How to train a championship-winning Division I QB, according to the coach who knows better than anyone

Todd Dodge has won six Texas state titles with six different QBs. Five of them have or will play Division I football. We got an inside look at how he does it.
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There are thousands upon thousands of excellent quarterbacks coaches at the high school level and below, so it's difficult to crown any one of them as the absolute best. But we can feel comfortable in proclaiming this: None of those thousands upon thousands have more results than Todd Dodge.

This past January, Dodge won his sixth state championship in Texas's highest classification -- arguably the most difficult title to win in all of high school ball. Beyond that, a different quarterback won all six of those titles, and five of them did or will play Division I football. 

At Southlake Carroll, a suburb Dallas and Fort Worth which was recently named the most affluent small city in America, Dodge's Dragon teams were a single point away from an 80-game winning streak and five consecutive state titles from 2002-06. Among his QB alums are Chase Daniel, the highest-paid backup QB in NFL history; Alabama national champion-turned-ESPN analyst Greg McElroy; and his son Riley Dodge, who is now Southlake Carroll's head coach and coaches the top high school QB in America, Ohio State commit Quinn Ewers.  

Now at Austin Westlake, Dodge has won two straight state titles -- the 6A Division II crown in 2019, and the 6A Division I title (the big one) this past season. Dodge's Chaparrals beat his own son's Dragons for that 2020 title

You know you have a legacy of producing title-winning high school teams led by elite quarterbacks when the same system, led by the same gene pool, claim both spots of the biggest game in all of high school football.

Todd Dodge State Championship Winning QBs

QBState TitleCollege

Chase Wasson

2002

Texas State/Oklahoma

Chase Daniel

2004

Missouri

Greg McElroy

2005

Alabama

Riley Dodge

2006

North Texas/McNeese

Kirkland Michaux

2019

Blinn JC (baseball)

Cade Klubnik

2020

Clemson

At the Angelo Clinic this past week, Dodge, a former Texas quarterback himself, gave an audience of high school coaches a step-by-step walkthrough of Dodgeball.

Though his success at Carroll came quickly -- his first title came in Year 3 in Southlake -- it's fitting that his first Westlake championship came in his sixth year at the school. The seniors on his 2019 team were in 7th grade when Dodge took the job in 2014. That's when the planting phase begins.

Dodge QB Development Plan

Two middle schools feed into Westlake, and so Dodge sets out to have eight 7th grade quarterbacks -- two apiece on each school's A and B teams. 

From there, the number is whittled down to six 8th graders, four 9th graders, and two in 10th grade and above. "If you have a really talented 7th grade quarterback, you're not putting all your eggs in that basket in case he moves away or plays basketball," Dodge said.

Even as early as 7th grade, each quarterback is part of The System. Each February, Dodge pulls his quarterbacks out of the after-school off-season program (they're still required to lift in the mornings) for a month-long quarterback school. The middle school QBs receive the same treatment in May. 

Dodge QB Expectations

1. Must be an accurate passer.

2. Must be a positive leader.

3. Must be confident and want the responsibility of being a quarterback. "I'll sometimes flat out ask if they want to be a quarterback," Dodge said. "'No, Coach, I don't.' Okay, great, you're playing receiver."

4. Must be willing to invest endless hours learning the position.

5. Must be coachable. "A lot of people think saying 'Yes sir, no sir' is being coachable. That's manners," Dodge said. "Being coachable is doing exactly what the coach asks you to do the first time he asks you to do it."

Dodge also demands tremendous toughness out of his quarterbacks, both mental and physical. 

"I have been booed by 80,000 people and had a standing ovation by the same 80,000 people on the same afternoon," Dodge, the first Texas high school quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season and a former UT quarterback, said. "The coach and the quarterback get too much blame when things are going poorly and too much credit when things are going good."

On the physical side, Dodge wants 50 rushing yards per game out of his quarterbacks. 

"Never turn down an opportunity to show your teammates your toughness," he said. "Do not make our trainer have to come out and get you. Get yourself off the turf." 

This is where Klubnik, a Clemson commit and a rising senior, won Dodge's respect. Westlake had two quarterbacks playing baseball in the spring of 2019, so Klubnik, then a freshman, was pulled up to the varsity. "It was a bloodbath," Dodge said, but Klubnik kept coming.

This past January, Klubnik separated his shoulder in the 6A Division I semifinal game against two-time defending state champion Houston North Shore. Klubnik played through the pain, ran in the game-winning score, and led the Chaps to a win over Southlake Carroll the following week. 

Developing a Football IQ

As stated above, this education begins in 7th grade. A Dodge quarterback is tasked with identifying coverage, calling protections, manipulating defenders to open the middle of the field, anticipating throws, playing without the ball and knowing his personnel.

In the running game, the quarterback is not a spectator. Every run play is made to look like zone read and the quarterback is expected to commit to the play-fake. "I am going to make the defender defend me," Dodge said.

On knowing his personnel, Dodge said he would rather run routes on air for half an hour four times a week than play 7-on-7. "That's where you get to know your guys," he said. "It's so important your QB spends time with his guys in the summer."

Each Tuesday, Dodge's quarterbacks throw 85 routes on air. If they complete all 85, the whole group gets ice cream. 

Developing Technique

Dodge focuses on accuracy, matching footwork with concepts, ball security, pocket presence, and RPO executions. He shared four pieces of technique development:

Camera 1, Camera 2, Camera 3: Imagine a camera was implanted into each quarterback's upper body. For a right-handed QB, Camera 1 is in his left shoulder, Camera 2 is in his belly button, and Camera 3 in his right shoulder. Each camera should be able to take a snapshot of the entire field at different points in the throw. This allows Dodge to correct a shorthand to correct a quarterback's technique upon an errant throw. If he didn't like a QB's stance, Dodge simply says, "Camera 1." If he didn't like his follow through, it's "Camera 3."

Upon release, a right-handed quarterback should place his right hand onto his left pocket.

Keep It Dry: To practice proper ball security, Dodge tells his quarterbacks they're throwing in a pool with rib-high water. A quarterback should be able to cycle through his entire release without the ball touching water.

Considering the demographics of Southlake and Austin's West Lake Hills, many Dodge QBs don't have to imagine what it's like to throw a ball in the pool. 

Above the Rope: Imagine a rope is installed across the field, running 12 inches above the quarterback's head. To teach a full wind up, Dodge tells his quarterbacks to get the ball above the rope.

Stay Off the Wall: To teach quick releases, Dodge often warms his quarterbacks up by placing their back feet six inches away from a wall. 

Quarterback Leadership

Finally, the reason Dodge begins personally developing his quarterbacks two years before high school is to instill the most essential trait of successful quarterbacking -- leadership. 

"I'm 13 years old, Coach, how can I lead anybody?" Dodge said. "Can you encourage your teammates? Can you say, 'Good job?' Can you finish first in sprints? Can you run track? Can you get the crap kicked out of you in a scrimmage?

"If you can do that, you can be a leader."