Often what separates good running backs from great ones isn’t top end speed or bulldozing power – but the ability to recognize holes and change direction without sacrificing too much power or speed. Sure, a 4.3 40 yard dash is great, but how often in football does your running back run for 40 yards in a straight line?

That’s why I’m a big fan of these two barrel drills – you can practice them and get great results, even if you’re on your own, or with only one other teammate.

Running Back Drills
Single Barrel Drill

Single Barrel Drill

If you’re just on your own, and want to work on getting in and out of your cuts quickly, line up 5-10 barrels – or any other obstacle you can set up on the field. Sprint up the field, cutting in and out of the barrels as quickly as you can.

If you have a partner, get them to time you, and track your progress every day. Sometimes the motivation to beating that target of ”˜x’ seconds is the perfect way to get your maximum effort.

It also helps to have someone stand behind the first barrel, and step in one direction as you run up towards them – this will force you to recognize the defense and adjust accordingly.

Double Barrel Drill

football drills for positions
Double Barrel Drill

But if you are lucky enough to have a partner around, they might be better used against you, in a competitive drill.

Here instead of lining the barrels in one straight line, set up two even lines with one barrel at the very end, in between both lines.

Each of you should line up in front of one line, and then race through the barrels, back and forth, and loop around the top barrel, coming back around your opponent’s line, racing to the start line.

This also forces your players to keep their heads up as they come around the end – one player is going to go high, and one is going to go low, and usually the first player there will get the shortest route.

Coaching Tips

  • Try spacing the barrels out different distances, so that you get a chance to practice short quick change of direction cuts, but also to practice accelerating as fast as you can coming around the corner as well


And if you’re looking for more ways to improve your running corps, make sure to check out these super effective running back drills I wrote about a couple weeks ago!