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Learning the West Coast Offense - Part 3 - Receiver Responsibilities


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Before I get in to routes, I want to go over some basic technique things that really help a receiver, in any offense, not just the WCO.


Obviously, in order to catch a football, you have to be able to see the ball. This means that when a receiver is running a route, such as a hitch, where he runs with his back towards the quarterback, the receiver would have to snap their head around in around to pick up the trajectory of the ball.

If a receiver is running a crossing pattern, they must turn their shoulders so they can see the quarterback. Once they locate the football, the main idea is to keep your eye on the point of the ball spiraling towards you. Receivers need to keep focused and watch that point until the ball is into their hands. The last few feet/yard of travel is generally where the receiver pulls his eyes from the ball and starts running up field... When receivers do that, they drop it.

Also, contrary to popular belief, your chest isn't what you're supposed to catch with. Catch with your hands. Above the waist, create a diamond with thumbs/pointer fingers on both hands together. Below the waist put your pinkies together. It's like catching an egg, give with the ball, or the ball will bounce out. On a go route on a ball thrown over your shoulder, you should put your pinkies together and not put your hands into the air to catch the pass until the moment you have to. Running with your hands out slows you down.

Ideally, when a receiver catches the football, you want him to become a runningback who is going to lower their shoulder and run someone over. But then again, maybe you don't if you fear injury.


There are three main releases on routes. A direct release where you run right at the defender's numbers like you're going to run through them. An outside release where you aim at his outside number in order to gain an advantage on a route and an inside release where the receiver aims for the inside number to gain an advantage.

Versus man coverage, the receiver should rely on speed and agility to get away from the defender. But at the same time, they can't do anything too fancy or they will throw off the timing of the play. They need to make quick, short moves in order to get off the line of scrimmage.

When the receiver is ready to make a break, it's often beneficial to take a step towards the opposite shoulder of where you're breaking in order to throw the defender off of your scent, then lower your hips and cut to your actual route.

Routes versus man coverage stay the way they are designed, and upon the snap receivers assume it to be man coverage until they read that it's a zone.


There are a ton of routes run in the WCO, and alot of them are different if you are a slot receiver or an outside receiver or a TE or a back. They all have different route trees.

One thing I want to note before continuing on... Routes can be changed based on the type of defense that you are going against. I'm NOT going to break those down, it will take way too long and no one will actually read it :) That could be it's own thread.

Just for an example, the slant route.

Run six yards and cut on a 45 degree angle towards the quarterback.

275px-Slant_route.png magnify-clip.png

A slant route

Against straight man coverage with no bump, the receiver can run directly at the defender and make a break. Against a bump and run, the receiver should probably go for an outside release and cut immediately rather than running six yards then cutting.

Routes that are often run in a WCO by an outside receiver (only routes I'm going to really go over in this thread, if people want it, I'll do separate ones for other positions.)

Quick Out - 5-6 yards, then lower your weight and break towards the sideline, directly towards it. This route shouldn't be rounded unless coverage dictates you to do so.

Deep Out - 10-12 yards (can be run deeper as well, but pass protection seriously determines just how far you can do) and the same as the normal out.

Post - 12 yards downfield, break at 60 degree angle or so towards the middle of the field. In easy terms, it's a deeper slant.

Hitch - Run six yards down field, lower hips and break down, quickly snap head around and turn TOWARDS the QB. The turn has to be in the direction of the QB otherwise it's not a properly run hitch.

Comeback - Deep (15-20 yards). Receiver uses outside release/direct release and aims outside and breaks like he's running a fade. At about 15-20 yards, receiver plants, lowers hips and comes back to the sideline towards the LOS. It's the opposite movement as a hitch. The comeback can be run shorter as well.

Corner - It's a post, except the receiver breaks to the sideline instead of towards the middle of the field.

Shallow Drag - Receiver runs across the LOS about 3-5 yars down field. As he's running his pattern, he's looking to read the coverage. He adjusts how deep his drag is depending on coverage.

Quick In - Exact same as the out, except receiver breaks towards the QB.

Deep In - Same as a Deep Out, except the receiver breaks towards the QB.

Fade - Receiver goes deep for the long ball

Smash - 6 yard route. Receiver breaks on an angle, probably about 45 degrees. Receiver must give the inside receiver time to clear out the coverage. Once the receiver gets to 6 yards, he cuts sharply down the line, without rounding the pattern towards the opposite sideline.

There are also combination routes, and probably other routes that I forgot to add in. But this is a good start.

Let me know if there's anything I can clarify. I don't have any illustrations of the majority of these routes. If I had webspace I'd draw them in paint to show them to you. I apologize for that :(

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