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The Passing Game - Reading from High to Low

The Passing Game - Reading from High to Low



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Published by Coach Brown

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Published by: Coach Brown on May 27, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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I love coming to clinics. I have heard a lot of greathigh school, college, and professional coachesspeak at clinics. It is an honor for me to share withyou some of the things that we do in our passinggame at Elder High School.We want to be an efficient passing team. We arenot going to throw the ball 50 to 60 times pergame. However, we want to be efficient with whatwe do.When I played high school football in the 1980'sat Reading High School, there were not a lot of teams throwing the football. My coach at ReadingHigh School changed his philosophy and gave mea chance to throw the ball 25 to 27 times pergame. That gave me the opportunity to go to theUniversity of Louisville. In my first year at theUniversity of Louisville, our offensive coordinatorhappened to be Steve Mariucci. That was a greatexperience working for Steve.After I got out of college I was fortunate to getinto coaching at Reading High School. Then Iwent to Elder High School as an assistant coach. Ilearned a lot about the passing game at Elder HighSchool.What I have tried to do with all of the things Ihave learned is to create a passing game that iseffective. By being efficient, we want to be a teamthat has a high percentage of completions, and wedo not want to throw a lot of interceptions. Thoseitems may seem to be simple things, but as acoach you have to work with the quarterbacks andoffensive linemen so you can get that done. I havea chart of the passing stats for Elder High Schoolfor the last four years. I want to talk about threeareas on the chart.
 57 1 11.4
. 607 10.7 121.4
 57.2 57.2
 9377 164.5 1875.4
 91 1.59
 45 .79
 You can see the totals for all of the quarterbacksfor four years. I have underlined four areas I wantto stress. In the last five years, we have completedover 57 percent of our passes. We strive for that55 to 60 percent range on completions. If we canget that kind of production out of our quarterback,we think that is good.We have the reputation of throwing the footballall of the time. You can see we are only throwingthe ball a little over 18 times per game. We run onthe average 55 plays per game. We are throwingthe ball 18.6 times per game. That means we arethrowing the ball about 34 percent of the time.The other thing I want to point out is ourtouchdowns ratio to our interceptions. We are at2-to-1 in that category. We have 18.2 touchdownsper year and only 9 interceptions per year. That iswhat we strive for. If we can average 2-to-1 in ourtouchdowns and interceptions ratio, we feel wewill be in good shape. This means we arethrowing about .8 interceptions per game. Wewant to be efficient in the passing game.I have listed seven keys to the passing game that Ithink are important to be an efficient passingteam. The first four keys reflect on the coach.
The first key is pass protection. You have to dosomething to protect your quarterback. It does notmatter what passing game you use, you mustprotect your quarterback. It is extremely too toughto throw the ball if you are getting hit in themouth play after play. You may want to "hotread," or send out only one or two receivers, butyou have to protect the quarterback.The second key is to move the pocket. To protectthe quarterback you must be able to move thepocket. We throw 3, 5, and 8-step drop passes.We throw play-action, bootleg, and sprint-outpasses. We want to have a different launch pointfor our quarterback so the defense does not knowwhere the quarterback will be throwing the ballfrom. We run the ball from the I-formation verywell. At one time this year, we went two gamesand one-half of the third game without throwing adrop-back pass. Every pass we threw was a play-action pass. If you can run play-action passes, itwill make your running game more efficient.The third key in being efficient in the passinggame is that you must run screens and draw plays.You must keep the defensive line honest. We donot want to let the defense pin their ears back andcome after the quarterback with an all out rushplay after play. We feel the screen pass is an easypass to complete. You can run the bubble screen,and that play is almost like a handoff. It is a high-percentage pass, and it gives one of your betterplayers a chance to run to daylight.The fourth key is spacing in our pass routes. Wewant to spread the field. We want to spread thefield vertically and horizontally. We have eightpassing zones on the field. Everyone knows thereare five zones underneath and three zones up ontop. If the defense is rushing four men, that meansthey are dropping seven in pass coverage. So whatwe do is to spread the defense either vertical orhorizontal. We want to get the defense in a 3-on-2, or a 2-on-1 situation. The defense can not coverevery zone. It is our job as coaches to design playswhere we can get 2-on-3 and 2-on-1 situations.We want to get four or five receivers out into theroute as much as possible. If the defense is onlyrushing four men, we should be able to block them. We have five offensive linemen. Iunderstand you may need the backs to block inprotection at times but you need to get four andfive receivers out in the pattern.You must give the receiver the room to run andseparate from man coverage. If you are gettingman coverage, you cannot have stationaryreceivers. It is not hard to cover a receiver if he isstanding still. You must have routes where thereceivers can break away and separate from mancoverage. Now, we will sit in the "window"against zone coverage. If you have receiversrunning at the same level or same depth, no onewill get open.As a coach you can implement the first four keysto an efficient passing game. You can run screensand draws, and design routes where the receiversare spread out enough to get open.The next three keys are things the coach must beable to teach the players, in particular, thequarterback. The fifth key is for the quarterback tothrow the ball on time. So many times in highschool the quarterback will wait until the receiveris open. If the quarterback waits until the receiveris open, by the time the ball gets to the receiver heis not open any longer. You must teach thequarterback to anticipate when the receiver willcome open. It comes down to the coach teachingthe quarterback to read the defense. He mustknow his key and who to read in the secondary.On our 5-step drop, when we go to that fifth step,we are going to stop, slide, and throw. I wantthem to know where the football is going to gowhen they stop and slide. They may have to adjustand move their feet before they throw the ball, butI want them to know they have to throw the ballwhen they stop on that fifth step. They arethrowing the ball on time. We want to get the ballto the open receiver and give him a chance tomake some yardage after he catches the ball.The sixth key to an efficient passing game is tothrow to the open receiver. The quarterback mustread the defense and take what they give him.
That may sound like a lot, but it is not difficult.If it is third and ten, we do not want ourquarterback forcing the ball to a covered receiverthat is ten yards down the field just because it isthird and ten. If the man open is at five yards, wewant to throw the ball to him. Throw the ball tothe man that is open. I spend a lot of time inteaching the quarterback to read the defense andto find the open receiver. Just because it is thirdand ten, I don’t want him to force the throw to areceiver that is covered just because it is third andten. If we can get the ball to the open man at fiveyards on third and ten, we are going to give him achance to run with it to make the extra yards. If we do not get the first down, we will punt thefootball. I do not want to take a chance of theinterception by throwing the ball to a coveredman. I would rather punt the ball 30 yards downthe field and take a chance with our defense.Turnovers are tough for the offense. We do not jump our quarterback when he throws aninterception. We ask him what did he see when hethrew the ball. "Trust what you see." Yourquarterback is going to throw interceptions. Youmust get him to trust what he sees. If you are onhis back every time he throws an interception, hewill start holding on to the ball too long, or he willwait until the receiver gets wide open and thenwhen he does throw it, the receiver is covered.You end up getting more turnovers. That is notwhat we are all about. We are about throwing tothe man that is open and being efficient in thepassing game.The seventh key to an efficient passing game is toteach the quarterback to be able to throw the ballaway. You must teach him when to run the ball.You must work on a scramble drill to teach himhow to run and where to run. You can't expecthim to do that without working on it. You have topractice on the scramble.When you are working with the quarterback onthe scramble drill, the receivers must know wherethey are going when the quarterback starts hisscramble. They must know where to go on theroute as the quarterback starts his scramble.You must work on the mechanics with yourquarterbacks. I am not going to cover themechanics of playing quarterback. These are keysfor you as coaches that will help make yourpassing game more efficient.What does Elder High School try to do with itspassing game? We are going to try to get a 3-on-2situation with you a lot of the time. We createtriangles with our passing routes to get the 3-on-2situations. We are going to pick out individualreceivers and run a high-low route against them.We are going to get 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 and throwthe ball at different levels. If the defense is acover-3 type team, that is what we are going to doa lot of the time. We want to get the 3-on-2 asmuch as we can. We are going to pick outindividual defenders and we are going to go high-low on those individuals.At times, we may do both by having a triangle inthe middle of the field with a post pattern over thetop of the triangle. The quarterback looks for thedeep man on the post, and then goes to thetriangle underneath if the safetyman takes awaythe post route.We will always have one route in the play that isgood against man coverage. It is what we call aman-beater. It cannot be a receiver who has ablocking assignment. It does not matter the typeof action the quarterback takes on the play, we aregoing to have a man-coverage beater in ourpatterns. When we come to the line of scrimmageand the defense switches to man coverage, ourquarterback knows he is going to look for thereceiver that is designated as the man-coveragebeater.We are going to take what the defense is giving uson the play. It is important to make sure the manthat is going to run the man-beater does not have ablocking assignment. If a running back has tocheck the linebacker before he goes out on aroute, then he cannot be the man-beater. He mayhave to block the linebacker and stay with him forthe entire time of the play. The same is true if youhave the tight end in protection. You cannot have

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