One of the toughest defensive assignments in football is playing man-to-man coverage, where a mere inch can determine whether you break up a pass or get beat deep. For Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner, man coverage has become second nature, thanks to countless reps against top receivers such as the Miami Dolphins' Ted Ginn Jr., who played with Whitner at Glenville High School in Cleveland.
We sat down with Whitner while he was coaching high school players at the fourth annual Chris Chambers Bedford [Ohio] Stars Team Camp.
STACK: What's most important when covering a guy man-to-man?
Donte Whitner: Your eyes. You have to train your eyes before training any other part of your body. If you can't see where you're going, who you're going to tackle or who you're going to cover, then you can't see. A lot of stuff out there can look like a blur if you're not focused on what you're suppose to be [watching].
STACK: What should you do prior to practice or a game to prepare for man-to-man coverage?
DW: Always work on your feet…eyes and hands. With the hands, you can have a guy stand opposite as a receiver and work [his] releases off the line. After you do the things for so long, it's like muscle repetition, and your body remembers it. It ultimately helps your game.
STACK: Is there anything you do to improve your focus for playing man-to-man?
DW: I like to juggle…to really work on my focusing skills. Just get three tennis balls and practice juggling. You have to know mentally, "What am I focusing on?" [When facing a receiver], I'm focusing on the belly-button area, because that doesn't move. The head, the arms, the shoulders, all that can move; the belly button doesn't, so that's what you focus on.
STACK: Do you feel pressure during games when playing man coverage?
DW: No, I don't feel a lot of pressure, because I believe in my teammates and believe in myself. I know how hard we work and what we know.
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