Ring of Fire's Dave Snoke has tremendous footwork. Of course, Dave was a star soccer player for the NC State Wolfpack before switching over to Ultimate so it's no surprise this skill is to his advantage. On offense, he constantly seems to accomplish more with less, taking the least amount of steps to get a big gain or get the O out of a tight situation, time and again. On the D side of things it's not a matter of beating the receiver to the spot, but he excels at the cat and mouse game prior to the cut due to the economy of his footwork. As a marker, he's never taking large steps and lunging at fakes that the thrower gives with his pivoting or throwing arm—both feet work together to keep balanced, and on high counts the strength of his D1 background is really exposed.
About the time I came to Ring (summer of 2003) I started using a ten yard single agility ladder. Prior to that, I would polish my footwork with agility drills using cones and stairs, as well as skipping lots of rope. For footwork and to get the heart rate up, a favorite drill three times a week was to sling the rope for six rounds: skip for 3 minutes, pushups for 1 minute, for six rounds. A shorter speed rope always worked best and was more difficult.
Outside of sparring, I've always been interested in the ways boxers train. My stepmother's father would have boxed for Germany in the 1936 Olympic Games, but his parents were Polish Jews living in Berlin. Prior to finding track, my father boxed for Charlotte Central and was champ of his weight division his sophomore and junior years. UVA was considering offering him a scholarship but then NC banned boxing in their high schools, and the rest is history. I followed boxing religiously from somewhere around Leonard's gold medal in the '76 Olympics to just after the Leonard/Hagler bout. You can see a touch of the sweet science in Ultimate, here and there, every now and again.
Using the ladder, I employed it two or three times a week after the meat of a workout or practice with probably 5 reps of 7 to 10 exercises. As the game became more cerebral, the commitment to footwork helped in the open field during stoppages: getting open going under or away off of a two step move that was simply muscle memory, as well as changing direction in the front of the stack when the count is getting high and the thrower's options are running out.
When the offense is being forced line, you're the number one dump posted up 10 to 12 yards from the marker's fanny. Stepping to the dump is really no problem, the pressure is on someone else, but then you're going to be expected to "swing" the disc. Do you turn inside or outside? What if the pass floats? How do you recover? What if it's a short footrace? Do you go two hands or one hand and how do you prepare your feet? Getting yardage up the line is a real trick. Proper footwork and good acting can get you breathing room up the line for the so-called Cut of Death. Again, it's a one-two combination (on top of a handful of other things moving a thousand miles per second).
Experience of course goes quite a long way, but I think many of these techniques can be taught and learned and perfected. Again, it's all muscle memory, situation, repetition, and a commitment to hard work, or working hard for that matter.
I'm surprised at how many players round the bases rather than slice up the field in sharp angles and take advantage of the cleats on their feet. Some players are fast and some have big long strides and can cover a lot of ground and some players have great closing speed inside fifteen yards. Yet proper and effective footwork, most players completely lack.
A move I've always liked is the power cut-back pedal-power cut. That's posting up in the back of the stack and lying low for a swing—pulling the defender out to the flats with a power cut, pull up and back pedal or drop step, and then change direction again and drive forward to the cone. Another, and I think this was discussed recently on (that black hole of goo called) RSD, is the move you make after a teammate has made the catch just outside the endzone, on the teeth of the goal line. A lot of players do the run by and put up their hand up expecting the old Nerf to be lobbed to them like it was recess. I like the run by, a drop step, and then going left or right or under with hands way out in front for a possible handoff pass. I'm amazed at how many times a player is the first there after the catch, does the run by and somehow feels the D has done his job. Shoot, you have to make that guy work or else that genius teammate of yours is going to waste a timeout.