Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Evolution of a Call Sheet In-season...Reduce the Clutter

     As the 2016 Texas High School season began our offensive staff had a plan, just like every other team.  We had a good athlete at the QB position that could run and throw.  We had 2 tailbacks that we felt very good about, one of which was our best defensive player as a 2 year starter and post-season award winner at Free Safety.  We were going to be strategically balanced and throw when WE wanted to, not being dictated by the defense or down and distance.  It was a blueprint for a perfect season, but as we all know, the beauty of the game of football lies with the many opportunities to persevere through adversity and adjust to change. We had 2 different epiphanies with these young men early in our season that called for a change in the way we thought offensively, starting with our call sheet.

The first epiphany came after the performance of our tailback in the opener. Prior to the season, we were shooting for 12-15 touches per game with him.  We got in a shootout where we scored 61 points and lost.  The back ended with 300+ rushing on 40 touches.
Week 1 call sheet
    My call sheet for that week 1 ball game was pretty basic.  The top-left in white (labeled 1st half) was our first 7 plays in normal down/distance situations.  If we get 3rd/4th & short/long we would go  to the down/distance section in green.  We were opening with the POWER scheme.  It is the basis of our offense.  The other 6 were a mix of run/pass trying to show different formations with motion adjustments that we wanted to see.  The next white section was left blank to fill in at half time with our adjustments.  It was usually limited to a 3 play mini-script, along with a list of any other major ideas or adjustments our staff talked about at half.  The next white sections were our base run/pass schemes going in that week.  They are listed by scheme only, not by personnel groupings or formations. The bottom white section was our WILDCAT section that we were only planning on using on 3rd/4th & less than 3 yards to go situations.  As fate had it that night we had 11-3rd/4th short situations which aided in the 40 touch total of our back.  The rest of the sheet is pretty common stuff. There is a large section to draw between series if needed as well as halftime.  The yellow-red-orange are important sections that I don't ever want to overlook.  The yellow section is pre-game information to go over with the QB one more time.  If I ask the QB about this info and he stumbles even the slightest bit then there is a pretty good chance we do not need to be running it.  The orange section is just a script of plays to call during pregame team offense.  Its important to do what you do without showing all that you do.  Somebody is always watching!  The back of the call sheet was our 2 point chart and kill-the-clock charts.
     The second epiphany happened a couple of weeks later.  During the first drive of our first district ball game, or QB pulls a zone read, goes for 12 yards, and separates the AC joint in his throwing shoulder requiring surgery the next week.  We were prepared for the injury and had a plan.  Our #2 QB was one of our starting WR and was a 4 year letterman as a kicker.  He had a great understanding of our offense from being in 4 years of varsity meetings and practice.  The transition to him was smooth.  We did win that game and we were set up for a huge game with playoff seeding on the line the next week.  #2 QB was not the runner as our #1 QB and we had some heavy tendencies as far as running to our strength formationally and to the wide side of the field.  We are multi-personnel spread, no-huddle.  We were not necessarily a hurry-up-no-huddle team to this point but we made that switch this week with a bye and a QB change.  As fate would have it, #2 QB missed a Tuesday workout and did not play that week in the crucial district game.  Again, we had a plan that had been worked since the Spring and we did not, as a staff, make any irrational decisions based on emotions. We worked the plan that had been practiced and gave our team the best chance to win.  At this point tempo was no longer a "lets see what happens" part of our offense, it was the offense.  #3 QB stepped in and the wildcat took off. Practice changed, and so did our staff game planning meetings.  As well as a change in call sheets.
Week 10 front
Week 10 back
The big differences.....no script.  We have the SEE EARLY section.  These are the things that we wanted to see, but honestly it took longer to look at the call sheet, get the play called and get it ran, than it did to roll with it and check between series where we were at on what we wanted to see.  It was more important for us to go fast, physically and mentally wearing down a defense, then to work down a script.  The advantages to the script had been replaced because we had reduced the clutter of our offense, limiting formations, motions, and schemes.  The HAVE WE? section was our go to section between series.  It kept us honest with who we knew we had to be, to be successful as a unit.
The formation pictures and plays that accompany them became a very useful tool for our players.  In any game, we had as many as 4 guys taking the snap from center, 2 QB/WR and 2 RB/wildcat guys. We could show them exactly where they needed to align, and through our weekly preparation, they understood the scheme and what needed to happen when the ball was snapped.
     As an individual, the back page of the call sheet had more meaning to me than the front.  We went from a standard size 8.5 x 11 sheet to a 8.5 x 14 legal size.  It gave us room on the back for our strategic charts plus the additional room for my personal messages that helped keep me focused throughout the game.  The messages changed from week to week, often saving the bottom row for some of my favorite old school rap lyrics.  This week I had a quote from Denison native Dwight Eisenhower.  The colored messages again where things just like the HAVE WE? section from the front page that kept me in line with our gameplan and overall philosophy that was made in the calm and coolness of our office when things are well thought out and calculated.  After we have met as a staff and with our athletes at halftime, I find a place to be by myself for a minute or two and re-focus all of my energy on what it will take to give our kids the best chance to succeed.  It may seem like a small thing or a minor detail but we were behind in this week 10 game at halftime. I was able to to find that minute alone and thought about the message of my picture.  I touched my heart with it....in my terms.....calmed down and got myself ready to go.  That's all it took.  I was mentally locked in, and we kept feeding the beast, Tre Lyday!
We got beat in the first round of the playoffs.   In the first half of that game, we were not successful on 3 different 4th & 1 situations.  I called a bad game.  We followed the same plan at halftime, and during my minute of alone time I was interrupted by the #1 tee boy in the state of Texas, my 8 year-old Easton.

He was calm, calculated, and very intently looked in my eyes and saw I was struggling.  He got closer, stared me down, locked in on my eyes and he said, "Daddy, if we get another 4th down, call that touchdown play. Lets go play catch!" Things didn't work out that night, but I was ready for the second half.  Whatever it takes!

In the next few days I will get very specific about how we game planned and how we practiced. If you have any questions you can comment here or email me: cmeans@denisonisd.net

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