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Developing and Perfecting Route Running

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© February, 2011


By Tim Bowens
Wide Receivers Coach • University of Alabama – Birmingham

I would like to discuss our “Four Key Components” of route running and how we measure route running from a wide receivers perspective. We believe in being technicians and not robots. As a technician, an average player can be both good and successful and a great player can be great in every aspect of the game and not just one part of the big picture.

Route Running – Four Key Components

1. Speed – Speed off the ball on a run or pass play, accelerating in and out of breaks and knowing when to fluctuate speed.

2. Leverage – Very important vs. man coverage. Work to get a head up with defender (stem technique). The wide receiver closes gap between himself and the defender. He also comes across the face of the defender at break point while accelerating.

3. Influence – The wide receiver has the advantage because he knows where he’s going. WR should turn the hips of the defender and influence him away from where he intends to go at his final break point or pressure the defender as a vertical threat to turn hips (accelerate in man coverage/throttle down in zone coverage).

4. Body control – It is very important that a receiver keeps his body under control while running routes, especially when trying to get in and out of break points. Keep arms and elbows in while running in and out of break points. With good body control, the WR will be able to maintain separation longer.

Break Point – Objectives

1. Gain advantage on the defender.
2. Gain desired position on the field as quickly as possible.
3. Gain body position between defender and the ball.
4. Increase distance between defender and yourself.
5. Decrease angle of the ball for yourself and increase the angle for the defender.
6. Increase the illusion of a vertical deep threat.

Technique – 

 1. Create the illusion you are going somewhere other than where you end up.
 2. Thrust head and shoulders forward.
3. Have a low center of gravity (sink hips).
4. Keep arms bent. Keep elbows in, near the sides of the body and pump them each time you step with the opposite foot.
 5. Spread the feet as you lower the center of gravity and cut and drive off of the foot opposite the direction of the cut.
 6. Accelerate just prior to the cut to create a deep feeling.
 7. Cut sharply and whip the head quickly towards the quarterback.
 8. For a proper speed cut – throw arm/elbow down and through, turn off outside plant foot and move head around quickly.
Points for Route Guidelines and Splits – 

 1. Create as much separation and accelerate.
 2. A wide receiver must be able to read on the run.
 3. Always have the head up and eyes downfield.

     I’ve included a chart as to how we measure route running technique. It includes grades for stance, start, and release, speed off the ball, leverage, influence, body control, and break point (Download Chart).


About the author: Tim Bowens recently completed his fourth season as wide receivers coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He spent the three previous seasons as the Assistant Director of Football Operations at Alabama. Bowens also coached on the high school level at both Tanner High School and Coffee High School, both in Alabama. He was at four-year letter winner at Alabama from 1996-1999.rs Coach • University of Alabama – Birmingham






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