Every coach worries about not having enough time in practice to get through individual drills. At Lake Forest College, we have spent a lot of time as a staff to maximize our individual time and limit the number of drills we do. For the quarterbacks, we do not have a hundred drills that we try and complete throughout the week. Instead, we have 4-5 daily drills we complete and perfect.
Our offensive philosophy is to be excellent on 20 plays, instead of average on 80 plays. We have taken this philosophy to our daily practice drills. Why be average at 100 different drills when you could perfect 5 daily drills?
All these drills should correlate to game days, otherwise it is a waste of time for both parties. Similar to using only a few drills at practice, I don’t have a hundred different sayings to confuse my players. Our top quarterback terms are, “If it’s not perfect, it’s wrong,” “Every rep is a game rep,” and “Finish every throw to balance.”
We are 100 percent from the shotgun for our quarterbacks. For our quick game (old school 3-step), we teach the rocker throw. For our drop-back game (old school 5-step), it is a simple 3-step drop. We do not have a set depth on our 3-step drop. It is more of a rhythm drop and getting the ball out on time, whether we hitch or not. I do not have my guys getting 10 yards depth from line of scrimmage because it makes it easier on outside rush defenders. We will set up 7-8 yards in the pocket.
Our quarterbacks have a set warm up they do for practice, and it is the same warm up we use on game day. We also don’t warm up just to warm up. Every throw must hit the other quarterback in the chin. This is a way to get an accuracy drill incorporated into practice quick and get the guys locked in.
We are also not looking for bullet passes, this is a warm-up. Throws should be firm, but no need to injure the arm in warmup. We also do not warm up directly in front of each other, since hardly any throw in a game is directly over the center. The quarterbacks are 10 yards apart and offset by 10 yards. Each quarterback gets an 30 throws right and 30 throws left.
Here is our warm up progression:
Rocker – For our quick game, we teach the rocker throw. Catch snap and all weight is immediately on your right foot (for right-handed quarterbacks), and remains there until reading defense and ready to throw. When rocking, slightly step right or left, depending on where read side is, so weight transfer is more regular.
3-Step, No Hitch – Easy 3-step drop, with third step slightly stepping toward target as in the rocker throws.
3-Step Hitch – Easy 3-step drop. As soon as third step hits ground, hitch right or left and throw to target.
3-Step, Two Gathers Into Pocket – Easy 3-step drop. As soon as third step hits ground, gather two hitches up into pocket to simulate avoiding outside rush defenders.
3-Step, Move Right/Left – Easy 3-step drop. As soon as third step hits ground, slide right or left immediately to simulate pressure up the middle of pocket. We are looking for a strong, wide base here and not falling off our base. Finishing to balance is key in this throw.
Sync And Ride – This is to simulate our play-action throws. We are a heavy inside zone team, so we will play-action off that the most. At catch of snap, we turn, show ball and sync our shoulders down with running back while keeping a wide base, pop and throw to target. We do not care how close the running back gets to quarterback. Sometimes he has to forget the fake and make the block.
I teach the syncing of shoulders down because it will freeze the linebackers and safeties for the time we need to make our read and throw.
We are able to get through all the phases of drop-backs in our warmup because this is not a slow pace warmup for the guys. It is catch, gun snap yourself, take drop, throw, repeat. If we are going at a good pace we should be able to finish the warm up of 60 throws within 7 minutes.
Special Teams Ladder Progression
We use our special teams portion of practice to steal footwork drill time. This also helps save their arms, especially during fall camp and late in the season, and focus on their throwing posture and base.
As we go through our ladder progression, we are looking for an athletic base, feet little more than shoulder-width apart. A wide base is a power base; a skinny base is a weak base. I’ll hold my fingers up as they go through the ladder and they have to answer, showing me they are not looking down. We want eyes and chest up, with the ball in a normal throwing position. At any time during the ladder, I’ll clap my hands and the quarterback sets and shows he is ready to throw with a good base. Then he finishes the ladder.
Icky Shuffle (Forward And Back) –We incorporate going backward doing the Icky because you also have to move backward in the pocket.
Moguls – If you ever watched this even at the Winter Olympics, it’s the same on the ladders. Two feet in the hole, jumping back and forth, in and out of the ladder. Both feet hit the ground at the same time.
Scissors (Right And Left) – On the side of the ladder, going from right to left for explanation purpose. Starting with right foot in ladder and left foot out of ladder, quickly switch the right and left foot with a small mini hop and continue as you move down the ladder. We go both ways with this. At the clap of hands, they quickly must set into a throwing position and get their right foot ready to transfer weight for the throw.
Step In, Step Out – This is also on the side of the ladder and similar to Scissors. Always lead with the right foot, no matter which way we are going on the ladder, so we are always ready to throw. Both feet are stepping into each hole.
Left Foot Step In Base (Forward And Back) – This is done on the side of ladder as well with both feet starting outside the ladder. Start in a throwing position, and as we move down the ladder, the left foot is the only foot stepping in the ladder. As we move down the ladder, the right foot will lead to the next hole of the ladder as in the Army drill that is covered at the end.
A great way to show quarterbacks that throwing uses all aspects of your body, not just your arm. We will go back to 40-yard throws in this drill, although during the season we will only go to 25 yards to save arms.
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Quarterbacks who don’t use their core and rotation will have trouble getting it down the field, and can possibly put too much strain on their arm. If they bring their hips and shoulders through on the throw, then getting the deep passes takes a lot off their arms because they used their body with the throw.
Quarterbacks will start 10 yards apart from each other, and will throw each type of pass three times before moving back 5 yards. There are three types of throws in this drill. (See Diagram 1)
1. Bullet pass – Quarterback doesn’t over-exert himself but throws a hard pass in straight line to wide receiver.
2. Touch Pass – Quarterback still throws ball with authority, but takes some of the mustard off the ball. This would be for throws that need to get over the linebacker and down before the safeties.
3. Lob pass – Quarterback puts a lot of air on ball to get to receiver. Typical fade throws and post throws where you let your receiver run under the ball. Must get point of ball to turnover before it reaches the wide receiver.
The quarterback takes regular 3-step drop. Once he sets up in pocket, coach will point left, right, backward or forward. Quarterback will quickly step with back foot in direction the coach pointed.
Steps are to be quick and short, only about 1-1.5 footsteps. If we take large steps, we are not in a throwing position and must re-gather, wasting time and getting sacked. Short steps allow us to throw at any instance. We step with back foot first so we are always able to throw when needed. Coach will clap hands at any moment for throw, and quarterback quickly sets and releases.
We then incorporate our “Escape the Pocket Drill” to end our Army Drill. Quarterback will take normal drop and set up in pocket. Blitzer from either right or left side will attack quarterback. If right-side blitzer comes, and attacks left shoulder, quarterback dips left shoulder and pushes ball away with two hands for protection and bananas out toward the right side. If blitzer attacks throwing shoulder, quarterback steps up and escapes to the right. If blitzer from left side comes, and attacks left shoulder, quarterback spins away gaining depth and escapes left. If blitzer attacks right shoulder, quarterback steps up and avoids rush before escaping left.
We always escape pocket the side the blitz or pressure comes from. This forces the oncoming rusher to change direction and momentum at the point of tackle. (See Diagrams 2 and 3)
This article was written by Quinn Schafer, Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Lake Forest College.
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