William Blevins - Not Your Everyday Drills - WP

Not Your Every Day Drills

More and more coaches are cutting individual time during practice. I believe individual (Indy) time is one of the most essential pieces of practice. For my safeties, Indy time has two main functions: to develop and sharpen necessary techniques (aka Every Day Drills or EDDs) and to bridge meeting room knowledge to the field through scheme simulation. The focus of this article will be on our EDDs.

In extreme situations, the entire universe becomes our foe; at such critical times, unity of mind and technique is essential – do not let your heart waver!
– Morihei Ueshiba

To keep my players from becoming stale I rotate through different families of EDDs. We typically only do two families of EDDs per day. Our four families of EDDs are as follows:


  1. Pedal Progression
  2. Footwork
  3. Block Protection
  4. Tackling

We primarily use the pedal progression and footwork EDDs. After we finish pedal progression or footwork, we will move onto either block protection or tackling for five minutes. In the past, when in a pinch for time, I have bumped the block protection to pre or post practice. During this article, I will only focus on the pedal progression. As you will see, I chose each drill to develop and sharpen techniques that are necessary for my safeties success on game day. Additionally, I constantly research and review these drills to make sure they get the job done in the most efficient and effective way possible.

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PEDAL PROGRESSION EDDs

The focus of the pedal progression is on techniques used in the back pedal. My intention in choosing the six drills that compromise the pedal progression was to ensure that they were functional. In essence, I wanted to make sure the drills my players do the most translate directly to their performance on the field. During this section, I will discuss the basic versions of each drill and show you how they apply in a game setting. I have several variations I can add on to each drill to keep them fresh. A bored football player never improves. A lot of my focus is on keeping the drills fresh while still sharpening the same techniques.

DRILL 1: GEAR DRILL

PURPOSE

To teach the three speeds necessary for a back pedal. I teach this drill first because it helps me communicate with my players for all situations and for the rest of the drills. For example, I can talk to one of my safeties and tell him he needs to be in second gear for a certain drill, coverage, or technique.

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EQUIPMENT

Use a sideline and a yard line. No other equipment necessary.

COACHING POINTS

  • FIRST GEAR: slightly faster than a walk.
  • SECOND GEAR: slightly faster than a jog.
  • THIRD GEAR: back pedal as fast as possible.
  • Must keep shoulders the same level regardless of speed.
  • Focus on pushing their weight instead of pulling. Focusing on the “push” of the back pedal lengthens the defensive back’s stride while simultaneously keeping his feet closer to the ground making it easier to break.

GAME IMPLEMENTATION

In the above clip, the safety at the bottom of the screen (#38) works through his first gear as the receiver clears quick game route depth (5 yards). As the route continues into the intermediate range (10 to 12 yards) he speeds up to second gear. Using the terminology of gears, like a car, is very relatable for most of my players and helps me streamline my coaching points. For example, a common coaching point for one of my safeties playing the deep post is, “You are only getting to second gear, but I need you to get to third gear to help you stay on top of the routes.”

DRILL 2: TIGHT WEAVE

PURPOSE

Teach players how to weave while keeping their shoulders and hips square to the line of scrimmage.

EQUIPMENT

Use a sideline and a yard line. No other equipment necessary.

COACHING POINTS

  • Have the athlete begin the drill on one side of the line.
  • It should take one step to cross the line.
  • Do not let the athlete step out (false step) before he pushes himself back across the line. It is imperative for him to step underneath himself. It should be identical to his normal pedal step. (In the drill above you can see some players false stepping, then crossing the line.)

GAME IMPLEMENTATION

In the clip above, you can see the bottom safety (#38) clearly uses a singular tight weave step (it is easier to recognize from the end zone shot) in response to the corner route by the inside wide receiver. This technique is essential in Cover 2 and Cover 3 because it allows deep zone players to keep their hips square while maintaining control and leverage on the route that is attacking them.

DRILL 3: FULL TIGHT WEAVE

PURPOSE

Teach players how to weave while keeping their shoulders and hips square to the line of scrimmage. My communication with them is to put multiple tight weave steps together in a row. I always begin with Tight Weave as a way to introduce and progress to the Full Tight Weave.

EQUIPMENT

Use a sideline and a yard line. No other equipment necessary.

COACHING POINTS

  • The athlete is using three tight weave steps in a row to make a full tight weave.
  • The full tight weave does not look like a back pedal. It is much choppier and a mix between a shuffle and a back pedal.
  • Your players should not cross their feet during this drill.

GAME IMPLEMENTATION

In the clip above, the Safety at the bottom of the screen (#3) does an excellent job of using the Full Tight Weave and staying square as he finds his final vertical threat. I tell my players that the best situation to use a Full Tight Weave is when they have great depth and control over a route or zone and need to start working lateral. As seen in each of the last two game clips, both Safeties have good depth and use the Tight Weave to work with more lateral intent; while simultaneously closing space to the quarterback’s target.

DRILL 4: WIDE WEAVE

PURPOSE

Teach safeties how to weave while only keeping their head square to the line of scrimmage.

EQUIPMENT

Use a sideline and a yard line. No other equipment necessary.

COACHING POINTS

  • The athletes should weave their butts towards their target. Their shoulders and hips do not stay square to the line of scrimmage.
  • The turns should take three or more steps to complete. They should pedal and turn smoothly as they are weaving.

GAME IMPLEMENTATION

In the clip above, the safety at the top of the screen (#31) uses a Wide Weave to midpoint two vertical routes in Cover 2. He continues his Wide Weave with the quarterback’s shoulders and eyes to intercept the ball. The purpose of the Wide Weave is to gain width and depth. Turning your hips and shoulders allows the defensive back to keep his normal pedal stride, thus gaining more depth and width than the Full Tight Weave. The two vertical routes are stressing the young man in the video and he wisely chooses to use the Wide Weave to keep his depth. The Wide Weave is also extremely useful when playing the deep post in Cover 3.

DRILL 5: MIDLINE DRILL

PURPOSE

Teach safeties how to transition out of a weave opposite the direction they are weaving.

EQUIPMENT

Use a sideline and a yard line. No other equipment necessary.

COACHING POINTS

  • Athlete begins with his inside foot next to the line.
  • The first step of the player’s break must be off his outside foot. The second foot must point directly at the line.
  • The second step is the most important. He cannot step behind himself (false step). The second step must gain ground.
  • The athlete will not cross the line during the drill. This will teach them to control their run like wide receivers control the fine angles and adjustments of their routes. However, I will have them cross the line once we advance in the drill.

GAME IMPLEMENTATION

In the clip above, the safety at the bottom of the screen (#24) Wide Weaves with the corner fake by the slot wide receiver and Midlines his way back over the top of the post portion of the route. When we first began playing Cover 2 it was natural for my safeties to want to open up and run with any break to the corner route. Seeing that the corner-post is a fan favorite of offensive coordinators to attack Cover 2, I knew we had to develop a different technique. Teaching my players to actually USE the Midline technique in Cover 2 and WEAVE with a wide receiver’s initial move was difficult because it is counterintuitive. However, the hard work these young men put in to perfect this technique was well worth it as we did not have a single corner-post completed on us in the two years we majored in Cover 2. In addition, I teach my players to use the Midline drill when they get looked off by a quarterback in the deep post when playing Cover 3.

DRILL 6: WEAVE & FLIP

PURPOSE

Teach safeties how to transition out of a weave in the direction they are weaving.

EQUIPMENT

Use a sideline and a yard line. No other equipment necessary.

COACHING POINTS

  • The “flip” comes from the player using the exact same footwork as a karaoke warm up drill. He will karaoke his up field hip over and towards his target.
  • The athlete cannot chop his feet before the karaoke flip. He must do it mid stride or he will lose ground on the wide receiver.
  • Having the player flip his hip over will ensure his angle is at his target while simultaneously keeping his momentum.
  • I used to teach them to open their front hip towards their target but their angles were always too high and had to round their path back down to their wide receiver. The karaoke flip cuts off their momentum from going backwards and transitions it to moving towards their target.

GAME IMPLEMENTATION #1

In the clip (top right), you can clearly see both safeties use the Weave and Flip technique – at the same time. If there is one thing you take from this article, please let it be this technique. In nearly every game clip I have shown in this article, the safety used the Weave and Flip technique. Go back and watch them. My players felt this technique helped them IMMEDIATELY. They said they felt far more efficient breaking on the ball than ever before. We still T-step and Transition step, but when exiting a weave, we absolutely Weave and Flip. The karaoke flip is key to the success of this technique because it uses the player’s biology (his hips) to keep his angle flat and towards his target.

GAME IMPLEMENTATION #2

In the clip above, the safety at the bottom of the screen (#31) uses the Weave and Flip in the deep post. I wanted to give one example of how we play the deep post in Cover 3 before the end of the article. You can see that the young man Wide Weaves with the shoulders of the quarterback. Once the ball is thrown, he transitions out of his Weave with a Flip. Instead of opening his hips in the direction the quarterback is looking, flipping his hips over allows him to take an efficient angle underneath his target and to the pick point (the point at which the interception is going to happen).

CONCLUSION

My overarching goal is to give my athletes a better career than they can imagine for themselves. The functionality of the drills I chose for their EDDs plays a large role in accomplishing that feat. In fact, all of these drills were born out of my experience (Coach Otis Flowers and Coach Jameson Allen – thank you) and massive amounts of offseason research. The six drills of the pedal progression have proved to be extremely productive for my players. My hope is for these techniques and drills to prove even more productive for you and your players.

____________________________________

Woody Blevins joined Northern Colorado in March 2012 and is in charge of the safeties. In June 2014, Woody was promoted to the full-time safeties coach after spending two seasons as the defensive assistant. During the 2011 season, Blevins coached cornerbacks and assisted with special teams as an undergraduate assistant at Colorado Mesa University. Blevins played cornerback at Drake from 2006-08 and received one letter. After transferring to Colorado Mesa, Blevins received three letters and two placements on the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference All-Academic Second Team as a cornerback.


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Comments 1

  1. This is awesome. Woody was one of the best players i have been blessed to coach. Has nothing to do with anything other than his heart and commitment to excellence.

    Sincerely,

    Coach Jameson Allen

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