3-Cone Drill Time for College Football

What’s a Good 3-Cone Time for a College Football Player?

The 3-Cone Drill (also called an L Drill) is one of the standard tests used to measure the agility and change of direction of college football players (and athletes in general). It’s performed at the NFL Combine each year with the top college prospects in the country as well as at schools and camps all over the country.

I went through 20 years of data on college football 3 Cone times with teams that I’ve worked with, combined with numbers from other strength coaches, and have broken it down by position into ranges of what’s considered “good”.

Before we get into the numbers, please understand that “good” is very relative.

For example, if you’re a high school sophomore you most likely will not stack up to the numbers listed below and that’s okay. You still have a lot of development and maturing to do and your short shuttle will improve quite a bit over the next couple of years with proper training.

Also, you’re going to find a difference depending on what level of college football you’re examining. Average times at an SEC school are generally going to be lower than what you may find at a D2 or D3 school.

Next, while these are broken down by position, size is still a huge factor when evaluating what a good L Drill time is. I’ve coached Defensive Ends who were 215 pounds and I’ve coached Defensive Ends who were 285 pounds. All else being equal, a 215-pound athlete is likely to have a much better L Drill time.

3-Cone Numbers By Position

College Football 3-Cone Time Ranges by Position
Position Reserve Starter All-Conference All-American NFL Athlete
Quarterback > 7.54 7.40 – 7.54 7.25 – 7.39 7.10 – 7.24 < 7.10
Running Back > 7.36 7.25 – 7.36 7.14 – 7.24 7.01 – 7.13 < 7.01
Wide Receiver > 7.29 7.16 – 7.29 7.03 – 7.15 6.88 – 7.02 < 6.88
Tight End > 7.50 7.36 – 7.50 7.21 – 7.35 7.05 – 7.20 < 7.05
Offensive Line > 8.10 7.96 – 8.10 7.81 – 7.95 7.66 – 7.80 < 7.66
Safety > 7.35 7.22 – 7.35 7.06 – 7.21 6.91 – 7.05 < 6.91
Cornerback > 7.29 7.16 – 7.29 7.03 – 7.15 6.90 – 7.03 < 6.90
Linebacker > 7.47 7.32 – 7.47 7.19 – 7.31 7.05 – 7.18 < 7.05
Defensive Ends > 7.53 7.43 – 7.53 7.27 – 7.42 7.13 – 7.26 < 7.13
Defensive Tackles > 8.03 7.85 – 8.03 7.68 – 7.84 7.52 – 7.67 < 7.52

What Do The Categories Mean?

The terminology I used for each category was Reserve, Starter, All-Conference, All-American and NFL Athlete. These are just categories that I found resonated well with our players. They don’t carry any deeper analytical meaning though. They could easily be Elite, Above Average, etc.

Where Do These Numbers Come From?

The number ranges are rooted in historical data that I’ve accumulated over the course of my career.

Other input like NFL Combine Data, testing data that our coaching staff had acquired in their careers and feedback we received from peers in the strength and conditioning field are also considered.

Finally, when looking at the category ranges understand that they are not designed to be evenly distributed. Most of the guys on our team would fall into the Starter or All-Conference categories (freshmen often fell into Reserve or Starter). Fewer players would achieve All-American level and fewer still would reach NFL Athlete.

Do College Camps Test the 3-Cone Drill?

If you’re planning on attending a college camp, it can be very beneficial to know what you’re going to be tested in.

Almost all college camps that I’ve been a part of have tested the Broad Jump and the 40.

When it comes to the 3 Cone – it’s highly unlikely. I can’t speak for every college and it is possible that you get tested in the 3-Cone Drill, but I’ve never been part of a camp that did.

It’s not that colleges don’t find the 3-cone drill a good test. It’s definitely helpful data if you can get it. The problem is usually a logistical one.

Many college camps have hundreds of athletes that attend. I think the biggest camp I worked had around 700 players at it.

To get through testing in a timely fashion, you need multiple stations of each drill set up. This means there may be 8 Broad Jump stations and 8 lanes of 40s being ran.

Running all these stations takes manpower. Someone to help get guys organized. Someone to run the drill. Someone(s) to time. Someone to record.

If you’re going to add a drill, you’re not just adding one drill. You may be adding 8 of them and you might need another 25 people to make it run smoothly.

With all that being said, if I were advising a high school football player on what to prepare for I would suggest the 40 and the Broad Jump. For what it’s worth, the short shuttle would be third.

Final Thoughts

The 3-Cone Drill is one of the most popular physical tests done at the college football and NFL level and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Knowing what a good 3-Cone time is at your position is a great way to set goals and use them as motivation.

Just remember, if you’re still a few years away from college, your numbers may still have a lot of improvement left to go, but don’t let that discourage you! Work hard, work smart and you’ll see your 3 Cone time continue to improve.

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