By Keith Grabowski
When I coached at Baldwin Wallace University, I had the good fortune of working with Michael Slack, the son of quarterback guru, Darin Slack. Michael brought us a pocket presence drill that is simple to set up and teaches every movement in the pocket that a quarterback must make. In addition, it mixes in different types of throwing footwork.
The drill starts with five cones, the outside four creating a 5-yard box and the other placed in the middle. This drill can simulate a snap from under center or from shotgun.
The quarterback traces imaginary letters with his feet. And in just a few minutes, the quarterback works several different moves in the pocket. Each of these drills also can be worked in reverse.
The letter “N.” The quarterback executes a five-step drop – or a three-step drop if simulating a shotgun snap – to the first cone. On the coach’s command to escape, the QB executes a B gap escape up into the pocket to the cone that is diagonal. He then executes a five-step drop, throwing on the last step of his drop.
The letter “M.” The quarterback takes a drop to the first cone. On command, he begins an escape toward the B gap, but at the middle cone simulates the need to get back around the tackle because the B gap is closed. He dips around the cone to the next one on top, comes straight downhill and makes a throw on the run.
The letter “R.” The quarterback executes his drop to the first cone. On command, he executes a D-gap escape, rolling over imaginary pressure to the top of the next cone. Flipping the hips and shuffling to the middle cone, he flips again and shuffles to the front cone and executes a throw. For a right-handed quarterback on the reverse “R,” he will not roll over the top, just escape forward.
The letter “F.” The quarterback takes his drop to the first cone. He shuffles back up to an A-gap escape forward, moving his back leg toward the middle cone backward. Then it is another A-gap escape with the back foot coming forward first. Once back to the middle, he rolls over top of the cone to the opposite cone at the top, where he sets up and throws.
Each of these drills can be found in the passing game in isolation, but they are all worked here in one drill. This is a valuable drill to teach the skills and techniques that will show up on film.
Keith Grabowski was a football coach for 26 years, most recently serving as an offensive assistant and technology coordinator at Oberlin College in Ohio. He previously was a head coach at the high school level for eight years and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Baldwin Wallace University. Now a senior manager of education at USA Football, Grabowski also serves as an advisor for several sports technology companies. He’s the author of “101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays” and five other books available on thecoachesedge.com and operates Coaches Edge Technologies. Follow him on Twitter @CoachKGrabowski.