Eight Running Back Principles - Part 1
Mike Walker
Backs Coach, Ishpeming (Mich.) High School

I have had the honor to coach some outstanding high school running backs. In the past six seasons we have had five first team all-conference backs, three all-region backs and a first-team all-state back.

In 2007 our tailback rushed for over 2,770 yards, scored over 30 touchdowns and was invited to the stateís all-star game. This is being done at a school with fewer than 300 students in grades 9-12.

We are a run first offense. We run an assault offense based on the tailback carrying the ball, but we also utilize the fullback and have had a lot of success with the option and with the sprint out passing game. Our offense is flexible enough to take advantage of our personnel.

However, our identity is the run game, and if we can give our tailback the ball fifty times a game, we will. That usually means good things are happening for us, and bad things are happening for our opponents.

Over the years, I have learned and emphasized eight basic principles that improve running backs play. These are things that increase the effectiveness of running backs regardless of talent level.

The eight running back principles go beyond the concepts that apply to all players and all positions, beyond position specific techniques and drills, and beyond developing athletic ability.

Instead, these principles help the back to take advantage of all the tools we have provided him, and to apply them at a higher level of performance.

I firmly believe that coaching isnít always about what you teach. It is often about what you emphasize. When you emphasize something, it becomes important to those around you. When you emphasize something important, you must refer to it - and drill it - every day so it becomes a part of your teamís belief system.

For example, if the only time you talk about ball security is when a back fumbles, then you haven't made that concept important to your team. You might imply or infer the importance of ball security, but that doesn't make it a priority with your players. You must make it important to your team by emphasizing and teaching it daily.

That is what we do with the eight running backs principles. Every season we get to a point where the players will coach each other on these principles without prompting from coaches.

Furthermore, as the season progresses, we will hear the linemen complimenting and/or correcting their teammates regarding these principles. Thatís when you know it is a part of your teamís belief system, that it is important to them. Thatís when a good back begins to play at a higher level, and thatís when a great athlete begins to play consistently great.

Here are the eight running back principles we emphasize every day with our players: ... To read this article, and for full access to all CLN resources, get your MEMBERSHIP NOW.