Many running backs are fast, strong, quick and powerful. But a couple of traits separate the great from the good. Some running backs, especially younger ones, rely too much on athletic ability rather than developing their skills.
To hit the right hole in the line requires patience and time. If you can’t hit the right hole, then you can’t use your athletic ability to score.
That’s why it’s important to execute running back drills that focus on reaction time. Here are a few that will improve your agility and help you see the right hole in the line quickly.
Running Back Drills
Purpose: Develop reaction time and quickness.
Set-up: Have a partner hold a tennis ball at shoulder height while you stand anywhere from 7 to 10 yards away.
Drill: When your partner drops the ball, sprint to catch it before it bounces a second time. As the drill becomes easier, start further away from your partner.
Reps: 5-10, depending on age
Purpose: Develop reaction time and lateral agility.
Set-up: Use cones to mark off a space on the field that is 15-by-15 yards. You and your teammates form two lines outside the area.
Drill: The coach says “Breakdown,” prompting the players to assume the proper athletic position. Next, the coach says “Set,” and the players sprint to the center of the space with feet chopping. This is when the drill begins. On “Go,” players do whatever the coach directs for the next 15 seconds. When the coach says “Fire Out,” players sprint to the cones, stop in an athletic position and chop their feet until coach says “Relax.”
Tip: In the center, perform the Two-Point Shuffle: shuffle left, right, back or forward depending on the coach’s command. There are other variations, but this is the easiest to explain and execute at a high level.
Sets/Duration: 4-5 x 10-20 seconds
Purpose: Develop reaction time and ability to change direction.
Set-up: Set up three agility bags 7 yards from the starting line with 3 yards of space between them. Seven yards away from the bags, mark a 5-by-10-yard area with four cones.
Drill: Coach instructs players to either sprint, shuffle, backpedal or hop through the bags. As a player approaches the cones, he decelerates and cuts toward the direction the coach indicates. The player then makes one more cut at the cone and sprints though the last cone.
Find the Hole Drill
Purpose: Develop reaction time and vision.
Set-up: Place four cones to simulate a center, guard, tackle and tight end. Three defenders stand between the cones. The quarterback takes the snap to hand off to the running back.
Drill: Coach stands behind the running back and tells the defender which hole to stand in on the snap. When the coach says “Ready,” the quarterback goes through his cadence and snaps the ball. As soon as the running back receives the handoff, the defenders move into their holes—with one hole open that the running back must hit at full speed without hesitation.
Reps: 5 times per athlete