Western Michigan uses technology to improve QB release

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

During Bill Cubit’s coaching tenure, quarterbacks he’s worked with have been lauded for their release time, which doesn’t allow opposing defenses enough time to get sacks.

Last season, Western Michigan ranked 11th in the country for sacks allowed.

Cubit’s secret? A stopwatch and a whistle.

“We had a stopwatch and a guy and as soon as he saw [time was up], he blew the whistle,” Cubit said. “But we were always about a step behind.”

While Cubit has used the stopwatch and whistle for the past 10 years, he acknowledges that it's not very technologically savvy. So, this spring, Cubit and his staff set out to find a device that automatically sounded a buzzer when the 2.2 seconds were up, but that was also customizable for the kicking game. It wasn’t until one of his assistants visited Penn State that Cubit found what he was looking for.

The Lafayette Sportimer, according to its Web site, creates “precisely timed practice drills and sporting events, allowing you to coach while it times your drills.” The mechanism uses a piercing buzzer to signal when time has expired. Cubit likened the buzzer to an air horn. Penn State was using the device for its quarterbacks and suggested that Western Michigan give it a try.

The Broncos have used the Sportimer through its fall camp and Cubit has been amazed by the results. While he acknowledges that 2.2 seconds is a fast release, his quarterbacks are getting the ball out in 2.5 seconds or less.

“That machine really helps us out getting rid of the ball,” Cubit said. “Sometimes, we’ve got seven-on-seven and receivers think they’ve got all day. Because there’s no pass rush the quarterback thinks he’s got all day, but when that buzzer sounds, that ball has got to be out of there.”

Cubit said the machine also has helped the wide receivers know when they need to start looking for the ball and the defensive line to know how much time they have to get to the quarterback. Western Michigan also has used the timer to shore up their kicking and punting get-off times.

Cubit said in just four weeks he’s noticed a difference in his quarterbacks’ release and he knows it will provide tangible results on the field.

“It’s almost gotten to a point now where it’s like second nature,” Cubit said of his quarterbacks’ reaction to the timer. “You’ll even ask some quarterbacks, ‘Did you hear the buzzer?’ And they’ll just go. ‘No.’ They’re so used to it now and being in rhythm. It’s been great for us.”