The key to throwing with accuracy as a quarterback is the footwork. Coaches should work with quarterbacks so that they are consistently using the same technique on 3-, 5-, and 7-step drops. When it comes time to throw, a quarterback should have a consistent platform.

Jim Ballard played quarterback professionally for 13 years and is an inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame. While at Mount Union, Ballard broke numerous school, conference and NCAA records en route to leading the Purple Raiders to their first ever Division III National Championship in 1993. He now runs the Jim Ballard Quarterback Academy, teaching quarterbacks from all over northeast Ohio.

He has five rules for teaching quarterbacks the proper footwork.

  • Simplify the game by making it black and white. Ballard recommended that coaches require their quarterbacks to draw up plays that will work against specific opponents. He also urged coaches to stress red zone rules (no sacks, penalties or turnovers).
  • Ask three questions before each play. Ballard says quarterbacks must know where they are on the field (yard line, hash mark, etc.), the down and instance, and the remaining time in the quarter and timeout count.
  • Give the quarterback three keys in scouting the opponent. Ballard believes the quarterback must know the identity of the opponent (i.e. head coach, defensive coordinator, defensive tendencies), how they play (4-3, 3-4, zone, blitz, etc.), and which defensive players can make the biggest impact.
  • Give the quarterback cheat codes. Make a wristband for the quarterback with simple reminders. Collaborate with the quarterback and offensive coordinator to determine which two or three plays the quarterback likes each week.
  • Teach perfect footwork. In order to get the best results from your quarterback, you need to be specific with the steps in his drop-back. Put all steps on an imaginary clock (i.e. “Step to 10 o’clock.”). Ballard always asks his quarterback to step to 5 o’clock in the quick game. He does not teach the punch step. The front ankle sets the shoulder’s position, and the hips drive the passing motion.

Footwork Drills

Rapid Fire: Six receivers line up across the line of scrimmage. A center snaps the ball to the quarterback as one receiver runs a specified route. The quarterback throws the ball to the receiver, and immediately prepares for the next snap. He throws one pass to each receiver (six total passes) in succession.

Wave Drill: A coach signals a direction for the quarterback to shuffle while remaining in a passing position. Once the coach claps, the quarterback fires a pass to the coach.

Mirror Drill: A coach moves and the quarterback mirrors the motion while keeping his eyes downfield. Upon the coach’s clap, the quarterback passes.

Obstacles: To coach throws padding at the quarterback as he prepares so the quarterback can learn not to flinch when pressured.

The Ballard Report

Name: Jim Ballard

Job: Director of Jim Ballard Quarterback Academy

Played: 13 years professionally in the NFL, CFL and Arena League

College: Broke numerous school, conference and NCAA records at Mount Union College

Honors: In 2008, Ballard was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

About the author

Dan Guttenplan