One of the most difficult things to teach football players at all levels, and probably receives the least instruction, is the fundamental of running with the football after the catch or in open field on runs.
By Gabe Fertitta
Catholic High School (LA)
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One of the most difficult things to teach football players at all levels, and probably receives the least instruction, is the fundamental of running with the football after the catch (or in open field on runs). Additionally, defenses are constantly looking for new ways to drill open field tackling without adding more contact to the game. Most states now have limits on the amount of contact time in practice, and coaches across the country are concerned about their ability to teach tackling without drills that use full contact techniques. In studying drills and film from places like the New England Patriots, Troy University, and West Virginia, we have come up with a few “Tackle/RAC” (run after catch) drills that we have incorporated into all seasons of our program development. These drills can be done any time, without pads, and without any contact. Additionally, if you were to review your own film, you would find these situations arise multiple times in a game and most practices do not have the time or structure in place to drill these situations.
Two Way Go Tackle Drill:
Another tackling drill we have incorporated into our defensive individual but can easily also be turned into a competitive TACKLE/RAC drill is "two way go." The set-up of this drill is simple. An offensive and a defensive player align head up of each other and about 15 yards away. The defensive player must close the space between him and the ball carrier. When the defender gets about halfway to the ball carrier, he comes to balance and learns to strike with his near leg and near shoulder.
Many of the situations that we try to drill in the Tackle/RAC circuits will show up in multiple different ways in our game film. Even if a situation doesn’t present itself EXACTLY as we have drilled it in a Tackle/RAC drill, the application of the drill is extremely apparent to the way the game is played today. Both offenses and defenses have had to adjust to the way the game has been played on the perimeter and in space, these drills will help in that regard. Some of the game tapes includes film of our own defense in open field tackle situations, some of the tape is of our offensive players carrying the ball and executing the drill correctly, and some of the clips are even examples of our players poorly executing the drill work and examples of what happens when they don't execute properly.
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- Coaching points and film of the “Sideline Tackle/Run After Catch Drill,” which uses tag off tempo to create competition between offense and defense.
- Coaching points and film of the “Perimeter Block/Block Destruction Drill,” which combines block destruction and tackling while putting the defense at a disadvantage.
- Coaching points and film of the “Most Dangerous Defender/Perimeter Block Destruction Drill,” which teaches defenders how to use leverage of their teammates to make tackles.
- Coaching points and film of the “Middle of the Field Tackle/RAC Drill,” which teaches defenders to make tackles against a two-way go ball carrier.
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These drills have been an invaluable addition to our practice routines throughout the off-season and during the season. We like these drills because if they are set up properly and run with some tempo and urgency, you can get a massive number of repetitions in a very short period of time. As you watch the game film clips, you can see multiple versions of all of these drills come in to play in actual game footage. We believe that our receivers and ball carriers have a better understanding of how to run with the ball after the catch (or in the open field) because of these drills. Our receivers are physical on the perimeter and our defenders are constantly put in various stress points in the open field through the use of these drills. Their application to open field tackling has been invaluable to us throughout our runs deep into the state playoffs. Additionally, these drills can be done with no pads, half pads, shells, or in full pads and contact can be changed from zero to limited to full as your staff sees fit during various parts of the season.
Meet Coach Gabe Fertitta: Coach Fertitta is the Head Football Coach at Catholic High in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In each of his 3 seasons as the head coach, Catholic has won or played for the state championship in the state’s highest classification. The Bears finished 12-1 and runners up in 2019 and ended the season ranked in the top 50 of all high school football programs in the country. The Catholic High Offense broke numerous school records this year including consecutive completions, yards per carry, yards per play, points per game, total points for the season, and total yards in a single game (768).