University of Washington

Cut-blocking a chore that's got to be done

Pass-rushing defensive ends hate facing it.

Offensive linemen don’t much care for delivering it.

Nobody questions the effectiveness of cut-blocking – chopping down defensive players below the waist. Some of the best offenses in the NFL or college football utilize it, knowing the backlash it creates when somebody gets injured.

It’s a scheme the Washington Huskies will use this season.

As the full-contact practices of training camp got underway Friday and extended into Saturday night with the first of six two-a-day workouts, this was a facet of the team coach Steve Sarkisian eagerly anticipated, to see “who is athletic enough to do it.”

And on the back practice field, under the guidance of veteran offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto, the blockers went at it – like it or not.

“If you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it,” said Cody Habben, the junior offensive tackle out of Sammamish.

Conventional pass or run blocking requires a number of things to gain leverage – nimble footwork and extension with the arms are paramount. But with cut-blocking – a staple in zone-blocking schemes – the skill set is designed to go at a defender’s legs.

“You take your normal footwork, then see the (defender),” sophomore tackle Drew Schaefer said. “When you see him stand up and start running, you dip your shoulder down and go right through their legs and take them down.”

Simple as that?

“Whatever it takes to get him down,” Schaefer continued.

“In certain situations, it doesn’t always work. You have to do what you can, going 110 percent on the fly, with things moving fast.”

Cut-blocking is legal when a blocker goes below a defender’s knees with the helmet out in front of the defender. It becomes illegal when the block comes at the side of a defender’s legs or from the back, or when the defender is engaged with another blocker.

Before the Huskies were in full pads, Cozzetto ran the offensive linemen through drills in which they went low at a plastic garbage can. But those stationary targets have limited effectiveness.

“There are a lot of things that go into it. It’s more than just athletic ability,” Schaefer said. “It’s also mental. You have to aim and know where (defensive players) are going, and know the proper techniques to use when they slant at you and go away from you.”

Extra points

Freshman receiver James Johnson (groin) and safety Nate Williams (shoulder) left the evening practice with injuries. … Sarkisian has said that the starting tight end position is still up for grabs. But in the last three days, Lakes High graduate Kavario Middleton has lined up 90 percent of the time with the first unit over fellow sophomore Chris Izbicki. “I feel like it’s my time, my year. The opportunity is open for me to take. It’s up to me,” Middleton said. ... Defensive end Everette Thompson (ankle) did not practice Saturday, and cornerback Justin Glenn (hip flexor) tried to go in the morning but limped off. ... Today’s team photo day is scheduled at 10 a.m. It’s open to the public, and players will be available for autographs.