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DOUG RAMSEY

THE PASSING GAME READING FROM HIGH TO LOW


ELDER HIGH SCHOOL, OH

I love coming to clinics. I have heard a lot of great ELDER PASSING STATS 1997 - 2001
high school, college, and professional coaches
speak at clinics. It is an honor for me to share with STATS - TOTAL -PER GAME-PER SEASON
you some of the things that we do in our passing GAMES 57 1 11.4
game at Elder High School. COMP. 607 10.7 121.4
ATT. 1062 18.6 212.4
We want to be an efficient passing team. We are PCT. 57.2 57.2 57.2
not going to throw the ball 50 to 60 times per YDS 9377 164.5 1875.4
game. However, we want to be efficient with what TD's 91 1.59 18.2
we do. INT. 45 .79 9
When I played high school football in the 1980's You can see the totals for all of the quarterbacks
at Reading High School, there were not a lot of for four years. I have underlined four areas I want
teams throwing the football. My coach at Reading to stress. In the last five years, we have completed
High School changed his philosophy and gave me over 57 percent of our passes. We strive for that
a chance to throw the ball 25 to 27 times per 55 to 60 percent range on completions. If we can
game. That gave me the opportunity to go to the get that kind of production out of our quarterback,
University of Louisville. In my first year at the we think that is good.
University of Louisville, our offensive coordinator
happened to be Steve Mariucci. That was a great We have the reputation of throwing the football
experience working for Steve. all of the time. You can see we are only throwing
the ball a little over 18 times per game. We run on
After I got out of college I was fortunate to get the average 55 plays per game. We are throwing
into coaching at Reading High School. Then I the ball 18.6 times per game. That means we are
went to Elder High School as an assistant coach. I throwing the ball about 34 percent of the time.
learned a lot about the passing game at Elder High
School. The other thing I want to point out is our
touchdowns ratio to our interceptions. We are at
What I have tried to do with all of the things I 2-to-1 in that category. We have 18.2 touchdowns
have learned is to create a passing game that is per year and only 9 interceptions per year. That is
effective. By being efficient, we want to be a team what we strive for. If we can average 2-to-1 in our
that has a high percentage of completions, and we touchdowns and interceptions ratio, we feel we
do not want to throw a lot of interceptions. Those will be in good shape. This means we are
items may seem to be simple things, but as a throwing about .8 interceptions per game. We
coach you have to work with the quarterbacks and want to be efficient in the passing game.
offensive linemen so you can get that done. I have
a chart of the passing stats for Elder High School I have listed seven keys to the passing game that I
for the last four years. I want to talk about three think are important to be an efficient passing
areas on the chart. team. The first four keys reflect on the coach.

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The first key is pass protection. You have to do rushing four men, we should be able to block
something to protect your quarterback. It does not them. We have five offensive linemen. I
matter what passing game you use, you must understand you may need the backs to block in
protect your quarterback. It is extremely too tough protection at times but you need to get four and
to throw the ball if you are getting hit in the five receivers out in the pattern.
mouth play after play. You may want to "hot
read," or send out only one or two receivers, but You must give the receiver the room to run and
you have to protect the quarterback. separate from man coverage. If you are getting
man coverage, you cannot have stationary
The second key is to move the pocket. To protect receivers. It is not hard to cover a receiver if he is
the quarterback you must be able to move the standing still. You must have routes where the
pocket. We throw 3, 5, and 8-step drop passes. receivers can break away and separate from man
We throw play-action, bootleg, and sprint-out coverage. Now, we will sit in the "window"
passes. We want to have a different launch point against zone coverage. If you have receivers
for our quarterback so the defense does not know running at the same level or same depth, no one
where the quarterback will be throwing the ball will get open.
from. We run the ball from the I-formation very
well. At one time this year, we went two games As a coach you can implement the first four keys
and one-half of the third game without throwing a to an efficient passing game. You can run screens
drop-back pass. Every pass we threw was a play- and draws, and design routes where the receivers
action pass. If you can run play-action passes, it are spread out enough to get open.
will make your running game more efficient.
The next three keys are things the coach must be
The third key in being efficient in the passing able to teach the players, in particular, the
game is that you must run screens and draw plays. quarterback. The fifth key is for the quarterback to
You must keep the defensive line honest. We do throw the ball on time. So many times in high
not want to let the defense pin their ears back and school the quarterback will wait until the receiver
come after the quarterback with an all out rush is open. If the quarterback waits until the receiver
play after play. We feel the screen pass is an easy is open, by the time the ball gets to the receiver he
pass to complete. You can run the bubble screen, is not open any longer. You must teach the
and that play is almost like a handoff. It is a high- quarterback to anticipate when the receiver will
percentage pass, and it gives one of your better come open. It comes down to the coach teaching
players a chance to run to daylight. the quarterback to read the defense. He must
know his key and who to read in the secondary.
The fourth key is spacing in our pass routes. We
want to spread the field. We want to spread the On our 5-step drop, when we go to that fifth step,
field vertically and horizontally. We have eight we are going to stop, slide, and throw. I want
passing zones on the field. Everyone knows there them to know where the football is going to go
are five zones underneath and three zones up on when they stop and slide. They may have to adjust
top. If the defense is rushing four men, that means and move their feet before they throw the ball, but
they are dropping seven in pass coverage. So what I want them to know they have to throw the ball
we do is to spread the defense either vertical or when they stop on that fifth step. They are
horizontal. We want to get the defense in a 3-on- throwing the ball on time. We want to get the ball
2, or a 2-on-1 situation. The defense can not cover to the open receiver and give him a chance to
every zone. It is our job as coaches to design plays make some yardage after he catches the ball.
where we can get 2-on-3 and 2-on-1 situations.
The sixth key to an efficient passing game is to
We want to get four or five receivers out into the throw to the open receiver. The quarterback must
route as much as possible. If the defense is only read the defense and take what they give him.

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That may sound like a lot, but it is not difficult.
You must work on the mechanics with your
If it is third and ten, we do not want our quarterbacks. I am not going to cover the
quarterback forcing the ball to a covered receiver mechanics of playing quarterback. These are keys
that is ten yards down the field just because it is for you as coaches that will help make your
third and ten. If the man open is at five yards, we passing game more efficient.
want to throw the ball to him. Throw the ball to
the man that is open. I spend a lot of time in What does Elder High School try to do with its
teaching the quarterback to read the defense and passing game? We are going to try to get a 3-on-2
to find the open receiver. Just because it is third situation with you a lot of the time. We create
and ten, I don’t want him to force the throw to a triangles with our passing routes to get the 3-on-2
receiver that is covered just because it is third and situations. We are going to pick out individual
ten. If we can get the ball to the open man at five receivers and run a high-low route against them.
yards on third and ten, we are going to give him a We are going to get 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 and throw
chance to run with it to make the extra yards. If the ball at different levels. If the defense is a
we do not get the first down, we will punt the cover-3 type team, that is what we are going to do
football. I do not want to take a chance of the a lot of the time. We want to get the 3-on-2 as
interception by throwing the ball to a covered much as we can. We are going to pick out
man. I would rather punt the ball 30 yards down individual defenders and we are going to go high-
the field and take a chance with our defense. low on those individuals.

Turnovers are tough for the offense. We do not At times, we may do both by having a triangle in
jump our quarterback when he throws an the middle of the field with a post pattern over the
interception. We ask him what did he see when he top of the triangle. The quarterback looks for the
threw the ball. "Trust what you see." Your deep man on the post, and then goes to the
quarterback is going to throw interceptions. You triangle underneath if the safetyman takes away
must get him to trust what he sees. If you are on the post route.
his back every time he throws an interception, he
will start holding on to the ball too long, or he will We will always have one route in the play that is
wait until the receiver gets wide open and then good against man coverage. It is what we call a
when he does throw it, the receiver is covered. man-beater. It cannot be a receiver who has a
You end up getting more turnovers. That is not blocking assignment. It does not matter the type
what we are all about. We are about throwing to of action the quarterback takes on the play, we are
the man that is open and being efficient in the going to have a man-coverage beater in our
passing game. patterns. When we come to the line of scrimmage
and the defense switches to man coverage, our
The seventh key to an efficient passing game is to quarterback knows he is going to look for the
teach the quarterback to be able to throw the ball receiver that is designated as the man-coverage
away. You must teach him when to run the ball. beater.
You must work on a scramble drill to teach him
how to run and where to run. You can't expect We are going to take what the defense is giving us
him to do that without working on it. You have to on the play. It is important to make sure the man
practice on the scramble. that is going to run the man-beater does not have a
blocking assignment. If a running back has to
When you are working with the quarterback on check the linebacker before he goes out on a
the scramble drill, the receivers must know where route, then he cannot be the man-beater. He may
they are going when the quarterback starts his have to block the linebacker and stay with him for
scramble. They must know where to go on the the entire time of the play. The same is true if you
route as the quarterback starts his scramble. have the tight end in protection. You cannot have

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him running the man-beater route. You must have If the defense has one safety man, the quarterback
one receiver that is free to run the man-beater knows there is a good chance we are going to see
route. We are going to try to get the defense cover-three or man coverage. Against one safety
where we have 3-on-2, 2-on-1, or get you in a we want to know who the flat defender is going to
high-low situation, or we are going to create be. Against the four under and three deep, the
triangles. Sam linebacker is going to cover the flat.

We are trying to make the system as simple as we If we face two safeties, the flat coverage is by the
possibly can for our quarterback. The way we corner. We are going to find that corner and see
determine the basic coverage that we see is based how he covers the flat.
on the number of safeties you have on defense.
We are not talking about the safety blitz. I am
talking about the defense having one safety, two
safeties, or zero safeties.

Our quarterback has three pre-snap questions that


he must ask. First, he wants to know how many
safeties the defense has. We know teams will line
up with two safeties and roll down to one safety
man but the quarterback reads the number of
safeties the defense has and takes his key from
them as to where he is going with the football.
The second question the quarterback must ask is
who is the flat defender? He wants to know the TWO SAFETIES
player that will play the flat area against our pass
play. If he knows the defense is playing man If the defense plays four deep across the back of
coverage, he forgets everything else and throws to the coverage, we treat that as two safeties with the
the player we have designated as our man-beater. corners covering outside.
He does not read progressions on one side or the
other. He knows the X end is going to run the
post-corner route and that is where he is going
with the ball. The third question our quarterback
must ask is this: "Are they playing man-to-man
defense?"

TWO SAFETIES - FOUR ACROSS

For our quarterback, we have made it very simple.


He has to ask three questions. The first question
is, “How many safeties?” The second question is,
“Who is playing the flat?” The third question the
quarterback must ask is, “Is the defense playing
man-to-man coverage?” If he can determine the
ONE SAFETY answers to those three questions, he can master
our system.

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On our triangle reads, the quarterback usually
reads from the outside to the inside. We are going
to create a triangle to the three-man side with the
wide receiver, end, and halfback. The quarterback
reads the receivers from the outside to the inside.

If the corner drops deep, we know the flat will be


covered from a player from the inside. When the
quarterback sees the corner drop, he works from
the outside back to the inside. He is going to hit
the back outside in the flat if the Sam linebacker is
not outside to cover him.
We must know who the flat defender is on the
defense. If the Sam linebacker widens to cover the If the Mike linebacker tries to get outside to help
outside man, we are going to get the ball to the on the two outside receivers, we have the backside
man inside. If the Mike linebacker widens to end coming across the formation four yards deep
cover the flat, our end will just replace the Mike in the area where the Mike linebacker vacated.
linebacker. He goes to the area where the Mike Again, we are reading from the outside to the
linebacker was at the snap of the ball. This gives inside. It is the same exact read for the
us a 3-on-2 situation. In cover-three, the corner quarterback. He is still reading the same
should be playing the wide-out on the deep route. defenders.
If he doesn't back out to cover the deep man, we
will throw the ball deep against him. We read the Against two safeties, we still read the triangle
triangle from the outside to the inside. from the outside to the inside. If the defense does
not cover the deep route on the outside or the tight
If we are playing against a team that plays two end on the out route, we want to get them the ball
safeties and it can be a cover-four or half immediately.
coverage, we run the same route. We want to
remove one of the two defenders. We want to
move the Sam linebacker or the free safety. The
man we want to get out of the picture is the free
safety. We want to create the triangle, but we may
have to use different receivers to get into the same
areas on the field. We drive the free safety off the
ball by sending the end deep. Again, the corner
must get depth against the wide receiver that is
going deep. If the corner squats and plays the
corner, we will be 2-on-1 against the free safety.
If we get that situation, we throw the ball over the
defender’s head to the deep receiver. In most
cases when we send two receivers vertical, the We will take a play until the defense stops us. We
corner will run out and cover deep. run play action on the route with the fullback
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coming inside to hold the Mike linebacker. When
the Mike linebacker vacates the area, it gives the
backside end a chance to come across the middle
at a depth of about fifteen yards. If the Mike
linebacker does not go for the fake and stays in
the middle of the field, we have an adjustment to
make. The A-back runs his comeback route in
front of the free safety. It is the same read for the
quarterback. It is from the outside to the inside.

On our bootleg play, it is the same type of read for


our quarterback. If the flat defender does not
widen on the play, we are going to throw the ball
to the flat right away. We game-plan the play and If a team wants to play us with two safeties, we
we may start out by throwing the post-corner have one particular play that we like to use. This
route first. We throw to the back coming out in came from a book by Andrew Coverdale entitled
the flat second. We can change it up and look for the Bunch Attack. He calls the play "Mesh.”
the back first.

We have the tight end coming across at ten yards We are trying to isolate the cornerback on the
deep. This is the way we create triangles with our strong side. We want to run a high-low against
passing game. It is the same type of read for the him. If the corner starts to back up as the ball is
quarterback. That is all we are doing with the snapped, we want to throw to the flat in front of
triangle. We are reading from the outside to the the corner. If he waits for our receiver to get to the
inside. flat, we are going to throw the ball over his head.
The key to the play is the man running the flag
Next, we want to look at the high-low routes. Our route. It is his job to keep the safetyman on his
quarterback is going to read high first and low back.
second. We are not as concerned about the flat
coverage here. We send our wide receiver on a The slot man bends the route so he can get outside
deep post. The tight end runs a 10- to 12-yard on the deep man. We want him to bend the route
speed-out route. The back goes to the flat at a away from the safety. If we throw the ball deep,
depth of three yards. We are running vertical the safety has a good angle on the ball. If the
routes, and we are reading from high to low. We receiver bends the route into the open area, the
are not concerned about the width at first because safety has a hard time getting to the ball. We tell
we are looking to go deep at first. the quarterback to throw the ball away from the

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safety. If the corner is sitting in the flat, he cannot going to rub shoulders as they cross on the route.
make the play on the deep ball. We tell the In this case the tight end must get a depth of five
quarterback to never throw the ball over a yards. That is his job. The job of the wingback is
retreating cornerback. If the corner is backing out to make sure he gets close enough to the tight end
of the flat, do not throw the ball deep. We can to rub his shoulder pads. If it is man coverage, we
throw the ball to the flat in front of the corner. We are forcing the defense to either trail behind us or
are isolating on that one man. We will throw at to run over the top of the defense. It is a rub-off,
the cornerback a lot. We are going to force the and it is not a pick.
corner to make decisions on how he is going to
play the flat area.

Our next progression is where we do both reads.


The quarterback reads from deep area to the
triangle. If the defense is going to play us with
four deep secondary men, we are going to work
on the post area. We want to work on the free
safetyman. If the free safety is playing man on our
tight end, we are going to throw the post route
immediately. We will take shots at the corners
with our wide receivers. If the safeties try to come
up to play the curl routes, we are going to throw
the ball over their head to the wide receivers to the If the defense is a four-across defense, we like to
inside. If the free safety gets depth and covers the run this next play over and over. We are going to
inside post, we work on the triangle in the middle. run the high-low off the post route. We are going
to work on the rover on the strong side. If the
defense is playing man, the rover will take the
second man inside man-to-man most of the time.
If the rover gets depth, the quarterback can see
that as he drops back. If the rover gets depth, the
quarterback is not looking for the post route. Now
he has to triangle-read. We send the back to the
flat and force the defense to come outside to cover
the back, or we throw the ball inside to the second
wide receiver.

We tell our backs they are to end up about four


yards deep on their route. It is an area of about
four yards where the tight end would be if he were
lined up inside. We want to use the play action to
hold the linebackers.

We run the crossing routes to open up the deep


routes. We want the receiver that is not the
primary receiver to set the depth of the route. If
the intended receiver is the wingback, we want the
tight end to set the depth of the route. They are
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This is no different than what we have been doing.
We do switch the routes up to give the defense a
different look.

In each one of our routes, we have the man-beater


routes. We are going to run corner routes, and
regular routes, and crossing routes. In each of our
routes the defense is going to see those types of
routes.

If the defense wants to play us man-to-man and up


tight to the inside, we will throw the man-beater
most of the time. If the defender is setting inside
two or three yards off the receiver, there is no way
he should be able to cover our wide receiver. We
will start him inside and take him up the field and
then break outside. There is no way he can cover
us to the outside. All the quarterback has to do is
to throw the ball to the outside and let the receiver
run under the ball.

I see my time is up. This is how we attack the


defense with our passing game. I do appreciate the
opportunity to speak on this clinic. Thank you.