The position of guard, while it requires less agility than that of tackle, can never be satisfactorily filled by a man who is slow. Many a coach makes this mistake and fails to see his error until too late to correct it. I remember once seeing upon a minor team a guard who weighed at least 190 pounds replaced by a man of 155, and the latter actually filled the position - greatly to my astonishment, I confess-in excellent fashion. This does not at all go to prove that weight is of no value in a guard. On the contrary, it is a quality especially to be desired, and if one can find a heavy man who is not slow he is the choice by all means. But weight must be given work to do, and that work demands practice, and slowness of execution cannot be tolerated. At the outset the coach must impress this fact upon the guards, and insist upon their doing their work quickly. It is really-wonderful how much better the effect of that work will prove to be when performed with a snap and dash that are not difficult to acquire.
When the opponents have the ball and are about to kick, the guard should have in his mind one persistent thought, and that is, to reach the quarter before the ball is away from his hand, but not to stop there. It is only once in a great while that fortune favors sufficiently to crown this attempt with success. When it does, so much the better; but the guard should take in the quarter only in a general sweep, making on for the kicker, and at the same time getting his arms up in the air when he comes before him, so as to take every possible chance of stopping the ball. Just here it may be well to explain the confidence with which in these details of coaching the phrases are used "when the opponents are about to kick" and "when the opponents are about to run." It is true that one cannot tell infallibly every time whether the play will be a kick or a run, but experienced players are really so seldom at fault in their judgment upon this point that it is safe to coach as though there never existed any doubt about the matter.
W. Trafford. Harvard.
To continue with the work of the guard when the opponents are about to attempt a run. One of the most important features of the play in this position is to guard against small wedges. If a guard simply stands still and straight he will be swept over like a wisp of straw by any well-executed wedge play directed at him. An experienced man knows this, and his chief thought is how to avoid it, and how, first, to prevent the formation; second, to alter the direction, and, finally, to stop the progress, of this terror of centre work, the small wedge. There are as many ways of accomplishing these results as of performing the duties of tackle or end, and it rests with the individual player to study them out. To prevent the formation of small wedges, the most successful method is that of sudden and, if possible, disconcerting movements. Jostling, so far as it is allowed, sudden change of position, a pretended charge - all these tend to break up the close formation. Once formed and started, the change of direction is usually the most disarranging play possible; but this should not be attempted by the player or players opposite the point of the wedge.
At that spot the proper play is to check advance, even temporarily; for the advance once checked, the wedge may be swung from the side so as to take off the pressure from behind. So it is the men at the side who must endeavor to turn the wedge and take off this pressure. Without the actual formation upon the field it is difficult to fully explain this turning of the wedge; but if the principle cf the defence be borne in mind, it will not be found so hard to understand. Check the peak even for a moment, and get the weight off from behind as speedily as possible. The men who are pushing must necessarily act blindly ; and if their force is not directly upon the men at the point of the V, they pass by the man with the ball and so become useless. Both guards must keep their weight down low, close to the ground, so that the wedge, if directed at either, cannot throw that one at once off his balance backward. If this occurs, the wedge will always make its distance, perhaps go many yards. Lying down before the wedge is a practice based upon this principle of keeping close to the ground, and is by no means an ineffectual way of stopping an advance, although it is not as strong a play as bringing about the same result without actually losing the power to straighten up if the wedge turns.
Moreover, the men in the front of a wedge are becoming so accustomed to meeting this flat defence that they not infrequently succeed in getting over the prostrate man and regaining headway upon the other side. This, as one can readily see, must always yield a very considerable gain. When a run is attempted at some other point in the line, it is the duty of the guards to get through hard and follow the runner into his opening, even if they cannot reach him before he comes into the line. In this class of play a guard should remember that if he can lay a hand upon the runner before he reaches the line he can spoil the advance to a certainty, for no runner can drag a heavy guard up into and through an opening. It is like dragging a heavy and unwieldy anchor. A guard can afford to, and must sometimes, tackle high. Not that he should, in the open, ever go at the shoulders, but in close quarters he often has no time to get down low, and must make the best of taking his man anywhere that the opportunity offers. He must always, however, throw him towards the opponent's goal.
Another point for guards to bear in mind is, that in close quarters it is often possible to deprive the runner of the ball before he says "down." A guard who always tries this will be surprised at the number of times he will find the referee giving him the ball. He will also be astonished at the way this attempt results in the runner saying "down" as soon as he finds some one tugging at the ball. A man gives up all thought of further advance the instant he finds the ball slipping at all in his grasp; and when his attention is distracted from the idea of running, as it is when he is fearful of losing the ball, he can never make use of his opportunities to good advantage. For this reason the coach should impress upon all the forwards the necessity of always trying to take away the ball; but the men in and near the centre are likely to have the best opportunity for this play, because it is there that the runner encounters a number of men at once rather than a single individual. When his own side have the ball the guard must block sharply until the quarter has time for receiving the ball, and, at any rate, beginning the motion of the pass. It is safer, in the case of inexperienced guards, to tell them to block until the quarter has time to get rid of the ball.
The distinction is this: that an experienced guard sometimes likes to gain just that second of time between the beginning of the pass and the completion of the swing, and utilize it in getting down the field or making an opening. So accustomed does he become to measuring the time correctly that he will let the opponent through just too late to reach the quarter, although it seems a very close call. It is not safe to let green guards attempt anything so close. They must be taught to block securely until the ball is on its way to the runner or kicker. The blocking of a guard is much less exacting in its requirements than that of the tackle. Not that he must not block with equal certainty, but the act requires no such covering of two men as often happens in the case of a tackle. The guard forms closely towards the centre, and then follows his man out if he moves out, but only as far as he can go, and still be absolutely certain that the opponent cannot pass between him and the snap-back. To be drawn or coaxed out far enough to admit of an opponent's going through the centre shows woful ignorance in any guard.
T. I. McClung. Yale.
When a kick is to be made the blocking must be prolonged a little, and on a drop-kick (as mentioned earlier) it should last until the ball goes from the foot. When blocking for a run, of course much depends upon where the opening is to be made, and a guard must be governed accordingly. The method itself is, again, different in the guard from that exhibited in the tackle. A guard may not move about so freely and must face his man more squarely than a tackle, for the guard must protect the quarter first, while the tackle considers the half only. If a guard allows his opponent to get a fair lunge with outstretched arm over or past his shoulder, he may reach the quarter's arm even though his body is checked, while such a reach at the point in the line occupied by the tackle would be of no value whatever. Previous to the snap-back's playing the ball it is the duty of the guards to see that their individual opponents do not succeed in either kicking the ball out from the snap-back's hand or otherwise interfer ing with his play. This is quite an important feature, and a centre should always feel that he has upon either hand a steady and wide-awake assistant, who will neither be caught napping nor allow any unfair advantage to be taken of him.
The guard should bear in mind one fact, however, and that most clearly. It is that squabbling and general pushing about are far more liable to disconcert his own centre and quarter than to interfere with the work of the opponents.
V.M. Harding. Harvard.