Size, strength and speed contribute equally to becoming an effective collegiate defensive end, but those qualities alone will not guarantee success at the position. A standout defensive end must also be able to dedicate himself to continual improvement in hand and foot agility, mastering the technique skills associated with the position, and understanding his role within the overall defensive scheme.
Importance of Height and Body Build
NCAA Division 1 FBS recruiters desire certain qualities for a defensive end. Taller players with longer arms provide greater obstacles to quarterbacks in the passing game. Height also assists in projecting the amount of weight a player may gain through proper weight training and conditioning. This does not mean a shorter player possessing other desired position qualities will not be recruited to play at this level.
Speed, Quickness and Agility
Foot speed, quickness and agility are crucial for a defensive end. A 4.4 second 40-yard dash time means little to a defensive end if he cannot develop an explosive start from a three-point stance, followed by the quick hands and feet agility to avoid an offensive tackle's block.
A diversified weight training regimen is important. Focus on core strength exercises such as bench press, power cleans, dead lifts and full squats. Equally important is to work on speed/weight combination exercises. A routine of double push-press, alternating rows, double snatch, alternating hang clean and alternating windmills using kettle bells develops the away-from-body strength needed by a college defensive end.
On the Go with Plyo
Plyometric exercises develop the muscle memory and fast-twitch muscle capabilities that will improve a defensive end's agility and quickness. Box jumps, bench sprints, dumbbell seated box jumps, mountain climbers and assorted agility ladder drills will translate into an explosive start from a player's football stance.
Pass Rush Drills
An offensive lineman wins the battle when he secures his hands on the defensive end's body. Learning to attack the offensive player's weakness prevents this. Techniques such as push-pull-rip, bull rush, club-rip and tomahawk-chop will provide the defensive end with moves to counter the offensive lineman's hand placement.
Learning the Game
The actions of an opponent may provide keys to the offensive play call. For instance, an offensive tackle with his weight leaning forward is tipping off a run play. Likewise, a lineman with the weight on his heels is getting ready to pass block. Watch video, focusing on the opposing offensive tackle to pick up any other keys which will lead to quicker play recognition.
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