ing me this wonderful opportunity to share some of my thoughts on wide receiv- er play with so many great coaches. I would also like to take time to recognize the great group of guys that I work with at Northern Illinois University, and the 2002 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, Joe Novak.
What I would like to discuss is what we at Northern Illinois University believe to be the keys to playing the wide receiver posi- tion in our offense. The topics that I would like to cover all build on one another with one being no greater than the other.
1.Stance & Start
We teach what we call an aggressive stance. Our stance is aggressive in pos- ture. We teach a staggered stance with our inside foot up with approximately three feet of lateral separation from the back foot. The front and back knees should be bent with a majority of the weight on the front foot. There should be a slight forward bend at the waist with the hands raised protect- ing the chest splitting our vision between the defender and the ball.
There is not a specified percentage of weight that is given to the receiver to have on his front foot. Instead, we instruct the receiver to try to push the front toe cleat through the ground while doing the same with the front toe cleat on the trail foot. By doing this we create a balanced stance for the receiver and puts him in a position were he can explode off the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball.
The key coaching points of the stance are we want to start in our ending position, thus reducing false steps and wasted motion. For a good solid stance, the receiv- er has his hands up with a slight forward lean at the waist. His feet are approximate- ly three feet apart so he will not false step on the release. His vision is split between the defensive back and the ball.
This is what we term the \u201cDrive\u201d phase. In this phase, we want we want to explode off the line of scrimmage like a sprinter run-
ning a 100-meter dash. Selling the vertical route, the wide receiver must close the cushion of the defender forcing him to get out of his back pedal.
This is the reason that we emphasize the forward lean, knee bend and the press- ing of the front toe cleats in the ground to generate more vertical drive off the line of scrimmage. We term this phase the drive phase to build a mental picture for our receivers sprinting down the field. We emphasize keeping a proper body lean in order to be able to breakdown, cut and accelerate out of routes at or near top speed.
The key coaching points of the drive phase are to explode off the line of scrim- mage, concentrate on maintaining forward body lean throughout the route, and to attack and close the defensive back\u2019s cushion throughout the route into the break point.
Our offense relies heavily on our receivers getting good vertical stretch, run - ning precise routes, and being able to cre- ate separation from defenders by transi- tioning in and out of breaks quickly. We emphasize to our receivers that we want to drive in and run out of cuts. What this means is that we want to get to top speed as soon as possible once the ball is snapped.
As we reach our break point, we want to \u201csnap\u201d our chest down over our toes while keeping our eyes up staring through the defender. The snap aspect of the break- down phase is used to redirect our momen- tum from going forward to going down into our break point. It is key to keep the head and eyes up to maintain body balance and to keep the defensive back from jumping the route. We use the angle cut drill (Diagram 1) and the five-yard finish cut drill (Diagram 2) with our receivers.
On coach\u2019s command, player reaches cone, they should begin to drop their hips and butt while pumping their arms to quick- ly decelerate and explode to the next cone.As the player drives to the next cone, he will have to adjust body position to \u201crun in and out of cut\u201d defending on angle of the next cut.
from break point in two-point stance. On coach or quarterback\u2019s command, the wide receiver runs to breakpoint (five yards from the start).
get good push off the line. You want to emphasize the aspect of running in and out of cut, pumping arms and exploding out of cut to keep separation, while locating the ball.
As the wide receiver snaps his shoul- ders down, he should begin to drop his butt and drive his plant foot into the ground making sure to keep it within the framework of his body at all times. The plant foot is defined as the foot opposite of the direction that you wish to break. The wide receiver should concentrate on maintaining arm movements that simulates the movement used when running, which we term \u201cbang- ing the drums.\u201d
Most receivers will drop their arms or stick them outside the framework of their body, which slows the transition out of the break and gives obvious clues that will tip off the defender. During the breakdown phase of the route we do not want to lose much of the speed that we have built up during the drive phase. Rather, we want to downshift until we have our speed under control to execute the cut allowing the receiver to \u201crun out\u201d of the cut. The wide receiver should begin to transition out of the break once his plant foot is firmly into the ground.
should thrown back opening his shoulders and snapping the \u201cchin\u201d to the quarterback allowing the wide receiver to continue to run out of the cut. To help our receivers with the aspect of driving the plant foot and \u201cbanging the drums\u201d we use the four-cone drill (Diagram 3).
On coach\u2019s command, player runs a con- trolled speed to next cone. As player runs a controlled speed to next cone, they should begin to drop their hips and butt while pumping their arms to quickly decelerate and explode to the next cone.
The key to this phase is the receiver get- ting his chin to the quarterback. We believe that by teaching this you force the receiver to focus the eyes faster and keep and maintain separation.
When facing press technique, the wide receiver must be able to execute an effec- tive release. This release occurs on the line of scrimmage, which we term as the prima- ry release. When the defense attempts to play press technique on a wide receiver, they believe they are better than the receiv- er. We teach our players to take this per- sonally and attack them from the outset. Our primary release we teach is the \u201cchop.\u201d We teach this release to our receivers in a three-step progression.
The first step in the progression is to bring the back foot forward slightly past bal- ance of the front foot and cross the line of scrimmage. We then want to jab step with our front foot attacking his leverage. We refer to this as \u201cinching up,\u201d meaning that we are inching up on the defensive back with short, quick, aggressive steps to attack the defensive back and get him off balance and to force him to react to us. If done cor- rectly the defensive back has to show you something or he will get beat for sure. We always want to be the aggressors.
The second step in the progression is to locate the defender\u2019s hands, and break and control the post arm. We term the post arm as the arm the defender will use to execute the initial stab on the receiver. To be able to control and break the post arm, the receiver must get his eyes focused on the defenders hands to identify which arm he will use in the initial stab.
As we begin to break the post arm, we want to use the arm to the side of our release to gain control of the post arm. We instruct our receivers to aim to gain control of the post arm between the wrist and the elbow. We use this as our control point because this is the weakest point of the arm. By gaining control at this point you will be able to control and throw the defender off balance.
In the final step in the progression, we want to use the arm opposite of the release to violently chop the \u201ccatch\u201d arm of the defensive back. We term the catch arm as the arm the defensive back uses after the initial stab has been given. This chop must happen within the framework of the body. We do not want to get over extended and open ourselves up to the defender. After we have executed this final phase we want to establish our vertical line and get into our route. By establishing the vertical line you force the defender to open his hips putting him into a trail position, thus leaving him at the mercy of the wide receiver.
The key coaching point of the chop release is to attack the defender with short, quick, aggressive moves up the field. The more aggressive we are the less aggres- sive the defensive back will be.
All receivers need confidence in order to the catch the ball consistently under pres- sure. Proper practice and preparation are prime factors in developing confidence. We teach our receivers that you always want to catch the ball with your eyes first. Meaning that, before your hands have a chance to touch the ball, you must first locate it with your eyes and track it all the way into your hands.
We teach our receivers that you want to have \u201cbig eyes\u201d focusing on the front point of the ball trying to catch the \u201cfat\u201d of the ball. We always want to attack the football when it is in the air. This allows the receiver to maintain the separation that he has worked to develop. It is also important the receiver tries to catch the football within the frame- work of his body.
By attacking the football in the air the wide receiver will be able to accomplish this task a majority of the time. By catching the football within the framework of the body it will allow the receiver to have a bet- ter chance to run after the catch thus increasing his big play ability. When the ball is in the air the receiver must have the \u201cmy- ball attitude.\u201d This means that he is going to do whatever it takes to make the catch, regardless of what type of throw it is or where it is.
When teaching receivers the intricacies of catching the football, we give two basic starting points. The first being if the ball is from the numbers up, squeeze the thumbs and forefingers of both hands together forming a triangle. The second rule is if the ball is from the mid-numbers or lower, press the little fingers of both hands togeth- er forming a cup for the ball. Some of the drills that we do to improve our receiver\u2019s ball catching skills are the \u201cpicture catch\u201d (Diagram 4).
Four receivers pair up with four quarter- back\u2019s, facing each other about 10 yards apart. The coach controls the drill with five commands:
In this drill we emphasize the receiver looking the ball all the way into his hands. Upon the ball reaching the hands, we instruct the receiver to firmly catch the ball, looking at the position of the hands on the ball all the way to the tuck position. This drill allows the receiver to learn to track the ball all the way into his hands.
Other drills that we include on our daily catch routine are the over the shoulder drill and the distraction drill (Diagrams 5 and 6).
players run into the end zone to place emphasis on catching the ball for the touchdown. Players start to run at half speed toward the end zone looking inside for the ball. The ball is thrown in a high arc over the outside shoulder. the receiver has to adjust to the ball by either fading with the ball or turning his hips, shoulders and head around to catch the ball.
on body control, quick turning of the head, shoulders and hips and to keep the arms up when turning around.
One or two players are lined up eight yards in front of the net facing each other (one yard apart). The receiver runs about three-quarter speed behind them and tries to catch the ball in his hands. The two play- ers in front, wave their hands in front of the ball but do not try to touch it. This drill is run from both sides.
Perimeter blocking at the receiver posi- tion requires a want-to mentality. As we all know, it does not take great skill to be an e ffective blocker, rather it takes great desire. We always talk with our players about the difference between a good receiver and a great receiver is their ability to block. Good perimeter blocking will drive the run game of any offense making it more effective. It is most times the difference between 20-yard runs becoming touch- downs.
We teach perimeter blocking in a two- step progression. The first part of the pro- gression is what we term \u201cform and fit.\u201d In this phase, we instruct our receivers to begin to break down no more then two to three yards from the defensive back. We want to be under control in a good football position allowing us to mirror the move of the defender. Once we have come to bal- ance we want to engage contact, and to do this we use the base of our palms to strike the breastplate trying to insert our fingers under the defensive back\u2019s armpits.
We always want to keep our headgear below the defensive back\u2019s, focusing on his mid-section. We call this the proper \u201cfit\u201d position. The second phase of this progres- sion is the \u201cfit and drive\u201d, in this phase we want to go with the momentum of the defender. We will fight pressure with pres- sure. Whichever way the defender wants to go once we have properly established the fit position.
We will use the defensive backs momentum to the ball against him and \u201cdrive\u201d him past the play. Our blocking phi- losophy is that we want to always maintain contact with the defender using his momentum against him. Thus allowing the runningback to have clear running lanes to make the proper cuts. Drills that we use to drill our perimeter blocking techniques are the mirror drill (Diagram 7) and the stalk drill (Diagram 8).
between the cones (which are 5-8 yards apart). Let one receiver be the defensive back and have the other one mirror him. Let them go for 6-8 seconds, then switch duties. The defensive back may turn his hips and do everything to fake the blocker. the defensive back might take one or two attempts to pass the receiver, but should step back as soon as he feels contact from the receiver\u2019s hands.
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