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Son lacks speed in quarterback race
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

Dear Athletic Support: My son is in the running for the starting quarterback spot for his high school football team. He’s a senior and the kid he’s battling with is just a sophomore. My son’s more of a pocket passer, while the sophomore is a dual threat. Are there any specific drills we could do over the summer to give him a better shot at earning the top spot in the fall?

—Working For It


Dear Working: You need to focus on your son’s feet, specifically his speed. These days, coaches are always on the lookout for quarterbacks who can run the ball. 


The reason?


It makes their job easier. With a running quarterback, a coach doesn’t always have to call the perfect play. When things break down, a dual-threat quarterback has the option of scrambling, which is essentially making something out of nothing. Coaches love this.


Even though your son is a pocket passer, he still needs to be mobile. This doesn’t mean he has to be able to scramble for fifty-yard touchdown runs — he just needs to be able to extend plays outside of the pocket.


A good drill for honing this skill is what I used to call “The Breakdown Drill.” All you have to do is snap him the ball, count to three, and then provide a rush. The idea is for him to evade the pressure and make a pass downfield. 


You can either have a target set up for him, or you can enlist the help of a friend/teammate to run routes. Depending on your ability to properly rush him (and make it seem realistic), you might want to see about getting another kid to help provide the pressure as well. 


Flags are also a good idea for this drill. Have him wear a flag around his waist. The idea is that he should be able to avoid the rush and make an accurate pass downfield before his flag is pulled.


I always enjoyed turning my drills into games. You might want to keep count of how many passes he completes (or how many targets he hits) compared to how many times his flag gets pulled. First one to five wins!


This drill is great for an older quarterback. By this stage in his career, throwing motion and basic fundamentals should already be developed. There’s no substitute for game speed, but this drill should help simulate one of the most important skill sets in the game — throwing off balance.


Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are the kings of acrobatic throws. I’ve seen them make passes downfield from all sorts of crazy positions. That’s what you’re after! It’s rare for a quarterback to take his drop, scan the defense, and throw a pass without ever being touched. But it seems like that’s all I ever see kids practicing these days, especially when it comes to private training sessions.


It’s also a good idea to have him work this drill in shoulder pads and helmet. He won’t play games in shorts and a t-shirt, so why practice that way? 


Final note: For pure speed purposes, you might consider enrolling your son in a “speed camp,” or something similar. These are weekly training sessions that usually occur a few months leading up to a season. In my hometown of Russellville, Arkansas, Lane Physical Therapy was where I went for speed!


Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to 

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