When you are looking to improve your RPO game, the first area that you may want to look at above the scheme, defenders you want to conflict and tags you want to add, is the individual technique and fundamentals of your QB in the RPO aspect.
By Josh Lindke
Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterback’s Coach
Toledo Central Catholic High School (OH)
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When you are looking to improve your RPO game, the first area that you may want to look at above the scheme, defenders you want to conflict and tags you want to add, is the individual technique and fundamentals of your QB in the RPO aspect. I believe that it is easy for many coaches to make the mistake of incorporating RPO’s but forgetting to give their QB the tools to succeed in the RPO world. We usually don’t just tell a QB to take a drop when we want to throw the ball down the field. We as quarterback coaches almost always give him the tools to succeed within a series of different drops, whether it be a 3-step, 5-step, 7-step, or any type of quick game.
Well, the same can be said for the tools and techniques the quarterback needs to be successful in the RPO world. There are specific drills that can be utilized every day to not only improve your quarterback’s skills in the RPO world but take the RPO aspect of your offense to next level. I am a big believer that making sure our QB’s feet are always in a good spot to throw. We use the phrase, “good feet-good throw,” because I think if your QB doesn’t have the biggest arm, then making sure he has good feet gives him a chance to be successful in the RPO/throw game. Another thing that we always want to keep in mind is that every throw is a big-time throw. Letting your QB know that, gives him the mindset that no matter what drill he is doing, it’s important to make every throw their best.
Where to start
There are 5 different drills that we utilize to improve our quarterback's fundamentals and decision making within the RPO game. At Central Catholic, we utilize these drills every day because I am a big believer in drilling the RPO aspects of the game is not only a team setting but in individual drills, group settings, and then in the film room and on the whiteboard. I think that sometimes we as coaches just think it's easy to tell a quarterback to 'read and ride" and throw the RPO if the conflict player commits to the run or hand it off if that player plays the pass. It's not as simple as that and these RPO throws aren’t as easy as we think.
What we believe
When we run RPO’s, we want to establish the downhill run. We don’t call RPO’s to throw the ball more, we utilize them to manipulate numbers in the box to ultimately give ourselves “light-boxes” to run the football. We drill this mentality into our QB from day 1 install. However, when he goes to throw that pre-snap or post-snap RPO, he has the tools and techniques to be successful and fluid.
We believe in a few different RPO QB drills. We utilize these drills in the off-season and in-season, but they never change. Sure, they can be manipulated to give certain looks week to week, but the core of the drills and the language utilized in the coaching points made to the QB never change. Many of these drills that we are going to go through are quick-release drills. We drill this because often, during an RPO, whether it be pre- or post-snap, the ball is coming out quickly. So, these drills can help your quarterback not only improve his RPO footwork but his release as well.
Base Individual Drills
Easy/Way Hard Way Warm Up: (Feet Parallel- Easy Way- Hard Way)
Back Away (Easy Way-Hard Way)
Walk Away (Easy Way-Hard Way)
Pre Snap RPO
Turn 2/Clear 2 (Easy Way-Hard Way)
Quick Rip (No Laces)
Read Ride Pop
Same Side Mesh Ride= 90-degree footwork (Easy Way)
Opposite Side Mesh Ride= 45-degree footwork (Hard Way)
This is how we breakdown our Individual/Group RPO drill work. We have always found ways to steal time during practice to get this done. Whether it's during Indy work, defensive time, special teams, pre- or post-practice, we carve out time to get these drills to our quarterback every day. Again, if you want to be good at RPO's, it starts with the skill set, technique, and mindset of your quarterback in the RPO world.
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- Coaching points and film of the Turn 2, Clear 2 Drill to teach QB’s proper footwork in Pre-Snap RPO concepts.
- Coaching points and film of the Quick Rip Drill to teach QB’s proper footwork in Pre-Snap RPO concepts.
- Coaching points and film of the Read Side Pop Drill to teach QB’s proper footwork in Post-Snap RPO concepts.
- Coaching points and film of the Same Side Mesh Drill to teach QB’s proper footwork in Post-Snap RPO concepts.
- Coaching points and film of Opposite Side Mesh Drill to teach QB’s proper footwork in Post-Snap RPO concepts.
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All in all, I believe that these RPO drills are a must for your offense and your quarterback if you want to have a successful RPO series. These drills have been able to take our quarterback's knowledge, footwork, and quick release skills to the next level. It has also given him a greater understanding of which footwork matches up with whatever type of pre or post-snap RPO we are calling. This philosophy as far as individual drills and cues have gone a long way in making sure we are creating our drill work, around realistic scenarios that happen in the game.
I can’t stress enough that giving your quarterback this skill set is so important if you want to run RPO’s. We believe in progression within our individual drill work and that is what we have been able to create. We don’t just call RPO’s and expect our QB to know what to do, we have given him the tools and techniques to utilize to be successful.
Meet Coach Josh Lindke: Coach Lindke is the Passing Game Coordinator/QB's Coach at Toledo Central Catholic High School in Toledo Ohio. He is going into his second year in this role and his 8th year coaching overall at either the high school or Division 1 FBS college level. Coach Lindke has been blessed with the opportunity to be around some great head coaches at both levels that helped shape his philosophy and style as a coach today.