Running Back Fundamentals

Introduction
The concepts in this article are a synthesis of 25 years of coaching football and discussions I have had with university and professional coaches in Regina on running back fundamentals. The article is not a laundry list of everything I do with running backs. It covers the essentials that are done at least once a week in season and daily or every second day in pre-season. The philosophical foundation is simple: KISS, Structure and Repetition. KISS is "Keep It Simple, Stupid". "Keep It Simple" for the players and "Stupid" for me. I sometimes forget the young men I'm working with want to play football not learn biomechanics. Structure gives you the basic tool to correct the problems with timing, routes and reacting to keys. Without structure in the form of a well defined stance and initial movement, it impossible to install a running game that will effective in the pressure of game situations. Repetition ensures that the players will execute all of the skills without hesitation. If they have to think the skill through before doing it, they will not execute the skill with confidence. Last, the concepts presented here are building blocks. They can be combined with other skills you see as important to your particular offensive scheme. The concepts presented here fit well with the pass oriented offense I have been coaching over the six years.

1. Stance
A. 3 Point Stance
The RB must be comfortable in his stance. He must be able to move in any direction with relative ease. • • • • • • The feet should be shoulder width apart with the toes pointed straight ahead. The feet may be staggered. The toe of the back foot in the staggered stance should not be further back than the instep of the front foot. The heels should be raised no more that one inch. The back should be flat with shoulders parallel to the ground. (Hips at same height as shoulders.) The head should be raised high enough to see the line of scrimmage. The down hand should be open and the back should be able to pick it up with out losing his balance.

Coaching Points

• • If lateral movement is difficult or slow. belly and zone type plays. It should be no longer that 12 inches. the player may be leaning on the down hand and has his weight too far forward or his feet may be set too wide. the player has his feet be set too wide. 2 Point Stance The player must be comfortable and must work on stance that he can move from without taking false steps. The player's hands should be placed on the front of his thighs open with the fingers pointing down. His legs should be bent at the knee. • • • • • The feet should be shoulder width apart with the toes pointed straight ahead. The shoulders should . The step should be slow and under control. The player's back should be arched with the head up. Coaching Points • • If lateral movement is difficult or slow. his back is not parallel to the ground. 2. Dive and Trap Step Use: Dive and quick trap type plays The player should step straight at the aiming point with the playside foot and be in a position to read the hole on the third step. If the player is having difficulty seeing the line of scrimmage. Open Step Use: Lead. B. The feet should be flat on the ground. Steps A. From the side you should be able to see the player's shoulders over his knees and his knees over his toes. B. The player should have a slight forward lean so that his weight is on the balls of the feet. He may not have enough flex in his knees which sets his hips too high. If the player is false stepping. his stance is too upright. The open step is a lateral step with the playside foot parallel to the line of scrimmage. He may not have enough bend in the knees or he may be leaning on his hands.

play action passes. C. The head should be focussed on the key. E. Simultaneous with the hip and shoulder turn. The RB's eyes should be focussed on the ball or line of scrimmage.also be parallel to the line of scrimmage. Shuffle Steps Use: Draw plays. The RB's feet should be pointed straight ahead. Open step. 1 Step Counter Use: Quick hitting counter and mis-direction plays. Read Steps Use: Used for check release on man dropback pass protection. quickly turn head and shoulders in direction of open step then drive back opposite the open step. . slow developing counter and tackle trap plays Open step. The plant foot for attacking the line is the back foot. F. open step with playside foot and plant for break. Crossover Step Use: Handoff sweep and outside trap plays. The movement is similar to a pull by an offensive lineman. D. slide backside foot to playside. Turn shoulders and perpendicular to line of scrimmage. The weight should be placed on the backside foot. the RB should pivot and push off his playside foot.

the RB's approach must be as flat a possible from the inside. Cut Block Use: Break contain type plays where the point of attack is outside the end. The aiming point is the outside thigh of the defender. C. 3. the RB must attack the line of scrimmage with speed. The movement up to contact is similar to the lead block.Short open step with outside foot toward the man to be blocked and read his movement. D. If the defender tries to skate outside and the RB can not get his head outside. The aiming point is the bottom of the of the playside number. The RB should always maintain an inside position if the man rushes. If the man drops off into coverage the RB releases on the route desired. Blocking Techniques In all the blocking techniques discussed below except pass protection. First. the RB's head and shoulders must be lower that the defender's head and shoulders on contact. The RB must stay low with back flat and head up. A. There are two key points the RB must execute properly. The RB must stay low with back flat and head up. B. the RB must attack the line of scrimmage with speed. the RB uses a dive step as his initial movement. The RB must stop the defender's upfield rush as a minimum objective. Second. On contact the RB should have his inside foot in the middle of defender's body. he should roll the biggest part of his back into the defender to tie him up. The RB should roll the hips into the block on contact and drive feet on the follow through. The aiming point is the defender's inside thigh. Kick Out Block Use: Situations where the RB must control the inside of a defender's body. The aiming point is the bottom of the defender's inside number. On contact the RB must work to get his head outside the defender. The RB's objective is to drive the defender's outside thigh backwards. Out of the stance. On contact the RB . The initial movement is similar to the lead block. Lead Block Use: Situations where the RB must control the outside of a defender's body. Fire Block Use: 3 step drop protection Out of the stance. The cut block is also referred to as a log or hook block.

gain his balance and strike a second blow. Watch the RB's eyes. E. . during and after the mesh. Skills and Drills A. If the RB can force the defender to restart within 1 . Do not let the RB reach for it. You will play the role of the RB's key.2 yards of the line of scrimmage the RB has won the battle in most instances. 4. Execution: Have the RB's and QB's run the plays of your offense.should roll the hips into the block and drive the feet on the follow through. Handoff and Mesh Points Handoffs and mesh points must be practiced daily with the quarterbacks. The aiming point and technique for pass protection is similar to a kick out block. After the initial contact the back must be taught to recoil. Pass Protection Use: Dropback pass protection. The initial movement for Pass protection is a read step. Equipment: Footballs and cones Set Up: Set up the cones so that they have the same spacing as the aiming points of the running plays in your offence. Points to Emphasize • • • • RB's Inside elbow is on top Let the quarterback place the ball in the pocket. The RB should hit the defender hard enough to stop defender and force him to restart his rush. B. Two hands on the ball until the RB passes through the line of scrimmage. The drills should practice the steps of the plays in your offence. The objective is to get the defender's hands down so the QB can throw quick perimeter type passes. they should be on you before. Eye Focus Drill Objective: To have the RB focussing on the his key during the mesh. RB's eyes are focussed on his key not the ball.

Line Touches Objective: To develop good balance while running. I use crossovers. 4 cones Setup: Set up a line of cones 5 yards apart. . Be sure to the RB's switch the ball from one side to the other after every touch. Execution: One line of RB's on each side of the line cones. Have the RB's touch the ground every cone with their free hand as they run down line of cones. explosion jumps. zig-zags and side shuffles without ropes as agility drills for RB's and WR's.C. D. Equipment: Footballs. If you have a lined field the cones are not needed. Equipment: Rope set Every hole Every-other hole Crossovers Explosion Jumps Zig-Zags Side shuffles The last four 4 drills above can be done without a rope set. Ropes Objective: To develop a high knee lift.

the two RB's at the front of the line run toward the coach reacting to the coach's hand signals. Equipment: Footballs and two bags or cones. 2 Point Wave Objective: To develop quickness and reaction. The coach should be 10 to 15 yards away from the front of the line. Hit and Spin Drill Objective: To develop skill in escaping a tackler. Left and straight ahead signals are all you need to run the drill. Setup: Shown in diagram below Execution: After handoff as quickly as possible change direction and re-accelerate forward. . Execution: On a verbal signal. Work both left and right sides. Make cuts in both directions.. Lateral Cut Drill Objective: To develop quick feet and cutting off the proper foot. Emphasize breaking off inside foot.E. Right. G. F. Equipment: None Setup: Two lines of RB's facing the coach 5 yards apart.

Work both left and right sides.Equipment: Footballs and a hand shield or stand up dummy. Setup: Shown in diagram below Execution: After handoff. Setup: Shown in diagram below Execution: After handoff lower the shoulder and deliver a blow. quickly spin off and re-accelerate forward. The blow must be delivered with the shoulder opposite the ball. The blow must be delivered with the shoulder opposite the ball. Equipment: Footballs and hand shields (and cones if the practice filed is not lined.) . I. Sideline Drill Objective: To develop balance and skill in keeping in bounds after contact. Equipment: Footballs and a hand shield or stand up dummy. Bounce Drill Objective: To develop skill in escaping a tackler. bounce laterally and re-accelerate forward. H. Emphasize spinning on the foot opposite the ball. lower the shoulder and deliver a blow with the shoulder and forearm.

Setup: Shown in diagram below Execution: After handoff. Equipment: Tackling dummy 2 cones Set Up: Set up as shown below. Execution: The RB accelerates through the gauntlet protecting the ball. Linebackers or other RB's can be used as pass rushers. . J. The blow must be delivered with the inside shoulder. K. Gauntlet Drill Objective: To develop balance and skill in protecting the ball in traffic. lower the shoulder and deliver a blow with the shoulder and forearm. Equipment: Footballs and hand shields Set Up: Set up as shown below. Pass Protection Drill Objective: To develop skill in pass protection. The object is stay in bounds. The players with the hand shields should try to deliver a forward blow. bounce laterally and re-accelerate forward.

This drill can also include situations where the pass rusher drops into coverage and the RB check releases. L. the RB sets up for pass protection and attempts to keep the defender away from the bag representing the QB. Pass Routes and Ball Drills for Running Backs The drills for pass receiving and routes should the same as those you use for your receivers.Execution: On a snap count from the coach. . Emphasis is on proper angle of attack and exploding into the defender on initial contact.