We’ll go ahead and state the obvious: turnovers win and lose games any level, period. So, as an offensive coach if you’re not devoting time to teach ball security, you’re setting your players up for failure. And if you’re not teaching them now in camp, you’ll already behind. A ten-minute daily period teaching ball security can pay major dividends as the season progresses. The University of Virginia-Wise running backs coach James Guest shares the seven ball security drills he used to cut fumbles in half last season at UT Martin. Read the report here.
By James Guest
Running Back Coach
University of Virginia – Wise
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The topic of ball security is talked about heavily in our game and stats like interceptions, fumbles lost and turnover margin are often used to explain outcomes of games. With this being such a big part of our game, it is imperative that protecting the football is coached well if you want to win games and ultimately keeping your job. Around here, we say that “ball security = job security.”
There are two things I believe in when it comes to coaching ball security:
- Teach the fundamentals on how to carry/run with the football and drill it daily
- Train reactions that enable the athlete to protect the ball from being in jeopardy.
In the drills below, you will see how we were able to drive home the importance of ball security for our players. The results speak for themselves. Before getting to UT-Martin in 2013, they were last in the OVC in fumbles lost (21). My first year in 2014 we cut them in half (10) (523att) which ranked tied for 2nd in conference. In 2015 we continued the decline and improved to 8 fumbles.
Exchange/Ball Security Drills
Drill #1: “Two Line Exchange”
- “Early eyes, early pocket”
- Near elbow up
- Top hand = thumb down against chest
- Bottom hand = flat hand against belt
- Roll over ball with top hand
- Fake = roll over with top hand
- Eyes up
- Perfect pockets
- Roll over
- Snap ball to high n’ tight (outside hand)
Drill #2: 5 Man Weave
- Figure 8 thru players
- Ball outside hand
- Exchange ball around each player
- Last player chases ball carrier thru the figure 8
- Exchange smoothly
- Snap ball to high n’ tight after exchange
- Maintain contact across the body during exchange
- Use off hand to protect ball during contact (5 points)
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- Coaching points and video of the Partner Security Drill.
- Coaching points and video of the Three Partner Wall Drill
- Coaching points and video of the Gauntlet Drill
- Coaching points and video of the Bag Ball Exchange Drill
- Coaching points of the Chase, Read and Cut Drill
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Every running back coach in the country will probably tell you ball security is the most important part of the position. Like I said earlier, “ball security = job security.” But it is important to not that not all ball security drills are created equal. I believe it is very important to design drills that mimic gameplay. More importantly not only teach “ball security” but train your athletes to develop reactions to protect themselves from putting the ball in jeopardy. I believe this can be coached just as any other fundamental in football but it has to be stressed and trained repeatedly. It has amazed me in my short college career how many athletes don’t know how to carry and/or run with the football. If the fundamentals can be taught and the reactions can be trained, you can greatly improve your ball security and ultimately less turnovers and more wins!
Meet Coach Guest: James Guest is in his first season as the running backs coach at UVa-Wise. He comes to UVa-Wise after most recently serving on the University of Tennessee Martin staff.
While at UT-Martin, Guest spent time as the running backs and quarterbacks coach. While serving as running backs coach, Guest was integral in the development of Abou Toure. Toure received all-conference accolades before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts.
Prior to his time at UT-Martin, Guest spent the previous six seasons coaching high school football in the state of Florida. His final stop was at Oviedo High School where he was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Guest also served as an offensive assistant at Oviedo from 2009-11.
Guest also spent two seasons (2012-13) at his alma mater Cocoa Beach Senior High School in Cocoa Beach, Fla. The coach served as the team’s offensive coordinator and aided the 2012 squad to the best record in school history (9-2). His offense set school records in total yards, passing touchdowns and scoring that season while the coach helped develop two all-state players at quarterback and one at wide receiver.