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Simple Defensive Back Drills Teach Multiple Skills In Limited Time

The purpose of this articulate is to show how to utilize simple drills to maximize time while training multiple movement skills for the defensive back.

At Virginia Military Institute, we follow a very tight, institution-wide schedule. We often do not use the entire time allocated per week by the NCAA during our season. With that said, there is a sense of urgency to teach and train our players skills to be successful within the time allotted.

Our drills fall into several categories: Pedal Series, Break Fundamentals, Cushion Series, Phase Series, Bump and Run Series, and Tackling Series. In order to use our time efficiently, it is very important to incorporate as many skills in one drill as possible.

Below is an example of two skill development categories utilized for defensive back development.

VMI Everyday Drills

Pedal Series: Series of drill that teach and perfect the back-pedal technique.

  • Two-speed pedal – Read progression is slow out, then speed pedal.
  • Weave on line – Two-speed pedal and read progression. Step and replace on the line.
  • 5 Yard Weave
  • Drive for 5 and pedal – Crossover run (eyes back) and pedal
  • End zone turn – Pedal on ball slap. Open hips on pass (eyes back). Turn and run on long arm.
  • Open hips – Alternating EZ turns at full speed. Hips never more than 90 degrees.
  • Open hips post – Sit in it/speed turn. Alternating post cuts at full speed.
  • Post Corner – Speed turn/sit in it.

Break Fundamentals: Series of drills that teach and perfect breaking out of multiple body positions.

  • Stationary break – Teaching for break and drive technique.
  • Backpedal – Break and drive for 5
  • Bail – Break and drive for 5
  • Receiver runback – Start in a receiver stance. Commands are go and back.
  • Backpedal – 180 turn and runback
  • Bail – Runback

One fundamental drill that incorporates multiple skills is a box drill. (See Diagram 1)

Just Play Sports Solutions - Diagram 1 Diagram 1

This drill can be done multiple ways to cover a number of position and game skills. Back pedal, shuffle, crossover run, and break and drive are several movement skills trained. Also, eye discipline and ball skills are two finer details covered as well. We have four ways of utilizing the Box Drill:

  1. Pedal break and drive
  2. Open inside and break inside
  3. Open outside and break inside
  4. Runback and break inside

Box Series

First, we create an equidistant 4×4 box. We start and end on the same cone, working angle breaks from multiple body positions.

  • Pedal – Pedal, then drive for 5, then pedal, then drive for 5, then finish.
  • Open Inside – Open inside, the crossover, the drive for 5, the open inside, then crossover, then drive, then finish.
  • Open Outside – Open outside, then crossover, then drive for 5, then open outside, then crossover, then drive, then finish.
  • Runback – Receiver stance, then sprint, then drive for 5, then sprint, then drive, then finish.

The set up uses four cones placed in a 4×4 box that can be seen in Diagram 1. Players start on the outside of the cone in a stagger inside, foot-up stance. The drill is executed from both sides

Here are the primary coaching points.

  • Drill must be done at game speed. Effort is key!
  • Clean start with no false steps.
  • Consistent body position with chest over knees and chin over toes.
  • Explosive transitions in and out of breaks using minimal steps (two-step break and drive is ideal).
  • Sharp break angles.
  • Consistent eye progression.
  • Eyes through the tuck on the interception.
  • “Oskie” call to finish.

Box Drill – Pedal Break And Drive

On the ball slap, the defensive back will backpedal with his eyes on the indicator (ball). After pedaling beyond the cone, the coach will break the player at a 45-degree break and drive. The player will snap his eyes to the cone that is at a 45 degree angle and accelerate through the inside of the cone. As the player reaches his target he will transition his eyes back to the coach and pedal outside the cones until he reaches the cone on the opposite side. Coach will transition on the indicator (ball) as the player snaps his eyes toward the final cone at a 45 degree angle. As the player sprints to finish he will transition his eyes for a ball that will simulate an interception point. Drill ends with an interception and “Oskie” call. (See Diagram 2)

Just Play Sports Solutions - Diagram 2
Diagram 2

Box Drill – Open Inside And Break Inside

On the ball slap, the defensive back will pivot open, facing inside on the outside foot 90 degrees and shuffle. Coach will push the indicator (ball) forward as the player starts to crossover run with eyes still on the indicator (ball). After reaching the cone, the coach will break the player at a 45-degree angle. The player will snap his eyes to the cone and accelerate through the inside of it. As the player reaches his target, he will transition his eyes back to the coach and open shuffle facing inside. Coach will push the indicator (ball) forward as player transitions into a crossover run. After reaching the final cone the coach will transition the player. The player will snap his eyes to the cone and accelerate through the inside of the cone that is at a 45 degree angle. Drill ends with an interception and “Oskie” call. (See Diagram 3)

Just Play Sports Solutions - Diagram 3
Diagram 3

Box Drill – Open Outside And Break Inside

On the ball slap, the defensive back will pivot open, facing outside on the inside foot 90 degrees and shuffle. Coach will push the indicator (ball) forward as the player starts to crossover run with eyes still on the indicator (ball). After reaching the cone, the coach will break the player at a 45 degree angle. The player will snap his eyes to the cone and accelerate through the inside of it. As the player reaches his target, he will transition his eyes back to the coach and open shuffle facing outside. Coach will push the indicator (ball) forward as player transitions into a crossover run. After reaching the final cone, the coach will transition the player. The player will snap his eyes to the cone and accelerate through the inside of the cone that is at a 45 degree angle. Drill ends with an interception and “Oskie” call. (See Diagram 4)

Just Play Sports Solutions - Diagram 4
Diagram 4

Box Drill – Runback And Break Inside

Drill begins with the defensive back in a low staggered receiver stance, chest down with eyes up. The defensive backs coach will give a “go” call to start. The defensive back will sprint to the cone. The coach will give a “back” call, and the player will snap his eyes toward the next cone while sinking his hips, chopping his feet, and planting a cocked-in outside break foot. The inside foot and hip must open and transition toward the inside cone at a 45-degree angle. As the player reaches the target he will sink and accelerate vertically to the next cone. Finally, coach will give a “back” call and the player will snap his eyes to the inside of the opposite cone at 45 degrees. The drill ends with an interception and “Oskie” call! (See Diagram 5)

Just Play Sports Solutions - Diagram 5
Diagram 5

The simple Box Drill can be an effective tool to master defensive back fundamentals. With no spring practice and multiple weeks with student-athletes training at home, we need simple ways of training fundamentals. Winning occurs when no one is watching and there is a reward for all hard/consistent work.

At Virginia Military Institute, adaptation to any circumstance is woven into the culture, and no one cares about excuses.

This article was written by Marshall Roberts, Defensive Pass Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach, Virginia Military Institute.

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