Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In-Season Quarterback Strength Training

BY John Balano ACSM USAW

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach
City College of San Francisco Football
2001 National Champions


One of the most (if not the most) important individual on a football team is the Quarterback.
Their overall health is often times of great concern and importance for the coaching staff. As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, you have to delicately and judiciously determine the commitment of the football program to having the quarterback participate within the in-season strength and conditioning curriculum. I am fortunate at City College of San Francisco that George Rush is a firm believer in 100% participation for all players in our season long strength and conditioning program. With that in mind, let me share with you my thoughts on the type of specialized program for the Quarterback during the season.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Developing A Championship Quarterback

By John Bond Offensive Coordinator/QB’s Coach
Northern Illinois University


I have been a collegiate football coach since 1986 and have been coaching quarterbacks since 1991. During that entire period of time, I have never been at a place where we had our pick of the “blue chip” or top quarterbacks. Whether you are in the NFL, college, or high school, I feel that there are certain processes you must put your quarterback through daily in order to bring him to a point where he can help you compete for your conference championship. We all know that from Pop Warner to the pros, you must have a quarterback in order to have a chance to win championships.

Developing a quarterback starts during the evaluation process. There are two musts that we look for when trying to find our difference maker. There is one thing that some people overlook when recruiting a quarterback, but I feel is the most important factor when evaluating one. That factor is toughness. I want our quarterback to be the toughest guy on the field, both physically and mentally. When you start talking about the greatest quarterbacks ever, you think of Unitas, Marino, Montana, Staubach, etc. Every single one of those guys are tough. They are men who can “rally the troops.” They are guys who can will their teammates to victory just by their sheer presence. The second factor that is of paramount importance is that we want a guy who is competitive. I want a guy who wants to win at cards, pick-up basketball, or tiddly-winks. Get a guy who has to win and can't accept anything else.

When you start talking about the physical skills we look for, I think we must all understand and appreciate that there are many ways to “skin a cat.” I feel that as fast and as athletic as today's brand of football has become, athleticism is the first and most crucial factor when recruiting a quarterback. Michael Vick has and will continue to revolutionize the game. In my mind, this trend to a more athletic quarterback has been going on now for the last several years. We want a guy who can create. Defensive linemen are so fast and athletic that when the pocket collapses, we need a guy who can pull it down and go. I know that defensive coordinators lay awake at night when they face a guy who can beat them with both his arm and his legs.

Another factor in a championship quarterback is vision. The ability to see the field is so under appreciated and yet so critical. A guy with great vision can see a vertical route out of the corner of his eye and turn an incompletion or short gain into a touchdown. The ability to see is innate, in my opinion. I don't think you can coach a guy to be able to see. It is the same thing with great runners. The superstars can see the next cut before it happens. In the same sense, a great quarterback can see and visualize the play and defensive structure and be able to turn the routine play into the spectacular.

The last thing I look for is a quick release. I like a player who can get it out of there. There are drills one can do to enhance a quick delivery and I use them all. If you have a guy who can flat get rid of the football, you have just reduced the number of sacks and negative yardage plays, gaining hidden field position yards.

The things that I have just mentioned are things that in my mind are easily detected during the evaluation and recruiting process. If you watch enough tape of a guy, you will be able to tell if he is tough and competitive. You will also be able to see if he is spreading the ball around and finding people in seams making you say “Holy Cow, how did he see that?” Lastly, you can tell if a guy has one of those long, slow releases or one that just explodes out of his hand.

Now, for you guys who are not in the NFL or a top 10 program in college, you might have noticed that I did not mention a 40 time. I did not mention a strong arm. I did not say anything about being 6'4.” High school stats are not important, either, and you certainly do not need a recruiting guru to tell you he is the next Joe Namath. The best quarterback I have ever coached or seen in person was 5'9” on a good day. He ran a 4.8 forty, but boy he sure could create. If anybody was open, he would find them and he could get that ball out of there in a hurry. He made play after play after play.

After we get our quarterback to campus, there are certain things we teach that are of critical importance to the development of your championship quarterback. I will list them point-by-point:

1. We tell them to never take a sack.
2. Never say: “Don’t throw an interception.”
3. Scramble to throw.
4. Throw against the blitz every day.
5. Protect your quarterback inside out.
6. Know who to throw to on the blitz.
7. Teach the quarterback to deceive with his eyes and actions.
8. Demand that your quarterback coach the wide receivers.
9. Put him in adverse situations in practice.
10. Force him to make throws in practice.

One thing that we do that I feel is somewhat unique, is script one scramble situation a day in our pass skel or 7-on-7 drills. We force our players to understand the importance of this situation daily, as you can gain huge chunks of yards. When this occurs, I think it is the best play in college football.

Another thing that has helped me tremendously over the years is the fact that my head coach does not make me coach special teams. When it is time to work that group, I get an extra 10 or 20 minutes a day with the quarterbacks to work on things like off-balance throws or looking defenders off. It allows me the time to make him completely aware of his progress. I feel this extra time really helps me prepare our quarterbacks to the maximum of their abilities.

Lastly, I do not think I can overstate the importance of a great relationship with your quarterback. If he knows that you really care about him off the field as well as on, that will go a long way toward building the trust that is necessary for you both to succeed. You must be able to be 100% honest with each other. When I ask him: “What did you see?” I need an honest answer. He also has to know that you will always have his best interests at heart, no matter what the situation or circumstances. To sum up a great quarterback-coach relationship, he has to know that 1) you really care about him, 2) you must have a mutual trust with each other, 3) you both have to know that you are always going to be honest with each other, and 4) he has to believe that you always have his best interest at heart.

Developing a championship quarterback is an on-going process. You must “believe what you see” when recruiting. Then you have to not only work the physical skills that are necessary, but you have to make sure that your relationship with your quarterback is rock solid. Make no mistake about it: if there is not a mutual affection at that critical position, it is tough to make your player as good as he can be over the long haul.

Best of luck in your quest to develop your championship quarterback.

Football 101: The Quarterback

by Mark Lawrence


When the quarterback steps up to the center and prepares to start the play, he has a lot of work to do. His first job is to look at which defensive players are on the field and where they are, and try to deduce what the defense is going to try to do. He may see signs that the defense is lined up perfectly to stop his play. In this case, the quarterback will call out an "audible." He will shout out code words that tell the other players on his team that he is changing the play. Most often there is a special code word, chosen that morning, to tell the players that the play is changing. Perhaps the code word will be "blue," so to change the play the quarterback might shout out "Blue 23, Blue 23, Blue 23." If the quarterback is not changing the play, he still wants to confuse the defense, so he might shout out "Green 17, Green 17, Green 17." The other offensive players hear "green" and know to ignore this, but the defense doesn't know the "hot" color and has to wonder.

Frequently, the quarterback has what is called an option play. He has effectively called two plays at the same time, and as he steps up to the center he will read the defense and decide which play has a better chance of working. The most common form of this is what is called a "play action pass." In this play, the quarterback will take the snap of the ball and step back three steps, where he will meet the running back. He will then put the ball in front of the running back. If the quarterback has determined that the defense is aligned to stop a pass, he will give the ball to the running back who will run with it. If the quarterback has determined that the defense is aligned to stop a run, the quarterback will fake giving the ball to the running back, then as the running back continues on as if he is running with the ball, the quarterback will pass the ball to a receiver. No one on either team knows in advance which the quarterback will choose.

Another popular trick of the quarterback is called the bootleg. In this play the quarterback fakes a hand off to a running back, then sprints out in the opposite direction, looking to run or pass. If the entire offensive line moves in the same direction as the running back, leaving the quarterback unprotected and with a completely unbroken view of the field, this is called a "naked bootleg."

Another important trick of the quarterback is called a "screen pass." If the defense is rushing with great success and causing him a lot of problems, the quarterback will use several screen passes to slow down the defensive rush. In the screen pass, a couple of the offensive linemen will pull away from the line and run out to one side of the field. This will often be the center and a guard. The running back will also run to that same side of the field, perhaps ten feet behind the offensive linemen. Because the two linemen pulled, there is an unprotected path to the quarterback and there will almost certainly be a couple of drooling and slathering defensive linemen running unabated at the quarterback, visions of ambulances dancing in their heads. The quarterback's job is to backpedal as quickly as he can, drawing these two linemen and hopefully a linebacker or two in his direction. Just a fraction of a second before they can hit him, the quarterback will toss the ball to the waiting running back, who can now lumber up the field with 700 pounds of offensive linemen in front of him to protect him. This play, if executed well, will often go for a 15 to 30 yard gain, which is a big black eye for the defense. After a couple of these plays, when the defensive linemen break through the offensive line they will hesitate and look to their sides to see if they are being tricked. So the screen pass is a useful tool to slow down the pass rush.

Different quarterbacks have different skills. Dan Marino was a pocket passer. He had a very strong and accurate arm, and an incredibly quick release - when he decided to throw the ball, it was gone that instant. However, he was not at all fast, so no one ever thought Dan would try to take off and run with the ball. Marino required very large and stout linemen to protect him. Steve Young and John Elway were very good passers, although perhaps not quite as accurate and quick as Marino. However, Young and Elway were also fast and powerful runners, so the defense always had to be wary of them taking off with the ball and running for five or ten or more yards. With Young or Elway as quarterback, the team could afford to use smaller, faster and more athletic linemen who were better at opening holes for the running game. If their pass blocking was less than perfect, Young or Elway could most likely evade a defensive player on their own. Finally, Kordell Stewart was a phenomenal runner, although not nearly as accurate a passer. Kordell could call what was effectively a play action run - his offensive line and running back would be all set up to run one direction, perhaps to the left. If Kordell saw that the defense was stacked heavily on the left, he would fake the hand off, keep the ball, and run himself to the right, perhaps throwing the ball after a second if the defense reacted well. If the defense was more evenly distributed, he would hand off.

If the play is a pass, the quarterback will take the snap of the football, and drop back a few steps. He drops back so that the receivers have a bit of time to get out into their running routes, and so that he has a bit of time to watch the defense develop. The quarterback will generally drop back either three, five, or seven steps. A three step drop back means the quarterback is going to throw the ball almost immediately, before the defense has a chance to figure out what is going on. He will attempt to find a receiver who has run out only about three to seven yards, and get the ball to him. If the quarterback takes five steps backwards, he's giving his receivers time to get ten to fifteen yards down the field, but he's also giving the defense more time to read his intentions. A seven step drop usually means there will be a couple of receivers streaking at top speed towards the end zone, and the quarterback hopes to complete a pass for twenty or more yards, gashing the defense for a big play. Whatever drop the quarterback uses, it's the job of his offensive linemen to keep him safe for as long as he needs.

Quarterbacks have their own book of tricks to use on the defense.

Quarterbacks have to be at least about 6'1" just so they can see over all these very tall linemen in front of them. It helps if the quarterback is a relatively big guy, perhaps 230 pounds or so, so that he can absorb a hit if the pass protection breaks down. And it's good if he's quick enough to outrun a defender for at least a few steps, buying time to complete the play. The quarterback is the only player on your team who will touch the ball on every single play. Because of this quarterbacks are often the highest paid player on the team, making as much as $15M per year.

Coaching Quarterbacks

By Todd Krueger


#1. Coaches never want to second-guess them or make them look bad in front of their teammates. if you do it makes very difficult for them to be the leader in the huddle. It is vital for the qb to have huddle leadership!

#2. Even in bad situations, find things the quarterback does right. Such as made a good throw bad made a bad read.

#3. Encourage your quarterback to take chances and to force throws in practice. This tests there ability to get the ball into tight spaces. If he does not do it in practice he will never know if he can make that throw in a game. It does not matter if he throws an interception in practice, this is how he finds out what he can get away with as far as forcing the ball into tight spaces.

#4. In terms of dealing with the press, take the blame for a bad game as much as you can. You can say such things as " We didn't help our qb out very much. I could have called a better game for him.

#5. If the quarterback senses a lack of confidence by the coach he will play the way he feels! All coaches must show confidence in their qb or he will know it.

#6. You can never do enough quarterback footwork and vision drills.

#7. Always stress speed in setting up on the pass drops and the release of the football. The longer he holds the ball the more the pass rush will come.

#8. Make the quarterbacks write down their 5 favorite pass plays. Don't be afraid to use those plays. If you get in a key situation and your qb is struggling, you can call one of his favorite passes?

#9. It is hard to teach the quarterback to throw the before the receiver is open! Again have your qb try to do this in practice.

#10. The quarterback must think like his coach. If you are calling the passes and the plays, he must think like you. You and your QB must spend time in meetings and in the film room talking about football game situations so he can get a feel of how you call the plays.

What you do in your meetings and what you do on the field all tie in with these 10 points.

Good Luck and if you have any questions you can email me at playqb@cox.net

Todd Krueger is a former 8th round draft pick in 1980 with the Buffalo Bills and also played with the Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Wranglers in the USFL. He runs a football coaching website at http://www.footballtools.com and offers football coaching products such as NFL Football Playbooks, Youth Football Practice DVDs, Quarterback Training DVDs, Football Scouting Software, Football Playbook Software, Free Quarterback Drills, Football Special Teams DVDs, Football Workout DVDs, Football Practice DVDs, and a free football newsletter at http://www.footballtools.com and http://www.playqb.com