There are common issues for many teams that snap the football out of the shotgun formation: the ball goes over the quarterback’s head, the ball is dropped, the ball flies to the side of the quarterback or rolls back to the QB. Without proper technique, each snap can be an adventure.
Every play starts with the center, so whether the team plays flag football or tackle, it's vital to build the center’s confidence and skills so the ball is properly delivered.
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Eugene Crosby, offensive line coach at Campbellsville University (Kentucky), works all of his centers and long snappers through this routine.
A proper stance is the foundational building block. This means balance, with evenly distributed weight, and not too much forward lean.
As for the snap itself, it's important to emphasize a consistent release point. That means making sure the center doesn't release the ball above the knees. The higher the release, the higher the snap gets to the quarterback. The same goes if you release the ball too low.
To get the best outcome, emphasize the release going through the calf muscle.
Another teaching point is to ensure the athlete doesn't break at the wrist. This can lead to an unpredictable delivery. When the center moves and snaps at the same time, the ball tends to drift in that direction – i.e. if you step right, the ball drifts right.
Crosby can take any player, and with a little work, make them comfortable and consistent in delivering the ball. USA Football Heads Up Football coaches are often ahead of the game in teaching this skill.
Stance: Start with the stance position for Heads Up blocking.
Grip: Very similar to throwing a football, but put the hand up a little bit or put the index finger on the tip of the ball, whichever is more comfortable for the center.
The rest of it comes through practice. When centers and quarterbacks are together, take any moments of down time and turn them into reps. Make sure QBs are at the same depth every time.
For a lineman drill, take two garbage cans, and turn one upside down. Place the other can on its side and duct-tape it on top of the upside-down one, with the open end pointed at the center. The ball should go in the sideways can every time.
Reinforce positive thinking in your centers. If they struggle, get them in the habit of saying, “I can do it,” before getting into their routine. When they do it correctly, it puts a smile on their face and builds confidence.
Once the center has the shotgun motion down, the next step is to get into blocking position.
Now it's time to go to the practice field. Tweak the system to find what works best for your players.
Anthony Stone is a former USA Football Regional Master Trainer and is High School Heads Up Football certified. He's currently the quarterbacks coach at Boylan High School in Rockford, Illinois. He has coached football at the youth, middle school, high school, college and indoor professional levels.
This is an updated version of a blog that originally published June 30, 2016.