Competition & Encouragement

Coaches always say that games are won and lost in the trenches but most spend the offseason and summer sending their “skill” players to passing camps and 7v7 tournaments.  That is why I started my OLine Clinics over 20 years ago, and why we host a Strongman Competition and OLine Challenge at our annual Northeast Kingdom 7v7 tournament.

The Strongmen compete in the following events:

1. Log Press (Max Reps in 1 Minute)

2. Farmer Carry (Best time)

3. Hexbar Deadlift (Max Reps for 1 minute)

4. Seated Sled Pull (Best time)

Our OLine Challenge has 5-man teams competing in the following events:

1. Standing Slam ball Toss (Total distance)

2. 1-man Sled Drive Relay (Best time)

3. Tire Flip Relay (Best time)

4. Sandbag Carry Relay (Best time)

5. Team Tug-of-War (Seeded Single Elimination)

While I am proud to say that one of our guys was the overall winner in the Strongman competition and our team won the OLine Challenge, I am more proud of how spirited the event was throughout the day.  The 7v7 games were very competitive, but the competition at times was contentious.  The Strongman and OLine Challenge events were also very competitive but players from different schools were all very supportive of each other.  Players wearing a rainbow of colors representing schools from all over Vermont and one from New Hampshire circled around each other and cheered as individuals they may have never met pushed themselves to the limits and beyond in the spirit of competition.

There is truly something special about offensive linemen.  Simply stated, they are selfless. That’s not to say others can’t be selfless as well, but as we’ve noted previously, the nature of the roles on the offensive line often rewards selfless interdependence more frequently and more consistently than other positions. Some roles tend to be more “supporting,” while others tend to be more “supported.” It was great to see the OLinemen “supporting” each other throughout the competitions.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!  

Lineman’s Dream

Every offensive lineman’s dream is to score a touchdown…

But that is not in their job description.  Their role on the team is to selflessly block so that others can have the glory of reaching the end zone.  Their running backs, quarter backs, and receivers are lauded by cheering fans while the offensive linemen anonymously return to the sideline.

When we have had athletic offensive linemen in the past, we have rewarded them with the opportunity to experience the glory of crossing the goal line.  During our 2017, season, our Right Tackle scored several rushing touchdowns aligned as a running back in a goal line package.  In that same season, during the state championship game, on a 4th and 1 on the goal line, just before halftime, we threw a screen pass to our left tackle for a touchdown.

Playing 7v7 football in Vermont this season allows all offensive linemen the opportunity to get in the end zone.  Our lone returner from last year’s offense, a 2-year starter at Left Guard, is now a senior running back.  He always wanted to play running back but selflessly assumed his role on the offensive line because that was what was best for the team.  With two games under our belt, that Left Guard has 9 receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns.  

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

The Score Takes Care of Itself…

Santa left a great read for me under the tree this year, Bill Walsh’s book The Score Takes 2018-01-04 Bill Walsh Score Takes Care of ItselfCare of Itself.  As a Glazier and Nike speaker for the past 20 years, I have had the pleasure of listening to some of the greats in our profession speak, but no one was more impressive than Bill Walsh.  Hundreds of coaches sat motionless hanging on his every word for an hour.

Coach Walsh’s message that day at the AFCA national convention, and the theme of his book hold true on the field and in life.  He believed that if you did everything right throughout the year the final score of games would be in your favor.  5 years ago when we started cultivating the St Johnsbury program’s culture, the philosophy we shared with our players 5 years ago at St Johnsbury Academy could have come right of the pages of Coach Walsh’s book: “games are not won on weekends in the fall”.

In my most recent blog, we went into great detail on end of season staff duties and the details of auditing your staff.  Now we turn our focus on planning our schedule for 2018. We “begin with the end in mind,” planning opportunities and events to develop our coaches and players, while reinforcing the St Johnsbury culture throughout the year.  A list of dates and events follow as part of the plan to get us from New Years to game 1.

Jan 5 – Olympic Weightlifting Clinic for players and coaches hosted by US Senior International Coach Chris Polakowski.

Jan 6-7 – USA Olympic Weightlifting level I Certification Course for coaches

Jan 9 – Begin Winter athletic performance program.

Jan 15 – I speak at Championship Football Clinic, Bergen NJ on Slide Protection.  Prior to presenting at Clinics, I present to our staff.  It serves as practice for me and a development opportunity for them.

Jan 27 – I speak at the USA Football National Conference on all the plays we run out of our Dart/Counter scheme.

Feb 4 – Host a Super Bowl party for players and staff.  End it at halftime.  The next day is a school day.

Feb 19-22 – Staff meetings in preparation for Spring Practices.

Feb 24 – I speak at the Atlantic City Glazier Clinic in 3 “Chalk War” sessions of our Spread Offense vs 3-4, 4-2-5 and 3-3 Stack defenses.

Mar 5-9 – Spring Practices

Mar 12 – Begin Spring athletic performance program

Mar 16-17 Vermont Interscholastic Football League Meetings and Clinic.

March 25 – 17th Annual Alercio OLine Clinic at The Hun School of Princeton NJ

June 11 – Begin Summer athletic performance program.  Mondays: Strength & OLine practice.  Tuesdays: Speed & 7v7 Practice, Thursdays: Strength & 7v7 Practice.

June 25-29 – Youth Football Camp taught by Staff and Senior Players.

July 14 – Northeast 7v7 Tournament, Exeter NH.

July 21 – Northeast Kingdom 7v7 Tournament and Strongman Competition, St Johnsbury VT.

July 23-26 – Mini Camp

July 30-Aug 10 – Off.  Football families know this is the time to schedule vacations.

Aug 12 – Meet the Coaches.  Players and parents meet the football coaching staff.

Aug 13 – Training Camp Begins

I’ll continue to reinforce opportunities to converse face to face as dates draw closer. I really enjoy engaging with coaches, players, and other readers of the blog (as well as followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!)  I’d be happy to come to visit with your staff at the clinics mentioned above or meet at your school.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Summer OTAs: Winning Begins Here…

As the school-year comes to an end, our focus turns to summer Organized Team Activities (OTAs).  Although we have made numerous changes to our program in the past 4 years, nothing has made more of an impact on our success than the physical development of our players.  We tell our players, “games are not won on Fall Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in front of thousands of people…  They are won in the off-season when nobody is watching…”

2017-06-06 Agilities
Our student athletes begin training 3 days a week the week after graduation.  On Mondays, we work speed development (acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, lateral movement, as well as linear speed) followed by a 7v7 practice.  On Tuesdays, we work strength then have an OLine practice.  We have another strength training session and 7v7 practice on Thursdays.  We do not want to compete with weekend family plans and summer baseball or AAU basketball so we intentionally avoid Friday and Saturday.

What we do and how we do it is even more important than that we do it.  In college, you have a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS); A luxury frequently unaffordable at most high schools.  CSCS are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes with the primary goal of improving athletic performance.  If you don’t have one, find one in your area and recruit him/her to get involved with your athletes.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know enough to do it just because you get in the gym 3-4 days a week.

I came to that epiphany this winter when I was invited to join a round-table discussion of Strength Coaches at Burke Mountain Academy.  BMA is the premier alpine ski academy in North America.  Their strength coach, Darrell Gray, has become a friend and is a valuable resource. Also in attendance were strength coaches from the US Ski Team, the Philadelphia Eagles, Sherbrooke University in Canada, and a local coach who owns a training facility nearby.  I was awed by the scientific approach and level of detail each coach incorporated into their training.  It was far beyond my level of understanding.  I was with them when they addressed incorporating unilateral and bilateral lifts and movements in the sagittal, transverse and frontal planes.  They started to lose me when they discussed Rates of Perceived Exhaustion (RPE) and Undulation, and completely lost me when they shifted to Block vs conjugate periodization training!

2017-06-06 strength and conditioning
Even if I found block vs conjugate periodization training daunting, I’m perceptive enough to recognize a need for experts when I see one. We’re fortunate to have an all-star supporting the Hilltoppers when we start on June 12: Adrian Guyer CSCS, USAW 2, CSAC of XIP Training Systems, will implement our summer program and instruct our players on their warm up, speed training and strength program.  It seems the more letters after their name, the more qualified they are to create and instruct your program, but we’re equally lucky to have a professional who cares deeply about our team’s success and players’ development.

Over the next few weeks we will go into more detail on our athletic performance training, our OLine practices and our 7v7 preparation. We’ll conduct camps, clinics, host and participate in 7v7 competitions, and have fun working hard together. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, exchanging ideas, and preparing for all the new season brings.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time.

Coaching is Coaching…

Coaching is Coaching

You’ve heard the saying before and it is true.  Coaching is coaching.  If you can coach, you can coach at any level.  I have had the good fortune of being invited to join training camp as a “visiting coach” with an NFL team when I was in between jobs, and I have had the pleasure of coaching my youngest son’s 5th & 6th grade flag football team.  I also coached my middle son’s padded flag team.  I have been an assistant, coordinator, and head coach at the high school level; and I have been a graduate assistant, assistant, coordinator, and head coach at the college level.  I have worked at both scholarship and non-scholarship schools.

I have worked with great coaches and below average coaches at every one of those levels.  Yes, there were a few coaches on that NFL team that were just off the charts in their ability to coach, but I worked with high school coaches who could have been very successful college coaches, and college coaches who could have been successful in the NFL.  The biggest difference I have found is in how much time you want or are able to commit.  As you know, the sun rises early and settles late during the summer months.  Every day of that NFL training camp, the staff reported before the sun came up and departed long after it had set.  We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the training facility.  It was great as a visiting coach, but sure would be tough on a family.  The life of a college coach is extremely time consuming as well, even more so when you add recruiting across multiple states into the mix.

Over the past 30 years, I would say that I had the most fun back in 1991, as a part-time assistant at East Stroudsburg University while working 2 other jobs, living with 2 other coaches, barely able to pay the electric bill, but learning and coaching football every day.   But I have never been happier than I am now as an Assistant Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at St Johnsbury Academy in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont coaching 2 of my 3 sons.  We all dream about coaching in the “big time” but make the big time where you are.

Over the next three weeks, I plan to share some thoughts about how I make my current role “the big time,” to me. I hope after 30 years of coaching I can share some of the lessons learned and help you avoid some of the obstacles I encountered along the way. I don’t presume to have all the answers, but just as my mentors shared their lessons with me and helped me grow as a coach, parent, and person, I’d like to reinforce their efforts and share some thoughts with you. Hopefully, together we can explore ways to maximize the best the coaching profession has to offer. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Contact Coach Rich Alercio at


Offensive Line… 2 or 3 Point Stance?

2-point or 3-point?

2 and 3pt stance

In the spring of 2004, after hosting the 3rd annual Alercio OLine Clinic with over 700 players and coaches in attendance, I was contacted by K.C. Keeler, who at the time was the head football coach at the University of Delaware.  Coach Keeler and his offensive line coach, Kyle Flood, invited me down to Delaware to discuss what had made my clinics so popular.

The Blue Hens had just won the 2003 I-AA National Championship and both Coach Keeler and Coach Flood were well known in the northeast as offensive innovators.  I knew a trip to Newark would be a great opportunity for me to learn.  Having watched their national championship game on ESPN in December, I was struck by something almost unheard of 15 years ago.  They played the entire game with their offensive linemen in 2-point stances.

After sharing the details of my clinic with them, they made themselves and their video available to me.  I watched over and over as they successfully ran Power in short yardage and goal line situations with their linemen in 2-point stances.  I was sold.

The 2-point stance has allowed our players to look to the sideline for plays in our no-huddle system.  It makes it easier for them to recognize fronts and communicate blocking schemes.  Pass sets, jump sets, pulls, combos and double teams are all easier to execute from a 2-point stance.

If you are an option team who is 90% downhill run blocking in the sagittal plane, I would suggest you keep your linemen in 3-point stances.  If not, I would strongly suggest you consider getting your big guys’ hands off the ground!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to assist with one on one, small group, or large audience presentations. For more than 20 years, Coach Alercio has led, taught, coached and mentored student athletes and coaches across the high school, college, and professional levels of football.

Rich’s National level presentations for clinics like Nike and Glazier, have earned him acclaim and praise for his offensive innovations as a strategist and play caller, and his one on one “techniques in the trenches” offensive line coaching has improved the tactics, techniques and procedures of more than 10,000 Offensive Linemen over nearly 20 years.

Contact Coach Rich Alercio at

Rich Alercio’s OLine Clinic Recap

More than 200 offensive lineman representing over 40 high schools in 2 states along with dozens of their coaches made the annual pilgrimage to the 16th Alercio OLine Clinic on Sunday, March 26.

We spent 4 hours at the Hun School of Princeton learning and drilling 2 & 3-pt stances, 5 Run Steps, 2 Pass Steps, Run & Pass Punches, Targets and Strike Points, Drive Blocks, Down Blocks, Jump Sets, 4 Pulling Techniques, Combination Blocks, Double Teams, Pass Sets, 3 Run Blocking Schemes (Man, Zone & Gap) and Slide Protection.

Players and coaches both enjoyed the day, the team building, camaraderie and a chance to learn new techniques and improve skills.

If you’d like more info on the clinic, techniques, or how you could have Coach Rich Alercio teach his “Techniques for the Trenches” clinic at your school, please email Coach Alercio

Check out some of the participants below:


1-Manalapan, Cedar Grove, Becton
2- Toms River North, Steinert, Immaculata
3-Manchester, KIPP NYC, Hudson Catholic, Princeton
4-Holy Cross, Delran, Central Regional, Ewing
5-Absegami, Bridgewater, Westfiled, South Hunterdon
9-Montclair, Hamilton West, Manasquan, Old Bridge, Ocean City, Pope John Paul II
8-Paulsboro, Montgomery, Belleville, Columbia, Nottingham
7-Shabazz, Rahway, Manville, Somerville
6-Parsippany, Washington Twp, Bloomfield

Why Young Coaches Should Think Twice Before Leaving for a Promotion…

St. Johnsbury (Vt.) head coach Rich Alercio remembers receiving the same advice years ago that many young coaches still hear today: “To move up the ladder, coaches always need to keep an eye on their next step up…”  (or should they???)

Alercio heard that coaches should seek a new position every two-to-three years. He took the advice, leaving a job where he was comfortable—but finding his new role unfulfilling, even though it came with the allure of slightly more money and great responsibility.

It was a decision that Alercio regrets, and one that he hopes today’s young coaches can learn from.

“If you find a good job, where you like it, you’re learning and growing, stay there,” Alercio said, during an appearance on the USA Football Coach and the Coordinator podcast.

Though Alercio’s career eventually got back on track, he’s quick to encourage young coaches to think twice about leaving a good situation, particularly if the current environment promotes a healthy work-life balance.

“It’s a heck of a lot easier balancing life, family and happiness when you have a good job and you stick with it,” he said.

To listen to Alercio’s full interview on the USA Football Coach and the Coordinator podcast with Keith Grabowski, click here: Coach Rich Alercio on “The Coach & Coordinator Podcast”

“Innovations for Any Offense” eClinic- 

Live today March 20th, check out Coach Alercio’s eclinic on Innovations for any Offense

Click here: Coach Rich Alercio’s Glazier eClinic 


Don’t Miss The 16th Alercio OLine Clinic 

Sunday, March 26th 2017
Download your brochure:

OLine Clinic Brochure



Building an Offensive Line: Offseason Mental Conditioning

Coach Rich Alercio believes in coaching the offensive line as the head coach.


Coaching the OLine is something Coach Alercio has done as an assistant, as a coordinator, and head coach. He attributes offensive success to the five interior players. Coach Alercio also believes that the group must work nearly year-round to develop the communication and chemistry that they need for game day excellence.

To do this, Alercio has developed an offseason, offensive line mental conditioning program. For Alercio, this breaks down into three areas: footwork, fit, and communication.

Alercio began utilizing this system because he found that there was little continuity when the player has five months off before they perform their skills again.

“There’s no carryover,” Alercio said.  “The player will think, ‘I remember we did something like this,’ but it doesn’t have the effect of doing it with regularity.”

The setup of these sessions is relatively simple, and the linemen can do it in a relatively small space using chairs as the defense.

Alercio gives the center the responsibility of setting these sessions up and moving the rest of the unit through.

The center will be responsible for changing the fronts and always makes the first call. The other linemen work on their communication and on cadence. They will step to their assignments.

This does not have to be a full speed drill. The emphasis is on the communication and mental work of assignment, correct steps, and fit to where the block belongs.

Alercio offered these tips for a successful mental conditioning session:

Give the center something to work off of. This could be a script or simply a list of fronts and defenses to work against a single concept.  After performing a set number of reps each way, the center will have the unit move the chairs. For example, they should work against four down front, then a three down front. The shade and 3 technique can be varied on each side, or linebacker alignments can be varied as well. Communication is the key. The older players should ensure that the younger players are being coached. Teaching a concept helps solidify understanding for both players.

Alercio feels that this is a good bridge from the beginning of the offseason to the spring.  Following the spring, the coaches are allowed to do more work with the players, and this carries into the summer.

The work then begins to become more physical, but a solid foundation of mental understanding has been established.

Read the original Offseason Mental Conditioning Post at USAFootball: Click Here!

Don’t Miss The 16th Alercio OLine Clinic March 26th 2017.
Download your brochure:
OLine Clinic Brochureoline-clinic-cover-shot


Teaching & Drilling the Screen & Draw Game

This Martin Luther King Day, January 16, I will be speaking at Championship Football Clinics 18th Annual Offensive Line Clinic along with John Peterson, University of Pittsburgh, Justin Frye, Boston College, Allen Mogridge, Florida International, AJ Blazek, Rutgers University & Rich Hargitt, Eastside HS, S.C.

The clinic begins at 8am and is located at the Knights of Columbus, 79 Pascack Rd Washington Twp NJ. 2 miles from Bergen Catholic, High School

My topic is Teaching and Drilling the Screen and Draw Game.  Our Draws are 3 different plays but only 1 Scheme.  We run a QB Lead Draw, a QB Draw in Empty with a Pulling Tackle and a RB Lead Draw.  All three Draws are blocked the same with only one exception…the person assigned to block the Sam (1st playside LB).   The Tackles block #2 on the LOS (DE), Guards block #1 on LOS (DT or NG) and the Center blocks Mike (Middle or Backside LB).  Center will combo with either Guard if their #1 is in his path to Mike.  On our QB Lead Draw, the running back isolates the Sam.  We have our H-Back block the Sam on our RB Draw.  We pull the backside Tackle to block the Sam on our QB draw in Empty and align the TE next to him to cut of his #2.


Draw is a running play so all of the offensive linemen can run block the scheme; but to create larger holes and encourage defensive linemen to displace themselves, we want our linemen to Jump Set any defensive linemen in an outside alignment (examples: Tackle vs a 5 tech or Guard vs a 3 tech).  On our Jump Set, we teach the offensive lineman to take a Base Run Step with his inside foot; and show a pass set with his upper body.  The “High Hat” of the pass set gives the DL a false read of pass and gets him in to a pass rush and away from the point of attack.  The Base Run Step with the inside foot defends the play in case of the DL being on an inside rush or slant.

We drill three scenarios in our Jump Sets.  When the DL gets upfield in a pass rush, we Club & Ride.  Our visual target is the near Pec.  We hold the set position until the rusher gets hip-to-hip then we turn towards him to club & ride him upfield.  The strike points are outside hand to near shoulder and inside hand to spine.  We are looking to club the middle of the back just below the shoulder pads.  On the ride, we want to be underneath the rusher so that he cannot retrace his steps when he recognizes Draw.    The next scenario is a DL who does not rush, but rather sits and reads.  After our Jump Set and the recognition that he is not rushing, we get in to an Angle Drive Block with a visual target of the near Pec and Strike points of near shoulder with the inside hand and sternum with the outside hand.  The last scenario we drill is the DL on an inside rush or slant move.  We must recognize the threat to our inside immediately and get in to a Vertical Drive Block to stop any inside penetration with a visual target of the sternum and strike points on both pecs.

Our Slip Screens are 3-man, 2-count screens to the RB or TE and are run off of plays in our offense with NOW throws.  This allows us to run all of our screens as Screen Pass Options (SPOs).  Just like an RPO, we will identify a defender and read him as to whether we throw the Now throw of the pass play or turn to throw the screen.  This also sells the screen when we do throw it because the receivers are running routes and the QB has his eyes on a route opposite the screen.


On our Stick Slip, we read the Sam to throw the Stick route to the TE or Slip Screen to the RB.  On our Boot Screen, will read the Sam to throw our TE Pin Flat or RB Slip.  On our Sprint Y Slip, we throw a slide route to our Slot Receiver or a Slip to the TE.

On all of our Screens we block the protection of the play for a 2-count so there is no new teaching.  After the 2-count, three linemen will depart to the edge of the box on the screen side.  The first one looks Out, the second looks Up and the third looks In.  On our Stick Slip and Sprint Y Slip, the two Guards and Center pull out on the Screen.  Since we pull a Guard in our Boot protection, on our Boot Slip, we pull the Screen side Tackle, Center and Playside Guard out on the Screen.  The other two linemen stay in their protection.

The technique we teach and drill on Screens for the offensive linemen is to Run (Out, Up, or In), Buzz (feet before contact) then block.  On the block the visual target is the sternum and the strike points are the pecs.  We buzz our feet to get the offensive lineman under control before making contact.