The Wide Receiver Study

Sep 25, 2011 | Position Groups, Wide Receivers

Using Hands and Feet to Negate Press Coverage

By Mike Kuchar Senior Research Manager X&O Labs [email protected]

Researchers' Note: You can access the raw data - in the form of graphs - from our research on the WR Play: Click here to read the Statistical Analysis.

After conducting extensive research on defeating press coverage, we found that the primary key in doing so relies on the proper use of hands and feet.   Not surprised?  You shouldn’t be (but we think we’ve found a few things that will surprise you – so, keep reading). Every essential fundamental of the game relies on the utilization of those two extremities.  In any case, the goal is to beat the defensive back off the line of scrimmage, and with the help of coaches around the country we’ll show you how.   We understand that there may be different kinds of press coverage – like a pure cloud cover two corner – so for the intentions of this report, we are focusing solely on man-to-man bump and run with no access to a stem of any kind by a receiver (Picture 1). 

Case 1: Redefining the Stance What our research found is that the majority of coaches will either teach a different stance when encountering press or spend more time developing a certain aspect of the stance (like the difference between the front and back foot).  For example, 73.6 percent of coaches will have the inside foot up in their stance, especially when lining up against press.   Receivers need to be comfortable when encountering press coverage.  Many times, the younger players get tensed or nervous with a defender less than a yard away from their nose.

The majority of coaches, 54.1 percent teach an 80/20 weight distribution, meaning 80 percent of the receiver’s weight is on his front foot.  The idea is to not rock back or false step.  With the weight heavily distributed on the front foot, receivers are now able to "roll over" their front foot and get into the route.  We couldn’t tell you how many coaches have likened their stance to a sprinter coming out of the blocks during a sprint.  Mike Hart, the receivers coach at South County Secondary School (VA) even tells his receivers to turn their inside foot in about a quarter of an inch in order to roll off the ball.

Po Pomajzl, the wide receivers coach at Grand Island Northwest High School (NE), takes it to a whole other level when teaching the stance to his kids.  He actually takes them through a progression (starting from their knees) to make them understand the importance of stance.

Coach Pomajzl’s WR Stance Progression:

  • Player starts on his knees
  • Bring inside foot up so the heel is even to the back knee (Picture 2)
  • Put hands shoulder width apart on the ground in front of your inside foot (Picture 3)
  • Raise your butt up assuming a sprinter’s stance as if coming out of the blocks
  • Raise your torso up to a 45-degree angle (Picture 5)
  • Hands are in front of torso with elbows bent at 90-degrees and hands relaxed (Picture 6)
  • 90% of weight is on the front foot
  • This stance can be adjusted slightly depending on the WRs height and leg length
  • Player looks down the LOS to the QB/ball
  • At the snap the WR drives his back knee forward pushing off his front foot (no false steps)

In order to emphasize the importance of not false stepping, Dabo Swinney, the head coach at Clemson University, reinforces that the weight of the front foot should be on the ball of the foot, and not the toe.


Coaching Point:  If players don’t understand where the ball of the foot is, tell them it’s where the shoelaces start.  It’s helped me in my clarifications.

"I don’t want the receiver up on his toe.  I want the weight on the ball of the foot as if I were in a chute," says Dabo Swinney.  "We want to drive off the back foot and roll off the front foot.  The receiver needs as much weight as it takes to keep him from picking up the front foot at the snap of the ball.  If the balance is not right, the receiver will pick up the front foot."

Swinney will often remind his players, who have NFL-caliber talent, that when they compete in the combines, the clock starts when they move.  A false step or hesitation could bring down that 40-time and eventually cost them millions of dollars.



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We’ve also found that the stagger is just as important in a stance.   Many coaches will narrow the base of their wide receiver’s stance when encountering press coverage.  He doesn’t want as much stagger in his stance because he has to get his feet up under his body quicker to execute whatever move he is using.  Jason McManus, the former receivers coach at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, teaches more of a 90/10 ratio with 90 percent of the weight being on the front leg.  He tells his receivers to lean their chin over their front knee, and lower their pad level with the arms at the ready.  But he varies his stance into two different types – a base stance, which means one against "open access" where a receiver can get a clean release and one against pure press coverage with no access.