Nothing stellar comes to mind when you think of Rice football, but a little research reveals that Rice is home to Jarett Dillard, one of the best receivers in the country.
Dillard’s All-American honors, and his selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth-round of the 2009 NFL Draft, stem, in part, from his improvement in first-step quickness.
“If you don’t have first-step quickness and speed coming off the line, a defensive back will be able to reroute you and throw off the timing between you and the quarterback,” says Yancy McKnight, former head strength and conditioning coach at Rice University.
To improve their explosion off the line, Dillard and other Owls receivers performed High Knee Punches once a week during the off-season—in conjunction with the Falling Two Point Start with 10-yard Sprint.
High Knee Punches
• Stand a few feet from wall with hands on wall
• Fully extend arms and bend body at 45-degree angle
• Quickly drive right knee up as high as possible, then drive right foot down into ground underneath hips
• Perform with left knee and foot
• Alternate legs for specified reps
Sets/Reps/Rest: 3×10 (5 each leg) with 30 to 45 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Keep chin neutral and upper body and trunk tight and flexed // Align body from shoulders to ankles and keep feet under hips // Stay on toes throughout exercise // Perform each rep with maximum effort
Falling Two Point Start with 10-yard Sprint (perform two minutes after High Knee Punches)
• Stand on toes with body fully erect
• Keeping toes on ground, lean forward as much as possible
• When you feel you have to take a step, drive dominant knee and opposite arm up
• Draw dominant leg back to ground
• Sprint 10-yards
Reps/Rest: 8-10 with 30 to 45 seconds rest
Adaptation: Use a band or lightweight sled for resistance
Coaching Points: Keep feet under hips and toes pointed straight out // Explosively drive knee and arm up to properly accelerate out of two-point stance // Try covering 10 yards in a maximum of seven steps // Don’t tuck chin to chest; keep it in a neutral position