Coaching Beginning Defensive Backs

Welcome to part three of our series on coaching specific positions when you have new players to the game of football. I feel as if these drills can be used from youth through high school, but especially in the earliest stages of learning the fundamentals. This article focuses on the Defensive Backs, and specifically in a 4-4 G Defense.

A great resource for DB drills and basic techniques is a DVD from Nick Rapone when he was at Temple (now at Delaware). Much like any other position, we want to teach stance and read steps first. Our DB’s take their first two steps backwards in a back pedal (no pecker in/side shuffle). Once our balance and reads are understood, we teach alignment (inside leg for cover 1/3 or outside leg for cover 2/4).

Schematically we teach our DB’s to spot drop first. Great drills for teaching the spot drop are the Y-Drill which helps DB’s re-route to get leverage on WRs, the W-Drill, which is a common drill for DB’s to teach hips and back pedal, and the line drill which teaches DB’s to follow the QB’s eyes and attack the ball at the peak.

We also teach our DB’s to pattern read. By this, I mean that our CB’s will pedal back in their read, but if the WR runs a quick slant, arrow, or quick out… why should our CB keep dropping to a spot on the field? Instead he will break off and play the #1 on his short route- while hoping the OLB will get to the flat in time for support. The FS is taught to read #2 and if it’s a quick dump he should be there to make contact. Good pattern reading drills are 2 on 1 (2 WR/1DB) and 1 on 1. It’s hard to teach pattern reading without live action.


For tackling, we incorporate the ‘gator roll’ into our DB drills. The gator roll is to start on your knees in front of a bag, have the DB attack the bag and roll on it. This way we can teach them to attack low on bigger ball carriers, secure the tackle, and wrassle him down. You can skip to 1:00 and watch the player attack the bag here. Joe Daniel also discusses the gator roll on his site football-defense.