Maximize Practice Time – Coaching the Big Skill Positions: QB, RB, TE, FB, H-Back

In my column in August 2012, I discussed the evolution of the modern tight end, gave examples of how a tight end or h-back could be utilized in a spread offense, and gave suggestions of how to begin integrating this position into your offense.

Read that article here.

We are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient in our practice and getting as much as we can out of our individual and group periods. We use different variations of periods and try to add components and skills as we see fit. One area in which we were able to do this was by incorporating our tight end and h-backs into our period which we normally worked quarterbacks and running backs together.

One drill we do each day is called “run timing.” Typically, the period we work this in is during a 5 minute block during extra point and field goal practice. We take our running backs and quarterbacks to midfield and work all of our footwork, mesh points, and aim points. The quarterbacks work on the specifics of carrying out their fakes.

Read more on our reverse out footwork from the Pistol here.

The below example shows our running backs and quarterbacks working through the footwork of our different runs. As a coach, I will stand in different places to evaluate the mesh point, the aiming point of the back or the sell of the run fake by the quarterback. There are always points we can emphasize to make this aspect of our offense better. We work daily to perfect our backfield action so that a run and pass look the same. In this video, we work inside zone, power, zone read, naked off of power, drop back play-action off of zone, and drop back play-action off of zone read.

We have different variations of these drills. Periodically, we will integrate a jump cut into the run timing drill. We simply add an agility bag at the mesh point and the running back must work a jump cut to get around it. In the following video you see our running backs and quarterbacks working our inside zone with a naked fake away by the quarterback. The running backs simulate a cut back utilizing their jump cut technique. Our running backs will work jump cut in an isolated drill as well, but doing it in run timing either allows us to work another skill in their individual period, or to get more work on it in the group period.

We do incorporate read and option elements in our offense. In order to get the most work out of a repetition, we will incorporate two footballs into the drill. The drill set up and coaching points are shown below.

In the video you will see one of the running backs standing where a motion man would be in order to get into the pitch phase with the quarterback. This drill could be set up a number of different ways with the zone back and the pitch back in different spots at the snap of the ball.

As we looked at our practices and evaluated how much work we are able to get in certain phases of our offense, we found that the reps we were able to give our play-action didn’t quite match how much we planned to or actually used it in a game. We needed to find more ways to make it work. We are able to get our tight ends and h-backs plenty of time with the offensive line, and also get plenty of reps of our drop back passing game in 7-on-7 and team time. The play-action game never quite translates realistically to 7-on-7, and obviously we try to get our entire game plan work in team. We do script more play-action in team, but team is a high tempo period that gets coached mostly off of film. That’s where we felt we wouldn’t get enough of the timing and precision developed in a team or 7-on-7 setting. Adding a five minute block with the tight ends and h-backs working with our quarterbacks and running backs in a period incorporating both our run timing plays that they are involved in and our naked game proved to be a valuable period. We now have the opportunity to coach just those players on the finer points we need out of those plays.
The tight end/h-back position also has some plays that need repetition because the blocker must make a read on a defender in order to be inserted in the right place. We use our h-back in the backfield or in a wing or slot position to insert as a blocker in the running game. Read more on how we structure our run game to be more multiple here.

Here’s a video showing our tight ends, h-backs, running backs, and quarterbacks working together on our runs and passes.

As the season or camp progresses, we look to add more and more skill work into these drills. We want to simulate the different scenarios that will happen in the game. By bringing our big skill players together into a group setting for a five or ten minute period, we are able to accomplish a great deal in a short period of time. We could easily add a distraction drill for the tight ends, a jump cut or ball security gauntlet for our running backs, and pressure for the quarterback. Adding some of these elements throughout the season helps to keep the drills fresh and add pressure to the players to perform their skills with game intensity.

In the end, being creative and finding ways to get more out of your drills will help your players perform exactly like you want them to on game day.