All great defensive coaches teach effort. But how to teach effort continually needs to be addressed. Maxims like “run to the ball,” or “get there quicker” are being quickly replaced with refined coaching points on how to take the correct angles in running to the ball carrier. These are several of the more efficient drills that we pulled from our drill film library that teach defenders the proper pursuit angles when closing in on a ball carrier. Read the report here.
By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report.
All great defensive coaches teach effort. But how to teach effort continually needs to be addressed. Maxims like “run to the ball,” or “get there quicker” are being quickly replaced with refined coaching points on how to take the correct angles in running to the ball carrier. These are several of the more efficient drills that we pulled from our drill film library that teach defenders the proper pursuit angles when closing in on a ball carrier.
1 on 1 Sideline Force Drill
Jason Sedlak, Defensive Coordinator, St. Thomas Academy (MN)
Unfortunately, there are times when the ball carrier or receiver has out-leveraged our force players. In these situations, it is common for one defender to find himself alone on the perimeter with the ball carrier. When this happens, the sideline becomes the force player. The pursuing defender must pursue his back hip so that the ball carrier does not cross his face and so he forces him out of bounds. We conduct this drill at full speed and focus on the following coaching points:
- Initial steps should be directly at the inside hip and bend as the ball carrier turns upfield/closes with the sideline.
- Do not get out in front of the ball carrier and run to a point in space where he might go.
- Close the distance with the ball carrier as fast as possible.
- Shimmy/breakdown under control and make the tackle or force the ball carrier out of bounds.
To see video of this drill, click on the video below:
Standard Pursuit Drill
Eric Gibson, Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers Coach, Southwest Oklahoma State University
We as a defensive unit utilize up to 4 different varieties of pursuit, a standard pursuit drill is used and practiced more than any other. It consists of setting up some type of marker, a cone, helmet bladder or whatever you have at your disposal. We set up one at the GL another at the 10 yard line and then every subsequent 5 yard line to the 35 yard line, with the LOS at the 5 yard line. I make a defensive play call and then give a strength call. We use a 4-2-5 defensive structure, so as the front and back are giving their respective strength calls, we listen and try and correct as we don’t usually have an offensive line up. At first, we just fake a toss to give direction and the defense will engage in the drill after an up/down as follows:
- SS will be the Force player and proceed to cone #1 on the GL after forcing the ball up field.
- Play side DE will proceed to cone #2 on the 5 yard line along with the play side LB
- Play side DT will Proceed to Cone #3 on the 10 yard line along with Back side LB
- The back side DT and the play side CB (secondary force) will proceed to cone #4
- The play side Safety and the back side DE will proceed to cone #5 on the 25 yard line
- The back side safety will proceed to cone #6 on the 30 yard line
- Finally the back side corner will proceed to the #7 cone on the 35 yard line.
At the beginning of fall camp, we use a power point slide to show each front to be installed and the cones at which they would be aiming for. Then I tell them, that we will run the pursuit drill until myself of any of the coaches don’t find a “LOF” moment. A “LOF” or lack of effort to our staff has very precise and what I consider to be measureable points.
- Not Sprinting to the ball
- Any change of speed by any defender in pursuit of the ball
- Any rush defender not turning and sprinting to the ball after a pass is thrown
- Any pass defender not running to the ball
- Being passed by a back side player while in pursuit of the ball
- Turning down a hit / not aggressively finishing a play
- Turning and watching the ball on a FG/PAT block opportunity.
It is obvious that not all of the above points can be found in a pursuit drill but we address sprinting to the ball, being passed by another player in pursuit of the ball constantly during pursuit drill. If I or any of my defensive coaches see one of the aforementioned “LOF” moments we will have them finish the rep, then send them back to the ready position to re-run the rep correctly.
Rabbit Pursuit Drill
Jason Their, Defensive Coordinator, University of Mary (MN)
We use two specific drills to help teach our players how to adjust their angles and not follow their own color. The first drill is called Rabbit Pursuit (Diagram 1). Rabbit Pursuit is a whole unit drill, involving a football, four cones, and one scout player. The coach gives a call for the defense to execute. The coach, playing the QB, then pitches the ball to the rabbit and carries out the boot fake. If the coach wishes he can fake the pitch and keep the ball on the boot to ensure the backside end is doing their job correctly. The rabbit must run outside of the cones and straight down the sideline at three quarter speed. Every player takes their first step and begins to pursue in the direction the rabbit is running. Everyone is playing with inside/out leverage to the ball except for the Support and Force Player who are outside/in leverage. The players continue to run until they are able to pin the near hip of the ball carrier below the waist with both palms up. I mentioned that being under control is important to finish the play, so each player will chop their feet in place once pinning the hip of the ball carrier until they hear the whistle.
When executed correctly everyone will be inside the ball carrier facing the sideline except for the Support and Force player outside the ball carrier facing inside (Diagram 2). The only player allowed to be waiting on the ball carrier is the Pride Angle player running to save the touchdown. The backside end securing the boot before starting to pursue may still be running when the whistle is blown. If the drill is done correctly, the next group is out and ready to go. If someone doesn’t use the proper leverage, is waiting on the ball carrier, or isn’t under control when getting to the ball carrier that group will go again until it is correct.
What You’re Missing…
Join X&O Labs’ Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and get the full-length version of this drill report – including all the drill videos. Plus, you’ll also receive up to 4 free books when you join today. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll discover in the full-length version…
- The Sideline Pursuit Drill that the University of Mary (MN) uses to train defenders to change their angles.
- The 1 on 1 Pursuit Drill that St. Thomas Academy (MN) uses to teach defenders the back hip concept.
- The Right/Left Pursuit Drill that St. Thomas Academy (MN) uses which teaches pursuit and cutback fundamentals from a four defender standpoint.
- Two variations of the Standard Pursuit drill that Southwest Oklahoma State implements to get more efficiency and effort from its players.
- Plus film of each of these drills.
It’s never too late to establish a standard of having your defenders take the correct angles in running down ball carriers. These are just a few of the drills that teaches them the correct fundamentals in doing so.