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By Ian Shoemaker Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach St. Cloud State University (MN)

Insiders Members: Click here to login and read the full-length version of this Clinic Report - including drill film.

Editor's Note:  Ian Shoemaker officially joined the Husky football coaching staff on July 1, 2008. This past season, Shoemaker directed the St. Cloud offense to average 426 yards per game, including 264 passing yards per game. The Husky offense also scored 35.8 points per game this past season. Shoemaker had been the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and strength and conditioning coordinator at Baldwin Wallace College (OH) previously.

I consider this a tremendous honor to be allowed to share some of our ideas on QB play. I also appreciate X&Os Labs for providing this platform for coaches to share some of our tricks of the trade. What I am going to present is just what we feel is important to our QB position at St Cloud State University. Nothing that I am going to present here is revolutionary and all of the mechanic ideas and drills are things that I have pillaged from other QB coaches that I have had the opportunity to visit with or study. As you watch the film (available in the Insiders) you will see our QBs are not perfect, far from it, however, we aspire to perfect these points of emphasis in every drill we do. I think that these check points and drills provide our QBs the best opportunity to produce and replicate a consistent release, which in turn gives us a chance to be an accurate passer. I just hope that there are a couple of ideas here that you might be able to use to improve your coaching of the QB position.

Check Point #1 = Carriage – Good Ball Control & Posture – Quiet Upper Body & Athletic Lower Body

The proper carriage sets the foundation for your throwing motion. A correct and consistent carriage will provide your QB the initial environment needed to produce a repeatable arm circle. Right handed QBs should carriage the ball comfortably on their right peck with elbows relaxed and pointed toward the ground. You do not want the ball too close to the body, nor extended too far from the chest. A ball held too close to the chest will impede the initiation of the throwing motion (i.e. Check Point #2 Short Circle). Holding the ball too far away from the chest will cause balance issues and tend to draw your QB’s upper body toward their toes. Upper body posture is very important to the carriage, throughout the drop back and any step-ups or resets, I would like to see consistent carriage and upper body posture. I feel this provides a consistent platform to trigger the throwing motion. Below the waist, I like to see an athletic knee bend and active feet. I really like the analogy I heard once of a duck gliding across the pond. Looking at his torso you would never guess how hard his legs were working to keep him moving forward. That is what I am looking for. Coaching points: Quiet upper body and athletic lower body, separate the footwork from you upper body carriage and ball at peck.

To see the drills that Coach Shoemaker uses to drill QB Carriage, click here to join the insiders.

Check Point #2: Short stride off target line – Get hip clear to target

Continuing from the carriage to the initiation of the throwing motion you must work from the ground up. One of the only things I look for from the lower body is that the stride length is not too long and that it falls just outside of the target line. The short stride keeps the QB upright and over the top in his delivery. Most long stride QBs seem to have a problem keeping their elbow above their shoulder and never seem to have the nice high release I am looking for (i.e. Check Point #7: High Release). I ask over striders to shorten their stride by ½ of the length of their foot to start and see if that raises their release point. Point two concerning the stride deals with landing the stride just outside of the target line. This allows the QB to clear his hips and point them at the target and keeps the front hip from blocking the torso. This blocking of the torso inevitably causes the arm to slide away from the shoulder and body. You will see a lot baseball players have a tough time with this, because they are used to throwing against a stiff front leg and dropping into a sidearm delivery. That is productive if you are trying to throw a cut fast ball that runs in on a right handed hitter, but with the oblong shape of a football this causes a ton of accuracy issues. To keep the flight of the football on a consistent line a more over hand release is preferred.

Coaching points: Step just off your line and give your hips room to clear.

This Report Continues Below...


What You're Missing

Join X&O Labs' exclusive membership website - Insiders - and  see all 8 checkpoints Coach Shoemaker’s uses to develop his QB’s including:

  • The drill catalog he uses to teach all 8 check points for QB mechanics including proper carriage, short stride technique and the "J Path."

  • How he teaches the elbow and shoulder technique necessary to throw with accuracy

  • How he teaches the release points of QB play

  • How he trains QB to throw on the run and to throw off-balance

  • Includes drill videos

  • Plus much, much more…

Join X&O Labs' Insiders. Click Here!


Continued From Above...

Check Point #3: Short circle – push the ball up and back

Once the QB has begun the correct stride and has his hips opening to the target, now we must trigger the arm circle. Here I am looking for a compact short circle from the carriage to a loaded position. I do not want to see the ball drop below the chest; ideally the QB should push the ball up and back away from the peck. This will shorten the arm action and quicken the release time. Once the front hand breaks from the ball, it is now a race to the receiver between the ball and the defender. Here we can use the non-throwing hand to help initiate the arm circle and push the ball up and back as we break the carriage.

Coaching point: "Up and back" not "down and around."

Check point #4: J Path - Point the nose of the ball up and away from the target

Once we push the ball up and back now we have to begin the "J" path. Here the nose of the ball should make a small "J" path as he turns the front point of the ball away from the target and exposes the belly of the ball to the sky. This is similar to a pitcher being taught the goalpost position in baseball.

Coaching point: Get the nose of the ball pointing up and away from target.

To see the drills that Coach Shoemaker uses to drill the Short Circle and J Path, click here to join the insiders.

Check point #5: "Get the ball to Zero" -Darin Slack – Drop the ball behind shoulder and pull elbow to ear

With the elbow above the shoulder, I would like to see the ball dropped behind the throwing shoulder and the throwing elbow should begin to migrate toward the ear hole of the helmet. Here the QB should feel very little strain on his elbow and all arm muscles should be very relaxed and loose. Some of this goes back to the overall flexibility of your QB, but I like to see a nice fluid arm action, not a muscled and tense delivery.

Coaching point: Drop the ball to Zero.

Conclusion

We realize there are many trains of thought on the throwing mechanics of the QB position, but this is merely what has worked for us in the past and continues to produce productive signal callers here at St. Cloud State University.

Questions or Comments? Post your questions or comments below and Coach Shoemaker will respond below.

Comments (6)
  • Dave Montgomery

    My son took Darin Slack's camp. He is struggling mightily with movements from the set position in back all the way to the zero position. He cannot get the J down. Can anyone help with an anaolgy that will help him understand? I really can use suggeetione. Thank you.

  • Chris

    What is meant by dropping the ball to zero?

  • JA Burris

    "Zero" refers to that elbow/shoulder position where your body is working complete harmony to make a throw feel effortless. Your shoulder shouldn't feel strain. Nor should your elbow. Its best compared to the feel of a perfect golf swing.

    Refer to Darin Slack's QB Developmental DVDs for further explanation of "Zero"

  • Reads Listens Views 2/1/2013 |

    [...] Five Check Points for Improving Throwing Mechanics - An excellent piece by St. Cloud couch Ian Shoemaker on QB mechanics. I will continue to reference this piece as a study aid.  [...]

  • Dave Montgomery  - getting to zero position and elbow pain

    My son attended a Darin Slack camp and we both felt it to be a positive experience. My son was asked to play QB on his 8th grade team last year. We cannot seem to find that "sweet spot" zero positon that is needed. At the end of the season we found that he cracked the bone in the humerous where the ligament is pullng away from the bone. He is now starting freshman football and has been asked to QB this team as well as move up and get work in at JV. His elbow is starting to hurt again and I suspect it is because we have not mastered the motion. Believing in the Slack method I sought out help with those who teach it. Unfortunately closest available coach is over two hours away.
    If there is anything that can be done to help that would be great. My son has a great opportunity in front of him and I want to help.
    Thank you

  • Will slags  - @davemontgomery

    The reason that your son can't get the zero position down is caused by one of two things. He either 1. Is not dropping the ball behind his shoulder and it's going behind his head and he dosent know it, or 2, he is dropping the ball to far away from his body. When this happens, qb's can hurt their arms. He probably dosent even know he's doing it if it's one of the things.

    PS. He also might not be bringing his elbow near his ear which causes the elbow to be to low, kind of like phillip rivers or maty mauk for missou

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