Friday, January 29, 2010


Had a great time in South East Pennslyvania, Philly, and surrounding boroughs.  Most noteably, the fine brew houses providing a rich, cultural backbone of the region.

New friends of the blog;

Be sure to check out the following highly recommended brews if you're in the area.  I will be exploring shipping of Growlers in the meantime.

McKenzie Black Lab Stout - sorry, no photo (had this the first night)
Tommyknocker Butthead Boch - extremely rich and sweet

Flying Dog Gonzo Porter - I had to try out my guys at Flying Dog Breweries while I had the chance, and this certainly didn't disappoint.

Iron Hill Nitrogenated Pig Iron Porter - by far, the BEST beer I had during my stay.  Extremely rich and tasty, with a strong hint of chocolate (with the roasted flavor gives it a smooth butterscotch-type aroma).

McKenzie Brooklyn Black Stout - Had this a day after the Pig Iron, so it was a tough act to follow.

McKenzie Unicorn Ale - I wish I would have tried this sooner as it may be one of the more tastier beers McKenzie offers.

Victory HopDevil (Kildare's) - What can I say? Kildare's was having a special on Victory pints ($3) that evening, so it was a no-brainer.  Extremely hoppy and bitter, but just right.  Made the mistake of trying the Wild(Hop)Devil a night later (not good).

Iron Hill Kryptonite (Double Hop) - a double IPA, I relished the bitterness by pairing it with the Keilbasa and sauerkraut.

Guinness - Ah, of course, why not? Well, unfortunately, I haven't enjoyed a Guinness since moving to the South in 2006.  As, I'll outline below, no matter where I get them down here, they always seem to be 'spoiled' and lack any true flavor.  Thankfully, this pint didn't disappoint and was everything I remember a Guinness should be.
A little perspective here, being in the South now, good, flavorful beer is extremely difficult to find.  I would imagine the distribution chain in the ArkLaTex doesn't really support micro brews or even proper storage/handling.  I am not sure if it is being surrounded by dry parishes here in the "baptist-belt" of Upper Louisiana, or that "Coors Light" and "Miller Lite" is about as refined as the palatte gets in these parts.  If anyone is interested in starting up micro-brew house in NW Louisiana, I can guarantee your first customer (signed, Otis).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Remembering Howard Zinn

An American treasure of thought passed .....

Be sure to check out his best work, "A People's History Of The United States" when you can.

Coming later, review of South East Pennslyvania

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sorting Out 1-Back Protection (2x2 / 3x1)

In this post, I am going to illustrate the simplicity and advantage to spreading the field out with 1-back formations as it pertains to securing the thrower.

When advancing the ball, the most efficient path is undoubtedly the best. The path of least resistance is often defined on the field by number superiority (more bodies at the point of attack than your opponent). This can be achieved by outflanking a defensive alignment to an offensive formation, both horizontally and by their vertical support.

An academically flexible attack based on this premise is the Air Raid 1-back philosophy by way of 2x2 and 3x1 formations. Similar to previously discussed 'divorced coverage' principles of the TCU defense, because the formation threats remain constant, you limit the variance of defensive looks you will receive simply by numbers.

With 4 receivers removed from the formation, the defense must displace players (to match) or risk being immediately at a disadvantage. Doing so leaves them with 7 defenders (11-4) against your thrower. In the box, the defense has matched the line, back, and quarterback in numbers, but it leaves virtually no help on the perimeter (speed option/screens) or any support with one-on-one receiver matchups. This Cover 0-type example is exactly why, if you plan on "spreading out", the very FIRST thing you do is have an answer for pressure/blitz (will cover in detail in later posts).

If you have any semblance of a passing game, the defense will be required to provide some type of deep support. By adding 1 deep defender support, you have now reduced the number available in the box to 6 defenders (11-5) . With your offensive line and back (5+1) you can easily account for the 6 remaining defenders. The only guesswork becomes,"who takes who"?

Through the Air Raid philosophy, the passing concepts are distilled down to elementary equations; what is launch point to be protected (timing)? No slide, zone, or calling backs in for protection, just declare who has what and it will all be sorted out post-snap.  What it essentially boils down to, when you spread the field horizontally, is that you only have to account for the defenders within "the box" (tackle to tackle).

To accomplish this, the vertical set protection is required. This is simply a retreat by the offensive linemen to put distance between themselves and the rushing defenders. If, to get to the passer, the defender first has to go through the offensive linemen, then negotiating that first obstacle only becomes delayed when the offensive line retreats. Much like we detailed in punt protection, the vertical set is a constant vertical plane that the lineman backpedals along ensuring that he never widens, chases, or otherwise out-positions himself from his assignment. This also aids in the simplicity of BOB (big on big) recognition. The linemen will pick up all down linemen, plus the middle linebacker. Since the middle linebacker may or may not be blitzing, the center will account for him wherever he is (and why whichever 2nd level defender near the center will be declared the MLB, regardless if he actually 'is' or not the actual "Mike") .  What it boils down to in a 4-man front is, the offensive line will automatically take the 4 down defensive linemen, the back will declare which side he is working, and the offensive line will declare/default the opposite 2nd level defender as the "Mike" and account for him.

In the example illustrated above, there will be a possible defensive pressure of 5+1. If the defense brings all 6, the offense has an answer and is in no reason to panic (feel pressured). If the MLB doesn't come, the center assists the near guard (usually against the 1 tech) or continues to retreat. If the 2nd LB doesn't come, the back can immediately flare/shoot into his route as the outlet receiver.

  • If it is a 4-man front, you will end up with 2 linebackers/safeties inside the box.
  • If it is a 3-man front, you will likely end up 3 linebackers/safeties inside the box.
The fronts associated with coverage (and vis versa) become a routinely simple pattern to identify, as detailed before. So with every front, pre-cadence;
  • The center will declare the front (family) and how the line intends to treat it.
  • Followed by a response from the back on which way he will be working (right or left).
  • The center then completes the call identifying the 2nd level threat opposite of the back, hence, the "mike".
The treatment of the front can be accomplished 1 of 2 ways; 'Nickel' or 'Box' calls. 'Nickel' will be any 6 man threat where there will be a 4+1 situation. 'BOX' will be any wildcard situation where the line will account for the immediate 5 rushers and all other blitzers picked up by the back and quarterback as they show.
Nothing changes with an odd front defense, the math is still the same, except that there is an additional 2nd level threat. All down linemen are handled by the offensive line, the back will declare which way he is working, center declares his second level threat (mike), leaving the remaining potential bandit accounted for by the uncovered lineman opposite the side the back has declared.

The previous example provided middle of the field support, but it leaves the defense extremely vulnerable to 4-vertical threats. This can render that deep defender nearly impotent (against 2 quicks to either side). To counteract this, most defenses will attempt to vertically constrict an offense by splitting the 53 1/3 yard field in half (or in quarters). This is the standard answer to bottle up a 2x2 formation, but requires an additional deep defender. With now 6 defenders removed from the formation (11-6), the defense is left with 5 against your passer, making the protection even simpler to recognize.
  • If it is a 4-man front, you will end up with 1 linebackers/safeties inside the box.
  • If it is a 3-man front, you will likely end up 2 linebackers/safeties inside the box.
With only 5 rushers, the offensive linemen can completely account for the threat and 'box' it all. Any wildcards or late prowlers can be recognized easily by the back, if needed.
When segmenting the field into consistent looks, the potential uncertainty (things that will foul up execution) becomes manageable, almost predictable. This is pivotal in efficiently implementing a game plan as well as simplifying the corresponding practice plan to accompany it.

This may SOUND like a lot to account for, lots of interchanging parts.  However, when you live in these formation sets, you'll begin to see that there really aren't a whole lot of fronts a defense can threaten you with and that protection sorts itself out fairly intuitively with your players.

By spreading a defense out, the offense can begin stretching the field to breaking points. When a defense breaks, the offense scores.

Friday, January 22, 2010

From everyone's favorite Atchafalayian representative

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mulligan Reprieve (Leach)

Here's my vote for the 2010 Edwin R Murrow Award.

A great summation of the debacle of retardation with ESPN's propaganda with the Mike Leach firing (albeit a month later).

Three sides to every story
ESPN's Alamo Bowl treatment of Mike Leach controversy more biased than balanced
Don Ohlmeyer

Some highlights;

According to ESPN, the Leach story overall generated more complaints to the network than any other topic in the past year (nearly 1,700 calls or e-mails...)

Opinion was stated as fact.

A basic flaw in ESPN's presentation was the premise that Adam James was an innocent bystander.

...the logical question became why James, and why now? Actions don't happen in a vacuum. There was a backstory, at least according to Leach. The broadcast team was aware of it and basically ignored it.

it appears that ESPN spent approximately 28 minutes of the broadcast discussing the controversy


LA Tech: Sonny Dykes

Congratulations to Sonny Dykes on his ascension to head coach of Louisiana Tech!

I had already penciled in a visit to Ruston this Spring, but now its a definite to check out their offensive implementation.

Arizona under Dykes, particularly under the pressure of the past two seasons, has streamlined their Air Raid approach and established an efficient method of ball distribution.

Some more background readings on Dykes, Art at trojanfootballanalysis does a bang-up job assessing the overall production over the years; well as a brief overview of what Dykes will likely be bringing with him in 2010;

Sonny Dykes AIR ZONA

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Game Communication

One of the most under-utilized facet of managing a game occurs in exchanging useful information between staff and players. Like a winter door left wide open in a heated house, nothing saps peak performance faster than an inefficient data stream during the 60-48 minutes of a game. To do this, there are several KPIs staffs should strive for to protect this information link. Ensure the link and you will protect the quality product that will propel your unit toward (consistent) success.

While there are several avenues to take and much of it is based on personal preferences or comfort levels, I will touch on a few key tenets that one should keep in mind when preparing to use ALL their resources to win.

First thing first - recognize what is important and what isn't when fulfilling game night roles. Play-calling done by coordinator's decisions should be the central focus. This is aided by a few basic standards, regardless of which side of the ball we're dealing with;
1. Condition the calls through the week - You should already know how you plan to respond to your opponent in various scenarios heading into the first practice. This is what game planning / scouting is all about. When implementing, be sure to ridiculously exaggerate the packaging of reps through the week. Call out the down and distance, the situation, the coverage/formation, etc and yell out the play you are repping - be precise and specific. Not only are you training the execution of the play but you should also be conditioning mental focus, how your players frame a given down, so that by game night they have seen this situation a thousand times in their head.
"3rd and 6! 3rd and 6! Right Hash....
we are going to get Cover 2 when we present twins to the boundary.
Our call here is 'veer follow-check with me' into the bubble, away from the 3 tech".

Your kids don't have to memorize it, but the conscious declaration and rote patterns will build a foundation that they will package all situations into (to find the rationale).

2. Have a plan - no kidding, right? Along with #1's game planning theme, 'having a plan' entails paring down your playbook to assess just what will and what won't be used. This is what you need to have in order to efficiently utilize all of your practice time. This prevents you from repping plays you won't be able to take advantage of during the game. This prevents you from blinding and aimlessly drilling 'plays' against fronts, coverages, formations, and routes you'll never or infrequently see. Without completely plagiarizing Brian Billick's first chapter of "Developing An Offensive Game Plan", breakdown the time, quarter, areas of the field, down and distance(s) and allot your practice plans accordingly. Reassess how well you were able to keep to that 'preparation diet' after the game - did you spend too much / too little on certain elements? How can you improve?

3. Assess the situation and the play that you need - refining the above approach, begin chopping up the plays you have repped during this week. What plays that you thought would work, can now be completely thrown out? Drill this down to the bare essentials - build it up, tear it down, and build again - be bullet-proof. What will you call in the 'best case' / 'worst case'? What is your answer for backed up/going in? How does this fit your opponent's counter move? If you were them, what would you do?

4. Distill the 'menu' - By Wednesday, you should not only have your scenario scripts, but also a great feel for your opening script (script, yes, even if you're on defense). Be sure to consult with your players, see what they feel confident in. Allow for the 'comfort plays' to help them set their rhythm (could be a shut-up-and-play-Cover-0 check blitz or a fail-safe fast screen on offense). Don't be afraid to throw things out here, think tactical - your best 10-15 plays for this opponent. I say this because the 'menu' should be presented for ARM BANDS. Primarily, this is geared for a defense because most offenses, using arm bands, you may have your entire playbook on a band and never change all season.

For a defense, you must adjust for each opponent, some things will work better than others. You will likely be limited to 20 -30 defensive plays, so you'd better make them count. If your defense is worth any salt, you can burn up those 20-30 plays with multiple fronts, blitzes, stunts, and coverages. For brevity's sake, 1 call would specifically declare one defense (coverage,front,stunt/blitz), so you may end up with 12 calls of the same coverage. For examples of this type of paring, see an old sheet.

This disciplined framework for your attack also prevents the usual emotional spaz-out on most staffs. When you are faced with the pressures of the clock and momentum, the last thing you need to do is lose your wits like Jo Jo the Circus Chimp - Get Back To Fundamentals - work the plan.
When you have already accounted for (and believe in your answers) all scenarios, you can readily access the solutions. Anger/Frustration are a direct result of the sensation/interpretation of not having the resources to handle a situation (panic sets in). There is no room for thinking-on-the-fly or shooting from the hip if you want to win regularly (and actually teach your players something about structure, organization, reaching goals, etc).

5. (Game Night) Get the play in - Now that we have gotten the basics taken care of, this part is likely one of the most important, as tradition, emotion, and/or ego prevent us from streamlining this approach. You had 4-5 days to put the work in so if you didn't you'll be up the creek by now trying to change it. Your job now (as a coordinator) is to correctly assess the situation and rationally play the odds with a level-head. How do you get that 'perfect call' communicated to your players to execute as fast and without any room for error?
Nothing is more frustrating than short-changing your players in crucial situations with little time to transition (see 2009 LSU's Les Miles).
The more time a call has to be repeated/regurgitated the less time your players have to respond. Calls should be short and concise (terminology), as well as delivering that information quick and error-free. This is why arm bands will beat out shuttling players and sign language gesturing - direct them to the (play) 'menu' and immediately everyone is on the same page. Rather than calling, "Strong Right - Flip Left - 21 Zone Sucker - Z drag boot" (and repeating it from a coach-to-player, player-to-quarterback, quarterback-to-huddle-twice), just call "R7" (the grid location of the same play) and now everyone on the squad is ready to execute (saving you 8-13 seconds).

With this, because you've done your homework beforehand, all you have to do is call up your situation and match it up with your pre-planned response. If you're a coordinator in the box, all you have to respond on the phones is - "R7". It truly isn't imperative the assistant on the sideline signalling the call in know what the call is - he just has to relate the "R7" call. Once the call is received (on the field), the coordinator in the box can let sideline phones know the play (or they could simply look it up themselves on their own arm bands/play sheet). Cut out the BS - just transmit the data.

Once again, this does put tremendous pressure on the coordinator and staff to do significant planning and assessment during the week. After all, isn't that what the position is about, though? Game night should be completely free from emotion. If your kids "need you" on Friday night, if you need to "feel" the game and get hyped up, then one could seriously argue that you really weren't being efficient (in teaching the game plan) during the week.

6. Just The Facts, Jack - If you're in the box and on the phones, whether you are the coordinator or spotter, make sure you are concise, to the point, and deliver the required data. As we approached above, presnap 'concision' only further fuels momentum for your players. To aid in this regard, here are some basic press box guidelines (based on role) to keep in mind;
  • Coordinator: If just the coordinator is in the box, obviously all that is required is that the play call is relayed to the on-field signaller. In addition, passing coaching points to his position coaches, reviewing 'executive decisions' for the Head Coach (timeouts, special team fakes, 4th downs, etc), as well as reiterating mental queues for key players (to position coaches) all play a part in managing players through his staff. In lulls, repeating and coaxing the assistants through a game can prove instrumental in grooming those assistants in understanding relevant data/tendencies and how to monitor player performances.
  • Spotter: A spotter can be anyone from a trusted position coach to a volunteer booster dad. The information required can be basic or serve as the right-arm of the coordinator.
BASIC [anyone can fulfill this role - if you can't provide this info, you have no business being in the box]
  • spot: getting a good spot would seem trivial, but when on the field sometimes the crown or external environment can overwhelm a moment. Deliver the spot of the ball, which leads to the corresponding down and distance. Never mind your opinion of the play or how hard of a hit you just saw - just say, "ball is on the 34.....3rd and 2, coach"
  • down and distance: touched on above, but be sure to reiterate the scenario verbally. Condition the review of pre-planned scenario (for this situation).
  • relevant substitutions/injuries: In HS, you will always have teams with 1-3 studs to monitor. Be sure to let the coordinator know if "their guy" is in or out of the game (which present unique targets of opportunities).
HELPFUL [any coach within the program (MS-Var) should be able to do this]
  • Stating the Obvious: You may be whomping the hell out of a defense or bashing your head against the wall, but sometimes a coordinator needs a nudge for a change-up or hint to use the obvious. Sometimes the simplest solution can be so far away when you are desperate for answers ("hey, they are playing real aggressive, keep them on their heels with slo-screen / freeze" - "they're in the red zone - watch option" - "you're getting 2 high here, coach, middle of the field is open").
  • Auto Reminder: There may be elements that you know you need to use certain players or plays. This helps prevent the game from getting away from us. This can range from "remind me to throw screens" to "make sure we throw field pressure at them before the half" to "reverse inside the 40". Don't be afraid to chime up with what will seem like a silly comment here.
  • Who Made the Tackle: as silly or meaningless as this might sound, it is crucial in determining where the 'hole' is in the ship. If the backside linebacker is always making the play on your back on stretch, the culprit is probably your backside tackle (symptom leads to the diagnosis).
  • Distribution: who is getting the ball? who isn't getting the ball? Are we forgetting someone? Keep track of touches/throws in a very basic sense to be mindful of where you are in the game plan (as our memory often fails us).
  • Play Charting: Even if you can't keep up with it all, this really helps out at half time (when you can catch a breath) as well as at the end of the game. Simply sequentially chart the plays called (even if it is just the arm band call) so there is no question what was called on what play (i.e. "#1-B1, #2-A9......#35-D4"). It may look like like a game of Battleship, but it makes post-game breakdown and grading so much easier. At half time, this helps serves the distribution charting, noting what you've been going to (and how it measures up to the game plan)
PIVOTAL [usually offered by member of the staff that is a big part of the game plan]
  • Tendency: This is hard to come by if you're not watching as much film (or more) as the coordinator. The press box is also where they film the games, so the same vantage you've watched a thousand times on the television is replaying right before your eyes (live). You should be able to call up the pattern (recognition) you've learned, as well as consulting with your scouting report (in the booth) to give a confident and timely prep to the coordinator on the field for the play that you'll see next. That same game plan/tendency sheet you formulated on Sunday will likely be what you can have as a quick reference for Friday night ("Coach, this is their 2nd & 6 situation inside the 35.....remember if we get 21 personnel, be looking for fly sweep to the field").
  • Clues: This could be anything from stealing signals, to player fatigue, to personnel packages. If YOU were calling the plays, what would be tipping YOU off on the anticipated opponent play call? Are they preparing that killer play they've used maybe 4% of the time on you? Unbalanced / counter / etc is that 'sucker play' ready for them to use? Keep your coordinator frosty and alert by knowing what they like to do. This could be for monitoring your opponent or your own team. Knowing the ebbs and flows of certain players can help neutralize potential road bumps.
  • Target of Opportunities: Have you lost/gained the momentum? What is your money play here? Their DI offensive tackle is cramping up under a pile, is it a good time to use your MARS stunt? Staying tapped into the game and the subtle events on the field will give your guy on the field the edge he needs.
  • Real Time Stats: Largely stats really do not matter, however, they do provide a quick snapshot of where you are at in the game. Many times the numbers are there to justify or galvanize decisions that may otherwise be hedged. Half time updates are the most crucial and can help understanding where the coordinator is measuring up to his original game plan (keep going? make a change? etc). This can be tricky to do all of this at once, so if you can get a stat guy to do this impartially, the better off (and more accurate) the data will be.
don't be this guy up there drinking Cokes and eating popcorn polluting the decision-making process with inconsequential bullshit.
** for a great place to start, Coach Casey Miller has a host of great press box / program documentation to get you started.

Breakdown of Saints Scoring Explosion

pretty simple really......
anything to get both arms up for the TD signal

End of Year Player Schwag (gifts)

Sending out our Seniors in style, HC McClain and OC Bogan put in work creating the perfect commemorative for our players. These helmet plaques (name plates added later) replaced the usual costly trophies, watches, and or expensive merchandise, keeping our meager program budget above water. They also represented a more unique and emotional reward.

As you can see, it is simply a split helmet (that otherwise would have been discarded) mounted on a stained wood frame that can easily be hung. With 17 total plaques to create, McClain and Bogan cost-effectively cut, cleaned, stipped, painted, and mounted these through the end of December to present to the players at their January Banquet. Players were also presented with Bi-District Champs/Regional Champs/State Quarter Finalist T-shirts of the season.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Broadcast Breakdown

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but a recent WSJ study broke down actual content of game broadcasts, illustrating that actual gameplay was only a small fraction of the total time.

So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical
broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour.

As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps. In the four broadcasts The Journal studied, injured players got six more seconds of camera time than celebrating players. While the network announcers showed up on screen for just 30 seconds, shots of the head coaches and referees took up about 7% of the average show.

I routinely record NCAA/NFL games via a DVD burner, but only bothering to record actual plays (not huddles, no time outs, no commercials, no replays, etc), and will routinely fit entire games on a disc at under 30 total minutes. I started doing this mainly to republish online and also because re-watching games is annoying with all the other fluff added.

the most hated man in sports

If you're the nostalgic type or share an interest in recognizing trends in social/commercial influence, couple this with the recent series, "Full Color Football", being shown on Showtime and NFL Network, you can see the impact television has on the game. I would sincerely recommend the book, "America's Game" by Michael MacCambridge . The video series mentioned above fleshes out a few of the stories from this book (and MacCambridge cameos in several interviews).

If you enjoy that series (which seems to revolve around the impact the AFL had) you should also enjoy an NFL Films series from a few years ago, "Behind the Vault". It resurrects much of the old film and profiles the legendary characters involved.

While I follow the NFL when I can, I really don't get into the sensationalist "WWF"-type coverage broadcasts and franchises today play up (hero-worship/player-centric) and find it detracting the actual quality available.

I really enjoy the snapshots in time that you can identify with on given plays. The clearly visible fingerprints of coaches and players of the past still heavily influence the very thing you're watching 'live'. It is the Paul Browns, Sid Gilmans, Clark Shaughnessys, to the Lawrence Taylors, Sammy Baughs, Marshall Faulks that carry the game onto the next generation for them to add their imprint to it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

09 Season Swag

just completed the highlights from the past 9 months....
a different format than I'm used to (adding slideshows, etc) , but it was a fun change-up and it chronicles anything we could find from April 09 - November 09

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

HBO: Treme

From everyone's favorite David Simon, represent Congo Square! Should be great.

Yo Yo - REMIX da Highlights...

MC Cheapace in tha hizouse

Though I'm a big audiophile, I don't have much time anymore to do a lot of audio-mixing. However, when creating highlight reels (end of year) nothing annoys me more than watching 2009 footage backed by a collection of the dirtbagiest collection of 80's pop hits.

To keep the audio contemporary and keep the community church from burning our complex down, you have to edit out objectionable content. The easiest way to do it (and not disrupt rhythm tracks) is just like how the radio stations do it - simply reverse the track segment where the content appears.

With WavePad Editor, you can cheaply (free) and easily select the time sequence you need to modify and flip it, with no detectable trace in the audio.

So instead of an endless loop of "Welcome to the Jungle" you can actually put music that your kids actually identify with.

Monday, January 11, 2010

If you thought kids that had their own cars were spoiled.....

in the student parking lot this morning at Caddo Magnet High......
Although, if it were me, I don't know how I could've even thought about parking that one