Like most DB coaches, Steven Dudley had previously relied on teaching the traditional back pedal in off man technique. But with Fort Hays State University transitioning to more of a quarters based scheme, he found that his players were struggling with maintaining the tempo needed to come in and out of breaks. The slide step provided the proper body position to break on all routes. The results were tangible: his unit rose to the second best pass defense in the conference and interceptions rose from 5 to 9. Both starters were all-conference helping the Tigers win its first bowl game in the history of the program.
By Steven Dudley
Defensive Backs Coach/Special Team Coordinator
Fort Hays State University (KS)
Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report.
Throughout my coaching and playing career, I had always taught the traditional back pedal off man technique. I was confident in my ability to teach it, it was always what I had used, and I knew it worked if executed correctly. A few years ago, I could not help but notice the rise in popularity in higher levels of college football of the slide-step technique and my players were noticing as well. With our defensive philosophy moving to more of a quarters scheme and my players wanting to use the technique, I decided to start researching the technique to make the switch.
Once we made the change, I ran into an issue. There is not a lot out there on teaching this technique. I spent a lot of time going to different FBS camps that I knew used the technique and poured over a lot of All-22 film. From there, I was able to piece together enough information to create my own ideas on how I thought it was best to teach it and after some trial and error in my first spring of implementing it, I’m very confident in the final product of the way I teach this technique. The change made a big difference in the play in our cornerbacks and the results reflected this. We rose to the second best pass defense in our conference, our CB’s interceptions rose from 5 to 9, both of our starters were all-conference, and one was first team all-region. The technique is now a staple in our system and will continue to be as long as we are a quarters based defense.
Before I get into the specific details of the technique, I want to cover a few philosophical points of why I teach things the way I do. In my mind, good DB technique is all about being in the proper position to transition into your next movement. Back pedal technique has little to do with how fast a kid can go backwards. If that’s all we were concerned with, we’d just teach them to do a backwards run. It’s all about pedaling with tempo while trying to main the technical integrity to be able to have the best break/turn possible. The same applies to the slide-step technique. The benefit of playing a slide-step technique is that it’s easier to break on anything in front of you because of the position the body is in. I always want to maintain the position to be able to break properly at all times. We also man turn all outside vertical releases, so I want to maintain a position where we can make a clean man turn to the outside.
Stance & Alignment
I always teach stance with the guys standing on a field line. This helps make sure they’re cocked in at the right angle and their feet are placed correctly. They want to have their outside foot forward and their inside foot back. They should be facing in to the ball. Now, I teach to have them slightly angled in to the ball. I always refer to it as having your belt buckle pointed to the ball. The best way that I’ve found to do this is to use the field line where their front toes should just be on the outside of the line and their back heel should be just inside of the line.
Their toes should be pointed in to the ball just as their body is. Some coaches will teach to have the front foot pointed to the line of scrimmage, but I prefer that it be pointed to the ball because it makes it easier to adjust to the stem of the WR once we start sliding. Their feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The width of their feet should be the same as if they were going to shuffle laterally. Their eyes and their chest should be turned in to their man. This upper body position helps them keep their hips slightly cocked in. Maintaining this position is so important because if the hips get opened up, it becomes very difficult to man turn. The arms should be relaxed, although some of my guys like to have a little flexion in their arms. That’s not something is get too concerned about.
I always teach my guys to play 5-7 yards off and to play with inside leverage. The guys that are very good with this technique I let get up to 5 or 6 yards, but I always start the young guys at 7 yards. For leverage, their outside shoulder should be matching the inside shoulder of the WR.
Stance Coaching Points:
- Facing into the ball
- Belt buckle to the ball
- Feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart
- Toes pointed to ball
- Comfortable bend at the hips, chest over toes
- Eyes and chest turned into the WR
- Relaxed upper body
Frequent Issues to Look For:
- Too open or too closed
Continue to the full-length version of this report…
Join X&O Labs’ Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and you’ll get instant access to the full-length version of this report—including access to everything X&O Labs has ever published. Plus, if you join today, you’ll also receive up to 4 FREE books mailed directly to your home or office. Here’s just a small sample of what you’ll find in the full-length version of this report:
- Coaching points and video of the man turn drill work that Coach Dudley uses to alleviate potential stacking by receivers and turning too early.
- Coaching points and video of the drill work Coach Dudley uses to teach DB’s to adjust to WR stems, which prevent shuffling laterally and not maintaining slide steps.
- Coaching points and video of the break drill work that Coach Dudley uses to alleviate DB’s driving off plant leg, dropping the drive leg behind and correcting eyes on breaks.
Join the Insiders today and get your FREE book(s)!
I hope that you can tell from this article that I am very passionate about this style of off man and that I am very passionate about the technical side of the position as well. I firmly believe that technique makes average players good, good players great, and great players elite. I always try to teach my players how important the little half-inches and half-seconds that we gain through good technique can be to our ability to be successful. I also believe that the best way to implement a new technique is to research lots of sources, find the pieces of what you like best from each, and put them together in a way that you think will be the best for your players. I hope I have provided some pieces for you to use for the implementation of your off man technique and I hope that you can find success with it.
Meet Coach Dudley: Dudley began his coaching career directly after college as a graduate assistant at Fort Hays State University coaching the safeties in 2013. He then moved to coaching the cornerbacks for the 2014 season. In 2015, he was promoted to a full time assistant and the role of Defensive Backs coach/Special Teams Coordinator (current position). Dudley played football at Washburn University from 2008-2012 where he graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing and Business Management. Dudley also holds his Master’s Degree in Business Administration.