It may be old school, but kids love to hate this drill. These youth football coaching drills help teach the linemen to explode low, not stand up at the snap. This works for the first practices and for light practices before a game, as a group activity both with and without pads.
Tug of War
You get a tug-of-war rope, the thicker and heavier the better.
Place it one foot in front of the line of scrimmage.
Set-up a line, defensive or offensive, and have the linemen get in their set position.
While they hold their set position (good conditioning-no fidgeting or you start over), two “extra” players take the rope ends and hold the rope just above the linemen’s heads, one foot in front of the line of scrimmage, while the coach stands behind the rope showing the snap count or running gap (this ensures heads-up for linemen).
On the snap count, for offensive linemen or ball movement for defensive linemen, the players take their first explosive step forward AND stay under the rope. If they touch the rope, drop their head, miss the gap or jump off sides; they go to the side and perform 5 mountain climbers to work the knee to chest motion of their explosive step.
Our practices are 2 hours long, instead of finishing the practice with sprints and a lot of running, we have started doing our “end of practice conditioning” after an hour and fifteen minutes of practice and then spend the last half hour doing nothing but plays.
The kids don’t dread the running as much and their minds are on the plays.