By Scott Macker
Running backs handle the ball more than anyone except the QB. Being able to hang on to the football to gain those tough yards often determines whether your team comes home with the W. "If you turn the ball over, your chances of winning the game go down greatly," says Cale Gundy, running backs coach for the Oklahoma Sooners. "We do ball security drills every day in practice, and we stress the importance of holding on to the ball as much as possible."
For proof of Gundy's point, check out the startling stats of the Sooners' star tailback Adrian Peterson. With more than 700 career carries totaling just short of 4,000 rushing yards, the speedy-yet-hard-hitting Peterson has coughed up the ball a whopping zero times. Here, Gundy explains the teaching tools that have helped Peterson and the Sooners hang on to the pigskin and avoid costly fumbles.
Use the Eagle Claw Grip
Spread fingers over tip of ball
Press ball firmly against forearm
Pull ball tightly into armpit
Clamp down on it with bicep
"Having your fingers spread over the tip of the ball provides more strength and control. Putting the ball as deep into your armpit as possible and clamping it down as tight as you can with your bicep sets you up with a secure hold."
Taking a handoff
"No matter what direction the play is going, always position your inside arm up and outside arm on the bottom to receive the ball. Once the ball is placed in your bottom hand, pull it tightly into your armpit."
"Never switch hands between the tackles, because that's where the most bodies and hands are. The only time switching hands is OK is when you're in the open downfield with a chance for a big play. If possible, put the ball in the arm nearest the sideline."
Taking a hit
"Put the ball in your outside arm. This frees your other arm to rip through tackles, stiff arm or put a hand on a helmet, which can lead to a big play. If the tackler is coming straight at you, make sure you have two hands on the football. If the collision comes from the side, hopefully you have the ball in the opposite arm so you can deliver a blow with your free arm."
"Fumbles occur when the ball gets away from the carrier's body, which usually happens when he makes an explosive cut, or when he carries it too low, instead of tight and up in his armpit. Don't run through tacklers with the ball in front of your chest, because helmets will be coming right at the ball. Carrying the ball up high on your chest gives defenders a much easier target."
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