Most high schools are nearing the midpoint of the season. Most likely, only a small percentage of those teams have given their second quarterback meaningful work. Part of our problem is in our mentality as coaches. We grow to trust and rely on our starter to the point that our second team quarterback becomes a clip board holder or play signaler. Those are important roles, but it is prudent to have that player prepared for live game situations. Even though it is mid-season, there are steps that can be taken now to prepare the second team quarterback for the future.
Work with the first team in practice.
Normally the starter will work with the first team, and the back up (referred to as #2) gets his repetitions with the second team. At this point, your starter should be proficient with some parts of the offense, and the amount of repetitions he needs to run those plays can be cut down. This is a great time for #2 to get his time. What this allows him t do is build his script of plays which the play caller can be comfortable with him running.
Develop a script for #2.
The reality is that #2 will probably be as good as the starter in running the entire offense. In the long term, he should gain proficiency in everything that you do. In the short term, he is irking to become proficient in a smaller set of plays that allows him to remain competitive and moving the chains should he be inserted into the game. The aim should be for him to run a script of 12-15 calls which the play caller can be comfortable with on game day.
Within this script, all situations should be accounted for. Move through each section of your game plan and put checks next to plays that #2 can run effectively. In addition to first and second down on schedule calls, it is prudent to have #2 well versed with 2-3 third and mediums passes, and 1-2 third and long passes. He should know what your goal line package and short yardage package are as well. Ideally, the plays you carry in these areas vary little from week to week, so even with the second team, #2 can get his reps.
A blank script is shown below. When plays are listed for #2, list them in order of the play caller’s confidence in #2 being successful. Play-action, movement and quicks are listed as base passes. As a back up, the player is usually more comfortable in running those types of plays because they are easier to execute than drop back passes and allow him to get into a rhythm when he enters the game.
Plan a series or more to use #2.
Some of the most consistent offenses from year-to-year find a way to give #2 meaningful time every game. The script developed for #2 should be the starting point. Typically, these successful teams find a way to use #2 in the second quarter. His first opportunity is probably best in the open field. His script can be used including using him on third down. He will take pride and ownership in his opportunity.
If this is done from game one, the amount of time can be increased. Maybe it’s the chance to run first and second down plays for a series in the second and third quarter, or maybe it’s giving him even more first and second down opportunities and letting him know that early in the season the starter will handle third down. His role can expand as he earns the confidence of the coach. Planning the series before hand and letting him know the two plays he will run can help boost his confidence since he knows exactly what he will be doing.
As the season progresses, maybe he is given third and medium and third and short opportunities as well. Give him the opportunity to show he can handle those situations, and keep expanding his opportunities.
Specialize a Package for #2.
Sometimes #2 will have different skills than the starter. Often, he has good athletic ability and possibly may be a better runner than the starter. At the very least, the play caller might feel more confident in giving him some quarterback runs. Employing this philosophy can give the defense the illusion that #2 is just a wildcat quarterback. This will serve to create some tendencies which #2 can break later in the season. This also serves to take some hits off of the starter.
The thought process in using #2 as a “wildcat QB” can take on two forms. Which is employed is really built around the personnel used in the package as well as the type of runner #2 is. The first is employing #2 in a misdirection package. This usually involves some type of sweep motion like jet or fly. The runs used behind this can be the exact same run used in the conventional offense. This package can also provide the opportunity for different receivers to enter the game to fulfill a role. Because this is more of a running package, the receiver who is better known for his blocking ability than his ability to get behind the defense can be inserted into the line-up. Some examples of misdirection plays are shown in the following videos.
The package used could also be more of a power running package. Maybe fullbacks or h-backs are inserted with #2. Again, the basic run package should be utilized, but now an extra blocker is inserted, and any defense that uses one or two safeties is at a disadvantage. Examples of this approach are shown below.
The other important phase of this approach is to include it in the game plan. Deciding on when and where this is to be used provides both the offensive unit and the play caller with a strategy. This can be used as:
*A change-up to the regular offense.
*A spark plug after a series of stalled drives.
*A red zone package from +20 to +5.
*A goal line package from +5 and in.
Again, the method and package created can help determine its use in the game. Be aware that outsiders or even those on the team may begin to question why the package isn’t used more. There are some basic reasons. First and foremost, it’s designed to get #2’s feet wet and give him the confidence of performing in meaningful situations. Secondly, it’s a package that has a niche. As stated above, it has a specific place in the offense, and is not the entire offense. Don’t be afraid to use it though if the package of plays is producing.
Collect Data and Teach from the Results.
The idea behind this method of developing #2 isn’t to create any kind of quarterback controversy. If anything, we see using #2, especially in a specialized package, can put some added stress on game planning of the opposing coordinator.
In order to keep things objective, employing a detailed performance grading system can help improve all quarterbacks.
The method is detailed in a previous article. Read it here. The criteria explained is what can be utilized in determining a starter and constantly evaluating the performance of all quarterbacks. As stated in the article, this is not only a system for the quarterbacks, but the data is also useful in determining what your quarterbacks are best at and what may need more work in practice. The data tells the coach what needs to be worked on more in practice in both terms of individual technique and overall execution of scheme.
Providing that kind of feedback on #2’s performance with the first team in practice and games gives him a specific focus each practice week.
The time may come where#2 has to produce with a game on the line. Taking specific steps to prepare him for success will inevitably make the team stronger. The old cliche definitely applies that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Having a plan for #2 and coaching it is a sound way to prepare for the future.