Running Back Tips: Running the Ball Post-Handoff

Once you’ve received the handoff, learn how to secure the ball and make the play with these tips and drills.

July 28, 2017

The quarterback has successfully handed off the ball to you, now it’s time for you to make a play.  Three things that you need to think about when running the ball are:

  1. Ball security
  2. Vision
  3. Finish


You need to put the ball in a position that protects the it and allows you to take off and run. You should have the ball high and tight, pressed close to the breastplate. Securely grip the top half of the ball and have your elbow in tight, so defensive players cannot pick up the elbow to get to the ball. This can also secure the ball from a slap from behind.


Use your peripheral vision to see the quarterback when he’s bringing you the handoff. At the same time, use your direct line of sight to see where you are going. As you press toward the line of scrimmage, use your peripheral vision again to see any other defensive movement.  By identifying defenders, you can see if the gap in front of you is open, or if you need to shift your body to avoid a tackle.


Once you see some daylight, that gap opens and closes very quickly, so you need to finish and finish quick.  Stick your foot in the ground and get up field to finish the play.

Here are two drills to help you:


For this drill, start by placing three cones on the ground. Two of the cones will represent offensive lineman and the gap between them. They should be placed on the line of scrimmage, about one yard apart. The third cone will be placed another yard to the right of those cones, and about one yard up field. The gap between the two cones on the right is where you will run through to finish the play. This third cone is off-set because you want to have a visual cue to drive forward through the gap. It also sets a boundary so that you don’t jump too far and miss the gap.

Press the line of scrimmage by moving toward the first two cones on the line of scrimmage. As you get close to those cones, you will jump to the right before exploding through the gap created with the third cone. The purpose of this drill is to have a smooth transition from gap to gap. You should adjust the placement of the third cone to have it staggered on the left as well. This way you are practicing the jump cut in both directions.

How do you create a smooth transition from gap to gap? For cuts to the right, as you run forward your left leg should plant first, followed by the right leg. You will jump off of both legs to the right.  Your left leg will hit the ground behind you as your right leg is in position to push forward.


For this drill, set up about four to six cones in a direct line, approximately three yards apart. For this first step, you don’t need a ball because the focus is on your feet.

Start at one end of the line of cones and simply walk around the cones by weaving in and out of them. So, if you go to the right of the first cone, you want to walk on the outside left of the second cone. Continue this weave through all cones. It should take you three steps from cone to cone. As you plant your right foot on the outside right of the first cone, you will then take three steps to plant your left foot on the outside left of the second cone. After that right foot is planted, you go LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, with that last step being your plant foot next to the cone to start the weave in the opposite direction.

Once you are comfortable with walking through this weave, take it to the next level by jogging. After you are comfortable with the jog, add the ball into the last phase of this drill and run through the cones. At this point, make sure the cones are spread 4-5 yards apart when running because your stride length will get further apart. You should still be taking three steps between each cone.

A successful running back focuses on ball security, vision and finishing. Follow these tips and practice these drills to help improve your techniques on the gridiron this season.