What is the proper stance for a wide receiver?

This topic comes up fairly frequently and — while coaches have many different views on this — I am pretty set in how I think a receiver stance should look. The two most important things in the stance are to (1) get off the line quickly and (2) be balanced enough to deal with press coverage. Some coaches try to use different stances to accomplish this but given how unpredictable defenses can be, I don’t think you can swap stances.

Always a good model

Much of getting off the line involves two factors related to the stance and feet — namely avoiding false steps (having to take an initial step that doesn’t get you anywhere) and being in position to burst off of the line. On the other hand, defeating press coverage is typically about the receiver having certain moves he is good at, threatening the defender with his release immediately, and using his hands.

There is much to say about specific receiver techniques for releases themselves and obviously route-running itself, but the stance is the foundation for all of it.

For the stance itself, I don’t want it to be too much of a crouched sprinter stance, nor too upright and rigid. It should be a flexible, natural stance, recognizing that while the vast majority of time the most important thing for the receiver is to get vertical as quickly as possible, dealing with press man and taking other releases (either inside or outside) are integral parts of the repertoire and the stance should both lend themselves to those moves and not give anything away before the snap. Here are my coaching points for what I like.

  • Inside foot up, flat on the ground but weight slightly on the toes. 80% of weight on front foot, 20% on back foot.
  • Back foot heel is slightly off the ground, about an inch. Back foot is just under a foot behind the front foot. Needs to be comfortable. Back leg should be slightly bent, so not so far back that it needs to be straight.
  • Feet are underneath the armpits.
  • Front knee is over the front foot toes.
  • Chest is over the knee and over the toes.
  • Chin, turned inside, also ends up over the chest which is over the knees and over the toes.
  • Hands relaxed/player preference. I like them sort of three-quarters down one-quarter up with tension ready to come up. If you get true press you can bring your hands up, but I don’t like it when kids line up with their elbows tucked in and hands making a little triangle before the snap. Too unnatural.
  • On the snap, push off the back toes to roll and then press off the front foot to explode upfield.


This is the best way I know how to teach it. Below is a pretty decent example from Auburn:

Nothing fancy, but should be very natural. The receivers in the image above have their hands up, but to me that is a preference thing. I would like to see their knees slightly further forward to be over more over their toes, however, but it’s close. The best guys to watch for releases are some of the very elite pro-receivers, though watch out for the guys who get by just on incredible athletic ability. They likely have very good technique but have so many other advantages like great size, strength or unmatched speed it’s hard to tell. Larry Fitzgerald is a good model for any young receiver.

Of course, if you want to bring back the old three-point stance for receivers, I won’t get in your way.

  • NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin

    Chris, what about the stance for inside receivers on teams that use bubble screens extensively, such as Oregon and Air Raid teams? The inside foot back stance makes the execution of the bubble route much smoother than the outside foot back stance.  

  • NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin

    Also, it looks like all of the Auburn receivers have their elbows tucked in and are making the triangle with their hands. I personally don’t like the triangle with the hands myself, I just think that the example kind of counters what you were talking about. 

  • I have taught the slots to have 

  • smartfootball

    I’ve kind of gotten away from the true bubble in recent years, but with the inside foot up the first step is a step with the back foot at an angle 45 degrees to the sideline and backwards. The second step will be for the receiver to turn flat directly to the sideline, and then the third step is back parrallel while the receiver turns his shoulders back inside to whip his head to the QB. By the fourth step he should be angling to the sideline, slightly upfield, and tracking the ball, which should be thrown slightly out in front of him towards the sideline. It happens very quickly and once you walk through it a couple of times it’s not difficult.

    The hard part really is the throw. A lot of QBs struggle with that bubble throw out in front of the receiver. That’s why to a large extent, I’ve gone back to true quick raise screens (take one vertical step and then turn numbers back to QB) and shoot routes for the quick game.

  • smartfootball

    The Auburn receivers looked pretty good other than not enough lean and the hands. But as I said the hands thing is more about preference; they still look pretty relaxed. See below for a quick image of Larry Fitzgerald. Not perfect but he looks pretty good. Maybe could have his knee slightly more forward, but his body lean is great.

  • NoHuddleAirRaidForTheWin

     I agree with the difficulty of throwing the bubble. It really takes practice to get the timing down and make the proper throw.

  • Duh9

    I love how Packer WRs line up, perfect. You can tell they really teach a stance they believe in there. On a side note, the outside foot back/outside foot in (or however you think of it) point is a valuable scouting tool…for example, a typical slant route hits 45 degrees on the third step from the outside foot….but if the outside foot is forward when they line up, it could alert you to something else, ignore the slant, whatever (although you can run a 4 step slant, which some teams do out of the gun, but TO ME a slant is 3 steps). A good pro example of this is Wes Welker…they run that quick out which is more like a “now out” where Welker gets out quickly on his first plant step and bursts sharp to the out….it’s common for them inside the 5 and short yardage….but to run that he has to have his inside foot BACK so he can run the ‘now out’ on his first step forward…Welker is the master at proper footwork and route running technique, watching his feet pre-snap can alert you sometimes.

  • Michael Schuttke

     I think “standardizing” stances for releases is important, particularly as pattern-match defenses continue to become more the norm.  Any little “cues” that an offense gives to a defense about routes to expect based on such nuances as “slot man, inside foot back =’s bubble screen” need to be avoided.

  • Michael Schuttke

     Although truly randomizing all releases (e.g. running a slant or a bubble or a hitch, etc. all with both the inside leg forward and with it back) would help confuse defenses as well admittedly.

  • Michael Schuttke

     That was supposed to go under my previous comment; sorry all.

  • It’s unfortunate more high school coaches don’t place an emphasis on things like this. Having good balance is so key to being elite in any sport.

  • Curious about your thoughts on WSU’s receiver stances under Mike Levenseller. He believes strongly in it — always wondered what others thought about the technique.


  • drewAmaroe

    I agree with mostly everything you mentioned in regards to the stance itself.  We differ in a couple areas, particularly in the usage of more than one stance.  I’ll hold off on that for now though, and just add a minor tidbit to what you’ve provided everyone with already.  It’s not really an “issue” for many players, but something that might slightly hinder their ability to get off the ball with maximum effectiveness; balance.  (If I missed anything on this already, my apologies) For anyone who is coaching up a player that struggles with keeping their balance while in stance, tell them to turn their front foot inward, just slightly, to help stabilize their take off.  It worked for me when I played, tremendously.    Anyway, thanks for the great read Smarty!

  • Can think of teams timing it out, it is how you instruct for the initial routes(slant at three steps always times on inside foot forward) . If defenders press their inclination is usually to stay between the ball and receiver so they shade or leverage inside and if the back foot is on the outside it frees their release that direction a bit more naturally. Also helps inside braking routes at 5 and 7 steps, along with the hitch, etc.

    Now when I have seen pro teams pass more they tend to reverse their stance as part of a signal system. It helps signal the leverage they expect from a corner stance at times in a check-with-me offense. If they press you shorten your stride, and thus may add an extra step, though quicker, in the same distance you usually cover three steps you have made it four, timed it out the same(especially for shotgun) ans can still use a step to inlfuence the DB and have him move out of your way, more likrly to let you run a straight line off the ball. That lets you tiome those steps on release.

    The main emphasis should be on becoming aware of your center line, the axis of your body has power and momentum in its core. Learning to roll a step just past the middle line of your belly can help you gain speed out of a break. Becoming aware of that can also let you learn to lose defenders and still square you to the ball so you look that catch in.