An average football play lasts between five and seven seconds. For the Tennessee Titans' sack master DE, Jason Babin—12.5 sacks this past season—it's just enough time to explode quickly past blockers and reach the unfortunate quarterback.
"The big difference between football players and non-football players is explosion," says Babin. "Those first two steps against an offensive lineman are huge. If you can't explode quickly out of your stance, you'll get blocked every time."
The former All-American from Western Michigan, who set school records in career sacks  and tackles for loss , has had a need for speed since his sophomore year of high school.
Although Babin's introduction to weight training at Paw Paw High School was slow, the Redskins' two-time defensive MVP joined the track team to develop his explosive speed. "If you want to get a good D-I scholarship, you definitely have to be fast," he says. "So training in high school, my goal was to just get faster. I'd work out with the sprinters during their practice and just learned how to run properly with better form."
Babin took what he learned on the track and applied it to football training drills. A simple exercise that the Michigan native uses to control his explosive speed is the Hoop Drill.
"Running the hoops is something all defensive ends can work on, as it's in direct correlation with what we do on the field," Babin explains. "You can't be stiff when rushing the passer. This drill will help teach defenders how to run under control and open up their hips."
Jason Babin plans to build off of last year's success by continuing to train for explosive speed this off-season. [NFL offensive tackles, you've been warned.] And for all you DEs out there, incorporate the Hoop Drill below to help control your pass rush.
- Use an 8-10 foot diameter hoop
- Line up on outside edge of hoop [see diagram]
- Explode out of stance, dipping inside shoulder toward hoop
- Sprint around hoop
- Finish through line of scrimmage
- Repeat for specified reps, switch direction
Sets/Reps: 2x6 each direction, 20 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Stay low // Lean inside shoulder toward hoop // Stay as close to hoop as possible // Run with control
To find what else the Pro Bowl defensive end has planned for his training this off-season, follow Babin on Twitter @jasonbabin93.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock