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Mastering Receiving Routes: Running Back Specific Routes

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    Sports Tips

Mastering Receiving Routes: Running Back Specific Routes

In the modern game of football, running backs are not just ground-and-pound warriors. They are versatile weapons in the passing game, adding a lethal dimension to an offense. Let's break down three crucial receiving routes for running backs: the wheel route, flat route, and the option route.

Wheel Route

What is a Wheel Route?

The wheel route is a deep passing route where the running back (RB) initially runs parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning upfield along the sideline.

Coaching Tips:

  • Timing: The key to a successful wheel route is timing. The RB must sync the route with the quarterback's (QB) drop-back and release.
  • Sell the Route: RBs should initially sell the flat route to lure defenders out of position before making the turn upfield.
  • Leverage and Angles: Teach your RB to use leverage to keep defenders trailing and how to create a separation angle for a clean catch.

Player Insights:

  • Avoiding Contact: Stay nimble and avoid unnecessary contact with linebackers. Use quick footwork to get into the open field.
  • Ball Tracking: Practice tracking the ball over the shoulder, mimicking game scenarios.

Flat Route

What is a Flat Route?

The flat route is a quick, short passing route where the RB moves laterally towards the sideline, usually in the backfield or just beyond the line of scrimmage.

Coaching Tips:

  • Quick Release: Emphasize the importance of explosive movement off the snap to get to the flat quickly.
  • QB Connection: Establish eye contact with the QB immediately to be ready for a quick pass.
  • Blocking Awareness: After the catch, RBs should be aware of the block setup to maximize yardage.

Player Insights:

  • Secure the Catch: Make sure to secure the ball first before turning upfield. A dropped pass in the flat can lead to turnovers.
  • Yards After Catch (YAC): Be prepared to cut back inside or accelerate along the sideline to gain additional yards.

Option Route

What is an Option Route?

The option route provides the RB with the flexibility to adjust their route based on the defensive coverage. They can cut inside or break outside depending on the defender's positioning.

Coaching Tips:

  • Reading the Defense: Train RBs to read defensive cues to determine whether to break inside or outside.
  • Route Precision: Precision in the initial route stems and decisive cuts are crucial. Hesitation can lead to interceptions.
  • Communication: QB and RB should be on the same page regarding the pre-snap read and the option choice.

Player Insights:

  • Decisiveness: Make quick and confident decisions to create separation.
  • Route Adjustments: Be fluid in adapting routes based on live defensive looks.

Table: Quick Reference for Running Back Routes

Route TypeInitial PathKey Coaching PointsPlayer Tips
WheelParallel, then upfieldTiming, Sell the route, Leverage/anglesAvoid contact, Track ball over shoulder
FlatLateral towards sidelineQuick release, QB connection, Blocking awarenessSecure the catch, YAC
OptionVaries (inside/outside)Read defense, Route precision, CommunicationBe decisive, Adjust routes based on coverage


Mastering these receiving routes can transform a running back into an all-around offensive threat. The combination of precise execution, strategic understanding, and dynamic athleticism will place your RB a step ahead of the defense. Remember, practice these routes consistently, fine-tune the details, and watch as the game slows down, allowing for big plays and game-changing moments.

Coach's Corner: Keep your running backs engaged in both the offensive scheme's aerial and ground components. The more versatile they are, the tougher it will be for defenses to anticipate and adjust.

Player's Perspective: Continuously work on your route-running drills, footwork, and catching ability. Your versatility will make you indispensable and elevate your game to the next level.