The Quarterback position has changed a great deal over the course of the last few years. QBs used to be able to count on play action drop backs where the defense would be vastly confused by the run fake and the coverages would be simple and easy to attack. Those days are by and large over. Today defenses are becoming cleverer and their coordinators disguise coverages, stunts, and blitzes better than ever before. As a result QBs must perfect the art of getting the ball out of their hands quickly if they are going to survive the modern battlefield that defense coordinators are attempting to dictate. The two most important factors in determining if the ball will come out on time are the QB’s eyes and his knowledge.
When Quarterbacks play the game of football they play it largely with their feet and lower body. The positioning and mechanics of their steps makes a real difference in how accurate the throw will be but where the ball is aimed to begin with is dictated by the eyes. If your QB sees the movement keys and sees his reads effectively then he will often times throw the ball where you want him to throw it. A good piece of advice is certainly to work on mechanics but the real investment of time should be in training your QB’s eyes to see movement keys. A great example of this is to put two receivers on each side of a defender and just teach the QB how to see that movement key. The QB should be instructed to look off the defender and then see his movement and throw the ball away from his movement. This drill helps the QB to learn how to look off a defender and how to see his movement. When the QB uses his eyes effectively he moves defenders around the field like pawns on a chess board. This skill is not inherently possessed but must be trained through the use of Routes on Air, 7 on 7, and live team throwing periods. The best way the QB will get full use of his vision is by putting defenses in front of him and allowing them to move around while you film him from behind. Then you will have film to see how he is using his eyes to scan the field and make decisions. When this film is broken down with him, only then can you begin to show him how to effectively use his eyes. When QBs know what they are supposed to be looking at or in some cases not looking at they are more likely to find open receivers in coverage and get the ball off in a more appropriate time frame. In my experience, when QBs do not know what they are supposed to train their eyes on they are more likely to hold the ball too long which results in incompletions or interceptions.
The second reason some QBs do not get the ball out quickly is because they do not know where to deliver the ball until it is too late. We work with our QBs to really enhance their pre-snap reads which we term “Peeks.” Our QB is responsible for checking defenders and noticing their alignment and identifying what they might be giving up based upon that alignment. Often times the QB has a good arm and a sound mechanical base but he is lacking in the knowledge of where to go with the ball. This is another area where an approach needs to be taken to teach the game for understanding. At Nation Ford High School we do not spend a lot of static time talking about throws or putting reads on a dry erase board. We are advocates of a system known as TGfU or Teaching Games for Understanding. This system, roughly translated, states that the best way to get proficient at a skill is to do it in the same manner than you would do it in a competitive setting each and every day. In other words, we want our QBs to come up to the line, pre-snap read the defense, and have a pretty good idea where they want to throw the ball long before it comes out of their hand. The only way your QB will be able to do this is if he has run the pass concept you are calling on Friday Night every day in practice and made the same pre-snap reads every day. At great deal of time should be spent between series with your QB talking about what he sees and where he thinks the ball should go. I will often times walk up to my QB if there is a slight break in the action and tell him my next play call and ask him where he thinks he will be throwing the ball based upon what the defense has been doing. When you have these sorts of conversations on a regular basis your QB will quickly get good at making these sorts of decisions. In essence what we are saying is that if our QB knows where the ball is likely to go before he asks for the snap then he is playing fast and staying ahead of the defense. That gives us better odds that the ball comes out quick and finds the window we are looking for before pressure causes the QB to move.
In the past two years my QBs have thrown for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. The vast majority of the time they are reading a defense and going through a progression but they are also pre-reading the defense to gain an advantage. My QBs often have a good idea where they are going before the snap and then they are working their eyes around the field to distort the defense before making a throw. The final piece of this is once they have located their target area they are putting to use vision skills that have been practice throughout the week in live competition. In 2012, my QB was a first year starter and threw for 25 touchdowns and over 2500 yards while only being sacked eleven times. This is testimony to the fact that he saw the field well and often times knew where he was throwing the ball.
Co-Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach
Nation Ford HS (SC)