By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
While there are an exorbitant amount of schemes and concepts coaches can devise around running quarterbacks, we wanted to research how these coaches were preparing these players, both in practice and in game planning, to carry the load each week. There are two realms in this process: conditioning the mind and well as the body. We took some of the best methodologies from our sources on how they develop their quarterback in practice and how they game plan. We segmented our research into base methodologies coaches were using for each.
Six Mandatory QB’s in Program: DJ Nimphius, River Dell High School (NJ)
It’s a belief at River Dell High School (NJ) that anyone can line up at quarterback and carry the ball. And we don’t mean anyone in terms of ability. Head football coach DJ Nimphius will cycle through a pool of candidates to determine who will be “the guy.” In his system, running backs and wide receivers can take snaps and learn how to read his two man games, which are option concepts detailed in case one.
In order to begin the selection process each year, Coach Nimphius mandates having two quarterbacks in each grade (10-12) to compete for the job. “We want two from every class because then we can figure out what we want to be and what we may be,” said Coach Nimphius. “If every kid learns quarterback, he can play anywhere on the field because you see the whole picture. As long as you’re physical enough and you can run you can play quarterback here.” In fact, it seems like the entire personnel process at River Dell seems like a funnel, channeling the top players into the quarterback position. “Sophomores who are quarterbacks will start on the perimeter at wide receiver right away if there are not the guy,” he said. “They will slowly move towards the ball. Then they will line up all over the place. I have six coming back and all six have to be on the field some way next year. We even have had offensive Tackles who came in and played at quarterback.”
We wanted to find out if coaches limit carries for their quarterback each week. We found that pitch counts relied on two main factors: ability of opponent, backup quarterback situation. Some coaches, like Derek Pennington at Zeeland East High School (MI) would often tone things down for his quarterback run package when the game was well at hand. And other coaches like South Dakota State University offensive coordinator Jason Eck preferred to try to limit quarterback carries this season because of a fluid backup situation. In either case, we were curious to see if there was a limit to how many carries quarterbacks should have.
Maximum of 15 Carries Per Game: Dave Marsh, offensive coordinator, Texas Southern University.
Coach Marsh believes in having six quarterback runs each week. This is basically the entire quarterback run menu. This doesn’t mean he’ll call all of them, but they are on the offensive menu. “We don’t want to carry more than six QB runs into a game,” he said. “That’s on the call sheet. Our game plan only has thirty something plays on it. We need to keep in mind that the quarterback is also getting hit in the pass game. When it comes to direct runs we limit him. Within the game, we don’t want him being the primary ball carrier. We let it happen organically based on what they are doing defensively. I don’t like him ever getting over 15 plays a game. We ran around 70 plays a game this season, and in some games, he had two or three carries.”
Building Around Skill Set of Quarterback: Sanders Davis, run game coordinator, Catholic High School (LA)
While it sounds simple enough, it’s imperative to select run concepts that suit your quarterback. And since at the high school level where there is no recruiting involved, these quarterbacks can be different year after year. Some years it may make sense to rely on more downhill quarterback runs while in other years it may be appropriate to use him more on the perimeter. It’s a process that Coach Davis undergoes on a yearly basis.
“We always want to consider what our quarterback is capable of handling and where he excels when designing the quarterback run game,” he said. “For example, if he is a heavier quarterback with a lot of body armor (muscle) who can run, we would want to use him in our interior run game as well as our perimeter run game. Conversely, if we have a quarterback who runs well, but we are afraid of him getting hit by a defensive lineman or linebacker, we may only use him to run on the perimeter. Remember, every time you are running a quarterback run play, that is one play that your running back is not touching the ball. The quarterback needs to be a guy worth taking that carry if you want to consider quarterback runs.”