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Basic Quarterback Training

The most important techniques a high school quarterback needs to master can be practiced during the off-season. Repetition is the key to becoming a good quarterback. Throwing the football five hundred times a day will certainly enable a youngster to become better. There is no substitute for the "want to" attitude and the quarterback must have this type of determination in order to succeed.

1. Stance

The first thing we do in teaching technique is to work on stance. A quarterback must "look good" and we teach this technique from the toes all the way to the head. The feet must be comfortably spread, as wide as the shoulders. We stress that the feet be toe to toe and not staggered. The knees should be bent comfortably and not strained. Hips should be dropped to a comfortable position (in relation to the center) and remain as tall as your center permits. The arms and shoulders are bent slightly at the head and eyes looking ahead or from side to side.

In other words, we want our quarterbacks to be able to read defenses right now. Tell your quarterback to be relaxed and to reflect a confident attitude. Don't hurry the play. Ask him to think about this position and to actually see himself in it. We tell our quarterbacks that they become what they think about. The mental attitude of your quarterback is very important. Throughout the training period, we talk about this mental characteristic as much as the physical aspect.

2. Hand Position

The hand position is the next thing we work on. The upper hand should have the palm parallel to the ground. The arm of the upper hand must be slightly bent; index finger fully extended; spread fingers so they are strong and not tense. Press up firmly on the center's crotch. You receive the ball with this hand. The index finger's second knuckle should be placed on the "brown spot". Doing this will enable the quarterback to receive the football properly. This position of the index finger will not strain the quarterback's shoulders.

You want your quarterback to be comfortable. The arms are slightly bent at the elbows. This is important so that when the ball is snapped, the arms extend and follow the center as he charges forward. We work hard on this because the execution of the center-quarterback exchange is vital. We never take this exchange for granted.

In fact, a good coach will demand that this be done every day and insist that it be done right all the time. The lower hand's thumb position (tip of the thumb) should be next to the knuckle of the upper hand. The wrists should be together. The lower hand's fingers are spread in order to trap the ball. As it is snapped, the ball should be stacked up against the palm of the upper hand. Both hands and the arm must follow the center. In other words, give with the center as you receive the ball.

3. Carrying the Football

The next thing that is important for a good quarterback to master is carrying the football. He must bring the ball to his belt buckle (stomach area) after the snap. He must keep his elbows close to his sides and mentally start to get ready to hand off, toss the ball, or bring it to a throwing position. Good quarterbacks always operate from this position.

4. Handing the Ball Off

Handing the ball off is the next fundamental we teach. It requires discipline and concentration regardless of the type of hand off you are executing at the time (i-formation; the veer; dive; sweep; toss). We tell our quarterbacks to "let your eyes control your feet." In other words, your eyes will control the length of your steps.

It is the quarterback's responsibility to give the ball to the ball carrier. He is a "dealer" and must have both hands on the ball in order to hand off correctly. On veer plays or dives the exchange comes with the same foot as the give hand (going to the right, it will be left foot, left hand; to the left, it will be right foot, right hand). This allows for greater reach and balance. You want this technique to be a natural movement. Simply look and concentrate on your target and place the ball into the running back's pocket. Avoid slamming.

5. The Passing Technique

The passing techniques are next. Grasping and holding the ball is very important before the actual throwing takes place. We want our quarterback to cradle the ball at arm level - over the right breast area. After the snap, you bring the ball to your belt buckle and work it to this right breast area as you position yourself to throw (drop back or sprint action). As you bring the football to this position, adjust the laces to your throwing hand. You must hold the ball with your fingertips and allow an air pocket between the ball and the palm your hind. The fingertip control of the football is essential for good passers. The elbows should be in at the sides allowing the ball to be away from your chest (several inches, at least). Relax! You are now in the proper position to release the football.

Tell your quarterback to separate the ball from his left hand. The lower end of the football points backwards as you separate. This allows him to bring his elbow up over the top of his shoulder pad. Just tell him to get rid of his left hand naturally and to work above his shoulders. Make sure that he doesn't lower the football too much below his breast area. As he comes back to the throwing motion, he rotates his shoulders at the same time. The palm of the hand, the front toe of the lead foot, shoulders and hips will all face the target as he releases the football. Work for a smooth rhythm and snap your wrist as you throw and release the ball over the shoulders.

Note: demand that your quarterback throws with a purpose. Make sure that he uses a target above the receiver's shoulders. Make it a challenge to see how many times the receiver catches the ball above his shoulders. Playing catch properly is important in developing accuracy when throwing a football.

Releasing the football quickly requires intensity. We tell our quarterback to "short stroke" the football and roll your shoulders quickly. Remember that the tip of the index finger is the last thing that touches the football. Turn your hand and thumb down and out a little as you release the ball. Follow through by driving your chin past the front foot. There should be air below the back heel of your back leg as you follow through.

One thing that helps our quarterback with this follow through is to use the "imaginary line" principal, particularly to help develop accuracy. An "imaginary line" is one that extends from you to the target. The left foot should land on the left side of this line and the right foot on the right. The body will be squared up properly if this is done. Drop your throwing hand naturally as you release the ball - usually this hand will end up somewhere around the inside of the lead leg as you complete the throwing action.

6. Footwork

Footwork is essential in completing the proper passing technique. Upon reaching the set position in throwing, the quarterback will close his feet (gathered) so that they will be under him. This will prevent over-striding. Tell him to keep his feet moving and be in a coiled position (knees bent slightly) ready to uncoil.

Note: allow the quarterback to take a hitch step if time allows. There is more accuracy to a football that's thrown this way. Don't lock your knees because the ball will travel nose down when thrown. Be flexible and relax.

7. Quick Release

Developing the quick release is the most difficult technique to teach. Everything must be put together now. Pointing the ball backwards; rolling the shoulders; concentrating on the target (not the flight of the ball; feet; snapping your wrist; the follow through; etc.)

8. Drop Back TechniqueThe most popular type of pass is the drop back technique. Timing and being able to recognize coverages are important after you have mastered the basic fundamentals. Whether you use a 3, 5, 7 or deeper type of drop back pass, the most important thing is to set up as quickly as you can and keep your feet under you. Taking five short quick steps with your feet under you can be more effective than taking three long steps.

Good balance is a necessity to perform well when throwing. There is better mobility and control with the quick short steps as compared to the long. Allow your quarterback to do what he is best it. Basically, you want to keep your head down field as you drop back. You want your quarterback to be able to see the width of the field (53 1/3 yards). This is a must to be able to throw good drop back patterns.

Setting up to throw quickly must be worked on every day. You cannot simply go through the motions in practice. Drop your tail a little as you begin movement and gain momentum from the snap of the ball. Push off your anchor foot and reach back 130 degrees and keep your eyes down field. Sprint back to your desired depth as fast as you can. In the last two steps of the drop back, start to shift your weight forward. There are other types of techniques used - some quarterbacks use the "back peddle", combination steps, roll out, sprint out, or play action.

9. Play Action Pass

The play action pass is probably the most popular style used today. In the play action pass, you must first sell the run. The more you freeze the secondary (linebackers, especially) the better the completion percentage. In the play action pass, the quarterback hides the ball until the last possible instant.

10. Pitch Technique

One way in which we try to determine the best quarterback is to teach the pitch technique. This technique requires good athletes. The option play is one of the most difficult to defend against. We tell our quarterbacks to drive the thumb through the football and aim for the numbers of the back receiving the ball. Although we don't use the option play, we still teach it for our quarterbacks to know.

11. Intangibles of Quarterbacking

It is difficult to describe on paper the techniques a quarterback must develop. However, I have tried to explain the basic techniques a coach must know in order to help his quarterback be the best he can be. Finally, I would like to list some intangibles that I find are necessary and go along with the teaching process. Don't ever take your quarterback for granted. Stress doing it right - all the time. Give your quarterback an offense he can handle. Be positive for he needs to have your confidence. Remember that a good passing attack takes a unified effort comprised of good line blocking, good backs and good receivers. Keep things simple - work with the pass patterns and running plays he'll be using in the game. Simulate game conditions as close as possible when running drills.

12. Drills

Work with receivers as much as you can. The more he throws, the better your QB will be. Here are some suggestions for basic drills that should improve your quarterback:

1. Goal post drill Line up QBs 10 yards from goal post - throw ball as close as you can to cross bar. Helps you get your arm up and over
2. Quick release drill Coach positions himself facing two or more QBs. He has them take their drops and throw when he (coach) drops his hand. You will see immediately who has the quickest release
3. Open man drill Coach stands behind QB and designates one of the four receivers to catch the ball. When QB is ready to throw, receiver raises his hand and QB throws immediately. This drill forces QBs to look downfield.
4. One-on-one drill Throw all patterns here - outs, ins, post, flags, fly, curls, etc.

12. Conclusion

Please keep in mind as you read this article that it's one thing to talk about technique, but another, to perform them. There is no substitute for repetition - especially for the quarterback. The more practice you have, the better a quarterback you are going to be one of the basics we have been working on lately is throwing the ball on the run. We teach sprint-out passing. Some of the greatest pass completions result because a quarterback knows how to throw the football on the run. Remember to keep the ball in front of your right breast and prepare to throw at any point. Square your shoulders to the target and throw off your right foot. Shorten your steps as you begin to release the ball. It will become a natural action if you work at it.

There is much to learn about this position and I want to thank the National Football League for this opportunity to express my views on my favorite position in football. Hopefully, you have learned something prom it and it might help you as you continue your career in coaching.

Coach Al Fracassa has spent his life dedicating himself to the game of football. A graduate of Detroit Northeastern High School and a member of the 1952 national championship Michigan State sqaud, Fracassa has coached high school football since 1960. He has held his current position at Brother Rice in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan for 30 years, compiling a 236-53-2 record that has included five state titles (1974, '77, '89, '83, and '86) as well as nine Catholic League titles. His overall record stands at 280-72-7. Inducted to the Michigan high school coaches hall of fame in 1995, coach Fracassa was also honored as the NFL Coach of the Year (link to info in NFL community area) in 1997.





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