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Coaching H.S. Quarterbacks

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Step by Step Instuction for QB Coaches

Reading Coverages Pre-Snap

Identifying Coverages - Video Study
  • Cover 0
  • Cover 1 Man Free
  • Cover 2
  • Cover 2 Man Under
  • Cover 3
  • Cover 4

Cover 0

Instructional Videos from My Football Mentor
Reading Coverages

Progression Reads

There are, generally speaking, three categories of Progression Reads.  They are: 1) Chose a Side. 2) Pure Progression. 3) Pure Progression with an Adjustment.  How your team defines progression reads is up to you, the Coach.  But let's talk about each type and explain their features and differences.

Chose a Side:

This is a simple as it sounds with your QB being instructed to read a side of the field.  For my purposes this is where I begin with Youth Quarterbacks and the Three Step Drop.  

It is an important coaching point to make sure your young QB realizes that "reading" a defense begins as soon as he breaks the huddle.  Pre-snap reads at the youth levels may merely start by identifying is the middle of the field open or closed and progression to more sophisticated reads (see Read the B.E.A.D.).  Once that concept is firmly established, understood and is being executed the next phase of post-snap reads can begin.  This is where the concept of progression reads is taught.

For a Youth QB involved in a Three Step Drop passing game that begins with the snap and the three steps taken to reach the "top of the drop".  He is reading the defense and identifying open receivers all during those three steps.  This is necessary because when your QB reaches his third step he is releasing the ball to sync with the routes of his receivers.  There is no hitch or read step. 

With no hitch step the progression simply choses a side of the field. Typically the play calls are focused on "mirror routes" - same routes run on each side of the field.  This typically takes the form of a route and its complementary route, such as Slant and Arrow, Fade and Out, Fade Stop and Seam Stop, etc.

This can be done in the play call.  For instance, say you structure your three step drop play calls as 90 Series calls, then, for instance, 98 Hitch calls for the "X" and "Z" receivers to execute Hitch routes while both TEs run a Seam route.  The "8" tells the QB that he is reading the right side receivers.  Likewise 99 Hitch would indicate the QB to read the left side receivers.

Pure Progression:

Pure progression reads apply to the 5 Step Drop, Play Action, Sprint/Roll Out, and 7 Step Drop passing concepts.  In pure progression reads each play has a defined set of typically three progression reads.  

Let's look at how this works on a typical play:

Progression Read play.png

This play contains Cover 2, 3, and 4 "beaters" designed to give the QB options if the opposition is in a zone defense.  This type of pass call would be made based on scouting the opposition.

The Coach might, as an example, designate the pure progression reads as 1) Top of the Drop - read X on speed out, 2) First Hitch - read defender $ if he is inside on Z throw Fade to Z, 3) Second Hitch - read R on Post, 4) don't like what you see run to weak side.

Note: there is a determined order to the progression reads.  This is the essence of a "pure progression.  It is simply stated just 1,2,3, and 4 - no variations, set in stone, and leaned by the QB for each play in the passing series.

Pure Progression with Adjustments:
In pure progressions with adjustments the QB reads to defensive shell pre-snap an confirms his read post-snap during his drop steps.  He then uses this read to modify his progression reads.

Let's take a look:

Progression read versus cover 2.jpg

This is the same play as above with the best routes versus Cover 2 now the primary progression reads. In this case because no short yardage routes are indicated by the defensive coverage shell the progressions would be as follows:
1) Top of Drop - survey the field, 2) First Hitch Step read $ if he goes to Post (Z) throw slant, Second Hitch step read $ if he goes to slant (H) throw Post to Z, Third Hitch step escape weak side and keep throw to fade (R) available.  If it is not there continue to run to weak side.

The progression reads turn from the QB's adjustment to the coverage to ultimately a pure progression read for only those routes against Cover 2.

Now let's look at Cover 3 shell read.  

progression read versus cover 3.png

The QB read Cover 3 and now adjusts his progressions as follows:  1) Top of the Drop - Hitch route to X, 2) First Hitch step - 8 yard comeback to Y reading the Will defender, 3) Second Hitch step - escape to weak side and run.

Cover 4 shell progression reads will look very similar to Cover 3 primarily due to the actions of the Corners and Will Linebacker.

progression read versus cover 4.png

The QB read Cover 4 and now adjusts his progressions as follows:  1) Top of the Drop - Hitch route to X, 2) First Hitch step - 8 yard comeback to Y reading the Will defender, 3) Second Hitch step - escape to weak side and run.

That is a brief introduction to progression reads.  Because your progressions will be specific to your offense a brief overview is all that is possible.  In summary the sophistication and knowledge of your QB is an essential factor.  The progression read type you select as a coach will depend on that assessment of your QB.  It must also be noted that your progression reads may vary in type based on the pass concept called.  This is obviously the case when you call Three Step Drop passing concepts in that there is good reason to limit the progression read to "Chose a Side".


Take a look at this excellent video on QBs reads and eyes pre and post snap:

Former NFL Quarterback Jeff Garcia

QB Vision Training Pre and Post Snap Reads

Great Video for understanding QB Responsibilities during Pre and Post Snap Reads

I hope this introduction will lead you to the correct path to follow.

Progression Reads
Attack Zone Defenses

Attacking Zone & Man Defenses

Zone Defenses

Man Defenses

RPO Concepts

Run Pass Options (RPO) adds passing options to standard run plays.  Build on simple rules geverning the widen receivers routes, RPO concepts are a powerful offensive weapon designed to force a defense to cover sideline to sideline. 


The RPO concepts can be applied to any offensive system.  But they add a chacllenge to your Quaterback.  He must understand defensive schemes for each game situation; and execute pre and post snap reads to take advantage of defensive alignment and movement.  This requires work in the film room and with the coaching staff.  Once mastered he will become far more effective putting his team in a great position to score and win.


The presentation linked above shows how some RPO concepts can be successfully used. 

RPO Concepts

Guide to QB Self -Correction

Learning guide to your assist QB with learning what problems may be affecting his throws and the techniques for self-correction. 

In the midst of a game there is no time to tell a frazzled QB why his passes are inaccurate and off target.  Have him learn these several correction techniques and he will be able to "right his own ship."

QB Self Correction

Three Step Drop Concepts

Presentation of Three Step Drop passing mechanics and routes. 

3 Step Drop Concepts

Great Footwork Drills from DeBartolo Sports

Escape from the rush:  Set and Reset - great instruction video from QB Coach, Joe Dickinson.

Note the lateral step begins with the QBs back foot moving first.  This is so the QB can release the ball as soon as possible.

Power Box Slide Drill - great instruction video from QB Coach, Joe Dickinson.

Footwork Drill for HS
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