receivers. Over the years this offense has generated a great deal of yardage through the air. A large portion of that
comes from the involvement of our running backs. Our running backs play a vital part in our offense because they
give us the opportunity to create mismatches with different defenders throughout a ballgame. Many times we get a
fifth or sixth cover man matched on our backs, which is often one of our best athletes. Our philosophy is to get the
ball to the person who can score as fast as possible. Throughout the years we have incorporated four routes that have
been a crucial part of the running backs success in our offense. The Swing, Shoot, Angle, and Option are the four
routes we will discuss as well as the drill work we use to teach these routes at Southeastern.
Our running backs are in a two-point stance. Their feet are shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, shoulders over
the balls of their feet with their hands resting on their knees. We place his heels at five yards, with his outside leg
splitting the crotch of the offensive tackle. The running back\u2019s first responsibility is to always check for the blitz before
releasing into the pass route. When releasing on all of our routes we ball the toes of our inside or \u201cplant foot\u201d to
prevent any false steps. When running all of these routes, if the back feels he has
at least 10 yards in front of him, he will give a \u201cball\u201d call which alerts the
quarterback to throw him the ball immediately.
The first two routes we will discuss are the swing and the shoot. These routes are
used to stretch a defense horizontally and create passing lanes. Many times the
defense does not extend out to cover him. The swing route is a high percentage
pass that turns out to be nothing more than a glorified sweep. Pushing off his
inside foot, the back's first step or \u201copen\u201d step will be made at the 3 o'clock
position, not giving ground and keeping his shoulders square to the line of
scrimmage (Diagram 1). We want him to run five hard steps and settle on top of
the numbers slightly drifting towards the line of scrimmage. There are a couple of
coaching points we use when teaching this route. When running this route we
never want to give ground or \u201carc\u201d the route. Secondly, we want our backs to keep
their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage at all times (as seen in photo 1).
The backs are taught to keep the quarterback and the linebacker in sight in case
we get a delayed blitz, which we would give a \u201cball\u201d call. Finally, we want to stress
the importance of getting to the numbers and settle. A good way to teach this is by
placing the back on a line and then have him run the steps listed above. Then
place a cone where the numbers would be to
ensure that the back gets to the numbers.
Our shoot route is a great timing route that we
use for a quick release into the flat. We want
the back to run in a straight line to the
numbers. When he reaches the numbers he
must be at the depth of three yards. Keeping
out inside foot planted, our first step is with our
outside leg and we aim for the numbers. Our
second step follows, and on our third step,
which should be on our outside leg, we want our
head turned back looking for the ball. By our
fourth step we should have the ball and are
ready to turn up field (Diagram 2). If we do not
receive the ball we want to carry the route to
the numbers and settle. As with the swing route we want to take the route all the way to the numbers. Key coaching points to this route are getting our head around looking back at the quarterback and maintaining a depth no greater than three yards. We never want to bend the route up field then out to the numbers. As a teaching tool we like to use two cones: one is placed at the backs feet and the second is on the numbers at the depth of three yards (as seen in photo 2). Have the coach stand at the numbers to make sure the back is not bending the route up field while also looking to see if the back is getting his head around the third step.
The next two routes are used when we feel the defender is over playing our back\u2019s routes in or to the flats. We try to
use the angle in contrast with our shoot route, when the defender is overplaying our backs to the flat. As on all our
routes we push off our inside foot. We want our open step to be in between the shoot and swing route to give the
defender the same look as the shoot route. This is followed by our second and third step. Our fourth and fifth are
gather steps. The back must stick his toe outside his foot into the ground (fifth step) and return towards the middle of
the field at a depth of three yards (as seen in photo 3). We want to make sure our fourth and fifth steps are at the
original line of scrimmage (Diagram 3). A key point to this route is not drifting too far up field, which would give the
defender a chance to recover. We also want to make sure that we sell the shoot route and get the defender to over
run the play.
The option route is a great route because it is so versatile. We can use it against any coverage and it allows the back
to get out into the open very quickly. There are three key reads to this route: being able to recognize man or zone,
proper depth when running the route, and the timing between the quarterback and the running back. Both players
have to be on the same page in order for this to work properly. On this route we want to line up directly behind the
tackle with our heels at five yards. Pushing off on our inside foot we want to release outside the tackle and head
straight up field to a depth of four yards past the line of scrimmage. If the back sees zone coverage, he will hook up,
turn and face the quarterback. Now when the back knows he has man-to-man coverage he must recognize the
leverage of the defender. If the defender is playing the back with inside leverage he will push off his inside foot and
drive to the outside, running away from the defender (Diagram 4A). If the defender is playing the back with outside
leverage he will plant his outside foot and break inside the defender (Diagram 4B).
Two key coaching points are to teach the back to not get any deeper than four yards past the line of scrimmage and make certain he must be ready to receive the ball out of his break. When drilling this route use the quarterback and running back that will be involved in the game so they can work on their timing. Place a cone at four yards to make the back gain the proper depth, and then give him a zone or man look. If you give him a man-to-man look, show him inside or outside leverage. It is good to do this route without the rest of the offense around so the quarterback and running back can focus on each other.
The key to the \u201cAir Raid\u201d offense, as well as to these routes, is repetition. The more a player runs these routes, the more familiar he becomes with the steps and timing. Many times the difference between a good route and a great route may only be one step. That is why we practice five good reps instead of ten mediocre ones. We hope that this article can better prepare you and your backs on receiving the ball out of the backfield.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?