Quarterbacks and offensive player command a lot of attention on recruiting websites, and rightfully so. Coaches, players, and fans are interested in who's going to be playing offense for them, and it speaks to adage "You can't win if you can't score". However, the defense has players who want to achieve their dreams too and no position on that side of the ball is as scrutinized as defensive back.
To be an elite defensive back, not only do you have to have great physical traits but but you also need to have an understanding of how defenses and offenses work in order to be successful. For today, we're going to look at five things that a DB prospect can do to become the great defender that they're capable of being.
Change of Direction
Not all defensive backs are created equal. What I mean by that is that there is a lot of variance when it comes the body types that play DB (Compare Darelle Revis to Richard Sherman. Completely different body types, but both have played their position at the highest of levels.) I mention this because not every DB has sprinter speed, but the great ones have elite change of direction.
Change of direction is arguably the most important of physical skills for a DB because that position rarely gets to run in a straight line. More often, they are adapting to the releases and cuts of the recievers as well as what's going on in the backfield, especially if they're safeties. Cone drills and reaction drills are popular ways to hone change of direction.
Explosiveness has been a buzzword in strength and conditioning circles for a long, long time, but what exactly is explosiveness? Generally speaking, it is a sudden burst of power across various muscles groups to create movement but for DB play, we're talking about suddenness from the lower body.
Why is explosiveness important for a DB? It directly plays a role in many facets of a defensive back's job, including going for a jump ball and reacting to misdirection plays or screens. To develop explosiveness, you want movements that work across multiple joints so this is where your different kinds of cleans come into play.
There might not be anything that will get you recruited faster as a DB than a highlight film with a lot of clips of you coming down with the football. The goal of defense is to get the ball back for the offense and not allow points so if you can show that you can do that, you're going to be in good shape as a prospect. To perfect ball skills, a good place to start would be working on catching with your hands and different distraction drills.
Another way to get noticed as a defensive back is if you have film of yourself making a lot of tackles. It can be an overlooked part of a DB's game, but tackling is more important than ever due to the wide-open offenses that are becoming more prevalent at the high school and college level.
There's a lot of different ways to tackle, but this article on GreatCornerback.com is a good place to start if you want to be a fundamentally sound tackler. The more reps you get on making one-on-one tackles in space, the better off you'll be as a defender.
We've talked a lot about some of the physical things you can do as a DB to get better, but the mental part of the game is what separates good players from the great players. Recognizing receiver's routes and offensive concepts matters because most college defenses and a lot of high school defenses run pattern match defenses (where zone coverage can turn into man based on what the receivers do), and route recognition is a big part of that.
To get good at route recognition takes a lot of work. Fortunately, there's a lot of resources out there for young DBs to help make themselves better (such as this drill from MatchQuarters.com) so there's a lot of opportunity for guys to make their mark in what can be an overlooked position.
Jordan Rinard is a contributing writer for GMTM and a Recruiting Editor for Hustle Belt. He will always hold onto the belief that Jim Brown is the one true GOAT.