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The responsibilities of a quarterback are vastly different from any other position on the field. You are the coach on the field. You must be the first guy on the field and the last guy off the field. You must spend more time on film work – watching practice and game film, watching our offense, and watching our opponent’s defense. You have to know everything about our offense and the opponent’s defense. You must always be ahead of the other players, knowing not only your assignment, but everyone else’s as well (particularly the receivers and running backs). You must understand the defense – what they are trying to do to us; its strengths and weaknesses – so you can counter attack.
The play starts with you every time. Even the way you receive the play is important. You must make sure you know the signals, pay attention and don’t miss any information about the play call. Get the whole play described perfectly. Your attitude toward the play is crucial. The other players in the huddle can sense your attitude, which will affect the success of the play. You must be firm and confident, saying the play clearly and calmly so that everyone completely understands the whole play. If you have problems talking in the huddle, say the play over to yourself before you step into the huddle. Once you step into the huddle, everyone stops moving and talking. Take control of the huddle. All eyes should be on you. Be at least arm’s length away from the front line of the huddle so you are not crowding them. Say the play loudly enough so that everyone in the huddle hears you but not so loud that the defense hears you. Make sure you pause when you are supposed to, not rushing, and get a good break. Everyone claps together. If you receive the play correctly and present it to the offense correctly, then the chances of that play being successful are very good. After you have broken the huddle make sure players are moving in the right direction to get lined up properly. You should walk briskly up to the line of scrimmage. Don’t sprint or walk slowly. As you are approaching the center, check to see that we are in the proper formation. Scan the defense – look right, look left – when you have reached your position behind the center. When you are ready to receive the ball, tap the center on his right cheek, letting him know you are getting under center and ready. This procedure must be done the same way every time. Scan the defense again as you begin the cadence. Your eyes should be facing straight ahead before the ball is snapped. Once the ball is snapped, your eyes go immediately to what they should be looking at on that particular play.
RECEIVING THE BALL FROM CENTER
If you can’t get the snap, you can’t play quarterback! This should never be under estimated. You can never practice it enough. You must get snaps before and after practice no matter if you are having problems or not. Every QB does it exactly the same way, no matter if you are right handed or left handed. By doing this, it is always the same for the center, no matter who is at quarterback.
Hand placement: All QB’s will put their right hand on top, with the left hand below. The two hands press together at the natural grooves of the knuckles on the thumb. The left hand (bottom hand) is slightly back – the ends of both thumbs should not be even. The fingers are comfortably spread, just as if you were gripping the football to pass it. Now, your pointer finger should be right in the crack of the center’s behind and all other fingers should press upward, giving pressure to his behind. The thumb of the top hand is spread in such a manner as to be nearly parallel to the line of scrimmage. The bottom hand is placed in a position so that the thumbs are together in the natural mesh of the knuckles. The hands should be offset so that the bottom hand is slightly behind the top hand. The bottom hand gives the upward pressure on the top hand creating the hand pressure up under the center. The pressure contact is maintained throughout the snap (this is called “riding the center out”). In a perfect snap the fingers of the right hand should receive the laces in such a manner that the ball is ready to be thrown with little or no adjustment. Arms: The top elbow will be straight. This will make sure you are the correct distance from the center – not crowding – and will also help you stand tall. If you have a bent arm your hands may separate or you may have a tendency to pull out early. The bottom arm can be slightly bent. When you receive the snap, absorb the blow of the football by giving in with your shoulder. Make sure you ride the center out with pressure to his behind until you receive the football. Remember, the center may be stepping right or left so be ready to go with him. Legs and Feet: You want your feet spread apart, right under your hips or under your armpits (not quite shoulder width apart). The weight should be on the balls of your feet so you can push off in either direction. Your feet should be staggered ever so slightly with the left foot (non-throwing foot) back of the right foot almost in a toeto-instep stagger. The toes should be straight ahead or pigeon-toed in but never pointing outward. The legs should be slightly bent but not too much. You want to lift the center up as much as possible so you should start tall. You may have to bend your legs more for some centers. Your knees should be slightly “knock-kneed”. This will help you push off and move quickly away from the center. Upper Body: You want to stand as tall as you can so you can see everything going on with the defense. You adjust your height with your legs, not your upper body. Your back should be straight with only a slight arch. Your head should be up. Remember to get yourself into the correct position every time – no matter if you are having a manager snap or on air. It must be done the same every time if you want to be consistent.
MECHANICS IN THE RUN GAME
Position of the Ball: • Post-Snap – “Seat the ball” into a “pocket”; bring ball into the body at belt area with elbows close to side, protecting the football.
Adjustment – Adjust hands on the ball according to what you wish to do next. Before Hand-Off – Keep your body between the ball and the defensive man we are trying to deceive as much as possible. This aids in play fakes and slows down backside defenders.
Spins and Turns (reversing out): • Head and Eyes – Turn head and eyes in direction of spin, locating the ball carrier and the mesh point. Be under control to avoid any contact with lead back or ball carrier. Must ride center out – keep hands under center. Shoulders and Hips – Twist from the hips and shoulders in a natural motion, following the head and eyes. Be balanced and under control. Footwork – The initial push off begins when the ball is received, never before. A transfer of weight must precede the push off, shifting from a balanced position to the stable foot. The lead foot steps in the direction of the play in a swinging motion and, preferably, kept close to the ground.
The following procedure should be smooth and sound: a) head and eyes turn in direction of play b) shoulders and hips follow, under control c) push off away foot with proper transfer of weight d) lead foot steps in direction of play e) follow through with push off foot for balance f) move in controlled alignment Hand-off: • • Responsibility – The QB is 100% responsible for the success of the hand-off. He must adjust to the ball carrier and get him the football. Holding the Ball – Keep both hands on the ball as long as possible. As you approach the mesh point, move ball from pocket to ball carrier while gradually releasing the hand nearest that point. The give hand should be slightly under and to the rear of the ball. “Start with 2, finish with 1.” Look – Eye the spot where you intend to place the ball. Look the ball directly into stomach and make necessary adjustments. Footwork – Try to make the exchange with the same foot as the give hand. This allows for greater reach and balance. Placing the Ball – Place or press the ball firmly into the ball carrier’s pocket (remember, you adjust to him), allowing your give hand to ride the ball. Ball should be motionless. Avoid slamming the ball into the ball carrier.
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Technique – After hand-off, return hands to pocket for additional fakes of setting up to pass. “Hide your hands.” Types – 2 main categories: - “Hand Fake”… hold ball in your seated pocket position with support hand while placing an empty give hand to running back at mesh point, allowing back to fold over hand as if receiving ball. - “Ball Fake”… show the ball with two hands, ride the fake and pull out. Purposes of Fakes: - Deception of the defense - Protection from getting hit from behind (slows down backside defenders) - Opportunity to read secondary - On fumbles, you become the safety man
Toss: • QB reverses out; seat the ball to pocket position; on spin, get lead foot completely around (180 degrees) and on the ground before making an underhand dead toss to the back. Lead the back slightly and put the toss approximately elbow high. Complete spin and lead back through hole.
Option: • Ball Position – Ball should be held with both hands gripping just slightly above center. Ball should be held close to the body just below chest level. QB should have the ability to tuck it away and run or pitch it. Footwork – Open and lead step with near foot. Proceed to option point attacking the defender’s inside leg. Be quick (but under control) and force the defender into a decision as soon as possible. Read – Head and eyes locate the option man immediately after the snap. Read through decision or option point. Decision – Your decision to pitch or keep is based upon the answer to one question, “Can he tackle me?” If so, pitch the ball as soon as you know it. If not, tuck the ball away and turn up field. Pitch on our terms – if not sure then keep the ball. Pitch – Using the hand closest to the back, pitch the ball in an end-over-end motion, leading the back slightly. Pitch the second you know the defender can make a play on you. Thumb under on the pitch. Keep pitch about numbers high on the running back.
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MECHANICS IN THE PASSING GAME
Position of Ball: • After follow through of the snap, bring the ball into pocket position and continue to high cradle at armpit level (breastplate on throwing side) using both hands. Adjust the laces to the fingers. Be ready to throw at any time. Never carry the ball in one hand.
Throwing Mechanics: • Footwork – Upon reaching the setting position (end of drop) the QB must anchor his final step and close his feet in a gathering motion to prevent over striding. The QB must be perpendicular to the LOS until a decision is made to throw the ball. At this point, step toward the target with the front foot (left foot for right-handers). Do not over stride. Stay on top of the left foot through the passing motion. Follow through should take the rear foot past the front foot towards the target. Read – Having located the defensive man (read key) on your drop, make your decision on where to throw. Find the receiver or the seam and watch that spot through the entire passing motion. Be aware of the advantages of “looking off” secondary defenders. This can be done during your drop, after you read, or whenever the opportunity arises. Use your eyes as a weapon. The main point, though, is to keep your eyes on the target through the throw. Arms and Shoulders – Arms should be kept close to the body until you begin the pass action. At this point, a cocking action takes place where the left elbow (for right handers) passes the left hip the left hip as the ball is “pushed back” with the non-throwing hand. This immediately precedes the first forward movement. As the ball is thrown, the right elbow must be above the right shoulder for proper throwing action. Follow through completely. Hand Position – Basically, the ball leaves the index finger last and the palm must face the target at all times. The follow through should imitate an invert position (thumb down, palm away). Spreading apart the index finger and middle finger aids in this. Throwing Short – Short to medium range passes should be thrown at normal speed using the techniques described thus far. An important point is to avoid over striding. Throw while over the front foot. Know your receiver and realize what type of ball needs to be thrown (velocity). Throwing Long – This is the only passing situation where it becomes necessary to over stride slightly, throwing more off the back foot. The trajectory of the pass is such that this step is necessary. Throw the pass knowing the speed of the receiver as well as the position of the secondary. Generally, release the ball with the idea of letting the receiver run under it and catch the ball in stride. Release point should be higher than that of shorter throws. Screens and Flare Passes – These should be thrown similar to the short pass, without extra loft but at a speed that may be less than normal (an easy ball to catch). Adjust to the position of the receiver.
Dropback: • • Types – Short routes call for a 3-step drop (no drop from shotgun); medium routes a 5-step drop; long routes a 7-step drop or a 5-step and “hold”. Technique – “Crossover.” Involves dropping the tail to begin movement and momentum. Lead step with the right foot (right-handers) parallel to the LOS and crossover with left foot. Reach and crossover to the setting point. In the last two steps before balancing and setting up, shift weight forward to slow up and prepare to gather your feet. There will be no crossover on 3-step drops. Lead step with right foot parallel to LOS, then begin to gather feet.
Sprint Out: • • Ball Position – Get the ball to the high cradle position (ready position) by the third step. Be prepared to throw at any time. Footwork – Open with the playside foot at a “5 o’clock” angle going right (“7 o’clock” angle going left) and run to get outside. Try to get 5-6 yards deep over the playside tackle as quickly as possible. Square shoulders to the LOS or receiver. Continue a controlled sprint, shortening the stride as you get closer to the LOS (downhill). Load off the right foot (right-handers). Philosophy – The sprint out pass is designed to take advantage of a QB that runs well, exploit defenses in which containment is easily broken, or move the pocket to get the QB outside to avoid inside pressure. The QB has a run-pass option. If the QB can get at least 5 yards he should run unless a receiver is wide open downfield.
Play-Action: • Footwork and Faking – Dictated by what run play is called. The idea is to sell the run in every way. It is important to know who you are trying to hold or fool (ball fake or hand fake?) Ball Handling – As discussed in the “Faking” section of the run game. Hide the ball until the last possible instant before setting to throw. Reading – Follow the fake (running back). This not only convinces the defense it is a run but allows you to continue into your reading progression (eyes on the point of attack, eyes on those defenders). Set and Throw – The set position is also determined by the play fake. The throwing mechanics are the same. Bootleg (Boot and Naked) – Fake run and place ball on your hip, hidden from the defense. Sprint with the idea of running with the ball. Don’t rush the fake. Get depth after the fake and footwork will follow similarly to those of sprint out.
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Notes on Practicing and Developing the Quick Passing Game: A QB must throw the ball within 1.3 seconds in the quick passing game. This is the most important factor. Studies have shown that sacks and incompletions sky-rocket not when protection is bad, but when the QB hangs onto the ball too long. Pointers for Practicing Timing: We start practice with a version of "Pat n Go" our with QBs 40 yards apart facing each other, receivers in two groups on QBs' right or left, they run a route, catch it, and give it to the QBs on the side of the field and then get in line facing the other way. A Coach should stand in the middle of the field with a stopwatch:
(1) this coach should be timing QB's releases and he should be drilling the QB to get the ball out in under 1.3 seconds. (2) By standing in the middle of the field the QBs should look at the coach (and in 7 on 7 or real games the safeties) on his first step back from center. Another coach should watch the QB's drops to make sure the QBs are making all three steps at least 4 1/2 yards back. It is best to be a full 5 yards back (remember the center give them about a yard head start). If in shotgun, the QB should reset his feet like a shortstop or take a 1 step drop. I prefer the one-step drop, but others successfuly use the shortstop approach. The important thing is the QB gets it out within 1.3 seconds and is comfortable. The shotgun puts an extra premium on pre-snap reads on where to go with the ball, since he cannot look at the defense on the first two steps of his drop. Note: I personally prefer throwing 3-step from under center. The BEST 3-step team of the past couple years has been USC, and they are almost exclusively under center. That said the best 3-step team of the last 7-8 years or so has been Purdue, and they use the shotgun quite a bit. Routes, Receivers, and Receiver Steps For a good reference regarding the number of steps for most routes I recommend the Purdue playbook and the St. Louis Rams playbook, which can both be found on the Coach Huey site. Both go into detail about routes and steps. In general, receivers should start with their outside foot back, attack the middle or outside hip of the defender over them, and then make their breaks. The hitch route is a 5-step route but it is consists of 3-big and 2-short (throttle) steps, and then the receiver simply turns back to the QB. Note: We do not "bring him down the stem" and back to the QB (Like 6 back to 5 or 7 back to 5) because we have found that the QB has a harder time targeting where he will be and, if thrown on time, there is no reason for the receiver to lose ground and momentum coming back to the ball. For us the hitch is a big yards after the catch play and turning it into a curl or minihook takes his momentum away and hurts this run after the catch ability. On the hitch the receiver is looking for for a six (6) yard depth, but the last two steps do not really add depth--they are to let him stop from a full-speed run in two steps or less. We work hard on these throttle steps. We say if you run can full speed and stop in two (or sometimes three for longer routes) steps, then you can get open against anyone (Got that from Florida St.). Types of QB throws The QB should be aware of the "type of throw." I saw a coach who said that they numbered the velocity and arc of throws. I think 1 was a bullet or frozen rope, 4 was a lob, with 2 and 3 being inbetween. You don't have to be that specific but different routes do call for different types of throws. Typically out routes need to be frozen ropes, whereas slants are really about timing and taking a little bit off the ball. You'll
see even NFL QBs struggle with the slant because they put too much velocity on the ball (See Michael Vick). The BEST slant throwing team of all time was the 49ers with both Montana and Steve Young. Both threw a very soft slant pass and did not lead the receivers much. Instead they put the ball right on their numbers. Bottom line: The slant is tricky to both throw and catch; when you increase a football's velocity you make it harder to catch, because the increased velocity reduces the margin for error too much to make the pass effective. Ball Placement When Throwing Quick Routes When QBs' throw to each other they should not just "throw it to the other guy," and instead pick specific targets on the other guy's body: We say throw it at the guy's nostril, his ear, or the corner of his numbers for practice. The better the QB is at this the better he can be as a quarterback. Bill Walsh used to scream and rip Joe Montana when he failed to throw the ball to the correct corner of the receiver's jersey. That's being specific and being accurate. Each route needs to be placed in a different spot on the receiver's body: Hitch: The upper outside corner of the receiver's jersey so he can catch it and turn to the outside. Slant: The upper inside corner ("in the body") of his jersey vs cover 2. Vs. cover 3 we say "one-foot in front of the numbers." Out Routes, whether quick outs by outside receivers or quick outs to the slot (fade/out combo) or 12 yard speed outs from 5-step: On outs we say we want the QB to throw it through the receiver's earhole. Here's why: (1) The receiver is running away from the QB. To throw the ball through the earhole requires less precision regarding how far to lead a receiver. (2) The earhole is a natural place for the receiver to catch it and turn upfield, whereas other placements require receivers to twist and turn, making it hard to get their head and hands around. (3) The ball should be in the air before the receiver breaks, and a ball thrown at eye-level is easier to locate. (4) The trajectory on the pass is a bit higher which has helped us avoid some of the underneath defenders (5) Along with 4, sometimes to avoid underneath defenders and in an effort to put the ball in a catchable area, (usually trying to throw it "in front of" a receiver who is running away from them) the QB will throw it back towards the LOS and the receiver will lose too much ground; turning a 6 yard route into a 2 yard reception. (6) Throwing through the earhole also avoids the old HS QB habit of turning an out
route into some kind of corner route or horizontal go route, i.e throwing it over their shoulder and over the receiver's head, which tends to be thrown out of bounds and impossible to catch anyway. Part of this is arm strength and the ability to throw a pass with some velocity.
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