Teaching Young Quarterbacks Coverage

By FirstDown PlayBook on Feb 20, 2022

One of the most important things that young football coaches and young football players learn is that you can’t try to see everything that happens on a football play. Regardless of if you are teaching a young linebacker to read their keys or teaching a young quarterback about reading coverage, you have to give them specific keys.

The great thing about football is that there are almost always trustworthy keys to teach. When teaching a young quarterback how to read coverage, we teach them to key the weak side safety. We identify the weak safety as the safety away from run strength.

This will normally be the safety away from the tight end. If there is not a tight end then it will be away from formation strength. For example if it is a 3×1 set, the free safety would be to the single receiver side. If the formation is balanced, then we call the free safety based on game plan. You can control this with the formations that you call.

At the heart of what any young quarterback needs to know before the ball leaves their hand are two things:

Is The Coverage Man Or Zone?

The younger the quarterback you are coaching, the more likely it is that you are facing man coverage. From a defensive perspective it is just hard to teach zone coverage to an 7 or 8 year old. However, as your players get to be in the 10-11 year old range, this can change. There is now enough spacial awareness on the defenses’ part to teach man and zone coverage.

Whose In Your Press Box? That’s A Big Deal.

Young defenses do not disguise coverage very well. If you do run into a team that does, then using motion and or shifts will help your young quarterback with a man vs zone read. If you want to read more about this then take look at this article from last week. Much of why this matters is that it will tell your receivers to sit down in a zone or stay on the move vs man coverage.

Is The Middle Of The Field Open or Closed?

Rarely do you want the football thrown to the same receiver regardless of coverage. For this reason it is important to recognize middle of the field open (Cover 2) vs middle of the field closed (Cover 3). To understand these coverages better you can go here. We are not trying to over simplify this but remember, we are teaching young quarterbacks to read coverage in this blog.

The videos we have below address our main topic for today. In order to teach a young quarterback how to read coverage, you need to teach them to see if there is one deep safety or two deep safeties. Once again, at the younger levels this will be easier to see pre-snap. At some point you are going to get a 2 deep shell. When this happens, one of the safeties is going to drop down to play underneath coverage.

Why Drop Back With A Young QB?

Now back to our original point. This is when you need to give your young quarterback one simple key as they go through their cadence and take their pass drop. That key, as we mentioned at the top is the free safety. We cover this in the two videos at the bottom. These videos are from a few years back but trust us the coaching has not changed.