- Wide receiver drills should emphasize taking the proper stance, getting off the line of scrimmage quickly and cleanly, running pass routes that are precise and well-time, and blocking, according to football drills expert Tom Bass
- Ball handling drills can help a receiver with the basic mechanics of catching the ball
- A wide receiver needs to take the proper stance to release quickly from the line of scrimmage
- A wide receiver needs to learn a variety of pass routes and run them in a consistent way
- Good blocking is largely determined by how much desire the receiver has to do the job well
Ball Handling Drills
A wide receiver must be able to concentrate intensely on the flight of the ball and ignore distractions from defenders. A receiver must make a strong effort to catch any ball thrown in his direction. In positioning his hands for a catch, a wide receiver should extend his hands away from his body. If his hands are too close to his body, the ball can hit his body and bounce out of this hands. To catch a low pass, the receiver should hold his hands palms-up, with the little fingers touching. He can use this same hand position for an over-the-shoulder catch. If the pass is high—above the numbers on the jersey—the receiver should hold his hands up, with the palms perpendicular to the ground. The thumbs should touch. If the pass is to the side, the receiver can use his outside hand as a “mitt” to stop the ball and use his other hand to trap it against the “mitt.”
A wide receiver drill that practices these hand positions has the coach calling out the ball positions. The coach says “left,” “center,” or “right,” and then calls out the height of the pass: knee, thigh, waist, chest, shoulder, or above the head. The receiver shows where and how he would position his hands. For passes at the chest level or higher, the receiver should have his hands in the up position with thumbs touching. For other passes, he should have his hands in the down position with little fingers touching. The arms must be extended in both cases.
Stance and Release
A receiver can use either a two-point or three-point stance, depending on the style of his team’s offense. To get into the three-point stance, the receiver begins by standing with his feet even and apart the width of the hips. Keeping his back straight, the receiver bends his knees until he can touch his forearms on the insides of his thighs. Then he reaches out with the hand that is closest to the sideline and rests it on the ground. He uses the foot on the same side of the body to take a short step back. He turns his head a bit toward the ball so that he can see when it is snapped. If a defensive man lines up close to him and tries to jam him, the receiver should angle his stance and bring his arm up as he comes into the defender to knock the defender’s arm away. Repetitions of this is a valuable wide receiver drill.
Running Pass Routes
The wide receiver must learn many pass routes. In practicing them, it is critical to run the same depth for each route. This allows the quarterback to predict the timing of the route and release the ball while the receiver is in the middle of the route. The timing of the route can be altered by the number of steps the quarterback takes in his drop and by the type of offensive formation. There are three depths of passing routes: short, medium, and long. Among the short routes are the hitch, the slant, and the deep out. Basic medium routes are the hook, the out, and the in. Special medium routes include the quick post, the cross, and the delay. Basic deep routes include the up and the post. In a drill for short routes, the coach lines up 10 yards in front of the receiver. The coach calls out the name of a short route. The coach’s position allows him to see if the receiver runs the route at the proper depth. To practice out and in routes, the coach can set up a drill with another receiver 8 yards off of the receiver running the route. The other receiver can backpedal to simulate a defensive back as the receiver runs the route.
To block effectively requires the receiver to be aggressive. A long touchdown run usually involves good blocking by one or more receivers. If the receiver comes hard off the line of scrimmage on every play, it can create indecision in the mind of the defender and cause him to backpedal. On a running play, causing the defender to backpedal can make it easier to block him and also move him away from the ball carrier.
As the blocking wide receiver approaches the defender, he should shorten his steps and widen his stance slightly for better balance. At the point of contact, he should have his elbows close to his body. The forearms should be up and slanted in toward the numbers. The receiver hits the defender in the chest with the heels of his hands. A wide receiver drill that practices blocking has another player or the coach holding up a tackling dummy and lining up 8 yards from the receiver. The other player backpedals 6 yards as the receiver runs toward him. The other player stops, allowing the receiver to throw a block.
Tom Bass has also developed drills for defensive backs, defensive linemen, linebackers, and running backs, as well as other positions. His book Football: Skills & Drills (Human Kinetics Publishers, 2004) provides more details on the drills described above as well as other wide receiver drills.
As an electronic scoreboards continue to light up.