Quarterback Tips: Executing the Handoff

A fundamental skill for all quarterbacks is the handoff, which sets a running play into action. Learn the basics and how to improve this skillset with these tips and drills.

It is ultimately the quarterback’s responsibility to ensure that the handoff to the running back is clean and that ball security is not compromised. The running back does have a role in this process as well, but ultimately it is the quarterback’s responsibility.

When receiving the snap from under center, the first thing you need to do is bring the ball into your belly as you clear the line of scrimmage. This is important so that any action that occurs near the line — whether it’s a defensive lineman penetrating the line of scrimmage or the guard pulling across the formation — does not knock the ball out of your hands. Remember, ball security is the number one priority.

On this particular run play, step with your left foot first, opening up to your left and pointing the toe of your first step at 7 o’clock. After you clear the line of scrimmage with your first step, continue on your track at 7 o’clock, getting the ball as deep as you can to the running back. As the running back approaches, extend the ball with both hands toward the running back’s belly.  Just before contact with the ball to the running back’s belly, pull your opposite hand off the ball, while still reaching with the hand closest to the running back. You want to create a soft landing for the ball and ride the ball on through, fully into the running back’s belly as he passes by and takes the ball toward the line of scrimmage. Once the ball has been properly transitioned to the running back, carry out a fake to provide deception for the defense.

When receiving the snap from the center out of the shotgun you will turn at a 45-degree angle and sit down in ‘the chair.’ This means to lower your stance by bending at the knees, lower body sinking toward the ground, while keeping your chest and head up. Extend the ball with both hands over your left knee. The running back will run his belly through the ball and proceed on his track toward the line of scrimmage. You will ride it through to the right knee and then may carry out a fake.

On this particular run play that we have demonstrated in the video, the coach represents a defensive read for the quarterback, meaning that it’s a blind exchange for the quarterback.  As you turn, keep your eyes on the coach (defensive read) and either give the ball to the running back if the defensive player/read is up the field, or if the defensive player/read closes down the line of scrimmage, you would pull the ball from the running back’s belly and keep the ball heading off the edge of the line of scrimmage.

In closing, it’s ultimately the quarterback’s responsibility to ensure that the handoff is clean and that ball security is not compromised. Practice this regularly to help create more success when it counts.