Coaching Beginning Running Backs

Keeping the ball rolling on 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 Running Backs.

Running Backs are often called the easiest of the positions to coach, but if you have sloppy running back play you aren’t going to control the clock or possession.


The first thing to work on with RBs is taking the hand off/toss or mesh/pitch. If you’re a ‘pro style’ (what does that even mean in today’s landscape??) offense, work on arm placement and accepting the handoff or toss from the QB (probably you in the drill). If you’re an option system, work on the mesh with your backs and catching a speed option pitch. Either way, have your drills set up for the back to take a nice hit from a bag or shield a yard after the exchange. This will ensure that they’re taking the ball and putting it away securely.


We’re a one-cut-and-go zone running scheme. Thus, our backs are taught to cut and go in a quick paced drill. We set up two bags to form a 90 degree angle from our starting point. The back gets the hand off, jumps the first bag and steps over the second to simulate a cut and go (you can see a variation here).


We also want backs to have strong legs while having quick feet. Thus, we have our agility ladder down in front of the back. A coach will put a long towel around the RB’s waist and pull against the back as he attempts to run the ladder (you can try 1 foot in each, then 2 feet in each rung).


A method to increase leg strength while carrying the ball is to have your backs step over trap bags while carrying the football, and taking a couple shield-shots at the end, when the back is going to accelerate out of the bags and sprint 5-10 yards to the endzone. We use shields to simulate ball security techniques in the game, and to take the place of the gauntlet machine that is much too costly for our program.


Lastly, pass blocking is a huge part of our RB’s responsibilities. In our spring game our QB was sacked with two receivers open because our RB didn’t step up and block the LB that slipped in on a blitz. We will run 1/2 line with the OL and have a RB in to step up and take on a blitzing LB’er.