By Adam Griggs
Wide Receivers Coach
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
There are countless clinics, diagrams, texts, and even videos out there on everything from releases, footwork, stemming a route, ball security, agility and explosive running with the ball. But often we forget that YAC (yards after catch) can not occur without the catch. Here is a basic progression of drills that can been used by wide receivers at all levels to gain a constant focus of “eye discipline” and proper catching mechanics.
Body Clock Drill
As our offensive coordinator, Keith Levan (former University of New Hampshire wide receiver) says that the key to developing as a wide receiver is to catch as many “bad balls” as possible. This drill is key to creating muscle memory of proper catch mechanics in 8 positions around the body as well as full extension above the head and just slightly “over the top.” We call this drill “Body Clock.” This is an excellent partner warm-up during pre-practice or during the offseason (in particular on a leg day).
Players start no more than 5-7 yards away or a distance that they can each accurately hit the spots “around the clock.” They throw the ball to the following locations in order:
- Left Shoulder
- Left Ribs
- Left hip
- Right Hip
- Right Ribs
- Right Shoulder
They will throw the ball farther away from the body for additional challenge. Both players are working together, beginning from a loose position, and can have a slow relaxed foot fire, hands relaxed in the center of the body until the ball is thrown. When the ball is thrown, make sure the hands are loose and open, not clenched and snapping at the ball.
We stress that the backside hand is quickly and efficiently crossing the body to the catch position. We also make sure the receiver is dropping his hips and eyes to the catch position. We will “freeze” the ball in place as we catch it, with eyes to the tip of the ball. Have players judge themselves by asking, “Am I catching the front end of the ball? Middle? Or back end of the ball?”
Freeze and Catch and Lock Drills
Turning your head up the field early, or peeking for contact can lead to incompletions. But these only occur when a player does not see the ball into the fingertips of his hand and/or fails to follow the ball into a secure position. This process is called “Catch and Lock” and must become automatic for any great receiver.