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In addition to the footwork associated with the drop back, a quarterback has two means of setting his feet to deliver a throw after completing his drop from center. One method is the hitch step. This is typically used on deeper drops (five- and seven-step drops) where timing is not as critical and the routes develop slower. It can also be used on three-step drops in a shotgun alignment. After hitting his final step, the quarterback will hitch, or bounce forward a few steps. This allows the timing of the drop to synch up with the route structure, and it allows the quarterback to transfer his momentum forward and deliver the throw.
Here is Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan using the hitch step after completing a five-step drop. In their season-opener against Northwestern, the Cardinal face a 1st and 10 on their own 25-yard line. Hogan is in the shotgun and Stanford has 11 personnel on the field, with a tight pro formation on the left and slot alignment to the right. The Wildcats have their base 4-3 defense on the field and show Cover 4, with both cornerbacks utilizing off man technique. Linebacker Drew Smith (#55) walks outside over the slot receiver, Devon Cajuste (#89):
The Cardinal run the sail concept here, with the outside receiver running a straight go route to clear the sideline. Cajuste runs a deep out pattern while the backside receiver runs a shallow crossing route, giving the quarterback a three level read. Hogan takes a peek at the vertical route on the outside, but quickly brings his eyes down to the out/crosser combination
After the snap, the QB executes a five-step drop, cutting the final two steps a bit short, before hitching himself and firing toward the sideline on the deep out route:
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This is a very impressive throw. Hogan releases the pass from the 16-yard line and Cajuste pulls it in at the 38. It goes down as a 22-yard completion in the box score, but remember, this pass comes from the left hashmark to the right sideline.
Here’s an example from Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg. In his 2013 game against Nebraska, the freshman quarterback shows nearly-flawless footwork on this three-step drop, using a hitch step after he completes the drop to ready himself for the throw:
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After a solid three-step drop, Hackenberg drives his right foot into the turf on the final step, hitches himself forward and delivers a perfectly thrown pass on the crossing route.
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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
All video and images courtesy Draft Breakdowns.