This section is from the book "A Scientific And Practical Treatise On American Football For Schools And Colleges", by A. Alonzo Stagg, Henry L. Williams. Don't miss: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
Dodging in running can be cultivated through the study and practice of its points of deception. The underlying principle is the quick movement of the body, or portion of the body, from a point where it would have been if it had continued in the same direction. In the most simple form of dodging the runner suddenly changes his direction. As usually practiced, the runner is obliged to slow up a great deal, in order to change his course. In all dodging, the runner, if at topmost speed, must slacken speed a little, just before he reaches the tackier, in order to reduce the size of his stride so that he may have a proper balance for projecting the body in another direction, or so that he may make certain preliminary body motions which cannot be made when at full speed.
There are several ways of dodging, but one man seldom possesses more than one or two. The zigzag dodge, which used to be so common when individual running and poor tackling were in vogue, is performed by a combination of leg and body feints. Its weakness is that it retards the runner too much. In another dodge the runner strides suddenly one side with a long step. This is a very effective method for long-legged runners. In another, the runner sways his body from one side to the other, the legs being planted wide apart as each step is taken in a zigzag course. The runner moves in the same general direction until the opponent is reached and then darts to one side. Still another dodge is made by drawing the hips away, and in this dodge a clever use of the arm is valuable. It is one of the most effective, since the hips are usually the part aimed at in tackling. Another way is to duck under a tackier, by bending the body low at the waist. This is practiced most effectively by small men and is most valuable against high tackling. Another method is to turn the body completely around when about to be tackled, upon one foot as a pivot. This comes into splendid use when the tackier has been unable to grasp the runner with both hands. In another form of avoiding a tackier, the runner, on being approached from the side, slows up a little; whereupon the opponent delays just long enough to allow him to go around by putting on a burst of speed.
Good dodging is not complete unless there is added to it the power to use the arms well in warding off. The latter supplements the former most effectively when well done. When the tackling is high, or when the runner is well bent over, the arm should be extended against the face or chest of the opponent. Often, on a long dive or reach for the hips by the tackier, the runner can break the hold by striking down with his arm. All the above styles of dodging can be acquired by practice. It is better to practice them with only one or two men to act as opponents, after the movement has been learned.
There is another requisite needed by the half-back in addition to dodging, and that is the ability to follow an interferer or interferers well. Half-backs differ greatly in skill on this point. The work of escaping a tackier should not rest wholly in the interferers' hands, as it so often does. The half-back should supplement the latter's work by taking advantage of the protection given him to work every ruse and feint he knows. Where there are several interferers, there is a chance for the runner to move from one to the other as occasion suggests. It needs quick wit and agility to follow interferers well, but much can be learned by practice with or without opponents, and every half-back should devote himself to perfecting his play in this particular.
The half-backs must be good catchers, not only of kicked balls, but also, and especially, of balls passed from the quarter-back. Oftentimes, the fault of a muff or a fumble can be laid to a poor pass, but if the quarterback is unsteady on his part, there is all the more reason that the half-backs and full-back be skillful catchers. If 5 weak in catching, much practice should be given by the half-backs to perfecting themselves. They should work at this in conjunction with the quarter-back in order that they may get used to each other. In catching short passes, it is usually better to catch the ball with the hands. This is surer because the hands can adapt themselves much better than the arms to the position and shape of the ball when a man is running. In running sidewise to the pass, as it is necessary to do in so many plays, the arms could not be used without checking the speed; while there need be no diminution in speed when the ball is caught in the hands, provided the quarter-back does his work well.
There are three ways of carrying the ball, and each has its proper occasions for use. When the play is straight through the center the general order to the halfback is to put the head down on a level with the waist, gathering the ball up under the body with both arms, because there could be no use for an arm to ward off an opponent until the line has been penetrated, and there is great danger of losing the ball by the pulling and hauling to which the runner is subjected. After the runner is well through the line and has a chance to run freely, he should transfer the ball to the side of the body opposite the arm with which it is necessary to ward off. The runner should look for opponents as he emerges from the opening, and likewise for interferers. Where the play is through the more open part of the line the runner should usually carry the ball under the arm which is away from the opponents who are likely to meet him first, shifting it to the other arm when necessary. - In this case, likewise, it is occasionally better to carry the ball in both hands until there is need for warding off an opponent, at which moment the ball can be easily shifted to whichever arm it is desired. This provides for any emergency. This way of carrying the ball is especially valuable in dodging, since the ball can be placed quickly under either arm and a better defense made; for if forced to dodge, the runner may transfer the ball to the arm away from his opponent and have the other free to ward off. By moving the ball from one side to the other in front of the body while running, the dodge will be made more effective.