With spring ball underway for most colleges and the 7-on-7 season looming around the corner, we felt the timing was right to address a topic that was heavily requested among our readership this off-season: Defeating press coverage. So we reached out to 8 wide receiver coaches at various levels to research the drill work they use to teach their receivers to gain separation off press coverage. This report includes video and the coaching points to support it. Read this research report here.
By Sam Nichols
X&O Labs Managing Editor
Former Wide Receiver Coach
Hope College (MI)
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One of the top drill and technique requests in our annual survey was wide receiver release techniques against press coverage. We reached out to some of the offensive coordinators and receiver coaches around the country and compiled a set of drills from 8 coaches. It is important to note that each of these coaches felt it was important to group the press release concepts with basic footwork at the line of scrimmage as well as secondary release techniques. Many of these drill tapes will include those concepts as well.
The coaches who participated in this report are as follows (in alphabetical order):
Jared Ambrose: Offensive Coordinator, Towson University (MD), @CoachJambrose
Marlon Barnett: Wide Receivers Coach, LA Harbor CC, @iamcoachB
Ossie Buchannon: Wide Receiver Coach, Berry College (GA)
Brian Scott: Offensive Coordinator, Old Dominion University (VA), @ODUOC
Brad Spencer: Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator, North Central College (IL), @CoachSpence_NCC
Eric Treske: Co-Offensive Coordinator, Lakeland College (WI), @LCCoachTreske
Denver Williams: Wide Receiver, Trinity College (CT), @_coachdwilliams
Stan Zweifel: Head Football Coach, University of Dubuque (IA), @StanZweifel
Brad Spencer, Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator, North Central College (IL), @CoachSpence_NCC
Release Moves Coaching Points
- Must clear the defender’s hands to get free. If his hands are on you, he’s on you. Aim for the wrists to the elbow (weakest point of the arm).
- Use your feet to create space. You must move the defender off his “line.”
- If you don’t move, he won’t move. CBs are taught to be patient and wait for you to move. A receiver just chopping his feet in place isn’t threatening to a defender. We try to do as many release moves on a line in an effort to give a visual.
- Keep your shoulders down. If your shoulders are up, your chest is exposed, giving the defender a target.
- Restack ASAP. Once you clear the shoulder of the defender, get back on your track. We will put release drills on a vertical line to help receivers get the visual.
Release Moves Drills
Zig-Zag with a Chop or Rip
This simulates moving the defender off your stack and allows the receiver to either work a chop or a rip at each cone. It’s not a full drill simulation, it’s just working the hand fight and the feeling of working off your line. A receiver just standing and chopping in place doesn’t threaten a DB.
*Note: We will try to put some sort of ball drill at the end of most drills that we do so we are always touching the football.
I’ll use packer shields or the arm “crayons” on the scout player being the defender. We can work any release maneuver we want. We really want to focus on getting our release and restacking by the time we get to the neon cone. Notice we are doing this drill on a line as well so the receivers can visualize where he needs to restack to. Here we are working our “slam releases.” Essentially we are bench pressing the defender to give us space. It’s effective for strong/explosive receivers and it usually surprises DBs. It doesn’t have to be a big receiver, some of our most effective “slammers” were guys who were explosive and once they created a little bit of space, they were gone.
We will partner up and line up across the field. This allows us to get a lot of reps, quickly, for a lot of receivers. We will slow this down and go about 65-75% in an effort to be very technical. You can work any release maneuvers in this drill. We work our club/rip and also our club/swipe in these clips.
We either put a foot ladder out or cones on the ground and work footwork drills after the release. We will also catch a pass at the end of this. We like to combine drills to get more work in at one time. You can work any release move at the start of this drill that you want.
Ossie Buchannon, Wide Receiver Coach, Berry College (GA)
The ability to quickly defeat your opponent at the LOS is key if a player wants to be an effective all around receiver in today’s game. We like to cover three important factors when discussing and training our players to defeat the press. We focus on the eyes, upper body movements (shoulder, head, and hands) and lower body. We are constantly teaching and drilling these components in order for our guys to run efficient and precise routes. We like to give them plenty of tools to utilize when faced with press coverage. Naturally they tend to gravitate to the moves they are comfortable and effective at performing. The following drills and concepts are what we teach our guys in order to put them in the best position in order to dominate a press defender.
We have a number of teaching points we discuss with our players before we actually talk about the components listed above. They all center around be the aggressor. We want our guys to attack the defender. When we release from the LOS the receiver should gain ground a fast as possible initiating contact if we have to. Our goal is to move the defender laterally or backwards. It is easier to reach this goal by attacking your opponent. One thought our receivers’ must be constantly reminded of, is be patient, but do not waste too much time when facing press. Do not let jeopardize your route in order to defeat opponent.
Your eyes must be vigilant. When teaching younger players how to defeat press coverage there is a tendency to sometimes take your eyes off the DB. They are focused on the route and not focused on winning the battle at the line. In discussing the eyes, we talk about watching the defenders body lean, looking at their depth, and seeing their leverage. We have to see it all in order to identify their technique. The receivers’ eyes are important because he must be able to see everything. He needs identify if the defender is jamming with his left or right hand or both. We need to see if he is skating upon our movement. We focus on the eyes before we can start drilling hand movements or releases because if he does not know what he is watching for is useless.
Hands movements are major part of the upper body moves needed to counter or attack your opponent. Head movement and shoulder jabs are also vital to winning the battle. Head movements and shoulder jabs are included mainly included in our footwork drills. We focus on hand movements when we start our upper body moves. We have four hand movements that we regularly practice for the press. They are hack, hack swat, double swat, and a chop. The video below will show two drills that we use to practice these techniques.
Proper footwork is key to performing the best release possible versus the bump and run. Your hands and feet must be in sync. When we talk about attacking we mean that each step is gaining ground on your opponent. We will spend the bulk of our drill work performing footwork drills. One key reason is because it is easy to incorporate what you have learned in your upper body drills. When we practice our release drills, we always start with speed release and build from there. The next set of drills will focus on proper foot placement and speed. The drills will show the six releases we practice. Our players decide which release best fits their skill set and run with them. Eventually they master a few and take them into battle with them.
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- The 5 drills with coaching points and video that Brian Scott, the offensive coordinator at Old Dominion University uses to teach separation against press coverage.
- The 21 Drills with coaching points and video that Eric Treske, the offensive coordinator at Lakeland College (WI) uses to teach separation against press coverage.
- The 6 Drills with coaching points and video that Stan Zweifer, the head coach at the University of Dubuque (IA) uses to teach separation against press coverage.
- The 5 Drills with coaching points and video that Denver Williams, the offensive coordinator at Trinity College (CT) uses to teach separation against press coverage.
- The 4 Drills with coaching points and video that Marlon Barnett, the offensive coordinator at LA Harbor Community College (CA) uses to teach separation against press coverage.
- Towson University’s drills to teach separation off press coverage.
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As you can see, each of these teams takes a slitghly different approach to teaching press releases. At the same time, it always comes back to footwork, hands, and having a plan. Hopefully these drills will give you some ideas of how you can help your receivers be better prepared and have a better plan this upcoming season.