May 5, 2011 • Football

Football: Jim Harbaugh’s favorite quarterback drills

Editor’s Note: Jim Harbaugh shared these drills with Coach & Athletic Director when he was head coach of the Stanford Cardinal.

As a former NFL quarterback, Jim Harbaugh knows the rigors of developing footwork, passing skills, agility, decision-making and a variety of other skills it takes to be a top-notch passer. With the talented Andrew Luck under center at Stanford, it was clear Harbaugh knew a thing or two about developing quarterbacks at the collegiate level as well.

Here are four of his favorite drills for quarterbacks.

Anticipation Drill

This drill is designed to develop the QB’s ability to throw to a receiver that he anticipates is coming open. For set-up, have a screen or curtain positioned in the middle of the field for the receiver to run behind.

Harbaugh AnticipationDrillDIAGRAM 1: Anticipation Drill. The QB takes the appropriate drop for the specified play (coach determines the type of drop). Toward the end of the drop, the WR runs from left to right (or vice versa) behind a screen or curtain that blocks the QB’s vision. The QB hits the WR with a pass after he emerges from behind the screen.

Quick-Release Drill

This drill is designed for the QB to naturally improve his release by throwing the ball quickly and accurately to a stationary target. This drill also is helpful in training the QB who uses the shotgun to “grip and rip” the ball.

Harbaugh QuickReleaseDrillDIAGRAM 2: Quick-Release Drill. A coach has a bag of eight to 10 footballs and is taking a knee next to the QB. The coach tosses a ball up to the QB, who finds the laces on the ball as quickly as possible with his throwing hand (doing this by feel). At the same time, the QB’s eyes are looking downfield at the stationary target.

As soon as he has the proper grip, the QB throws the ball to the target as quickly and accurately as possible (during this movement, the QB’s feet should be moving forward with short steps). Once the throw is made, the coach tosses another ball to the QB to keep this drill moving quickly.

Hitch-Hitch-Go-Or-Throw Drill

This drill is designed for the QB to move up into the pocket with his eyes downfield and to make a decision whether to run or throw once he approaches the line of scrimmage.

Harbaugh HitchHitchDrillDIAGRAM 3: Hitch-Hitch-Go-Or-Throw Drill. The QB takes a five- or seven-step drop. He must keep two hands on the ball as he twice makes a “hitch” movement while climbing the pocket. The QB then feels a lane and moves (slow jog) further toward the LOS as an outside defender runs past the QB.

At this point, the coach, who is simulating an inside linebacker, either drops into coverage on the WR or “pulls the chain” and attacks the QB. The QB needs to make a quick and sound decision based off the ILB play — an attacking defender means the QB throws the pass, and a dropping defender means the QB picks up yardage with his feet.

Circle Drill

The Circle Drill is designed to develop the QB’s ability to throw on the run, off balance or under duress. The drill simulates some of the chaos that exists outside the pocket.

Harbaugh CircleDrillDIAGRAM 4: Circle Drill. Set up a cone with a QB five yards from the cone and a second QB directly in line with the first and five yards on the opposite side of the cone. One QB holds the ball in a cocked, ready position and is ready to run to the right. The coach yells “Go!” and both QB’s run in a circular fashion to their right while keeping the 10-yard cushion between them.

Every three to seven steps, the QB with the ball throws to his partner while keeping up his speed. At the coach’s discretion, he gives a “Switch!” call, which triggers the QB’s to begin running in the opposite direction. The coach makes several “Switch!” calls at varying points before calling out “Break!” to conclude the rep.

Be sure players start off under control and continually build up speed. It’s imperative that the QB’s work to get their downfield shoulder pointed at the target (other QB) to aid in opening his hips. Coaches need to remember to have extra balls on hand to prevent the disruption of the drill due to an errant throw or catch.

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