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By Doug Langley

Head Coach

Avon Grove High School (PA)

Teaching your corners to read through the 3-step is a must, especially as the high school passing game gets better each season. I’ll start by asking this question: Do you want your corner to be able to react to the QB’s release on the 3-step drop and be able to tackle the hitch as it’s caught or even break it up? I know your answer would be "yes." You can’t take away everything, but if you could stop it in its tracks you would be happy, right? As you work your coverages according to your game plan you know you’ll complete a hitch or a slant but if you can tackle it or maybe take it away completely, that could change your opponent’s thought process! If you teach your corners to read through the 3-step drop you will be more confident to leave your best corner alone on the backside of trips. You will also be more confident in taking away the 3-step drop when you are not in a Two-deep or in press coverage.

Once the QB is beyond the 3-step drop point the coverage dictates the corner’s drop. I teach the corners to read through the 3-step drop in Quarters coverage and in Cover Three. Teaching them to read through the 3-step drop is something that requires attention to detail but is not difficult to execute if it is taught correctly and consistently practiced.

Pre and Post Snap Technique

To teach the corners properly, you need to start with a good stance and back pedal. If you allow a lazy stance and back pedal, even if the corner gets a good read off the QB, he won’t be able to transition and make a good break.


1. Narrow base; feet under arm pits 2. Outside foot up; toe to instep stagger 3. Weight on balls of feet; soul of shoes have full contact w/ground 4. Bend in waist; pads over toes 5. Bend in knees; hands at knee level 6. Hips square to the line of scrimmage 7. Eyes focused on the QB


1. Controlled backpedal (3 read steps), while keeping the receiver in peripheral vision and reading the QB for an on or off the line of scrimmage read. 2. Upon the release indicators, snap head to receiver, transition (come out of back pedal) and close.

QB Read / Release Indicators:

  1. Read the front shoulder of QB
  2. Focus on the level and directions of the shoulder and the eyes as to what zone of the field he is intending to throw.
  3. Key shoulder level for trajectory
    1. Parallel = short zone
    2. Up = deep zone
  4. When the QB’s free hand comes off the ball, drive to the interception point. Breaking on the QB’s free hand coming off the ball is extremely important. If the QB’s hand has come off the ball and the forward throwing motion has begun, it’s to late. I like to teach the corners to break to a point 6 yards in front of the receiver on a slant or out, that aiming point seems to get the corner in the right position.
  5. If the QB goes beyond the 3-step drop into a 5-step drop then the coverage will now dictate the drop technique but reading the QB’s eyes and release indicators always stay the same. I always emphasize that the corner needs to transition to the interception point once the QB’s free hand comes off the ball.


Diagrams 1 & 2 illustrate working reading through the 3-step drop using cones to terminate the routes. Using cones give us consistent and accurate route placement.

Drill 1:  Out/Slant with Cones


  • Two cones are placed where an out route and slant route would catch the ball. Players are standing at each cone to catch the ball and for the corners to break on. The X illustrates where a receiver would align.
  • The coach executes a traditional 3-step drop giving the corner a good read of the coaches’ eyes and shoulder level. It’s very important the coach give a good drop and quality throw so that the corner can get a good read of all the release indicators.
  • The corner needs to perform a good controlled backpedal while reading the coaches eyes and release indicators so he can get an early transition out of his backpedal once the free hand comes off the ball. Break to the receiver standing at the cone and wrap up the receiver or undercut and make the interception if a good read was made.

Coaching Points:

It’s important at this point to emphasize how critical it is that the corner comes out of his backpedal (transition) correctly. I teach the foot fire technique with all the corners but regardless of what technique you teach, it’s important to emphasize that the quickest transition happens when the hips and toes are quickly pointed to the interception point. If the hips and toes don’t get pointed in the right direction, the corner will have to roll over the leg that should be aimed to the interception point causing him to lose valuable time.

Drill 2: Hitch / Fade with Cones


  • Two cones are placed where a hitch route and fade route should catch the ball. Players are standing at each cone to catch the ball and for the corners to break on. The X illustrates where a receiver would align.
  • The coach executes a 3-step drop and throws either the hitch route or fade route.
  • The corner executes a controlled backpedal reading the QB’s eyes and release indicators.
  • Vs. the fade route I teach the corners to see the level of QB’s shoulders.
  • Once the indicators show the corner it’s a fade route, he is taught to open and explode out of his backpedal while leaning opposite.

Coaching Points:

  • Exploding out of the backpedal is the emphasis, the player must explode so that he can stay on top of the route.
  • Lean opposite is the term I use to emphasize that the corner has to lean towards the sideline so that he can put himself in a position to stay on top of the route and see both the QB and the receiver.
  • The next step would be to work the same route combinations but with complete routes and not cones. I work these drills everyday with the corners during pre-season and then once a week during the season. It’s an easy concept but needs to be practiced often with attention to detail.


As every coach knows, being able to tackle and potentially knock down the 3-step game is a must. Not every corner has the knack to do it but if you can find a few who are good at it, they are valuable. The 3-step drills are easy to use and teach but remember, don’t let the corner get lazy while working them.



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