The Air Ball Pursuit Drill for Defensive Linemen

Teaching young football players to be aggressive, especially defensive linemen, is a difficult task.

This drill, courtesy of the Youth Football Coaches Association, is a great way to make young defensive lineman aware that the play doesn't end for them when the quarterback gets rid of the ball. This practice drill, called the air ball pursuit drill, trains defensive linemen to make a second effort on passes thrown downfield and to improve reaction to the screen pass.

To get a printable .pdf of this drill and others, visit the YFBCA website.

How to Do the Drill


A diagram of the drill.
  • Four defensive linemen align on their backs three yards apart. Their heads are on the line.
  • The coach (QB) with the ball aligns five yards up field between the two inside defenders.
  • Two target receivers (managers) holding balls align five yards downfield behind the defenders.
  • Upon the command of the coach ("Hip" or "Go"), each defender must quickly get to his feet and rush the drop-back or sprint-out quarterback.
  • After the quarterback challenges the pass rush with his movement, he simulates a throw to one of the targets.
  • Upon the quarterback's throwing motion, the defender makes a snap turn and sprints at full speed toward the target receiver. The receiver is holding the ball tightly in both hands and extending his arms forward at the height of his knee.
  • Each defensive lineman must slap at it and touch the ball as he sprint past.

Key Points

  • Defensive ends must maintain their contain responsibilities during the pass rush.
  • The coach insists that the defenders run at full speed with a high intensity effort to make contact with the ball.
  • If the coach is not satisfied, the drill is repeated.
  • The drill may also be run with one, two, or three defenders instead of four at a time.

The founder of Youth Football Coaches Association and current director is Joe Bouffard. Bouffard, affectionately known as Coach Bouf, is a veteran of 16 years of coaching experience at various levels that include youth, high school and college. While at New Canaan High School in Connecticut, Coach Bouf employed a passing attack offense that has led to 2007 and 2008 Class MM State Championships. Currently, Coach Bouf serves as offensive coordinator at Fairfield Warde High School in Connecticut.

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