One of the most difficult things to teach players is proper pitch relationship. For a player to be in great pitch relationship they must have a feel for the Quarterback where he is moving and how he can help force the defender to make a choice. At the same time the Quarterback needs to know where the pitch man will be. When he is in the heat of the game he does not have time to locate the pitch man before he pitches. Instead he must be totally focused on the read key and then able to pitch the ball to exploit the defender’s choice.
2 on 1 Pitch Drill – Option Football Drill
There are multiple different opinions as to what is the perfect pitch relationship. Some coaches would prefer the pitch man to be one yard back, others would prefer him to be flat and other would prefer him to be two yards back. The opinion on the width of the pitch man can also vary greatly. Some coach prefer him to be relatively close so the ball doesn’t travel in the air for a long time while others would prefer if he is wider so the defender has to cover more ground.
I tell my players there is one universal rule for the pitch man, they have to have a relationship where the pitch key can’t tackle both the QB and the pitch man. I believe in this simple rule for a variety of reasons. The number one reason I’m a fan of this rule is because that’s all that matters. If the pitch key is forced to make a choice than the job is done. The second reason I believe in this rule is because it accounts for the different speed and skill level of players. Some players need to be two yards back because they will catch the ball moving forward while other needs to be flat because they don’t have the speed to outrun the pitch man. In the end it is something that is determined by each player’s skill and abilities.
I use a very simple drill I stole from rugby to teach this skill. It is called the 2 on 1 Drill and provides players with instant feedback on if they are maintaining a correct pitch relationship. In this Drill there are two offensive players and one defender. The starting point can vary but I have them start relatively close to each other and then run around a cone. By starting them close it forces them to get to their pitch relationship instead of maintaining pitch relationship. I believe this helps them learn the proper spacing which is much more applicable to the game because most times a pitch occurs with a man who is in motion or has time to get in this relationship.
As they round the cone they will approach a defender who is only able to, at the start, move horizontally. As the QB approaches him he will aim a step inside the inside hip of the defender and attack that space. When the defender commits to the Quarterback he will pitch the ball. In this scenario the QB is thinking I will keep the ball unless the defender can tackle me for less than 4 yards. While the QB is reading the defender the pitch man is responsible for getting into good pitch relationship and making noise. By making noise he does a few things, first he lets the QB know he is there and reminds him that pitching is a viable option.
The second thing he does is give the QB a rough indication of where he is. By hearing the voice the QB can narrow down the possible locations of the pitch man which allows him to locate him quicker. The final thing it does is attract the attention of the pitch key. Many times the quick look this noise will bring is enough to freeze the defender and allow the QB to get under the pitch key and into the option alley. The last coaching point for the pitch player is that he should accelerate on to the ball. What the majority of players find (and they get instant feedback on this in the drill) is if they catch the ball at a jog they will be able to get tackled by the pitch key. If they catch the ball moving forward at a change of speed they will accelerate past the defender and into space.
This is a great drill for teaching a very complex skill. By giving players instant feedback they are able to quickly find the pitch relationship that fits them and their skill sets. This, combined with it being a short drill, means that gets players a lot of reps very quickly which is essential to developing great pitch relationship.
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