By Justin Zimmerman
Wide Receiver Coach
The one thing that all the great wide outs have in common is their ability to run great routes. There are so many things that go into great route running, but the ability to manipulate the defender by stemming their route. In simple terms, the stem of the route is the line the wide out takes getting to his breakpoint. Manipulating the stem of the route in order to gain advantageous leverage on the defender is key to putting the wide out in a position to win. I have always thought playing defensive back is one of the most difficult positions to play on the field simple because of the “unknown” factor. For that reason, using the stem of the route to create or keep leverage is paramount. At the end of the day, playing wide out is about getting from point A to point B as fast and efficient as possible and using the stem of the route to create leverage allows us to do this.
For us, everything begins in the meeting room. Ultimately a wide out’s success is determined by his ability to know and understand his job within the overall scheme of the offense and of any individual play. I can have the fastest and most athletic player in the world playing for me; but if that player does not know where to go and how to get there he is useless. It is important for a WR to identify the leverage necessary in their route to get to the breakpoint as efficient as possible and able to win. Once they have identified the necessary leverage, they can stem the route. Here is how we define inside leverage and outside leverage:
We define inside leverage as being between the defender and the football on the defender’s side that is closest to the football. Slants, digs, hard post, and crossing routes are examples of routes in which a WR would want to get inside leverage on the defender. For example, if the receiver gets inside leverage off his release he then maintains his leverage through the stem of his route.
We define outside leverage as being between the defender and the football on the defender’s side that is farthest away from the football. Outs, comebacks, and corner routes are examples of routes in which a WR would want to get outside leverage on the defender.
Now that we have established the concept of leverage, we can begin to cover using the stem of the route to achieve the leverage the receiver needs to win the route. Again, at the end of the day, playing receiver is all about getting from point A to point B as fast and efficiently as possible.
Coaching the Stem
The stem of the route is the line the WR takes getting to his break point. That line could look very different play to play based on the route and the defense. We talk about the stem of the route as a mechanism to achieve the leverage needed to win a route.
There are so many variables that go in to determining what type of stem a WR will need for a specific route. An easy rule of thumb is simply get your body in a position to be between the defender and the football. There are a couple things to keep in mind when teaching the types of stems needed for routes.