Top 5 Attributes College Coaches Look for In a Defensive Back.

Although college football coaches have different recruiting requirements, when selecting defensive backs, they all commonly look for a few key attributes.

Speed

To be a DB in college, you’ve got to have speed for coverage. Coaches want athletes who can keep up with or outrun fast wide receivers. Most of the time, DBs do not run straight ahead, so their speed is measured through backpedals, shuffles and quick breaks on routes. (Check out some great football-specific drills to build up this trait.)

Explosiveness

Some athletes take awhile to get moving, while others get up to full speed in a hurry. An explosive first step is vital for a defensive back. You must be able to move in and pick off cuts as fast as possible. Explosiveness in a DB is the difference between an interception and a tackle for a five-yard gain. (The keys to explosiveness.)

Athleticism

Many claim the DB is the most athletic position on the field; and as a former D player and coach myself, I have to agree. You must perform the unnatural motion of backpedaling, not knowing where your opponent will go. A lot goes into evaluating the athleticism of DB prospects. Although speed, proper footwork and explosiveness are crucial elements, you also need:

  • Ball Skills. When a potential interception is not made, you often hear, “that’s why he’s a defensive back and not a wide receiver.” This may or may not be true about a player, but coaches do want DBs who can catch and make plays. DBs who knock the ball down help stop drives and change games by creating turnovers.
  • Flexibility. Here, I’m mostly referring to a DB’s hips, which allow him to backpedal, then flip and run with a receiver or flip and break downhill on a route the receiver breaks off. Coaches want to observe how fluid an athlete is.

Intelligence

DBs need to be intelligent on the field. When they play smart, it’s special. Coaches want to feel confident that their DBs understand all the coverage checks and adjustments that need to be made before the snap, and that they are able to make split-second changes while running at full speed.

Toughness

Coaches love physical DBs. In high school, DBs are not expected to play a huge role defending the running game, but that changes dramatically in college. DBs are important in most defensive schemes, being gap sound and stopping the run. A high school DB who plays physical gives himself a huge advantage in recruiting.

DB Workouts

Below are two workouts for D-backs. Try them out or add them to your routine to enhance your training. They both emphasize strength, so pick weights that challenge you beyond 5 reps. Complete the workout by performing each of the grouped exercises in circuit fashion (B1, B2, B3) before moving onto the next grouping (C1, C2, C3).

DB Workout One

A1Power Clean3×5

B1Back Squat: 4×5

  • Take the barbell from the rack and place it on the back of your shoulders
  • Make sure your feet are even
  • Slowly lower hips while keeping toes pointed forward
  • Push straight into the floor and stand back up nice and tall
  • Repeat for specified reps

B2. Bench Press: 4×6

  • Take barbell from the rack and lower it midway directly over your chest
  • Place your feet on the ground at the base of the bench so you can use your feet to anchor yourself as you push the weight up

 

B3. Bent Over Row: 4×6

  • With the barbell on the ground, bend over with back straight
  • Pull bar to waist, extend arms out and repeat

C1. Reverse Lunges: 4×6 each side

  • Hold dumbbells in each hand
  • Reach one leg back as far as your body allows
  • Lower into Lunge until both legs are bent at 90 degrees
  • Return leg to original position
  • Repeat for specified reps

C2. Dumbbell Alternating Chest Press: 4×5

  • On a bench or on a physio ball, perform alternate chest presses by pushing one dumbbell up in front of the chest and holding
  • Press the other dumbbell up and lower the other
  • Repeat for specified reps

C3. Renegade Row: 4×6 each side

  • Assume push-up position with hands gripping dumbbells and feet spread wider than shoulder width
  • Row one dumbbell at a time up past your body

D1. Prowler Push 10 yards, then sprint 10 yards: 3×20 yards

  • Push a prowler or a sled 10 yards
  • Sprint another 10 yards

D2. Resisted Sprint with Sled: 3×20 yards

  • Attach yourself to a weighted sled
  • Sprint 20 yards

D3. Sled Pulls: 3x10yds

  • Attach a rope to a sled 10 yards away
  • Pull the rope until the sled is right in front of you

 

DB Workout Two

A1. Snatch: 3×5

B1Deadlift: 4×6

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Slowly lower your hips with your chest up and pick up the bar
  • Extend your hips forward and stand back up with barbell

B2Weighted Pull-Ups: 4×6

  • Perform a Pull-Up with a weight belt and weight plate
  • Choose a weight plate that won’t allow you to perform more than 6 reps

B3. Push Press: 4×5

  • Load barbell onto front of shoulders
  • Using legs, dip into quarter squat, drive up and press bar overhead
  • Repeat for specified reps.

C1. Step-Ups: 4×8 each side

  • Holding dumbbell in each hand, step onto a box or bench
  • Slowly step down
  • Explode back up
  • Repeat for specified reps

C2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 4×5

  • Press dumbbells overhead
  • Lower until arms are bent at 90 degrees

C3. Upright Row: 4×6

  • Grab a barbell or EZ bar with arms close together
  • Drive elbows up to raise bar to shoulder level

C4. Front and Lateral Raise: 4×6

  • Raise one dumbbell in front and one dumbbell to side
  • Repeat in opposite fashion and continue for specified reps

D1. Rope Slams: 3×50 

  • Hold a weighted rope with arms straight
  • Slam rope toward floor for specified reps

 

 

D2. Resisted Backpedal into Sprint: 3x20yards

  • Using a resistance strap, backpedal for 10 yards
  • Turn and sprint another 10 yards

D3. Backpedal into Diagonal Sprint: 3x20yards

  • Backpedal for 10 yards
  • Turn and sprint diagonally for 10 yards in each direction
  • To add more intensity and reaction, chase a partner attempting to catch a football

Want more? Check out 3 Drills Every Defensive Back Needs to Train With.

 

Up Next: What level of play does your Football skill set match up?

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