At the youth level, the toughest position on defense is linebacker. Players at this position need to be able to read and react to whatever the offense is doing – which usually means, at the youth level, stopping the run, though also could mean picking up a running back who is sent out as a receiver.
Linebacker requires a player with a good mix of strength and speed. He needs to be fast enough to pursue runners and cover receivers, and he needs to be strong enough to fight off blocks and make tackles. He also needs to be agile enough to move laterally while keeping his balance, avoiding blockers and stepping across fallen players.
The line takes that first burst from the offense and usually will be occupied by blockers. It’s the linebacker’s job to avoid blocks, maintain his zone and get to the ballcarrier. The defensive backs are behind him in support, but the linebacker wants to keep the runner from breaking into the open field before he gets to the safeties. He needs to contain the play. As we know, when a runner gets into the open field, it’s tougher to tackle him and easier for him to gain yards.
In this video from PigskinKids.com, the host, for the reasons mentioned here, says that “linebacker is the most important position on the defense.” He then puts a couple of players through a series of drills to improve footwork, balance and tackling. Check out the drills, which don’t require much equipment and can help you develop your linebackers into dependable drive stoppers. When your defense, led by your linebackers, can prevent long gains, your team will stop the opponent’s drives and keep them off the scoreboard.