As a 48% Cover 1/Cover 0 outfit, Campbell University’s defense prides itself on teaching man technique. The Fighting Camels rode its man coverage philosophy to a top ten finish nationally at the FCS level including 4th in third down conversion percentage (27%) and 10th in passing efficiency defense (107.8 peg). Defensive backs coach Bryan Butterworth provides the four-drill progression he uses in camp designed to teach stance, eyes, footwork, posture, release and strike points for his corners in press technique. It’s a multiple technique program developed to fit personnel ability, which allows his DBs to be physical with receivers, disrupt routes and make plays on the football. Read the report.
By Bryan Butterworth
Defensive Backs Coach / Defensive Pass Game Coordinator
Campbell University (NC)
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Like most coaches, I feel the best way to teach anything is through a part to whole progression. To do this, we break down each individual step, create a drill, rep it and put it to use in practice so it will be effective on game day. This report will break down the base press man progression we use and teach at Campbell University. This is a four-drill progression that is designed to teach stance, eyes, footwork, posture, release and strike. We will focus on multiple techniques that will allow us to be physical with receivers, disrupt routes and make plays on the football.
In teaching our press man stance, the key is starting with a great foundation. We align players in an upright position with feet armpit width apart. Every player is different, taller guys might need to have a wider base, as will guys who don’t bend as well. Adjust each players’ base to their own comfort level without compromising your coaching.
Next, we teach the bend. I will give players a “stance” command and they will snap down into a press man position. To effectively get into a respectable press stance players must bend at their three power angles. Players must bend fluidly at the hips, knees, and ankles. At this time, you can measure ankle flexibility by noting whether the players’ heels are firmly on the turf.
With the base side, we move on to the upper body. We teach a nice flat back and relaxed chest with eyes up and on the coach. Any arched lower back or protruding chest will not be acceptable. If the player exhibits upper body stiffness tell them to stand up and “shake it out.” Before putting the player back in press stance, we make them aware that as they bend at their three power angles to “drop” their head and eyes and let their back flatten naturally. When they are comfortable and have a flat back, then we tell them to look up. Bring their eyes to a target while maintaining a flat back. The flat back will eliminate most chest stiffness as well. If there still is some chest protrusion, just remind the player to relax his chest.
Stance Coaching Points:
- Bend at 3 power angles (hips/knees/ankles).
- Drop head and eyes, let back flatten naturally, relax chest.
- Eyes up.
Drill #1: Read Drill
Read drill is designed to teach the proper base and first reactionary step for defensive backs playing press man. Start the drill by aligning the defensive back(s) on a horizontal yard line in an upright position. Make sure that his toes are on the line. I like to use the edge of the sideline as my starting point. Use the line or lines as a visual reference to make sure DB is stepping properly.
If you are working with multiple DBs at a time, make sure that you stagger their alignments on different levels. On the coaches “stance” command DB will snap down into a press man stance with eyes on the coach. The coach will give a directional point, left or right, and echo the command “read”. On coaches’ command, DB will take their read step with coaches’ directional point. On each “read” command the defensive back will take a 3-inch lateral read step. The step must be subtle and under control. The coach must make sure the step is within DBs cylinder.
Common mistakes by players are overstepping (long steps), stepping too fast, and stepping with both feet. To correct overstepping, we tell the player to step from armpit to shoulder with a read step. It will make the player aware of keeping his feet in his cylinder. Correct fast steppers by slowing the drill down and echoing words like “patient” and “subtle”. Finally, players who step with both feet, make them aware that the foot away from the read step is active but stationary. The foot must remain stationary because after coaches read command and read step by DB, the read foot must come back to balance in DB’s home position. Coaches repeat “read” command three to six times. Make sure player takes good tempo’d lateral 3-inch steps. Players must always finish in the home position. Once defensive back has completed the drill, the coach will give a “melt” command and they can come up out of their stance.
Read Drill Coaching Points:
- Read step must be short (3 inches) and subtle. Step from armpit to shoulder.
- Work read steps in both directions, mix it up.
- Hip level should be the same with each read step.
- Keep react foot stationary but active. DB’s must exhibit calm feet.
- Be patient, don’t guess… react.
Drill 2: React Drill
The second drill in our four-part progression is the react drill. This drill combines the initial read step footwork with our reactionary exit footwork. This drill is designed to simulate a receiver’s directional release. The DB will take the same initial alignment as they would in the read drill in an upright position with their toes on a horizontal line, preferably the sideline.
The DB will snap down into press man stance on coaches’ command. The coach will start drill by giving a directional point, left or right, and echo the command “read.” On command, the DB will take their 3-inch read step with coaches’ directional point. The coach will then give a 2nd directional point along with a “react” command. On coaches “react” command and point, the DB will drop the react foot to a toe to instep relationship with their push foot. He will kick on a 45-degree angle in the direction of coaches point. As he kicks on the 45-degree angle, he must do so with a great base (feet armpit width) and his shoulders & hips square while exhibiting great bend and posture. He must also simulate opposite arm punch with the directional release. After 2-3 full kicks, the DB will finish by holding the position with a great bend, square shoulders, hips, and opposite arm punch.
Common mistakes made in the react drill are not staying square (hips & shoulders), working too flat on the kick steps, and finishing with poor posture (bend & balance). The best way to correct a DB who is struggling to stay square is to correct the react foot. The key to keeping square while kicking on a 45-degree angle is all in his footwork. The coach must make sure that the react foot (the lead foot in the direction DB is kicking) is “dropping” to a toe to instep relationship. The “drop” of the react foot will allow the DB to gain ground laterally while giving ground vertically. Using the sideline as a visual reference is a great way to correct a DB who is kicking to flat (lateral).
When the DB is working his kick on a 45 degree angle they must work to gain ground laterally and give ground vertically. The depth of the sideline (the white part of the coaches’ box) is a great measurement of the depth they should gain with 2-3 kicks on a 45-degree angle. If the DB is starting with his toes on the top of the sideline, he should finish with his toes on the bottom of the sideline with 2 yards of width from the starting point.
Coaching the finish is important. Holding the final position will allow the DB to see if they are square and if they are playing with the same base and bend they started with. If the DB finishes with any lean or rocking they aren’t playing with enough bend. Once the defensive back has completed the drill, the coach will give a “melt” command and they can come up out of their finish position.
React Drill Coaching Points:
- Work read in react in every possible direction. Mix it up.
- Feet don’t cross, drop react foot, hips & shoulders square.
- Gain & give, close the gate.
- Hold the finish.
- Be patient, don’t guess react!!!
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- Coaching points and film of the “Clear Drill” that Coach Butterworth uses to tie together footwork, arm-bar and leverage fundamentals.
- Coaching points and film of the “3 Strikes Drill” that Coach Butterworth uses DB’s feet, hips and hands.
- Coaching points and film of the “Set Drill” that Coach Butterworth uses to teach DB leverage on singular releases of receivers.
- Coaching points and film of the “Set-Reset Drill” that Coach Butterworth uses to teach DB leverage on dual releases of receivers.
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This drill progression is our base fundamental teaching of press man. These drills have allowed us to be physical and effective in our press man technique. We do at least 2 of these 4 drills every day through spring practice, fall camp and in season. We do our hand pad work every day and it is a great pre-practice or warm up tool. It allows players to focus on the finer points of their technique while getting their minds and bodies physically ready for competition. All of these drills can be adjusted to fit the techniques that individual coaches teach and believe in. What I hope coaches get from this article is to compartmentalize the teaching of their techniques. Break your teaching down, teach and rep the small details part to whole. Be thorough, and hold the players and yourself accountable to your teaching. When it’s important to everybody it’s effective. Thank you for your time.
Meet Coach Butterworth: Bryan Butterworth is entering his 11th Season coaching defensive backs at the FCS level. During that time, he has coached DBs at The University of Massachusetts, Sacred Heart University and Campbell University. He has been a part of 3 Conference Championships as a coach; UMass (2007), Sacred Heart (2013 & 2014). He has also coached on 5 defenses that have ranked in the top 25 in FCS in total defense and in 2013 the Sacred Heart University defense led FCS in interceptions. Butterworth has coached 4 All-Americans and have had 7 players go to NFL camps. Butterworth played WR at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield (CT) and graduated in 2005 with a degree in Business.