Three Drills to Stop Fumbling Running Backs

One of the quickest ways to kill your team’s morale and momentum is an untimely fumble.

You’ve been driving the ball down the field and boom, the ball pops out and the defense recovers.

Being able to take care of the football is a skill that must be taught.

Here are 3 drills that Joe Austin, creator of the Tex-Bone Option Offense details in his playbook.


Purpose: The Ball Strip Gauntlet is a ball security drill that teaches the running back to keep the ball in a high and tight position while running through traffic.

Set-Up: Players will form two lines facing each other about two yards apart. The running back, while holding a football, will run full speed between the two lines of players (forming the gauntlet). As the ball carrier runs through the gauntlet, the players in the lines will attempt to strip the football from the running back by grabbing at the carrier’s hand, forearm, elbow, etc. They can also punch for the ball directly. The running back should attempt to carry the ball exactly as they would while running the ball in the open field. In medieval times to run a gauntlet was a form of corporal punishment that required a guilty party of run between tow rows of soldiers who would strike out at them as they passed. This drill is the friendlier , less violent, football version.

Variations: To increase the difficulty, an to train the most secure high and tight ball carrying location, the running back can execute the drill while carrying a ball in each arm. The distance between the player in gauntlet can be adjusted to the desires of the coach. Wider spacing replicates open field running while tighter spacing replicates running between the tackles.


Purpose: The Ball Security Mat Drill teaches the running back to keep the ball secure while executing a variety of jarring and difficult maneuvers.

Set-Up: Players will space themselves out with about five yards between them in all directions and all players will have a football in one of their arms. The coach will stand in front of the players at a location where he is visible and audible to everyone in the drill. All players will begin the drill in a three-point stance with the hand that is not on the ground tightly securing the ball to the player’s body. Upon command, the players will execute the tumbling and movement commands of the coach while keeping the football tightly secured to their body. Possible commands include but are not limited to: roll right (left), roll forward (backward), up-down, switch arms, seat roll right (left). After executing each movement, the running back should return to the three point stance from which he started the drill.

Variations: A conditioning element can be incorporated with the drill by extending the length of the drill and by having the players chop their feet while in the three point stance.


Purpose: The High & Tight Drill is a ball security drill that teaches the running back to keep the ball tightly secured to their body at all times.

Set-Up: Running backs will be placed in pairs for this drill. To start the drill, the players will be aligned with one in front of the other and both facing the same direction. The player in front will be holding a football. A the same time, both players will begin running forward. The players in back will attempt to strip the ball from the lead player. The drill is over after covering a predetermined distance.

Variations: Securing the football in both arms should be trained and both partners should have a chance to train with the football.

Coach, don’t neglect this important part of the game because you don’t think you have the time in practice.

Make sure your players are solid ball carriers.

If you are curious about drilling the Triple Option, Coach Joe Austin has published a 159 page book full of every drill that you need. Find it here.

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