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The Center / Quarterback Exchangeby: Mac McWhorter
Associate Head Coach Offensive Line – Un
© October 2006
Every scrimmage down starts with the center’s snap; yet it can be one of the most neglected areas of football. There have been many games lost because of a fumbled Center / QB exchange. The snap is a procedure that must not be taken for granted. The fundamentals of snapping the football should be emphasized and practiced everyday, just as you practice the fundamentals of blocking, tackling, receiving, etc. All phases of snapping should be practiced with repetition until it becomes second nature to all involved. Don’t assume the snap will be automatic. Emphasize and work it, until it becomes automatic. Once your center becomes proficient, keep the same practice procedure to keep them that way.
The two phases of snapping the football are:
1. The Quarterback under the Center exchange
2. The Shotgun Snap
We will work a step-by-step procedure with our Center's and QB’s for five minutes before each practice and before every game. The procedure does three things for us:
1. It develops a high efficient exchange
2. It acts as part of the players’ warm up, serving to stretch the Center's and loosen up the QB’s voices and their bodies
3. It enable us to rep some basic fundamentals used by our Center's and QB’s
Our Center / QB exchange should be exactly alike between all Center's and all QB’s. All Center's snap right-handed and all QB’s receive the snap the same way (with their right hand up). We also train other offensive linemen to snap. You can never have enough Linemen who can also snap.
The philosophy of our snap is simple. The QB will form a “V” with his hands. The Center will pull the ball straight back, lodging the ball deep into the “V” formed by the QB’s hands. The ball should lodge at an 80-degree angle formed by the offset formed by the QB’s hands, forming the “V.”
There are seven basic steps that we follow during each session at Texas:
1. Command: “Hands, Stance and Ball” – At this command, the QB should form a “V” with his hands and hold it up for you to inspect. The “V” should be nice and wide with the fingers spread:
The left thumb should slide down the right thumb until it fits into a natural groove. The Center's should assume a good knee-bent, flat-backed stance. The head should be up. The ball should be extended as far as possible, positioned directly in front of the right ear. The laces of the ball should be up (The angle of the laces usually should be tilted inward slightly. This may vary somewhat per Center.). The ball should be gripped toward the front half of the ball. The laces need to come up across the QB’s right hand. NOTE: The only deviation in the process for a left-handed QB is that the laces can be tilted to mesh the bottom hand. The remainder of the procedure is the same.
2. Command: “Center's, bring the ball to the mesh at 80 degrees. QB’s coach them.” At this command, the Center's should bring the ball back and hold it to the mesh where the QB’s hands will be. The Center should hold the ball of the mesh point to be checked by the QB. The ball should come up flush with the Center’s butt and be at a slight angle (80 degrees). This procedure should be repeated five or six times or until the QB has the ball coming up correctly.
3. Command: “Butt of the Hand.” At this command, the QB should place his right hand only under the Center. His hand should be wrist deep. The middle finger should be down the center of the Center’s body. All five fingers should be comfortably extended and pressed against cloth. The Center should continue the process of Step 2. The ball should skim off the butt of the QB’s hand. The Center should try to drive the ball back as deep as possible off the butt of the QB’s hand and up his wrist. This procedure checks the mesh point, the ball angle, stretches the Center and helps prevent the short snap. NOTE: The ball is never exchanged in Steps 1 through 3.
4. Command: “Exchange and Short-Short.” Step 4 is the first time the ball is actually exchanged. At this command, the QB’s will assume their appositions behind the Centers. They will form the entire “V” with their hands under the Centers. The Centers will snap the ball at will with no command. This step should be repeated four to six times. Through half of the reps, the Center should step with their right foot first. Through the other reps, the Center should step left. The Centers should never take more than a six-inch step at this time. This step forces the QB to keep a proper “V” with his hands and to ride the Center with his hands. The time of the snap and the direction of the Center’s step are unknown to the QB.
5. Command: “Snap Counts.” All Center's are aligned on the same line, about four yards apart. During Step 5, each QB takes a play and a snap count and the entire line reps it together. Centers step through each play executed.
After each QB reps his play, he rotates to another Center. The procedure should continue until each QB has worked with each Center. The snaps should be interchangeable between all players. There are several basic plays that need to be repeated during this step:
A. Center base or zone blocking right, then left
B. Center sweep blocking right, then left
C. Center drop-back pass setting right, then left
D. Center play-action pass blocking right, then left
E. Center extreme move (flat reaches) right, then left
NOTE: Different steps should be substituted per your offense.
6. Any variation in your procedure you need to practice can be worked at this time.
A. Variations in your normal snap count.
B. Include some Defensive Linemen and your Guards and practice your QB sneak.
C. Good QB Sneak, etc.
REMINDER: Train several other Linemen to snap the ball. You can never have enough Linemen master the procedure. This will help you in interchanging Linemen, line depth and travel and dress-out numbers.
7. The Shot-Gun Snap is the final phase of our Center-QB practice session. The QB will assume a position approximately four yards behind the Center. (This can vary depending on the protection used and the depth of routes and QB drop.) The Center should adjust his grip to gain more of the fate of the ball. The snap procedure is as follows:
A. The Center will look between his legs. The QB will lift one foot when he is ready. The Center should also get a visual image of his target (the QB’s waist to his chest strike zone).
B. Once the Center receives the QB’s ready signal, he should raise his eyes to the defense. He should make any needed calls at this time.
C. After the ready signal, the Center can snap the ball when he is ready. Upon snapping the ball, he should give a verbal snap count such as Hut or Go or Set. This will allow the other Linemen to concentrate on their assignments and the defense without having to look in at the ball any more than necessary.
D. The Actual Snap: The snapping hand should make a quarter of a turn. The ball should be kept close to the ground during its backward movement. The follow-through by the Center will raise the ball.
The Center should shove the ball to the QB (it should float back). The ball should be a medium fastball. Don’t try to spiral the ball back. A ball floating back sideways is easier for the QB to catch. A ball that is too hard, too soft, out of the “strike zone” or just too hard to catch will diminish the QB’s ability to deliver the ball.
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