When determining positions for your players the first question you always have to answer is who can play Quarterback. Many coaches make the mistake of selecting their Quarterback based on the offense they would like to run. I would counter that at the High School level and lower it is better to have an adaptable system that you can change to highlight the strengths of your Quarterback.
What to Look for in a Quarterback
Football is a sport that is great because it requires all players working together to make the play successful. This means that each position is important but the Quarterback position stands above the others as the most important for several reason. First the Quarterback is the default leader of the offense. There are times where other players emerge as the leaders of the offense but the Quarterback is who everyone will look to at the start of the season. In addition to being the leader of the offense, the offense must flow through the Quarterback. The Quarterback and Center are the two players that will touch the ball on every play. As a result, it’s important that you are highlighting the Quarterback’s strengths and asking him to complete tasks that he is good at.
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So if you can adapt your offense to the Quarterback the natural question is what are you using to decide who will be your Quarterback. This is far from an exact science but it is normally easy to spot the Quarterback among a group of kids. For me, I am always looking for athletes who people are willing to follow, athletes that have space awareness and the ability to make decisions under pressure. Regardless of the offensive system, if a Quarterback has these three qualities they have a chance to have success.
The ability to lead a group of individuals might be one of the most important characteristics of a Quarterback. If your offense is a huddle based offense the Quarterback will be addressing the huddle directly before each play. These interactions will be the last interactions before the play starts and have a huge effect on the ability of the players to do their jobs. As teams move to no huddle offenses it actually increases the importance of the Quarterback’s leadership. He will be responsible for getting the play and communicating it to the rest of the offense. His ability to get the play to the rest of the offense is critical if they are going to have success.
The next major characteristic to look for in a Quarterback spatial awareness. This ability to understand space and how to use that space to manipulate defenders. Again this is an ability that can be hard to uncover but it is normally the difference between good and great players. One way we can see this ability is through games that force players to make passes and use their teammates.
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The final characteristic to look for in a Quarterback is the ability to make decisions under pressure. The most important part of playing Quarterback, regardless of the system, is to make decisions. In order to have an effective Quarterback it is critical that the player has the ability to make decisions in high pressure environments. Again this is a hard skill to evaluate but by putting players in tough positions and seeing how they respond to a difficult workout or conditioning you can normally determine how players will respond to pressure.
Finding the right player to play Quarterback must be the first priority for any team. Once the Quarterback is established you can build the offense to highlight his physical skills. But regardless of their physical skills, every great Quarterback must be a great leader, understand how to use space to the team’s advantage and make great decisions.