Any time that you can get competition going between players during practice, it creates fun. Football’s supposed to be fun. And guys compete with each other, challenge each other, with the loser doing push-ups or sit-ups or whatever. Today we are going to talk about Running Back drills that really give your players a great conditioning workout, put you on the path to a winning season, and they create a fun environment at the same time!

Double Barrel Drill

In this drill, we attack the barrels, just like they’re a defender. We get as close to the barrel as we can and go around it and attack the next one. When we get up to the other end, there’s a barrel in the middle – we go around that barrel.

The guys that hit the barrels ought to have 50 push-ups per barrel. Because the idea is not to hit the barrels – it’s a game of changing directions, speed, feet, motion and balance. This is a good drill to help a running back have good balance and carry the football.

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Running Ropes

One of the best tools that you have is running ropes. I think ropes are great! We use them with our running backs, but they’re good for every position. Linemen, defensive players, everybody’s got to be able to play with their feet. When we look at new players, we look for good feet. We look for people who can move. We look for people that can change direction.

So we do a whole series of drills on our ropes. I think every player on the team should run the ropes during practice. Because it’s good for everybody.

So, this is how we do this drill:

The first thing we do is say “one foot.” And then we come down one side of the rope grid. When we get through, we want to sprint at least five yards. When the first man gets to the third hole, the next man starts. We sprint through, go five yards, and then we’ll stay on the end, tucking the ball.

Sometimes the coaches gets out here and we’ll slap at the ball to see if we can knock that ball out of there. As they’re coming through, they’ve got to tuck that ball and protect the ball.

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One Foot

The first drill, we just call it “one foot.” The player’s going to put one foot in each hole. As he puts it in, he’s going to work on getting his feet up high. The coaches are going to be on the same side side, and we’re going to reach and see if we can grab that ball.

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Two Feet

Next, we use two-feet – we want to get two feet in each hole. Wait until the first player gets about halfway through and then start the next player. Again, you are going to sprint when you come out.


The next thing we’re going to do is a cross over. What do we do when we cross over? The player’s going to run right straight down, but there’s a rope right in the middle. Keeping the body over that middle line the whole time, you’re going to put the right foot in the left hole, and the left foot in the right hole. And as you’re going down to the end, you’re going to stay right over the rope, not move the body much, again, working on getting my knees up high and protecting the football as I go down the line.

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What we’re going to do now is work on changing directions. When you watch tapes, and you see a good back, if a guy’s got to really round it off and move, he has a problem. What we want to do is change directions and gain speed at the same time.

So what we do is begin outside the ropes. To start off, we’re going to step with our near foot. This time I’m on the left side of the rope, so I’m going to step with my right foot. I go right, left, right. All the way to the outside. I’m not slowing down – just changing directions. Then I go left, right, left, right, left, right. And then as you go, you’ll begin to gain speed and momentum, at the same time changing directions. Coming back, it will be left foot first and then we’ll come all the way out, gaining speed as we’re going.

The Pitch

And we’ve got one more we do. With the football, we’re going to come down the line. We want to work on getting our feet up, so we don’t want to look at our feet – we’ve got to be seeing the field. And we’ve got to catch passes. We have to catch the ball.

So what we do is come in with the left foot first. Put the left foot up and as you come through, and then the coach is going to pitch him a ball. And then he’s going to pitch it right back to the coach. He comes down the line, and again the coach is going to pitch him the ball and then he comes right back with it. He’s going to do left foot first going down, and the right foot first going back.

And then we’ll line up with another guy. We use two balls so we can keep it going. And then we’ll get everybody in it.

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During everything we do, we want to take care of the football. This is the MOST important thing. We always want to have good body lean forward, we want to pick our feet up, and we want to change directions. The ropes, the barrels, the piggyback, the score drill – all those things go into making a good running back.

One other thing they’ve got to do, and we’ve got to work on this every day – especially in our offense – is a running back has got to block. We have running backs that talk about running, but if you don’t block, it’s hard to play. Your running back has to be unselfish. He’s got to be able to block, AND he’s got to be able run. You do that, you’re winning football.

One thing about these drills – you have to do them consistently. You have to do them several times a week. Some of these drills we do every day. Some of them we do once a week. But you have to keep doing them if you’re going to improve.

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