By Matt Adkins, Passing Game Coordinator, Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University has thrown for over 20,000 yards the last five seasons and has found itself at the pinnacle of the NAIA ranks, playing for the National Championship in two consecutive seasons. According to passing game coordinator Matt Adkins, much of the success of the Raiders’ passing game comes in the way they train the QB to throw the vertical ball. In this exclusive clinic report, Coach Adkins details what he feels is the most important concept in completing deep balls—throwing to the restack. Read this report here.
By Matt Adkins
Passing Game Coordinator
Southern Oregon University
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Southern Oregon has thrown for over 20,000 yards in the past five years and seen almost all school records broken, along with national passing records. We have appeared in the NAIA National Championship game the last two years, winning it in 2014. This happened for many reasons, but one of the most important is our focus on the details.
In this clinic report, I will focus on a few specific details that have allowed us to be so successful through the air. Those concepts include throwing the ball to restack, getting the quarterback in phase with straight sprint outs, and how we emphasize on our quarterback draws. These concepts are painstakingly simple, yet they are a special sauce for us.
Throwing To Restack
Every ball that we throw vertically we always throw with the same thought process on where the ball should land, it should allow the receiver to restack. We do this for a couple reasons. The first is that it fits in with our philosophy as a team. We have a saying amongst our staff when it comes to recruiting that “The first thing we recruit is character, the second is speed.” Throwing to restack on a consistent basis with a bunch of slow possession receivers is something that I would not advise. You are probably better served throwing the ball in the sideline box where only the receiver can catch it. For us it fits or focus on speed. The second reason is that fades caught at restack are touchdowns. Fades caught in the sideline box are typically just explosive plays. I like touchdowns however we can get them. If we can master throwing and getting to restack, our fades will turn into touchdowns, not just big plays.
Making this approach work requires execution from the wide receiver position. They have to be fundamentally fast. Here are three keys to making this happen.
In order for this concept to work you must make your quarterback trust it. Here are some notes on how to rep it and key coaching points we have found using the philosophy.
It is important to note that your quarterback is going to hate you at first. He is not going to get it. You are going to have a wide receiver not work to get back to restack and your quarterback is going to throw it perfectly and then he is going to give you a look like you are a mad man. This is normal, don’t fret! He is going to hate that the big time money ball is a work in progress, and that he is going to look dumb at practice in front of his peers. He has had a positive stimulation throwing to the box for fades, or had a kid he would throw jump balls to. I will tell you my number one reply when he starts to complain “Grow up Peter Pan, you can’t live in Nerverland forever.”
In five seasons working on throwing to restack, the reality is that sometimes it takes until week 5 to get the quarterback and receiver on the same page throwing the ball to restack. You have to be part therapist and continue to coach your players and make them understand that these are the reasons why it is not working and this is why when it works it will benefit the team and the individual.
These are very important moments to me to get the players on board. I need to be enthusiastic and praise the players. Later, before the next period and after that moment is over, I very intentionally say, “we need to get that to restack though.” In the meeting room, I educate them on this is why the play was successful. This is why the play was not a touchdown. The second that they understand if they master restack together as a quarterback and receiver, and experience it a few times, they are sold.
We also are placing an emphasis on tracking whenever throwing against air or 1 on 1’s. We try to never let the quarterback track a route from snap to throw unless it will be his first progression on Saturdays. The quarterbacks need to continue to work on quickly tracking to a progression and getting rid of the ball.
It is also important to note that another benefit to this throw is what happens when the quarterback shorts the ball. Just about every time our quarterback shorts the ball we end up with a pass interference because the DB runs through our receiver.
The most difficult part of repping verticals is the simple nature of making your players run the routes, and the balance of what is too much. We always have hamstring issues with new players to the program. As I said about recruiting, this philosophy is married with our off season program. Coach Fisk (our offensive line coach and strength and conditioning coordinator), does a great job of pre-habbing hamstrings all off-season so our athletes can go through our demanding work days.
In Phase with Sprint Out
Over the past few years, the sprint out game has been a great change up for us. The key coaching point in our sprint outs is the angle of departure for our quarterbacks for each concept. Our quarterbacks need to answer this question: “Where do my first two steps need to take me to get my shoulders downhill in phase with my progression?”
To answer that question, the QB must understand the marriage between your concept and the angle of departure. We constantly ask if the progression gives him the ability to get the ball out quickly within the progression, and if his shoulders are getting downhill in phase with his progressions.
It is worth noting that we only run one sprint out protection. We do not have a certain sprint out protection for a half sprint and a different protection for deeper concepts. We are minimalists and want to try and teach as little as possible with the biggest production.
Patience On Draws
A big part of keeping space in the coverage for the passing game is having a dangerous draw game. For us, the key to a good draw is patience. We push our quarterbacks to be as patient as possible before putting the ball away and running on quarterback draw. We marry all of our draws with a pass concept that is valid. He can take it if he has it. We change what concepts week by week based on what we are seeing and what is going to give us a great box. Some weeks we run it with the running back in the draw blocking scheme, and some weeks if we feel like getting the back into the flat screws them in the box we do it that way.
If you have a “running” quarterback he will almost assuredly want to tuck the ball quickly and start running. We have all seen those quarterbacks who throw a pump fake as soon as they get the snap and then start to run. The problem is that they have not created any expansion on the defense, which is the main goal of the draw. What we ran into with our quarterback was his want to run as soon as he killed the pass option. Even if he felt like he could do it pre-snap. We normally run quick game with our draws so this had him pulling the ball down way to fast.
Push him to understand that even if the pass option is dead but you feel like you can build some more time. Do it. Create time. Force expansion of the 2nd and 3rd level defenders and then there will be much more room to run.
We also spend time teaching our QBs how coverages can affect draws. If you have a high IQ guy educate him on the difference between zone or route rec coverages and man for draw. When ran against man that expansion should be guaranteed, and the additional rushers should be guaranteed. He should then know that he doesn’t need to spend as much time to sell it and he can run when he sees grass.
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- How Coach Adkins teaches his quarterbacks to throw to a man and not a spot on vertical routes.
- Why he tells his receivers to not “hand fight” with defenders on vertical balls.
- The three-part drill work that Coach Adkins is using to solidify that his quarterbacks throw to the restack.
- How SOU’s receivers are able to get a three-way go on defensive backs.
- How Coach Adkins helps the quarterback to understand the marriage between the pass concept and the angle of departure in the sprint out game.
- BONUS: Practice and game film with coaching points on all these concepts.
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We have been committed to throwing vertical balls to restack ever since we have been with Coach Howard here at Southern Oregon. It has been great to us. With that being said it requires great commitment, and patience. As I said earlier, it goes back to a marriage with our philosophy in recruiting and the off season. If you feel like speed is one of your strengths, I would suggest taking a look at incorporating this into what you do.
We have a base philosophy of working to get all of our passes “in phase.” We are constantly asking ourselves if everything is harmony. Can the quarterback progress it quickly? Are the receivers becoming valid consistent with the quarterbacks progression? Where do the quarterbacks feet need to be to make sure that he can have success while also getting rid of the football as fast as possible? I follow a simple rule in my life, and I suggest that you follow it as well. That rule is to “Keep your O-line coach happy.” Give your offensive line every chance to perform, make the quarterback accountable to getting the pigskin out as fast as possible.
Meet Coach Matt Adkins:
Coach Adkins has been with the Southern Oregon football program from 5 years, currently serving as passing game coordinator. In addition to his time at SOU, he has served as Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator for the Carlstad Crusaders, Quarterbacks Coach at Shasta College and Safeties Coach at College of the Sisikiyous. Southern Oregon has appeared in the NAIA national championship game the last two years, winning in 2014. When with the Carlstad Crusaders, they won back-to-back national championships (2013/2014). SOU has consistently been on the top of the nation for offensive output the last four years.