Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 AFCA Clinic - Sonny Dykes (CAL)

Sonny Dykes 
Head Coach – Cal

2013 AFCA Clinic, Dykes’ shares his learned wisdom.


Started out at Navarro Community College. Lined the field, did the laundry, etc. Worked with Hal Mumme and Mike Leach at Texas Tech

#1 thing you can do as a teacher/coach is learn to prioritize. What are you good at? This may change from week to week and year to year, so learn to adjust based on personnel.

“Details matter, but the big picture matters more.”

Sometimes we as coaches can’t see the forest for the trees. You as a head coach have to be in a state of constant evaluation.

Surround yourself with good people. People you trust and are committed to the program’s success.  “I hired guys to coach, and then I became the team coach. I hung around the locker room and picked the guys brains to get a feel for the team.”

“If you can recruit good football players who totally bought in, it’s gonna be better than a great player who’s only kinda bought in.”

The #1 thing I evaluate coaches on is how they communicate with their players.

Good character is more important than good knowledge when hiring a staff.

Morale is critical. What kind of working environment does the HC create? How do the assistants interact with each other? Everybody who has anything to do with the program must be bought in. This includes managers, trainers, video guys, academic people, EVERYONE. The players must be hearing the same message from everyone in the program, and everyone who comes in contact with them in any way.

“Don’t let it become all business.” Enjoy the experience, don’t always make it a grind. We as coaches enjoy being around young people. You’re trying to help kids and they’re allowing you to do what you’ve always wanted to do.

Have fun whenever you can. Lighten the mood once in a while.

Execution is more important than scheme.

If you can execute a small number of plays on offense and a few base defenses , you’ll be a pretty good football team. It doesn't matter what you know, it matters what your players know.

Be as simple as possible, the simpler you are, the faster your players will play.

Empower your players whenever possible. Force responsibility on them, it forces them to grow up.


Practice is the most important part of how successful your program is gonna be. They never practice more than 2 hours, and that’s at the beginning of the season. The time spent on the practice field starts to decrease once the season progresses. By the end of the season, practice is often around an hour and ten minutes (and those are the long days). The normal practice time is about forty minutes near the end of the season. INJURIES HAPPEN WHEN KIDS GET TIRED.

Be as physical in practiceas possible. They do not bring people to the ground. This is part of the reason why they do not practice very long, it allows them to use the time they do spend on the field practicing physicality.

You must design drills that emphasize important skills. This depends on what you are doing on offense/ defense, etc. Don’t waste time drilling a skill that your players will never use in the scheme that you run. (If you’re strictly a zone team, don’t practice a power pull with your OL)

NEVER let bad effort slide. Address it and get him off the field. Shorter practices allow you to emphasize going 100% on all reps. Twenty reps going 100% are better than 80 reps going 25%.

“Rep it until you get it right, or throw it out.”

The players have to have confidence in the play during a game. How will they believe in the play if you never executed it in practice? A lot of times they have thrown out things in the middle of the week, even concepts that they may have ran plenty of times already earlier in the year, for whatever reason it isn’t working that week. They may end up coming back to it later on in the season, but will shelve it for that week.

“It took us until week six of year two to learn how to run and throw the slant properly, but once we figured it out, it was automatic from then on out.”

“You have to practice situations more than you think.”


Stats - You can measure data. The #1 thing is turnovers. They won 15 of their last 17 games, and won the turnover battle in all 15 wins. In the two losses, the lost the turnover battle once, and tied in the other game.

3rd down – Have to stop them and have to convert them. Once they get to about 3rd and 8 at the 50, they usually tend to treat it as two down territory. This allows them to call higher percentage plays that they couldn’t have called if they were automatically punting on 4th down. It makes your offense much more dangerous and unpredictable on 3rd down.

Red Zone – The difference between winning and losing games is the difference between TDs and FGs in the Red Zone.

Turnovers - Defense goes through a turnover circuit every day, starts practice that way. Offense does the same thing, they use offensive players to strip the ball, etc, to avoid getting too physical in these drills and getting your players beat up. Emphasized ball security with the QB, didn’t throw an INT until week 11. “Be smart on 3rd down. Punting is a good thing.”

At least half of practice emphasizes 3rd down, Red Zone, Goal line situations.

“Listen to your instincts, you’ve got a great sense of where your team is, trust what you see, and then address your issues.”

“The smartest guy in the room is the guy who’s always listening.”

Had some 2nd year leadership issues at La Tech. Started a ‘Leadership Council.’ (Read the book, Water the Bamboo. Talks about how bamboo doesn't grow hardly at all during the first two years after being planted, but you still have to put the work in, keep watering, keep taking care of the soil. Just like Saban says – “Respect the process”) The team started out 1-4, had some issues, but he kept reminding them to water the bamboo. It gave the players something to talk about and believe in. They ended up winning a conference championship.

Had some issues down the stretch this past season. 9-1 and two weeks away from going to a BCS Bowl, went 0-2 the next two games. “I could see there were issues, and I could’ve done something about them, but It’s pretty hard to change what you’re doing when you’re 9-1.” They had internal issues between the offense and the defense, top-ranked offense and 120th ranked defense. There was a lot of resentment between both sides of the ball. They needed to learn how to handle success.

There are several ways to create deception on offense. One is to run the option, another way is to use shifting and motions to disguise your intentions, or you can line up and go fast. Lining up quickly allows you to hide certain things, like receiver splits, because the defense doesn’t have time to recognize it and make checks because you’re snapping the ball so fast.

Yards per play is a great statistic for self scouting, allows you to quantify efficiency.

La Tech offense doesn't use as wide of splits as Mike Leach, they like to run the power play, and slightly tighter splits allows for the double teams you need to run the power. They don’t have a base rule, but on average they use 1 ½ yard splits.

Notes courtesy of:
Alex Kirby
Video Coordinator
Indiana State Football


Alpha1906 said...

This is great! Thanks for the write up!

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