the difference between an offensive tackle, a guard or a center.

Ideally you’d like to set up an offensive line like a V.  Shorter guys to the middle at center and guard and they get taller as they go to tackle on the outside.  This is why a nose like Jordan Phillips who is 6’6″ who is also quick and athletic is such a mismatch inside.  Number one they can’t get their hands on him, and two he’s bigger and faster.

Your most athletic guys have to be on the outside since they’re going to face the most athletic defenders on the defensive line.  That length has to come into play with the height too since you have greater wingspan from defensive ends.  The left side of the offensive line is normally the most athletic.  This is because defenses normally like to put their best pass rushers on that side.  They call this side of the line the blind side, since most quarterbacks are right handed.  If you have a lefty at quarterback, then it’s changed.

While tackles are considered the most athletic, your guards have to be athletic too.  Your center has to be very intelligent, and close in athleticism as your tackles.  Centers have to step and step, and in today’s age in the shotgun, that’s even more difficult.  They have to know everyone’s job, and get people in the right protection in a lot of schemes.  Your guards have to be battering rams, because you’d like the middle of your offensive line to be like the tip of a spear with the tackles cleaning up the trash on the outside.

As always we appreciate the question and hope that helped a little. For any further explanation feel free to drop us a note/question in the comments section below.


  • Sooner Ray

    JY, Gabe has been such a vital part of our O line, How do you feel about our depth there going forward and what kind of play can we expect right out of the gate? Does a new center take control of the line calls or do you use an experienced guard to help bring him along.

    • Adrian

      Tyler Evans and Ty Darlington I believe are front runners for that Center position. They both have played there and Ty would be my first pick with Adam Shead and Dionte Savage at Guard, Tyrus Thompson and someone at Tackle. I can’t remember if Daryl Williams was a Senior or if he is returning?

      • Sooner Ray

        I believe Daryl red shirted and is beginning his senior season. I know that Ty and Evans have received time and I expect Ty to start, I’m just not sure how far along they are at being the “anchor”. I hope our coaches have done a good job with them.

        • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

          You’re correct on all counts.

        • AlexOU

          I thought Ty did quite well, especially undersized yet, as a true fresh 2012. Now that he’s 297 he tweeted today, combined with another year of learning, I’m betting he does quite well with not huge drop off.
          After this last year, I’m more worried about drop off from what Irwin contributed. He just turned it on bigtime this year.

      • Pokerman

        Frankly, I’ll be surprised if Shead continues playing. I understand his back problems are chronic.

        • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

          He’s had a struggle for a while.

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      I think that we’ll be o.k. Gabe’s loss can’t be overstated simply from the standpoint of getting people in the right protection and on the same page. His athleticism was second to none, so we may see a scheme tweak or two here or there. Darlington may give up a little athleticism to him, but is more powerful. Gabe’s weakness was at the point of attack, while Darlington is just a natural bull strong kind of kid.
      Losing Bronson is also big. Getting Tyler back will be a shot in the arm since we don’t know if Shead will be back and healthy.
      You may see something like…
      from left to right…
      Tyrus
      Savage
      Darlington
      Tyler or Nila
      Daryl

      • Adrian

        I was happy still to see how well Dionte played in the Sugar Bowl. You should talk about him some in the next Trench Warfare

  • Sonny Schovanec

    I think you have a typo there JY. You said Centers have to step and step versus what I’m sure you meant to say snap and step. You are right on that one JY. We would start the process at an early age “snapping and stepping” at the same time so it might become natural by the time the become a varsity player. I’m glad my son grew into a OT. Nerve racking having your kid play center in a scheme that is about 100% gun.

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      Yeah, I noticed that too. We’ll fix it up. I played a little center in hs, and I hated the gun.

      • Sonny Schovanec

        dude you didn’t need to fix it. I knew what you met. I’m around grammar
        Nazi’s daily.

        • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

          No worries man.

  • ohiosoonerdevildog

    So would you like to see Thompson or Farniok next year at LT? Im not a big Thompson fan myself, he seems stiff and has short arms for his size. Farniok has the size and attitude and hopefully the coaches can refine his technique.

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      Thompson will be the starter in my opinion. I like him. Farniok will probably be your starter as a senior, but I’d put him on the right side.

      • ohiosoonerdevildog

        Ok. Believe me Im no linemen expert, just seemed Thompson was beat by anyone with halfway decent speed. Any chance someone overtakes him at Lt?

        • Shifty

          I’d put Daryl at LT and Thompson on the right side..Daryl did pretty good against Bama and he’ll get drafted sooner as a LT

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            They’ve wanted Daryl to play left for a few years now. He was slated to start at left before Lane’s senior year, but they made the switch. I’ve heard whispers that Daryl feels more comfortable on the right side, so we’ll see. It’s good that we have so much depth. A dark horse will be St. John. If he can grasp the offense this spring, he’s crazy athletic.

          • ohiosoonerdevildog

            Is he a Lane Johnson type tackle? Big with extreme athleticism?

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            It’s hard to top Lane’s athleticism as the guy was running 4.8 at the combine, but St. John is more than adequate athletically. Ace said when he saw him, he was just raw technically, and didn’t know the offense.

          • ohiosoonerdevildog

            Gotcha. Definitely appreciate the info. Do we see maybe more pro-style sets next year too?

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            I think we stick with the zone read. That added element of Trevor’s running is an added element that really stresses a defense. Maybe we’ll see a little this spring.

          • ohiosoonerdevildog

            Ok I was just wondering because of Knights injuries from running the ball. I would just like to see him take less hits.

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            I think they keep it in there as an added element, but they teach him to get out of bounds or down more.

          • Shifty

            Yeah I have suspected that they only held St John out this year so we would have him for 15 as well. It’ll be awesome if he’s the OT we were expecting to get out of him

          • blaster1371

            Did he come in with three years to play three?

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            I think so.

          • Shifty

            Yes. His first year of juco (in fresno) was 11 so you have 5 years to get 4 so he can play thru 15. Hopefully get two solid season from him

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            Nice post.

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            Yeah, redshirting him was a good move. Now you have a legitimate two deep at tackle. Don’t sleep on Kyle Marrs either.

        • Sonny Schovanec

          But Farniok would be better against speed rushers then Tyrus?

    • Sonny Schovanec

      Tyrus stiff, short arms?? Huh? Geez I guess I don’t know crap then. OK let’s say your right about that. Tyrus has some nasty and is pretty darn good all stiff and short armed aside. No offense but you think Tyrus is more stiff then Farniok?? Geez if your right I need glasses.

      • ohiosoonerdevildog

        You might need reading glasses. Never said anything about you not knowing what you are talking about. And I said for his size he had short arms, doesnt mean he is a t-rex.

        • Sonny Schovanec

          Did I say that you said I didn’t know what I’m talking about about?

          • Sonny Schovanec

            I just don’t see what you see in your evaluation about Tyrus and Farniok. Nothing personal.

          • ohiosoonerdevildog

            You sure made it seem like for one reason or another I insulted your football iq.

          • Sonny Schovanec

            WTF? I responded to your post about Tyrus. Never mind.

          • ohiosoonerdevildog

            Maybe I misunderstood what you said or meant. I was cooking when I responded, if so my bad. Not a big deal man.

          • Sonny Schovanec

            Your right no big deal. Actually I was cooking also. Have a good one.

          • ohiosoonerdevildog

            Absolutely, you too.

  • Shifty

    I wonder how Hughes and Feo are doing? Might be some added depth at guard..Feo would be an excellent pulling guard (almost like having another fb out there with his athleticism)

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      I would absolutely love to see Feo at a jumbo tight end. Man that would be cool.

  • Jack Durrett II

    Explain what is a 1 technique? A two technique: 3 and etc.

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      Picture the positions like this:

      9 6 7
      TE

      • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

        5 4i
        T

        • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

          3 2i
          G

          • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

            1 0 1
            C

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      I need to draw a diagram, but this is what I can offer for now.
      Head up on the tight end is a 6
      Outside eye of the tight end is a 9
      Inside eye of the tight end is a 7
      Outside eye of the Tackle is a 5
      Head up 4
      Inside eye 4i(4 inside)
      Outside eye of the Guard is a 3
      Head up 2
      Inside eye 2i(2 inside)
      Outside eye of center 1 (either side)
      Head up 0 (zero nose)

      • Super Keith

        Worth noting that these are for defensive players. I know it’s basic, but not sure everyone knows that.

      • soonermusic

        so the expression “X technique” refers to where they line up?

        • Sooner Ray

          Yes, it all has to do with where the defensive player lines up in respect to the offensive player.

          • soonermusic

            that’s what I thought…thanks.

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      Also from a gap perspective…
      Gap outside the TE D
      Gap between tackle and TE C
      Gap between guard and tackle B
      Gap between center and guard A

  • Sooner Ray

    Damn JY, I come home from a basketball game and you’ve conducted a class on defensive technique and sonny and devildog almost got into a fight over dinner, or wait it had something to do with a player. Anyway, I always miss the fun stuff. Guess it’s time for a beer!

    • Sonny Schovanec

      bawhahahahahahhahahahah., Time for a brew, Your way behind bro.

      • Sooner Ray

        You’re never behind when you’ve got a jug of shine!

    • http://www.TheFootballBrainiacs.com/ JY

      Getting all crazy over here!

  • Jack Durrett II

    Thanks. Seems simple which, for some pf us, is a good thing.