By Paul Anthony Markowski, Offensive Consultant, Chestnut Hill College
As more teams in both the college and professional ranks convert to the spread formations that have become more popular within the last decade, the existence of a fullback on many teams is simply nonexistent.
However, football strategy will continue to change and the fullback will no doubt once again become a very valuable part of a program’s offensive arsenal. Many coaches still believe in the value of a solid, aggressive fullback who can take their team to new heights.The following drills allow for a fullback to perfect a given fundamental to the extent that it becomes second nature.
All great fullbacks must possess power in order to perform their assignments. However, the player must be drilled in this area so he can learn how to become a powerful back. One of the better power drills I use with my players is called the “Blaster Drill.”
This drill develops tackle-breaking ability. Two players with shields stand relatively close to each other, forming a small barrier for the ball carrier to take on.
On the coach’s cadence, the fullback takes the handoff (at about 3 yards from the bag holders) and attempts to attack and split the bags. The ball should be carried with two-arm ball security. An important coaching point for this drill is to ensure that the back keeps his shoulders square and his pad‑level lower than his opponent’s.
Make no mistake about it, agility is just as important for a 245-pound fullback as it is for a 215‑pound tailback. One of the old standby drills to improve a player’s agility is the Tire Drill, which helps a player to focus on keeping his knees high as they get through the course of tires.My fullbacks also perform the “Jump Cut Drill,” which is especially important to teach if a team is running a zone blocking offensive scheme.
Set up a “T” apparatus using three rectangular dummies. The two inline dummies represent blocking offensive linemen while the third perpendicular dummy is there to ensure that the ball carrier gets high enough to successfully jump over to the next open hole.
The fullback should approach the apparatus at full speed and with two-hand ball security. He then runs up to the heels of the linemen. Realizing that the hole is not going to be opened by his men, the back then “jumps” to the other side (open hole). The back then accelerates up and over the rectangular dummy.
One interesting note for this drill is that a jump cut enables a runner to save five steps when making the cut! The coach must ensure that his back keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage (LOS) at all times!
Though they may be larger than a tailback, there is still an expectation that a fullback be fast. One of the more forgotten drills that enhances a player’s speed is the “3-Point Stance Drill.”
In this drill, tell all your fullbacks to line up on a specified yard line facing the coach. On the coach’s command, the fullbacks must fire out from their stances and run about 5 yards to the next yard line. Repeat as needed.
The key coaching points for this drill are:
- The player’s feet should be shoulder width apart, staggered toe-to-instep.
- Toes are north and south with heels slightly off ground.
- Their weight should be evenly distributed on the balls of the feet and the down hand.
- The down-hand arm is straight and supported on the finger tips while the off-hand rests on the thigh.
- Shoulders are square to the LOS and parallel with the ground.
- The tail should be raised slightly above parallel to the ground.
- The head is always up with the eyes looking forward.
Ball Security Drills
Both one-arm and two-arm ball security is of the utmost importance to any fullback as a simple fumble could have a devastating effect on the final score. Two-arm ball security should be drilled more than one‑arm security because fullbacks should never place the ball in only one arm unless they are free and clear with no defender near them.
Fullbacks are the players who get the carries between the tackles. As such, they must always have two hands on the ball as they make their way through that maze of flying arms and legs.
Some important coaching points when teaching two-arm ball security include:
- The inside arm is always the “up” arm.
- The thumb is pointing down.
- The elbow is high.
- The outside arm is across the belly (pinky finger is on belly button).
- A big pocket is presented to QB.
- Both hands are spread open.
- He must roll the ball over on exchange and squeeze it.
- His eyes must always look forward.