Saturday, August 29, 2009


Not a terrible performance beating crosstown rival, 5A Southwood, in a 10-0 jamboree, but there is still worlds of questions heading into our season opener against probably the toughest team on the schedule.

Overall, I was pleased with the JV and Varsity execution of the DBs and it would appear we are making progress. The following are clips I particularly enjoyed....
  1. Fundamentally flawless hit and support from (Jr) #31 K.Pitre, who has really been impressive since Spring and in the weight room. Though not a flashy back, he is as solid of a contributor as we have on the team.
  2. (Sr) #24 D.Thompson whom we have made the most progress with since Spring has a decent breakup to end a drive / quarter.
  3. An aggressive breakup of a stick/spot route off of jet motion by our (Sr) #5 FS J.Fobbs. This play here helped eliminate this 'money' play for this offense. Considerable time was spent in practice recognizing the nuances of stems to see this develop
  4. Not a great play as the Dig is wide open, but it highlights the dramatic improvement of #24 who lays a WOO! lick on the backside Post. This player was not known for his ability to be physical or 'tough' in the Spring, and to his credit, has come a long way in asserting his presence on the field. See the knockout he delivers backside in last week's opening clip.
  5. Another eye-gouging gain on the defense as the QB keep gains big, I was pleased with the CB leverage in support and both corners making sure tackles here.
  6. This is a great example (and improvement for this player) of (Sr) #1 C.Willis working his support leverage, escape on the stalk, and textbook tackle.
  7. Against the Post/Curl, #24 breaks on the post after reading quarterback.
  8. Same as #5 above, fundamentally sound leverage of support by the corners and no pussified/cocksucker tackles.
  9. JV player (Jr) #82 T.Williams at FS breaks up the weak seam against 5 verticals. This is an eager player who is pressing for more Varsity time and has been eating up the handouts and understanding his role in coverage.
  10. JV player (Jr) #30 K.Thomas at corner, keeps a disciplined slide, solid break on the hitch, perfect leverage of the ball carrier, and a sure tackle. This player has made considerable strides in the last three weeks to be recognized and has been diligent to work his fundamentals. This once timid, unconfident, and soft player is finding the joy of football (via technique and fundamentals).

I look forward to our matchup this week against a Texas powerhouse, and am gearing up to have a solid rotation of 7 different defensive backs in the game to contribute.

In other news....

After our jamboree, no joke, an assistant chimes up, "Coach, have you ever thought of running VEER out of empty?!"
(HolyS*#t silence)

Our JV TE kept lining up incorrectly on the wrong side, causing illegal formations (making the X think he should back off the LOS). Play after play, "I-Right" is called, and this player continued to break the huddle and line up on the left. When confronting the player after the series, the OC looks down and sees the player wearing 2 right-footed cleats....

Only had one off-sides penalty called on our defense all night. After a hard cadence, no one on the D even flinches.......except for our DEAF NOSE GUARD!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Notes on Compartmentalizing in Coaching

Musings on coaching methodology shared from two good coaching threads from
Coaching the Details
Comprehensive Skill Sheet (for player metrics)

I believe it is important to identify all the duties (and thus all the skills) required of the players of your defense.

Part of technique/fundamental responsibilities that is most important (IMO) is being clear about what NOT to do (what ISN'T important to the position).

It is one thing to say what to do, but defining the limits of that responsibility is just as valuable.
We call this, WIN (What's Important Now).



What is the most important thing for a specific position? What is the one thing that could make (this position) look bad?

The bubble LBs main job, his immediate threat is Iso. He should look for (expect) that FIRST on any play with 2-backs

And more importantly, what is NOT important.

A cover 3 corner really has no concern on immediate run (support), so throwing that into his logic-string on play keys is only going to slow him down.

Most of the time there is typically only 3 things a position really needs to worry about vs certain formations (understanding his role at a particular time).

Eliminate the fluff be elucidating the only thing that matters ("you can only be threatened by lead iso F on an inside angle") and nothing else matters until this threat is clearly eliminated. This creates a binary logic algorithym - very clear metrics on what is important (based on eliminating everything that isn't).

Ever see "Platoon" and Willem DaFoe's character starts stripping Charlie Sheen's character of superflous gear?

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

Don't give your players worthless shit to carry into a game/play.

Don't defend the planet....just concern yourself with your house first, your neighborhood second.
This comes by compartmentalizing the field with dividers for DBs, gap control based on back alignment with LBs, etc......reduce the amount of elements that a player can be forced to hesitate over.

How do you eat an elephant?
One piece at a time

Most textbook drills exist in a vaccuum environment with no context. They may enforce hip leverage but not ball leverage/fits. With linebackers, for example, you have to set the parameters of the scrape,"Here is 'power', on THIS key, you should push off the outside foot to shuffle twice into opposite B gap" (rather than just chase ball).

He should be in position (not out of his AO) and be ready for tackle or spilling.
I would look into the efficiency of the teaching methods and that the drills they are doing have real-world/ contextual applications. A kid may be a world beater in a drill, but have no idea how to apply that skill set to what he sees on the field.

How consistent is the "next play" concept with what (skill sets) you have already built. If a new defense has no connection with what was previously ran, the kids will be lost (ie; C3 is just like C1, except......C3 is just like C2, except.....)


Personally, I would see EVERY defensive player as interchangeable parts. They ALL have to have certain skill sets to perform at a modicum of competency on defense.They all must be able toTackle, defeat blocks/escape(leverage), and hustle.Those tenets would be reinforced as the blessed trinity EVERYDAY, even if for only 5 minutes. It is a psychological ploy to get the players to believe in their ability to do these, as well as reinforce their importance.


Once these 3 prerequisites are founded, you can move onto the minutiae of position skill set. Get-offs, drops, angles will be different for each group, but the basic LB technique of taking on a lead block would remain consistent.


The position-specific technique portion for a player is built upon the proceeding 2 elements. This is where you would concentrate on the double-teams a nose would face and which hand he should have down and what leverage he needs to maintain

I want to say that most of this stuff, I have personally outlined (for myself) and it is the 3 articles on my sitekreator page (spells out the how's and why's of what I have done)

North vs South Redux (Big Ten Image Problem)

I just wanted to throw a hat tip / nod to an interesting article written by Jason Lloyd of Lindy's regarding the disparity of the North vs South argument, specifically the Big Ten's trend against other NCAA conferences in big games.

The author showers the article with pertinent facts and statistics that support this case, and specifically ties the precipitating factor to athletic and explosive defensive linemen.

Unfortunately, I do not see the article available online (otherwise I'd link it), but it is available int he 2009 Lindy's College Football Preview magazine (who reads these anymore?). I really don't have any regard for sports writers and the hollow dogshit regurgitated sports cliches they attempt to provide (they call "analysis"), but this article in particular offered a rather cogent argument with supporting findings.

Nuggets worth repeating;
  • Big Ten's bowl record over the past 6years is 15-28 (Big Ten was 1-6 in the 2008 post season)
  • OSU has won 4 consecutive Big Ten Titles, but hasn't won a bowl game since 2005.
  • Texas, LSU, and USC combined to have 7 defensive linemen drafted in the 2009. 5 were drafted from the entire Big Ten.
  • In 2008, only 4 defensive linemen in the Big Ten were drafted
  • Since 2004, 16 defensive tackles were drafted in the 1st round in the NFL. None has come from the Big Ten.
  • The last Big Ten defensive tackle to be drafted in the 1st round was perennial turd, Jimmy Kennedy in 2003 (Penn State).
"Defensive tackle play is a battle of hands, and so many young high school guys have no clue how to use their hands as a defensive lineman, particularly a defensive tackle." - Tim Brewster, Minnesota Head Coach

Here's to looking forward to USC again dismantling the hype-machine known as OSU in the coming weeks. Tune in to Trojan Football Analysis for his breakdown of this matchup.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Believe the hype........(movie recommendation)

If this is any indication of how pedestrian my season is going right now, I'm in the theater on a Monday evening.......

In any event, "Inglourious Basterds" (nice excuse to use this word loudly in public) is a pretty awesome movie that you ought to go see.

This is the movie that "The Dirty Dozen" wanted to grow up to be but failed because it suffered from bed wetting and being picked on in school for smelling like pee. It has enough grit and edge to keep you excited, with just enough levity to relax and enjoy.

Joe Wladislaw has nothing on Hugo Stiglitz and the "Jew Bear"

The movie is driven by a dialogue-rich, quad-linguist antagonist, Christopher Waltz (though without the depth of say, "Deadwood"). Although relentlessly sinister, his witty retorts and meticulous logic draws the viewer in to connect with him. Being a multi-linguist myself (fluent in engrish, ass-kickery, and bullshit), I couldn't help but find this character as the reckoning focal point in the movie.

This historically accurate piece of pivotal 20th Century events, fleshes out the details of what caused the end of WWII and the Third Reich. This film will likely be a standard for high school history classes for generations to come.

The movie opens as the German Aryan Nation advances through Eastern Europe at the cusp of American involvement into this combat theatre. With civilization on the brink of collapse to Hitler's advancement of a consuming Rheinland ideology headed by Wagner and FOX News, the fate of the world lays in the hands of 7 Jews and an Appalachian hillbilly. What ensues next is an orgasmic diarrhea of violence and interlocution. Hang on to your popcorn!

Though clearly violent enough to satiate the blood lust of today's audiences, it isn't quite on par with the intensity of recent classics as "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country For Old Men", this movie holds its own and is truly the crown in cinematic fare for 2009.

Clearly fans of 42 Nickel

Monday, August 24, 2009

Scrimmage Results

Nothing really to add, just showing some clips from Friday's scrimmage.
Still have fundamental issues to iron out (support angle) with a few guys, but all-in-all, all 3 different groups of DBs were textbook in technique (can't speak for the front 7)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Faith in Football (Culture)

* The following is a reprised thread started at the beginning of 2009 on It is reposted here because that thread was later removed, but the subject and content of the discussion was worth preserving.

Apologies ahead of time for anyone I end up offending here in this post. I assure you that is not the intent.

This is a 'religion' question from a different angle, with no agenda, but plenty of questions.

Many times the Christian faith is leaned upon to support the "mentoring young men" approach to (football) coaching. That providing character lessons from scripture, via bible studies, of honoring the tenets of the Faith.....

That the realm of coaching and Christian faith go hand-in-hand, and in many circles, one implies the other.
If you are a devout enough believer, then surely you are a better coach.
Or that if you do not exhibit enough qualities, you are less than a professional coach.
I realize that MUCH of this (these issues) are intertwined / co-joined, based on culture, society, tradition, and faith....and often times the origins or rationale blur together, so providing a definitive answer may be difficult.

My question, and there are many to come, is......Has anyone served on a Jewish staff? A Muslim staff?....a Hindu staff?

If so, what were your experiences? Did you coach the kids differently?
If not, do you think those coaches are missing something quantifiable? Does their (different) faith handicap them from reaching their 'full potential' as coaches?
I'll provide the caveat to this upfront, this is in no way a slam, gripe, attack on the Christian faith, this is just a question about the culture and dynamics at work in the coaching profession.

Upon further relection, I suppose an ancillary question would be, with as much as we put into prayer breakfasts and Coalition of Christian Coaches, how many of us (or our communities) would shit the bed if Crosstown High was being run by a bunch of _(insert contrarian religion)__?
Also, does one HAVE to affix themselves to a 'denomination' to be considered a good person?Could we do chicken-dinner fundraisers with the Sadhu Vaswani Hindu Cultural Center (as opposed to the 1st Baptist Tabernacle)?

providing early feedback in this discussion, bulldogoption wrote;

The question is a good one..............but I would guess that there aren't many who have served on a staff consisting of faiths other than Christianity.
That was kind of the reference point, and maybe I should have just left it as a rhetorical question or something (because I highly doubt any other staffs exist).
The point being the perceived (intentional or otherwise) sanctity of declaring a faith, and/or proselytizing players (not in and of itself) that creates a higher prestige on coaching staffs. ex. The 'sanctioned equity' that is placed on coaches or staffs simply because of claiming a title (religion) or professing a belief, now holds a once ordinary object into a higher esteem.
Again, this isn't a gripe. I know a lot of great staffs that are comprised of Christians. I'm not on a witchhunt. It is merely trying to tie the logic involved with this emotional association.

Other coaches provided insight, featuring the following;

As a Hindu, I plan to coach football really soon and always ask myself will I be discriminated because of my religion or race. Would people judge me differently and would I be teaching the game in another way than majority of coaches do? The answer to that is that as coaches, we do not teach hatred towards others because thats setting a bad example.
wingtol asked;

I would ask this: Does having NO faith effect coaching more than having faith/religion/beliefs different from the religious norm in the community?
...and that is essentially what the original question was about.
If you go to church and are the biggest SOB.....
If you don't go to church (hegemonic faith group not supported) and are competent.......
What is it that makes us endear honor to the church-goer?
If I am inclined to share the Gospel of Christ during a lesson, would you mind if your other coach is delivering readings of the Koran during Indy?
If so, what is the difference?
This isn't about self-righteous rants of Christian vs Presbyterian vs Lutheran vs Catholics......
.......because none of those even define a person, or as this thread is indicating, their worth.THIS guy is a 'christian' and THAT guy isn't (and WHO defines this?).......why should one be looked at with higher regard (in the coaching profession).

khalife offered this gem;
True or not... the masses won't know until its too late, but instant credibility can be established through religious affiliations, simply due to the strong history of religion within this country...And of course... in America, the religion of shoice has been christianity.... hence buddism, hindu, Islam, can not be utilized to garner such legitimacy, and therefore, those that practice said religion don't shout it to the world, because there's no leverage to be gained.
smartfootball contributor, 'coachinghopeful';

I grew up in a very conservative part of the country where I know that any coach who would merely talk openly about a different faith than the rest of the population would be run out of town on a rail. As a kid I got a lot of flack from my classmates because I didn't attend church--my parents just didn't want to go for their own reasons--and because I didn't know how to recite or conduct myself during prayers at school events since I'd never prayed before. It's still that way. We had no Muslims, no Jews, no Hindus or anything else in our schools.

The handful of Catholic and Mormon kids had to put up with teasing, though as far as I know it rarely got too serious. I am embarrassed to say that some of my teammates enjoyed bullying the atheist, gay, goth, and punk kids (basically anyone who was "different."). A couple of our then-assistants, one of whom became HC my senior year, knew and condoned it. I'm not sure if their religious beliefs played a role or not, though. That and a $17 million sexual harrassment lawsuit probably contributed to their firing a few years later.It's not been that long ago that my hometown made the national news because a very small, very vocal group of parents claimed that using fairy tales to teach elementary school children to read was secretly an evil plot to corrupt their good Christian kids and turn them into little satanists--no, I'm not exaggerating. They were actively telling their kids not to do their school work and to disobey their "anti-Christian" teachers. Every so often people here still make very public scenes demanding that religion be actively brought into the schools and government.

Just about any local community here would have a fit if any non-Christian (or even a non-specific-and-accepted-denomination-Christian) became a coach or teacher and started talking to kids about his religious or spiritual beliefs. There would be a few overprotective parents who would literally jump at the opportunity to file a lawsuit in the name of sticking up for Jesus, even if the coach was being respectful of everyones' beliefs and never did anything wrong.

This is about the cultural significance placed on claiming the hegemonic religious association. I believe it has been made clear several times that this is NOT about if witnessing is important, justified, or debatable.
I think Khalife really hit the nail on the head with regards to political associations / usage of these titles to imply trust/competency equity ("instant credibility") - I was hoping to explore not necessarily HOW this is, but WHY we (as a profession) fall for it to vouch for coaching efficacy and/or why this formula isn't applied to other faiths.
Imagine Dan Reeves or Tony Dungy (instantly associated men of faith) professing Allâh throughout their coaching career, would they be revered differently, more/less competently?
My point being, these guys are seen as their coaching record + (something else)

The blind, spiteful, rhetoric that we use to classify groups (thereby lauding prestige on like-minded circles), only further fuels this kind of back-slapping, carte blanche good-ole-boying. If Kurt Warner's story wasn't palatable to the majority (if he was of a different religous persuasion), would he be seen differently? In that same regard, in the coaching profession, we do the same thing. "Coach John David's Wing-T" is entirely superior to "Coach Piyush's Wishbone", so when you go to the clinics, one of those guys is much more marketable.

Puerto Rican coach, 'acard78' provided one of the most succinct illustrations of this at work when he wrote;

was cassius clay viewed different than mohamed ali?..... was lew alcindor viewed different than kareem abdul jabar? thats were the answer to this question is... (does religion cause the public to have a preconception about a person, do they lose respect if they are not christians?) but yeah there is still ignorance out there. it is also more prevelant in some places than others.

I feel the same thing is happening in America.

People think America is a "Christian nation" , so therefore being American=being a Christian. Not true.

and that captures it right there.
The converse is true, as well.
Christian = American.............
.................not Christian?..... well, you can't be American, then can you?
And again, not saying ANYTHING against the Gospel or faith. This is entirely about perception and using these backdrops to present something as more than it is. The same calculus could be applied to a 'gun-owner' vs 'non-gun owner' if you live in a hunting community. But because religion is so predominant in these regions (and implies so much about character) it would appear to be the least common denominator.

I'm going to go off the deep-end here, so feel free to bail out, but....If a coach is "of faith" and feels the need to share it with his players, obviously, that is okay.
However, if a coach does not believe in religion, would we feel the same if he shared his views against practicing superstitions?
Just thinking aloud, but are 'evangelical' coaches more inclined to believe in "systems" as the saving grace, (ala substance of things hoped for) rather than believing in that which they can teach? Whereas, I am going to run the Rice Krispy offense, and that alone will give us wins (ala, I just need to pray and God will take care of things) rather than taking the attitude of doing it all yourself (if I don't ensure this happens, it won't happen).
All I am asking is - does this way of thinking lend itself to less accountability, less rational approach to getting it done?

Even everyone's favorite gridiron academic, 'spreadattack' chimed in with;

The one thing that interests me is why is faith, and specifically christianity
so tied up with football, such that this topic would even be asked and
attract anyone. My very amateur guess there is that it is cultural: football
is universal of course, but very heavily influenced by the south and
southwest, and similarly faith is very prominent there (for a variety of
reasons). Basketball is more east and west coast, and I hear about this kind
of "faith" stuff and its importance less frequently with respect to it.
Just pointing out that if one follows an irrational path (superstition), will that irrational attitude carry over to how they view impartation of material (things happen without effort being put forth)?
And I agree, it IS completely cultural (not that that is a bad thing). And I think, by and large, that is part of the question posed at the beginning of this thread.
Separating culture and tradition from actual "faith" or true belief. It is like separating Nationalism and Christianity in America....they are so intertwined it is difficult to distinguish where one starts and the other begins. I started this thread / posted the question just to receive feedback, I am not sure there actually is an "answer" out there for what I was asking.
coachweav, this thread specifically is NOT presenting a question of sharing faith / yada yada. I think you hit on a good point, though, whereas "doing all you can....with all your heart" is more of an emotional response than an actual rational one. Spiritual = emotional, and are kind of at odds with pragmatic real-time solutions. And this sometimes clouds the issue of actually 'coaching' (teaching) because we are really, really emotional (but that doesn't mean we gave the kids anything they can use.....How-to)

The analogy of this hypothesis is, "everything I do, I hit with a hammer. All day long, I hit things with a hammer and they get fixed.So when I am presented with a nut and bolt, do I just bang away with a hammer?"

Do I believe if I say "AllaKazaam!", good things will happen (rather than me going out and making good things happen) - am I more inclined to just believe good things will happen (without me really ensuring that things/works are done to make it happen)?
Earlier posts touched on this topic as well;

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Is What Happens......

Thinking "coverage doesn't matter"?
Thinking all that matters is "stopping the run" and the monster blitz will solve all your problems on defense?
Thinking all you need to do is line kids up and let them 'find ball'?


Or should I say, GROW UP! There is no emotional, feel-good answer to sidestep fundamental defensive football. There is no kickass defensive scheme that has 9000+ hit points that annihilates offenses. Your defense must be built on a solid foundation of coverage, run support, and assignment keys - they are all one and the same.

The delusion of voiding zones, bastardizing defensive reads, multiple contingency assignment players, double-dipping responsibility defenders, or having no answer for anything other than pro formation is a recipe of utter calamity that will cause you to meet a stranger in the Alps!

Your genius plan works against 2-back pro? Awesome.

So does Oxyclean and banana peels. What happens with twins, with trips, with 1 back, with no back, with unbalanced? What is the adjustment and is that adjustment congruent with what you are already asking your players to do? If not, its time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch.

RESPECT...........the Coverage!

Want to start sending people?
Want to do wacky things with stunts and load up the box?
Want to reposition / realign your players?

Great - go for it.
Just be sure the entire 11 man defense has an answer to adapt. How drastic of a change is it? Can you remain the same 'defense' you are? Does it require you to alter your run support / coverage? If so, CHANGE it (or don't run it).

If you make the change, how can an offense break you? The stars most likely will NOT align for you on game night. Coordinators are not as dense as you. You will be exploited. How do you intend to respond?

Coverage Determines the Front!

(sigh).....rant over.
thank you

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boo Yah - Route Reading / Pattern Match

Route read/pattern match with the shuffle
SNATCH! Take that, sucka!

After spending years teaching the traditional back pedal, I have found the most efficient method another way. For the past few seasons, the "Saban Method" (though, clearly not his invention as it is as old as his days in Cleveland) of the shuffle and pattern-match.

Though playing true Cover 3, we 3 step shuffle into 3 step (short) game (under 12 yards).
Corner reads QB into the shuffle while periphing #1 to #2 receiver.
The 3-step shuffle puts the corner at a depth of 10 yards, which would be on top of any short game stick into their route, which helps the corners remain in phase with receivers and any vertical threats. As a general rule, we don't jump short throws, as they belong to the underneath defenders, however, being able to anticipate routes and throws allows the put him in a position to make the interception and reduce unnecessary RAC.

If QB continues on drop (into 5-7 step), the corner is already in perfect position to turn and run (ala baseball turn), anticipating the deeper route (+12 yards).

If #1 goes vertical, he will simply baseball turn (bail) into the vertical stem, staying over the top of #1. This transition is the most important reason to use the shuffle as there is no wasted movement in going from square with a receiver to a 180 degree bail.

If #1 is shallow (hitch/out), immediately look to #2's stem (see first handout below)

  • If #2 goes vertical, you must baseball turn to stay over the top of #2
  • If #2 sticks at less than 10 yards (and #1 is shallow) like double hitch/curl/slant, now the corner can stick his downfield foot in the ground and jump #1.
The shallow stems on weakside (single) receivers, or against the double shallow quick routes - with the corner in a shuffle just applies the brakes to his upfield foot, rather than the rather cumbersome 'replace-the-feet' or 'T-step' regrouping to come out of his break and attack the ball.

The FS versus pro, is keying TE as he presents the first immediate inside vertical threat.
  • If the TE is vertical after 10 yards, the FS can anticipate picking up the TE threatening the middle of the field
  • If the TE releases outside, he can anticipate the weakside post or cross (dragon)
  • If the TE releases inside, he can anticipate the strongside post or possibly help out on the weakside vertical route.
The FS versus doubles, is to key both inside vertical threats (Y & H) and is praying to God one of the underneath backers reroutes the vertical stem of either receiver. FS must respect both vertically in C3, which is why we stress the QB keys here.


Below is the first DVD handout for DBs after the first Spring scrimmage - going over alignment and handling pattern recognition with 2 receivers. This was a good example of "training the junior high" out of these guys, who would fixate on the single receiver in some pseudo-bastard man-cover 3 concept. More on video handouts can be read here, here, here, and here.

One other important aspect (briefly touched on during the handouts shown here) is alignment in 1-high defense. Divide the field into thirds, using your landmarks and field position as the guide.

For corners, the 'divider rule' is used which is premised on the top of the numbers being 9 yards from the sideline in high school (2 yard length of numbers). The landmark, or 'divider' (of the field) exists 1 yard inside the number (10 yards from the sideline) that the corner must align inside the receiver if he is formationed outside this landmark. The reason being, he is discouraging inside, vertical breaking routes that the FS will not be able to assist on. This allows all 3 deep secondary personnel to coordinate their help amongst each other to distribute the deep thirds appropriately.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fire Zone: Defense Nu Veau

Sweeping the game for the decade has been the fire zone. Not to be confused with the once mind-blowing "zone blitz", where zones are voided or exchanged with one or more players, the fire zone is a 5+ man pressure package coordinated with a 3-deep, 3-under coverage.

This type of pressure typically involves a "pirate" stunt (two pressure end linemen stunting inside) or a "long stick" where the playside end crashes all the way down two gaps inside. These DL stunts facilitate a protection overload (generally can get 4 rushers to a side) as well as help disguise defenders "coming from where they ain't". The entire premise of a fire zone is disguise and ambush. It is a feigned punch at the offense to set up the counter jab.

You can combine the rushers/blitzers in any fashion you like (as seen below in it’s many incarnations), but the strength (or weakness) of the concept is found in the SCIF (Seam-Curl-Flat) player, otherwise known as the BRONCO (coverage) player. These players (DE/LB/S) have to control the vertical release of any #2 receiving threat, become the force element in run, and/or reroute second crossers inside. Although simple on paper, what typically makes this so frustrating for offenses is the fact that this 1-high defense is presented pre-snap as MOFO (2-high, middle of the field open) coverage , coupled with the fact that those SCIF players could be played by a number of defenders (DEs, OLBs, Safeties, Corners), which would drastically muddy post-snap read/collision confirmation (“which one is the danger player to read”)?

To articulate how this translates to the offense, the quarterback sees a clear Cover 2 shell presnap read (MOFO). From this information, he is thinking his read for the hitch step will be based off the playside outside linebacker (#2 defender), playing the curl. Based off of what this defender does (flat, shallow, bail, deep, etc), the clear throw should be the opposite (which receiver will be open based on this reaction). The quarterback has played this textbook scenario over in his head thousands of times and is confident he knows the correct decision. In his drop, this coverage ‘danger player’ is blitzing! This creates an even easier, bullet-proof decision on where the ball should go because the player he is reading is not hesitating, not giving an incongruent read….this player is simply voiding his area leaving a space for an open receiver! The only problem is, with the fire zone, coverage is being rolled. That 2-high safety is now the curl-robber (where that blitzing LB left) coming down late and intercepting that once clear and easy throw…..crap!

Because of the versatility of this type of coverage (6 defenders to cover possible 5 receivers) the matchup zone concept is utilized to play the pattern distribution (where the receivers end up after their stem) and not the actual receivers themselves (I will cover this concept in greater detail in the next post, when I get more time next week).

All NFL and NCAA teams use fire zone concepts. A growing number of high schools are now using fire zones to confuse and constipate passing offenses. The gap exchange element of fire zones also remains sound as a run-blitz, as well.

In subsequent posts, we'll look at how the fire zone can adjust and adapt to various formations.

For more on how offense’s respond to the fire zone, check out the previous entries;

In the download section, page 2, has two classic examples of fire zones to use and is available here;

Below are more game situation usages of the fire zone in its many forms. C'est bon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Get Back To Fundamentals: Cover 4

The video handout given in Spring Ball (mentioned before) included video of various defenses playing the same coverages. The last few posts illustrate examples of what was given to the players. This helps them better understand how the coverage responds (or doesn't) to formations, routes, and runs. From NFL to NCAA, it all remains the same.

Cover 4, the do-everything double-robber answer to 1 back offenses.
This works great against most spread passing games and/or any type of even receiver formation (doubles/twins). As you can find in the playbook link below, "quarters" as it is called, provides a defense an aggressive safety-support run defense (because of a simple read for both safeties) as well as a fail-safe answer to two-man receiver game on the perimeter/vertical.

Get Back To Fundamentals: Cover 2

Cover 2 becomes a great way to even up a defense and provide a pseudo-9 man run front (with corners as force) and discourage intermediate passing with so many shallow zone defenders.
Great versus any even formation, like cover 4, it can bottle up and discourage two-man receiver routes. The main point of stress becomes the open hole (MOFO), but provides clear, distinct reads for both safeties.

Cover 2
You are responsible for middle hook. Your cover down is #3 strong. If TE releases inside you will “you me” with Sam and the TE is now #3. If the TE releases INSIDE and vertical you need to carry him.
You are responsible for weak side curl. Your cover down is 2 weak. If 2 goes vertical you need to reroute/collision his stem.
You are responsible for weak side curl. Your cover down is 2 weak. If 2 goes vertical you need to reroute/collision his stem.

Strong Safety
You will wall TE. If TE releases inside fall to curl and your cover down will be #3. If TE releases OUTSIDE and vertical you will carry him..

Weak Safety

Align 15 yards deep, on top of #2 weak side or EMOL; your horizontal alignment will vary according to the spit of the receiver in relationship to the hash. You are secondary run support. You will play deep ½ off of #1’s release, post, post corner, dig. On float technique you will play deep ½ off of #2.

Free Safety
Align 15 yards deep, on top of #2 strong side; your horizontal alignment will vary according to the spit of the receiver in relationship to the hash. You are secondary run support. You will play deep ½ off of #2’s release

Align in press position with inside foot to outside foot of the receiver or neutral, balanced stance – you cannot allow the receiver to get outside you. You are primary run support on the perimeter. You are a collision / funnel player with flat responsibility vs. pass. If you have 2 quick receivers to your side (twins) use the float technique.

Get Back To Fundamentals: Cover 3

The 'garbage defense' that can be played against any offensive front, cover 3 provides the best of both worlds; a 3 deep MOFC shell to discourage deep passing and an 8 man front against the run.
Cover 3 is great against any odd receiver sets (2x1, 3x1, 3x2) and it's balanced alignment provides a strong interior run-defense. It affords the defense the benefits of Cover 1 (interior run strength), without the liabilities of individual matchups in man-coverage.
It is often victimized by attacking the curl-to-flat player, who typically will have to cover a width of nearly 17 yards by 15 yards deep. This is where the two-man receiver games are played to put this player in conflict (arrow/shoot/stick/wheel/etc).

Below are basic rules for secondary positions in Cover 3;

Cover 3
Cover 3 will be the foundation of our passing game coverage. It will be necessary for everyone to have a thorough understanding of this coverage scheme vs. any formation an offense can throw at us. Below are some of the basic rules for playing cover 3. ( one thing should be noted here, when we have people coming in and out of one we call the defender by the name rather than merely calling in or out) this helps TE defender whose zone is being infiltrated by giving him specific feedback.

Vs. 2 backs
Align with INSIDE leverage 8 – 10 yards off the ball. You have the flexibility to show different types of looks at different times. You may start showing press, outside leverage or some other type of look. (preferably coordinated with the FS). On the snap, your primary responsibility is to zone your 1/3 of the field. Read the receiver through the step zone. Once the receiver clears this area, you must identify and see #2 and know where he is in relationship to your zone. You are secondary run support. On a pass underneath it is your job to outside-in everything. Keep the cup. The linebackers will work inside out to the boundary. You cannot allow the ball carrier to go up the sideline

Free safety
Your run key in a two back set would be the TE. Take your two backward read steps and identify run or pass. Once you see pass your base responsibility is to one the middle 1/3 of the field. You cannot cheat to one side or the other. It is important for you to realize when you are on the field, (right/ left hash or middle) and drop accordingly. See #2 both strong and weak, if vertical continue to get depth. If they break off their routes expand your vision to #1’s and look for one of them entering your zone. Vs run you are the alley player to both sides/ your job is to run the alley and cut the ball off before it gets beyond the second level. Stay inside- out on the ball carrier.

Wolf/ Dog Backer
Your job is to work from curl to flat. A basic landmark would be the numbers at a depth of 10 – 12 yards. Remember on the snap you are a run player first. Identify run or pass. Once you see pass open up at a 45 degree angle and begin your drop buzzing through the curl and keeping leverage on the flat. You want depth and width on your drop. You hold the curl by #1 through the first window, and pass him off to the inside backer because you must keep leverage on the flat. Once you see the quarterback turn his shoulders towards the flat, you are shot out of a cannon and get to the flat inside out keeping the cup. On run to your side, you are the guy that is the force player to cut off the sideline. No runs or blocks can reach your outside shoulder. Be physical and keep your outside shoulder free. You cannot get bounced for width. On run away, you are the cutback player. You shuffle down to the open gap and hold your position. You must remain in the cutback area until you see the ball has cleared the line of scrimmage at which point you get into an angle of pursuit and chase down the ball. The ball can never be cutback beyond your back shoulder when the ball is away from you.

Zip / Sam
Your job is to work the hook zones. You are run players first. Once you have read pass you open up and drop to your zones. A general landmark is 12 yards deep at the hash marks. The first person that can get to your zone is the #2 receiver to your side. Know where he is. We will expand and contract with our under coverage depending on routes of the receivers. Listen for calls indicting #1 working to the second window by Dog or the Wolf. Do not jump the short routes by the backs or #2. We will react to those routes. We want the ball to go underneath. Do not give up a 12-yard route to stop the 3 or 4-yard route by the backs or TE. Vs run you are fast flow players. Your ‘fit’ is off the hip of the DE, with the Free Safety playing the “alley” to your outside. With this in mind, we are able to string the perimeter plays outside compressing the running lane with the Wolf / Dog and the secondary run support corners playing outside-in. Hit the clear. We will discuss this greater with our position group.

Vs. 1 back
The basics of the coverage remain the same with some critical adjustments. We will use the example of 4 quicks for the purpose of this discussion.

The corners will move to inside leverage on #1. Depth is 8 – 10. We will not stem vs. this look. On the snap of the ball, the corner will zone turn and gain depth off of #1 while reading #2. On the first few steps he can be patient to read the receivers through the 3-step game. Once he has established it is not a short pass, he will continue his drop with greater urgency. It is important that he keep his depth on #1. Against 4 verticals he will play in the zone principle. There should never be an occasion when both of the verticals are on the same level. We will take care of this problem with our flat players. We must be prepared to run with #1 if the ball is thrown vertical to him, but be able to break back on a ball thrown to #2.

Free Safety
Same as in 2 back set though he must now key both #2 receivers. He is required to play 2 in the zone like the corners, and not get caught leaning one way or the other by the QB. The free safety should have maximum benefit because of the re-routes by the flat players. The free safety must also be aware of where #1 is on both sides to defend the possible post.
Wolf / Dog Backer
If the #2 receiver is split further than 7 yards from the end man on the line of scrimmage, you will split the difference by alignment between #2 and the EMOL. On pass, your drop will intersect with a vertical stem of #2. You are required to collision / reroute the #2 receiver on a vertical (upfield) release to prevent an unfavorable 4 vertical matchup with our 3 deep secondary.

Get Back To Fundamentals: Cover 1

Known as the "best defense in football", Cover 1 provides the defense with a bullet-proof answer for nearly everything and typically an extra defender at the point of attack. With 1-high safety closing the middle of the field (MOFC), the defense is built inside-out, looking to spill all plays to the sideline. Because everyone is manned up with a safety in the deep hole, that will leave one linebacker free, who becomes the "rat in the hole" who robs the underneath hole and intercepts any crossers that come free.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More on Sending it Home

With only one more video handout in the works and set to distribute a hardcopy 'manual' to defensive backs tomorrow, here are a few additional notes on what was last sent out (last week)

The last video handout consisted of
next opponent's offense by formation and a "refresher" on fundamental work of the secondary, going over how to read 3 step into 5 step, the level of shoulders, as well as the six common packaged route concepts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Spread Run Game

Enjoy......Free cuts of Appalachian State & Missouri Run Game

Punt Protection: Mike Sabock

One of the best speakers on special teams I've heard is Mike Sabock from Western Michigan (formerly Northern Illinois).

Coach Sabock's units have been renowned for being the most efficient and productive units for years.

The following are tidbits and notes from Sabock on utilizing the spread punt package and developing it to a powerful component of your team.

Punt Protection
Using a sound, pro-style combo protection (man conscious / zone concept) with steadfast, unbreakable rules, NIU has been able to remain at the top of the special teams charts for years.

Timing is everything. The get-off time is what's important. A total time of 2.1 seconds (shooting for 2.0 seconds) in this operation requires meticulous attention to detail.

The 14-15 yard long snap to the punter has to be drilled to occur under 0.8 seconds, so that the punter can launch the ball in a total of 1.3 seconds (from the time he catches until the time it leaves his foot).

Some key concepts Sabock believes in to ensure the best execution of these teams is as follows;

  1. Distribute equal practice reps - both the 1's & 2's need equal work in practice. Never rely on just one personnel unit when working technique.
  2. Film Practice - It is important to film both behind and in front of the punt protection setup and review it with your players so that they have a visual understanding of how the unit works and how their technique plays into their execution.
  3. Dependable players - even if these are your BEST athletes, to be involved in protection, the 8 man protection unit must include the most trustworthy and technique-conscious players.
Guards and tackles are obviously the better blockers than tacklers in this unit, as they will be most responsible on impeding interior pressure. Most punt teams are comprised of quick and tough. The personal protector of the punter must be the most vocal leader of the unit as he will be declaring the protection and adjusting for any crisis.

Players align with a shoulder-width stance, with their inside foot up, pointing down field. From here, they should imagine a vertical pole running from their ankle (toes) to their knee, then through their head. This inside-conscious attitude is what sets the next chain of events in motion. This is very similar to a 2 point stance for vertical setting Offensive linemen. The inside hand is placed on the inside knee for balance.

The outside arm is rested on the outside thigh board. With a 1' or more stagger, the weight is placed on the up field big toe.

Guards and tackles are the key protectors, having a 1' split between them. The top of their foot should be even with the center's heels. Players want to be as far off the ball as possible to buy time, but must make sure their heads break the plane of the center's butt. Tackle's will line up their inside toe on their up field foot of the guard. Wings should align an arms length from the tackle's butt. Wings can possibly align 4 yards deep, however, the deeper they are, the more work they have to do.

The personal protector aligns with his toes at 5 yards, directly behind either guard (it doesn't matter which one, irregardless of which foot your punter uses). It is important that the PP is deep enough to be able to see the box ("You can't read a page that is right on your face").

Kick Slide
All players involved in protection use a kick slide retreat to maintain their leverage and delay the rush into the launch point. Players push off the big toe of their inside foot, then reach back with their trail leg. This process is repeated into the retreat. There should be a minimum of 2 kick slides, but ideally 3 before setting in protection. Sabock does offer the option of using the back pedal (inside, outside, inside step retreat), but remarks that not many athletes are capable of this for a consistent result.

When kick sliding, players should have their palms up, with their thumbs in relationship to nipple-height. They will be lunging back in this position using the inside hand to engage and the outside to brake/steer.

Sabock uses 4' long PVC pipes set on the inside foot of the protectors to be used as vertical guides for his players. You can also use yard line or sideline markings on your practice field. From there, it becomes an indoctrination to the mantra,

"Vertical Set
with a Constant Split
Don't leave your man!"

The most important element in vertical setting is to not stray from your lane as it is natural to stagger or deviate from the starting point.

This protection allows 8 guys to block 8 guys. Provided your gunners are covered and there is a returner, that is the most the defense can send.

The wing will be looking to intercept the 1st rusher from the outside as he vertically sets.
The tackle has #2 (from the outside).
The guard has #3 (from the outside).
The long snapper will protect based on the call, but on anything less than an 8 man rush, he will free release.

Again, the main point is;

  1. Vertical Set
  2. (Keep your) Constant Split (don't extend the distance from your teammates)
  3. (now think about) Block Your Man
All protectors will be setting a depth of 5 yards, providing the launch point (10 yards from the ball spot) a 5 yard cushion.

On every play, the tackle HAS to physically point out the #3 rusher and not assume anything. If #3 is shading any part of the tackle, he must point #3 out and communicate that to the guard by making an "OUT" call. The "OUT" call tells the guard that his guy is outside the tackle (this doesn't affect the center).

The long snapper essentially just has to worry about getting a great snap off to set everything in motion. Without a good snap it all goes to hell pretty fast. Therefore, all the long snapper's post-snap decisions are made by the personal protector.

The personal protector will ensure all protectors are aligned correctly (and that there are enough) then declare the front. If there are less than 8 rushers, the PP declares "ZERO" front, telling the center that all rushers are accounted for and he has a free release.

If there are 8 rushers, the PP will declare "EVEN" meaning that the front has an even number of rushers on either side of the snapper (there is a #4 on both sides of the snapper). With an "EVEN" call, the PP will declare a side he will work, and cal ll the opposite (to tell the snapper where to work). On an "EVEN RIGHT" call from the PP, the PP will work left, so the snapper must work to his right and hold up any inside pressure from that side.

If there are 5 rushers on either side of the snapper, now you are facing an overload. The PP will declare an "OVERLOAD" call and the direction it is coming from. In the example below, an "OVERLOAD RIGHT" call. This tells the snapper to work right, and stay right. The PP will pick up #5 and any inside trash that may spill (he just has to close any open space). The snapper should retreat at a 45 degree angle to catch up with the guards' vertical set.

There is no snap count. The snapper will deliver the ball to the punter whenever both are ready. The snapper should look to snap about a second after the front call is made.

a front view of the protection. Notice the vertical plane of the players in their stance, parallel shoulders, and the narrow split.

from behind, the rushing threats can be clearly identified and the personnel protector is in a good vantage to see all possible threats.

In the sequence, you can see the vertical set and the natural progression of pursuit dispersion (fanning out) once the players have reached their protection point (1,2,3 steps) which times up perfectly with the punt.

** Ironically, here is Western Michigan special teams teaching video taken about the same time these notes from Sabock were taken (when he was at NIU)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

46 Bear Defense

For you limbic-brained, neanderthals out there, I bring you face-melting clips of the 46 in action during the 1985 Super Bowl (all 1st half clips)

Though not a real big fan of this 8 man front, when I get a minute, I'll likely do a future write-up on this....

As lagniappe, this goes over how we would get into double-eagle bear from our 42 Nickel;

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Iowa Hawkeye Defensive Circuit

Back again with more video fun.....

Everyone loves this video and it is SO helpful....

This is Norm Parker's defensive funamental circuit work from a mini-clinic (Rock Island) in 2005. Without a doubt, no coach has made a more dramatic impact on my thinking from a defensive perspective, than Coach Parker. Thinking I knew everything and finding excitement in a myriad of blitzes and coverages, after talking with Coach Parker, he illuminated the folly of that thinking by dilluting it all back to what the players know and how everything is essentially just tackling and leverage. That the defense (and players) have to adjust to what the offense presents - the more you introduce into a situation, the greater the likelihood something will break.


Here is a semi-formal write-up of what Norm Parker shared in the session where he presented this video.

The key for defensive coordinators is to let players play. Offenses make it confusing enough, don't contribute to slowing down your players.

This is a simple game for simple people.
How could a game invented by a bunch of Phys Ed majors be that hard?
One other thing, don't force your kids to get along and play nice. Don't expect everyone to like each other. That isn't important. Some are big, some little, some fast, some slow - that's life. The thing is to look past the person and see the one thing that matters - the single common denominator - TOUGHNESS.

Each player should ask of another, "Do you respect his toughness"? This attitude or swagger is one that resonates, "If you're not tough enough, you're not one of us" that quickly weeds out non-performers and continually raises the expectations of the unit.

"If the offensive players were any good, they'd be playing defense with us"
To put player development in a practical perspective, Parker uses the "Rodeo Theory". This 'theory' states that; "There has never been a horse that hasn't been rode. There has never been a rider that hasn't been thrown.You're gonna get knocked down, its getting back up that's the key.

This same mentality is reinforced with his players to foster an aggressive, unrelenting, tough mindset where improvement is stressed and errors are tools to learn from.

3 Things for Coordinators to Stress

  1. Support the Ball (Support Rules) - players must understand where they fit into the puzzle of run support. Flying around aimlessly won't help your players, they should know the path and pursuit relationship of their teammates.
  2. Block Protection - Defenders are meant to be blocked, thats what offenses are supposed to do. Defenses are only as good as their ability to not be blocked and protect themselves from being prevented from making a play.
  3. Tackle - None of it makes any difference if a defender can't consistently make contact and kill forward progress of the ball. Ultimately, this is where defensive players get their all their confidence from. If a defender is unsure of how to tackle he will hesitate and shy away from contact. By using the tackling circuit everyday, if only for 5 minutes, players begin believing in their abilities and recognize its importance due to the attention coaches place on it.
The Main Objective: Play Fast
This is easier said than done. We all want a lights-out defense but how can you do this? Parker cites 3 simple rules (for turning players loose).

  1. Know Keys - There have to be certain, distinct things you want each position looking for on a given play. Limit what stimuli a position needs to be attentive to.
  2. Believe Their Eyes - when a player sees his key he should know its not a trick, don't hesitate. A player should not be second guessing what his key shows him.
  3. GO! (once you see it - GO!) - once diagnosed, there should be an absolute reaction for the defender. This keeps responsibilies simple and the logic short. The less thinking a player does, the better he'll perform.

    * Work the exceptions later. Build the player's confidence now and you can throw in all the what-ifs later.
Some additional key coaching points include:
  • Block Protection
    Keep the hips away from his hips on block proection to maintain separation and leverage. Once the blocker gets into the defender, he's through.
  • Tackling
    Bring the hips together (uncoil) into the target and unload through the core.

    Teaching Tackling (see the Shoots Drill)
    1) Chest-to-Chest
    2) Roll Hips
    3) Club with Arms
    4) Follow Through.

Air Raid: Settle & Noose

trying to make use of my now defunct GoogleVideo account (argh!), here is a great visualization of the settle & noose pre-practice drill for quarterbacks and receivers

with examples of the big hitters of Air Raid, Shallow & Mesh

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quarterback Building: Todd Sturdy

Heading into the weekend after the first week of "fall" practice, I am trying to offer something new here. As with any clinic presentation, if you can take away just one thing, whether it is just a new nickname for your 'slappys', find something you can take away and use for yourself.

So why not share some insight from a coach whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for, Todd Sturdy (now Washington State Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach). Coach Sturdy helped me years ago (while HC of St. Ambrose in Iowa, before I became a carpetbagger) develop as a coach and in developing an offensive philosophy by allowing me to spend unlimited time with him and his staff, as well as welcoming me to his Spring installation practices at St. Ambrose.

Sturdy's offensive philosophy seen both at SAU and EWU, is premised on a steady misdirection run game and quick passing. Sturdy has a penchant for one back formations and believes in using slots and additional backs to force the defense to even up their fronts. With fly sweeps, reverses, inside zone, stretch, zone option, and speed option, Sturdy strives to keep a defense off balance (predictable) and moving laterally.

When spending time with Coach Sturdy during Spring ball, he shared his method for developing his quarterbacks over the years, and how they have always been able to perform at a high level.

The unmistakable quality of a quarterback is leadership. When bringing in recruits, Sturdy's method is quite simple, but effective.

Model - First a coach must model strong leadership with humble and assertive decisions, always putting the team first. One should note that this attitude is not that of masochistic self-denial, but of one with a vested interest to see objectives through, paying whatever price is required.

Reinforce - Continue to find ways to find situations where a quarterback can be decisive no matter how great or small. Don't wait until game night or practice to instill the decision-making you want your quarterback to exhibit. This mentality is a lifestyle, not something the player can turn on or off.

"[You have to] constantly praise good decisions, because everything with a quarterback is a decision. Recognize and acknowledge every good decision as it comes. A coach's job is to teach how to make good decisions".
Talk About It (constantly) - "You must develop a relationship with your quarterback. Get to know him - what motivates him, what his strengths and weaknesses are". The nuturing and mentoring element of the coach-quarterback bond should be one born out of trust.

The quarterback is the point man, the beginning and end to the team's success/failure. Because the quarterback assumes the mantle of leadership, he must be the one setting the tone of the team attitude required. Sturdy believes the competitive mantra of, "Not only do we have to do things correctly.....we have to do it better than anyone else" is what shapes his subdued leadership he requires of his quarterbacks. However, with this, it is important for the position coach to, "let him know he just needs to be 'one of the guys' because the position itself has enough pressure".

Here's to Coach Sturdy and his family's continued success in the Pacific Northwest.