Keeping your feet against the Air Force cut blocks.
There is another part of Air Forces offense, which makes them unique to defend, cut blocks. It’s not that the cut blocks are vicious or dirty; it’s just that they take a certain amount of focus to defend to insure that you aren’t left lying of your back as a cadet scurries for a first down.
When you look up “cut block” in the dictionary you will find a picture of a 5’10″ white male with a stocky build, decent speed, wearing a blue jersey with a lightning bolt across the chest. Air Forces is so good at using cut blocks that teams need to designate time during the week to teach the proper technique to neutralizing this type of block.
In order to survive a cut block without being upended you have to first focus only on the blocker. As a defender you tend to look through blockers to see where the ball is going to end up. With Air Force it is crucial that you forget -just for a second- that a ball carrier is running your way, so you can deal with the ankle biter coming your direction.
When the blocker approaches, it will look like he is going to lower his head and block you. Oh no, that’s just the type of mistake the cadet is hoping for. In defending the block the defender has to use his hands. As the block approaches the defender needs to place his hand on the cadets helmet and shoulder, with knees bent and his inside leg back. So, if the play is coming from left to right the defender should have his left foot back. Having your feet correct insures that if a hand isn’t in the totally correct position the cadet might still miss the defenders legs and some nasty cadets will roll after they dive at your legs. Having your front leg back keeps the ligaments in your knees tightly in place.
When the defender has his feet, hands and body in the right position. The defender has to push the cadet’s helmet and shoulder into the ground, while giving up a small amount of ground. Basically the defender absorbs the block, jamming the cadet’s face-mask into the ground, and then comes off the block ready to tackle the next 5’10″ 200 lbs cadet flying his direction.
It isn’t that defending the block is difficult but it takes quit a bit of concentration and practice to do it correctly. Seeing as some of our defenders are young this year. I would expect a few to be lying on their backs on the first couple of series.
It always took me one or two option plays to get used to the speed and look of the cut block, but once you get a feel for it; it becomes easier and easier.
The worst cut block I ever experienced was in Colorado Springs the second time I played Air Force. As Markell mentioned the safeties have to read the motion and run across the formation to run the “alley”, tackling the “pitch man”. I was doing just that -watching the ball carrier, mistake number one- and as I approached the ball carrier I saw a flash of blue diving for my knees. Luckily I got my feet off the ground just as the cut block made contact sending me head over heals. I thought it was an illegal block, but there weren’t any flags on the ground.
I let the referee have it for about three plays after that and I think I got a pity call later in the game.
During film on Monday everyone had a good laugh watching me do front flips on the field. The tape was even funnier because of the way I disappeared from sight the moment I was hit.
Moral of the story, pay attention at all times, keep your eyes in the right spots and use your hands not your shoulders and you’ll be fine.