Friday, July 31, 2009

SNAFU: story of my life

This should be an interesting week.

It is the first week of Fall practice and we'll be able to see many of our players for the first time since May (.......)

Also, our program experienced a new head coach this last week (along with losing 2 other coaches).

In addition to that, a peculiar dilema of changing offenses with 3 days until camp has surfaced. The change would be dramatic, going from 1-back gun Air Raid to 2-back under center veer. I have made the argument against the effect of drawing more defenders into the box (when you have a not-so-strong Oline), as well as selling the idea of a run-heavy gun veer (to keep everything we have done, just change the run game) so I've done my part. Well, I won't be coaching Oline anymore and will likely be responsible for receivers. I really don't mind, I just want to teach fundamentals, anyway - this is the life of a coaching merc. I have no problems learning a new dance.

Guess I'll just have to think outside my own Xbox for now.

Even more deflating is that for the first day of camp, I won't be able to attend. The school board administrative paperwork wasn't completed on my CECP (non-teacher), even though I've been certified in this parish since 2007, and have been at this current school since March.

Oh, well, what can you do? Each day is a new, exciting experience to learn from.

"Ah, dude.....let's go bowling"

Anyway, I'm finishing the first DVD handout for the defensive backs which will feature all the plays of our first opponent by formation as well as an introductory chapter on alignment and route recognition (and how that relates to having a need to know about formations). This will include our first "easter egg" - I'll let you know how THAT goes.

I will say this, though, enough can't be said about the players and their families in this community. No doubt I'll be bragging on them as the season progresses.

Delegation of Authority (Using Assistants)

just bring me a juice box!

When we are TOLD what to do we often, as prideful men, reject it, no matter what it is because we want to maintain our autonomy and dignity. When we are asked what to do and given the choice to determine our own fate, we tend to buy in (even if its the very thing we would've been TOLD to do).

coach, let me get you a juice box!

Some thoughts I'll offer on managing your assistants to better serve them and the program;

1) Pick your battles / weigh the economics of responsibility;
What CAN they do? You likely have laid the groundwork of the Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The frame has been built, why not let one of one of the most promising assistants to pick out the furniture? Maybe there is no incentive (monetarily / position), so it is going to come down to who wants to take on more responsibility. You may be stuck in a situation where assistants will do as little as possible because they just want a stipend and a good seat during the games (only you would know that). However, if a MAN is given the authority and responsibility, he will take interest and his pride usually takes over (to ensure the performance doesn't embarrass him)

This isn't just throwing someone the keys and told to lock up when he's done. I believe you'll have to be closely interactive with them ('what are we going to do about this?'/ 'what is our answer to that?' / 'what could go wrong?') This shouldn't be a blank check, but should be a stewardship position - "we need you to lead us in this area, we want to take full use of your knowledge and perspective of the game".

You may not be relinquishing the offense (naturally) but there are roles people can take responsibility for. Case in point, any monkey can run a defense (it takes a unique individual to actually screw up a defense) that you have a defense installed, why not just give them the burden of keeping it running? Another example, any assistant can run Special Teams, too.

I believe your main concern is HOW they see the position (their role on staff). What can you live with? If you give a guy the defense, you have to be willing to give up a 3rd down here, a touchdown there - and not freak out. Special Teams, that guy should be responsible for knowing the players and abilities to know what will be the best result in a given situation (reverse here? fake it now?). Just make sure you have the 11 ready to go. The "coordinator" title gives guys hard-ons apparently....feel free to invoke its power.

2) Define Expectations
Again, we can't just throw the keys to someone and say, "Drive!". He must define his costs & expenditures and justify the what and why (keep him within the budget of authority and responsibilities). Set clear expectations of what his job is. This is most important with regards to;
A) Scouting and Game planning -WHAT is this guy preparing for? Regardless of what you run, it is in response to your opponent. Your opponent is different every week. This guy has to be plugged in to scouting and the information to understand your opponent and provide answers for each situation.

B) Practice Planning - HOW is he preparing the rest of the TEAM? What is he declaring before practice that he NEEDS before the competition? ('speak up now, or forever hold your peace'). This responsibility will be a SHOCK to most of the guys you have on staff, but when there is plenty of warning of what is coming - there really is no excuse not to be organized or prepared (the true role of a coordinator).

C) Game Day Communication - WHERE do the pieces fit? How are the calls getting in? How are the other coaches fitting within this role (someone in the box? Someone signaling? Someone working rotations?) Let this guy define those.

So this becomes, "You're running this show - just need you to provide us the answers (for planning) so we can help you help us (this week)". If he can't come up with those criteria without shitting his pants, he isn't qualified to begin with (and may not need to be on staff).

3) Hold accountable for group results
It isn't the offense and should be the TEAM. If Bob is the DC or ST coordinator, the team of coaches should be meeting to define practices and game plans. Bob is going to have to articulate this to the rest of the staff. "What can WE do to help the defense better, Bob?" It shouldn't be a YOU / ME thing, it should be an US thing, where the staff works together and challenges each other. Criticism should be ENCOURAGED here. Rather than taking the approach of "damit, the defense ain't getting the job done - YOU SUCK!", (because, naturally, the guy will blame everyone but himself) present it to include all hands on deck. "how are we / what can we do to improve our performance?" (so that introspection analyzes how to improve the TEAM).essentially,

  • Sunday - "We play City High this week. Bob, what should we watch for this week? What is our game plan? What will work? What won't work? What is the 3rd and 3 play we have to watch out for within our 20 yd line, Bob?"
  • Wednesday - "Bob, how do we look this week? What are we opening with? Any concerns?"
  • Saturday - "Bob, good work - what went right? What could we improve on? What should we look for next week?"

Your guy(s) will either run from this or embrace it - but the bottom line they won't be able to hide anymore. Give these guys an arena to prove their worth. This is essentially telling these guys, "You can do what you need to make this work, but you have to be able to make it bullet-proof and be able to justify it to the rest of the staff" . This isn't a "do whatever you want" approach, it is "justify what your are doing to the rest of us, and that it is fail-safe, so we ALL can get on board".

Having said ALL THAT --- I don't think it has to be as black & white as a coordinator position. More importantly, there just needs to be more interaction with the staff. Do you guys meet together for game planning? Do you guys hang out together after practice?

Staff Cohesion is very important to make a team work.

Put someone in charge of scouting / tendency tracking. Put someone in charge of game day rotations....something ANYTHING where they are forced to provide a product for the team, that we all are dependent on them.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Random musings about developing a defensive coordinator

Random musings about developing a defensive coordinator on your staff (or grooming an assistant to take that role over).

Send him to a local college/university to spend time with them during their Spring Ball. It would sound like he knows the defense and (may) know the opponent, but doesn't understand the application / rationale behind what he is calling.

It would help in many ways;

  1. You are empowering him to take the next step (not telling him to do something)
  2. He will network with other minds (may be more receptive of other coaches input)
  3. He will see it is more than just slapping stuff together, but focusing on situational defense versus particular threats.
One other comment....I don't know what your relationship is like, but if it is half way decent, I would challenge him as much as possible in relaxed settings. Break out the bar napkins. Every defensive guy is the next Buddy Ryan when you're just lining up against Pro sets....but what happens when you are facing bastard sets or challenging personnel, now what!?

Try to break his mousetrap. What will he do now? He will have to rethink his approach, why he is doing what he does, and galvanize his defensive philosophy.Again about the rhythm stuff, it is one thing to get the read-out of stats, but how much time does he use to watch what his opponent is doing during the course of a game? What is the OC doing in tough spots? What does he go back to? What is he trying to set up? Those are things you can pick up through pattern-recognition, by watching a full game and watching it progress.

So if you're watching 3 or 5 games on Joe Blow OC, now you're up in the can have a deja vu feel for what is coming next.The only caveat I would offer, though, is don't get in the rut of trying to beat the OC, but rather just beat the QB. Understand the offense, so that you CAN do that (frustrate blocking rules, RB in protection, route-combos, QB reads, etc).

With practice - script EVERYTHING. You (and your staff) should package your opponent based on all those fancy stats/tendencies. In doing so, your kid should associate certain plays / formations with specific tendencies.

If you approach practice by slapping shit together, the kids will play like they are slapping shit together, and consequently, it will look like the defense is being called like we're just slapping shit together.

Lastly, does the DC grade the performances of his players (quantify their assignment execution)? the bottom line is how efficient or practical is this concept for your predicament? Can you assess it on your own? What will it take for it to be effective?

How could you screw it up?

The 'coverage' concept is the basic premise a DC would use as an acid test to measure the practicality of kids in positions to do their job. It is what marries everything you are doing together, instead of a handful of ideas thrown together with none of the players working together.You have 8 gaps to defend - how are you going to shut them all down? If any one of those 8 gaps isn't defended, your entire defense is compromised. Do you want guys double-dipping in responsibility to ensure that these gaps are covered? If so, then what is your idiot-proof plan to teach these 5 defenders to read block reactions (to put them in the appropriate gap support)?

Ask yourself what is it (defense) going to do for you? That is the question that is most important. If offenses you face aren't multiple themselves, where is the value in being 'versatile' / multiple (on defense), if you never have to adapt to something different each week?

The front / blitz is just a delivery method....a tool to accomplish something specific - nothing else. What are the biggest weaknesses of this method, and how do you plan to account for it?Unbalanced? Option (or belly series)?....what is the "right" gap fit, when you get 2-3 threats on a given play? What are you looking to gain with your alignments? The only point is.....if you are relying on 3 stacked backers to make reads - how do you intend to teach it, because that might be a lot for MS kids to get 'right' a majority of downs. If you're just slanting and brining linebackers every play.....what are you really gaining, and does this do more harm than good for the future development of those players (because they really aren't learning any fundamental skills for the position)?

Establishing a Tempo / Intensity on Defense

All that inflammatory badass rhetoric is great and stuff.... we can scream, holler, and make faces and all that BS, but how does that really help improve the product?

The bottom line is how do we improve the product? Increase the expectations and standards for performance. If we want them to play fast, we have to give them the vehicle to be fast (simple)
If we expect them to perform a particular way, then we must condition their stimulus (muscle-memorization) to establish that routine. Build the player confidence with simple fundamental drills every practice, make it clear what the expectations are, and rep the beejesus out of it.

What I'm talking about is establishing a tempo.

That even when you just "go through the motions" it still comes out in an acceptable manner. Kind of like saying, you can come into work and coast all day, but just make sure you;

  • come in 10 minutes early
  • finish all projects ahead of schedule
  • keep projects under budget

Well, if you do all that, it doesn't matter if you're inspired to work or not, because you are at least meeting core requirements and PROJECTING the qualities you want others to have. For example, I may be bored as hell - but if I start screaming at the top of my lungs, people will at least THINK I'm geeked up.

That is the 'fake it 'till you make it' concept.
You may not be a millionare, but if you treat yourself like one and dress impeccably, people will THINK you are a millionare.

This is what was meant by the 'fake it 'till you make it' --- you have to play like you're excited, even if you're not. Playing 'excited' isn't about how you feel, it is quantified through hustle and effort. The kids will gravitate to whatever we provide incentives for.

A good example; "Air Raid"
What makes "air raid" so effective?
Not the plays, but the practice format, the meticulous attention to detail. The application of basic fundamentals with tempo.

Just do the same thing for defense.
Tackling,pursuit, tempo.....You can scream, or you can snooze.....but as long as you take care of those three things, your defense will establish an "identity" that matters
The point is to 'condition' it into them.
Are YOU excited when you are teaching them?
Are YOU (and your coaches) going bananas to TEACH them (not ripping them a new one)??
When you go through drills, run-thrus, 7-on-7.........are the majority of snaps high-intensity? THAT is killer instinct we're really after.
If not, why not?
You can MAKE 'emotion' and 'hustle' a part of HOW you play if you enforce it. best piece of advice I heard from a pastor when I was young..IF YOU AIN'T THERE - FAKE IT 'TILL YOU MAKE IT!!!!

If the kids aren't performing or acting like they are ready to go - send them to the sideline until they come back at least SHOWING that they are ready to go.

Of course, you can't really do this CONSISTENTLY if they have difficult (thought-heavy) assignments. Can you plug any moron into a spot and give him a TRUE/FALSE job?

Do THIS, if THAT, do THAT if THIS?.....if not, streamline the process, demand intensity and try again.

Use the CHEAP things........(doesn't cost much)... like breaking the huddle, body-posturing, words used.

How difficult is it to just say..."play over, we are going to NOT walk to the huddle" ?
Maybe not run, but we are at least going to double-time.
If we don't do that, go to the sideline you, Kansas City Faggots!!

It doesn't take much to set the "tone". One guy not ready to go? EVERYBODY hit the sideline, and don't come back until you ALL are ready to go! (send in the 2nd unit) and see what happens.
Nothing worse than seeing kids walk around the field.

Another gimmick that has worked in the past (ala Lovie Smith) is .....QUOTAS
Don't even bother without doing what was outlined above......but just say...
I want ____ amount of sacks/turnovers/interceptions before period ends

if not, we will do ____ amount (the difference) of up-downs/sprints/Hebrews/rolls/etc to make up the difference.

It conditions competitiveness as well as how that ONE PLAY can make the difference between success and failure.

Herb Hand Will Eat Your Babies!

"There are 119 Division 1A teams playing college football.
There are 110 pussies playing free safety.
I'm not worried about safeties."

In this post, we are going to examine the offensive attack of Herb Hand of Tulsa (formerly of West Virginia). The Tulsa offense has been at the top of every offensive category for the past few years, due largely to the intense pressure both Hand and (Gus) Malzahn systematically put on a defense. This post will illustrate the many facets of their running attack and the pressure it induces on a defense, particularly safeties and run-force players.

"The first thing we look at is formations and how our formations affect the opposing defense......The last thing we look for is match-ups and how we can create favorable match-ups in our passing game through formations, motions, shifts, play actions, screens, etc." - excerpt from,

The offense, itself, is actually quite simple. The Oline only has to distinguish between two types of defenses (odd or even) and any subset of that classification (base or stack). This helps maintain simplicity in blocking assignments and run keys. The offensive line is further aided by the no-huddle, unrelenting tempo of the offense, which usually forces defenses to play more conservative base looks.

If there are four down linemen;

  • If there is no true MLB (2 ILBs) - it is an a base even front
  • If there is a MLB - it is an even stack front
If there are three down linemen;

  • If there is no true MLB (2 ILBs) - it is an a base odd front
  • If there is a MLB - it is an odd stack front
This classification of fronts intuitively aides in coverage recognition;
  • Any base even front = 8 man box. which puts you in a 1-high defense
  • Any even stack front = 7 man box, which puts you in a 2-high defense

  • Any odd stack front = 8 man box. which puts you in a 1-high defense
  • Any base odd front = 7 man box, which puts you in a 2-high defense

The base run game is premised on inside and outside zone, with an ample saturation of some type of option threat and misdirection.

Breaking defenses with Inside Zone (with four theats)

Hand also shares the confidence of Gunter Brewer of attacking fire zones with the inside zone run. In fact, when running zone away from the blitz, it creates an even clearer picture for the back and an easier assignment for the Oline. The Oline just need to keep the slanting defensive linemen running (horizontally), which opens a clear vertical seam for the back. The Oline just has to run their defender off. With both read keys running, the back has an instant decision to press the gap and "bang it" vertically. If 1st read is running and 2nd read is running (as pictured), they back just bends it back once he presses the heels of the Oline.

Here the playside safety will not be accounted for (in the blocking scheme). With only 6 in the box, the call is to grind it into the teeth of the defense with inside zone. This will put 7 blockers on 6 defenders.
On run-action inside, he should be looking to fit to the A gap.
As he makes his approach off of run-read, he continues to out-leverage himself on the runner.
By the time he realizes the mistake, the back has already burst through the seam and is on his way to score.
Hand's philosophy of not respecting safeties is premised on getting the running back to the safeties. From there, 1 of 3 things will happen;
  • the back will either make him miss
  • the back will run him over
  • the safety is going to tackle the back
If it is inevitable that the safety will make the tackle, the runing back has to punish his ass for making the tackle.
See the exact same thing happen below (with the run fits of the safeties). As you'll notice on all these pictures, on inside zone, the H will always run a bubble route away from the zone. As you'll see, it helps create a wider gap (and threat) to backside support.
Also notice the walked out backer on #2 constrict the cutback lane.
As his shoulders turn into the run, see the bubble/QB keep seam available when the OLB commits to the inside cutback.

On inside zone again, watch as the displaced safety/backer to cover down on #2 gets removed from any cutback support. First, by alignment.

Second, by respecting the horizontal stretch of #2 on a bubble.

Next, after the give, the quarterback heads straight for him on an option path. This forces the defender to have to give up the bubble, now re orientate himself to an immediate threatening quarterback run.....

Only to watch the runner cutback in the seam he has created.
Here the dive and quarterback are accounted for, but the force player is STILL wrong, and Tulsa breaks the coverage (and run support). The read key (yellow) and pitch key (red) are highlighted to illustrate the players put in conflict.
As the read key commits to the dive/zone, the quarterback pulls it and immediately attacks the pitch key.
With the pitch key abandoning the bubble H, he now plays assignment football against the option and force a pitch for a quarterback who has no back in pitch relationship. He's right, right?
WRONG! Quarterback sets and throws the bubble to the H on the perimeter.
Gain of 10 yards

For more examples of Tulsa's horizontal stretch of defenses, check out;

Tulsa @ Yahoo! Video