By Michael Rank, Defensive Coordinator, Sheboygan South High School (Wis.)
Here are a couple of our team's favorite drills to instruct the defensive back.
Defensive Back Shed Drill
This drill helps players develop one of the most important skills a defensive back must have, getting off blocks.
When engaged with blockers, DBs must not allow offensive players to extend their arms into the defensive back. They can’t allow blockers to be like Velcro. Defensive backs can use their hands, and with great force, throw the blocker to a side, and get to the ball carrier.
DIAGRAM 1: Defensive Back Shed Drill. The coach reverse-pivots and tosses the ball backward to the running back. The other offensive player blocks the defender (these two players are separated by 6 yards). The defender (X) tries to come up and make a tackle.
When executing the drill, make sure the ball carrier breaks the line of scrimmage, or use an exotic play like a toss or pass. If the corners are playing a Cover 2 technique, they should be very aggressive coming up. If the corners are playing zone quarters technique, they must be cautious, and make sure to read the run, before disengaging off the blocker to get to the ballcarrier.
Defensive Back Tackling Drill
DIAGRAM 2: Defensive Back Tackling Drill. X backpedals and reads the QB's shoulders. X breaks on the ball to the pad and runs through the pad (or dummy). If X can get to the ball, X tips it forward or picks it off.
Many skills are developed when working on this drill:
1. In transition, players work on moving from one body movement to another as fast as possible, such as backpedaling and then breaking to the ball.
2. It also helps quarterbacks in reading the shoulders of the quarterback.
3. Cornerbacks can work on their timing when making a play on the ball, or making a jarring hit on the ballcarrier (or tackling dummy if preferred).
4. If a ball is deflected, use the inside hand closest to the quarterback. This allows the backside arm to tackle the ball carrier if we miss the ball.
If X, the defensive back, intercepts the ball, the player must yell “Oskie!” This tells the other defenders to find the nearest offensive player, and block them. The nearest defender to the defensive back who intercepts the ball must take out the intended offensive player, usually the wide receiver. Encourage your defensive backs to secure the ball and get 15 yards minimum up the field without being too fancy, because you don’t want to give the ball back to the offense by turning it back over.