By Steven Dudley
Defensive Backs Coach/Special Team Coordinator
Fort Hays State University (KS)
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
On the snap, they should push off the front foot. The push off should start at where the front pinky toe is. Once they push off, they should be up on the balls of their feet so they’re light on their feet and are quicker to react to stems. The slide technique is not a true slide. It’s a push-step-step cadence. They push off the front foot, step with the back foot, then step with the front foot to get in position to push again. They should never be dragging their feet on the turf.