Mastering the Quarterback’s Footwork: RPO and Play Action Passes

Ottawa QB Training

For high school quarterbacks aspiring to play at a higher level, mastering footwork is a fundamental skill that can make or break a play. Especially in the world of Run-Pass Options (RPO) and play action passes, footwork isn’t just about agility but also about timing, positioning, and decision-making. One of the most popular RPO actions is called the “Reach, Ride and Release” (RRR). Let’s delve deeper into the intricacies of quarterback footwork for different types of RPO and play action passes.

1. The Basics of RPO Footwork

In the RPO system, a quarterback must quickly decide whether to hand off the ball to a running back, keep it himself, or throw a pass. This decision is typically based on reading a specific defender or a group of defenders. Proper footwork ensures that the quarterback is always in a position to make the optimal decision.

Reach, Ride and Release (RRR):

  • Reach: The quarterback extends the ball towards the running back, simulating the beginning of a handoff. This movement should be sharp and convincing.
  • Ride: While keeping the ball extended, the quarterback reads the defense to decide his next move. The “ride” is the moment of truth, where the QB decides whether to hand off or pull the ball back.
  • Release: If the quarterback decides to throw, he quickly pulls the ball back, flips his hips to align with his target, and releases the ball.

2. Play Action Footwork

Play action is designed to deceive the defense by simulating a run play, only for the quarterback to pull the ball back and attempt a pass. The success of a play action pass largely depends on the quarterback’s ability to sell the fake.

Footwork Tips for Play Action:

  • Depth and Decisiveness: After taking the snap, take a deep and decisive drop-back step. This step should mimic the footwork of a traditional run play.
  • Sell the Fake: When faking the handoff, the QB should keep the ball hidden from the defense for as long as possible. This requires precise footwork and ball handling.
  • Quick Hip Rotation: After the fake, the quarterback must quickly flip his hips and set his feet to throw. This rapid transition is crucial, as the play action’s success relies on the element of surprise.

3. Importance of Timing

For both RPO and play action passes, timing is of the essence. Quarterbacks often have just a split second to make their decision and execute. Proper footwork ensures that the QB is always in a position to act quickly and decisively.

Key Takeaways for High School Quarterbacks:

  1. Practice Makes Perfect: Regular drills focusing on footwork will help in internalizing these movements, making them second nature during a game.
  2. Stay Balanced: Balance is the key to quick transitions. Whether it’s the RRR or play action, always maintain a balanced stance.
  3. Study the Defense: Proper footwork is just one piece of the puzzle. Studying the defense and understanding their tendencies can give you a leg up in decision-making.

In conclusion, for high school quarterbacks, mastering the footwork for RPO and play action passes can be a game-changer. The ability to deceive the defense, make quick decisions, and deliver accurate throws all hinge on the QB’s footwork. So, lace up those cleats and hit the field. The path to quarterback greatness starts from the ground up!

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