The defensive back position is probably the most difficult position to play. Playing defensive back will require your players to cover athletic receivers as well as be sound against the run game. Here is a list of the best defensive back drills for youth football. These are drills we do with our players on a regular basis.
The Wave Drill is an excellent drill as it teaches the defensive backs how to react to the ball. It also a way to teach your players how exploded out of their back pedal. This drill will teach your defensive backs to plant and break on the ball in the direction given by the coach. The kids will like doing this drill and it develops ball skills and it also helps develop speed and agility.
The defensive back line drill will works multiple techniques at once. It will teach your defenders how to back pedal, plant and explode, break on and catch the football, and run for a touchdown. This drill is fun and it will help develop speed and agility. This is a change of direction drill that should be practiced every time you break into defensive individual.
This video gives you several drills and coaching tips for defensive backs. These drills work speed and agility, proper back pedal, back pedal forward transition, turn and go hip transitions, and finishing (attacking the ball and getting an interception). All of these drills are very simple and the kids will like them.
Defensive backs will be required to tackle in space. Many times they will have to come up on a sweep and make a tackle on the running back. Tackling in the open field is very difficult, it’s something that needs to be practiced often. Open field tackling is all about understanding leverage, pursuit path, and knowing where your help is.
(This video is for linebackers, but it can also be implemented with defensive backs)
Most youth football defenses play man to man coverage. Personally, I prefer zone coverage for a variety of reasons. I feel that zone coverage makes things much simpler. When in zone, defenders know once they read pass, they need to open up and get to their zone. With man to man coverage, if a defender bites on play-action, then they are mostly likely beat. To ask a defender to play the run and watch the player they are responsible for on a pass is very difficult. Here is an excellent drill for linebacker zone drops. This video gives great insight into the hip and feet technique needed to successfully zone drop.
Is the receiver in an over or under split?
Over Split: Receiver is line up really wide so that he can give himself some room to run inside routes.
Under Split: Receiver cheats his split in so that he can give himself room to run outside routes.
Understanding receiver alignment is half the battle.
One of the most critical parts of playing Defensive Back is the ability to stay in a good stance during backpedals and being able to quickly change direction. There are a variety of different theories on the best way to train using football drills, this but we believe in keeping things as simple as possible for the players so they can focus on playing fast.
One of the best drills for practicing breaks is the W Drill. This is a classic defensive back drill that has been used for years to help players improve their ability to change direction. Many times the drill is done in a full effort pattern where the players are going full speed on all parts of the drill. Another variant for the drill is the length of the break and drop. Some coaches will use a longer drop and break to work conditioning while others will make the drill smaller to focus specifically on foot speed.
While the Traditional setup is a good drill that has many positives there are two major downfalls. The first comes from players using maximal effort the whole time.
If players are working at 100% effort the whole time there are two things that can easily happen:
The first one is that they will fatigue and their breaks will not be as sharp. While part of the purpose of drills is to build conditioning and practice techniques when players are tired, technique drills are not the ideal time to work on conditioning. There are a million great drill that can develop conditioning but it’s not something that the W Drill is designed to do. Instead what eventually happens is that players develop poor habits and techniques that carry over to the game.
The other problem with the traditional W Drill is that players seem to focus on the ground waiting for the cone to tell them to break forward. This is the exact opposite of what they need to be doing in a game. In the game they should be looking forward and reading their keys so that when they decide to make a break they can attack and make a play on the ball.
The way we do the W Drill is a little different and it addresses these two issues better than the traditional W Drill. The downside is that it isn’t variable in length and doesn’t serve as a conditioning drill. We use other, more specific, drills to address those concerns. In our version of the youth football W Drill each player will backpedal for what they think is about 5 yards. After they have reached 5 yards they will burst on an angle to the next cone. The distance is not a major concern so we don’t harp on it much. It should be somewhere between 3 and 6 yards but the point isn’t to make sure they hit exactly 5 yards. This takes away the players focusing on depth and lets them focus on making a great break.
The other thing that we do is take away the speed from the backpedal section of the drill. In the backpedal section of the drill the player will go about 50-60% of their full speed but instead focus on their technique. This allows them to make sure their backpedal technique is perfect and also lets them put more energy into making an explosive break.
The area where we focus our attention is the break. We want to come out of the break as fast as possible. We don’t spend too much time on specific techniques, especially during the season, so our energy both as a coaching staff, and for the players, is making sure this break receives maximum attention and has full effort.
There are very few times where there is a specific right and wrong way of doing things. Instead most things have strengths and weaknesses. We use our version of the W Drill because it addresses our concerns better than the Traditional W Drill. When selecting drills it’s important to understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the drills you are doing and to pick the specific drills that address what you need to work on. We don’t believe our W Drill is perfect, we just feel like it does a better job of addressing our goals for the drill.