Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Taking the Bull By The Horns.....

                  Throughout this season, we have watched two local universities with immense talent (South Carolina & Clemson) struggle to defend the option; not just against Navy and Ga Tech, but against Wofford and the Citadel as well. In discussing the struggles with some other coaches on the high school level and the college level, two things have stood out to me: a lack of imagination in defending the offense and a lack of enthusiasm among defenders facing cut blocks for four quarters. A friend on the college level told me that he has several players who circle the game against GT as the game in which they are most likely to be injured. They go in thinking that this game could cost them a pro career. To which I argue, Don't they cut in the NFL also? Wouldn't a player be better off learning to play the cut block properly? The other issue is one of strategy or alignment and the risk of thinking outside the box.

           In an earlier post, I mentioned a certain front that we used called BULL. We started off using BULL vs Double Wing Power teams but, over time, we have adjusted the defense to combat various run-oriented offenses. After watching GA Tech / Clemson and USC / Navy, the other assistants on my staff wanted to speculate as to whether BULL would be effective vs these attacks. So I thought that I would address this question in this blog post. Please respond if you have thoughts; any feedback is welcome.

         I will start off describing BULL vs a Double TE / Double WB set because that is how we first designed it. We are a 3-3 BASE defense, but often we can get into our BULL front without changing personnel. Other times, I will substitute an extra LB and pull a CB. For the sake of this article, we will treat this as playing with 3 DL, 4 LBs, 2 SS/ OLBs, and 2 DBs.

Up front we will play with a 0 tech NG and two 3 tech:
  • The NG has a 3 way go depending on the skill set of the Center. The best case is for the NG to drive the Center straight back.
  • The 3 techniques are told to penetrate B gap. Against tight split teams, they must put their hat in the crack between the OG and OT. They will get into the hip pocket if the OG pulls.
The key to the entire front is what we call our Bull LBers. They play in a ghost 6 or a 7 tech if they have a TE. The way we coach these positions is what makes the BULL front so effective:
  • Against a TE, the Bull LB will line up in a 7 tech tilted toward the TE, 3 point stance with his inside foot back and his eyes on the TE. (His butt will point at the inside LB). At the first movement by the TE, the Bull LB will fire out into the v of the neck of the TE; think of this an an anti-down block. After a hard collision with the TE, the Bull LBer will almost bounce back inside and find the ball. We call this a Ricochet technique.
  • Against formations with no TE, the Bull LB will align in a ghost 6 technique, usuallly in a 2 point stance with his inside foot up. Depending on the opponent's offense, we may alter his aiming point, but usually it will be the hip of the nearest back. On flow away, he gets flat down the line of scrimmage and chases. (Note: Do not be afraid to use a smaller, quicker player at BULL LB. He will make a ton of plays running this down from the backside.)
  • An important key here is that in most of our BULL calls, the Bull LBers secure C gap and then are free to the ball, with no contain or force responsibilities.
  • I cannot stress enough the importance of coaching the Bull LB to attack out into the TE. This technique is hard for opponents to see on film and TEs are simply not prepared for this.
  • Vs Option, the Bull LBers are QB players.
The Inside LBs are the positions that make the whole thing fit together. Their key may change according to the type of offense, but their technique does not.
  • The LBs align in a loose 30 tech over the opponent's B gap at a depth of no closer than 4 to 5 yds (very important). Their key is usually the back furthest away. For instance, vs Double Wing, the LBs key the opposite WB.
  • If the key comes to the LB, he is blitzing from depth, at the snap, not before. If he comes from depth, the OT will often block down on the 3 tech and the ILB should fit right off the OT's butt. If he cheats too soon, he could get washed down as well.
  • If the key goes away, he has eyes on the FB right now, looking for Dive, Trap, or Counter coming back at him.

The 7 positions described so far are playing the run all of the way. We tell them that if it turns into pass, your keys will turn your technique into a great pass rush. The 4 remaining players will play a few different ways.

The OLB/SS will usually align at LB depth
  • 3 x 3 outside against a closed set (No WRs)
  • 4 x 4 inside #1 against an open set (1 WR)
Two or more WRs usually causes us to check the coverage. The DBs align as follows:
  • On the Hash 12 yards deep vs a closed set
  • Splitting the EMOL and the WR 12 yds deep vs an open set

We start off teaching against a closed set with WB motion. The OLBS and the DBs are both looking at the opposite WB and reading overall motion or flow. The 4 spoke secondary will roll towards motion or flow. We call this 3 Roll coverage.
  • If flow/motion comes toward, the OLB is attacking the line of scrimmage now, keeping his outside arm & leg free for contain, but still squeezing the running lane.
  • If flow/motion goes away, the OLB checks for reverse then bails out to deep 1/3.
  • If flow/motion comes toward, the DB is rolling over to cover the outside deep 1/3
  • If flow/motion goes away, the DB is rolling into the middle deep 1/3

If we are presented with an open set to one side, the defense simply treats that alignment as its key and disregards motion or flow. They are automatically rolling toward the split receiver.

This works especially well against teams that use the unbalanced principlie with the TE & SE on the same side.

           We will also run a coverage which we call 2 Safe. In this coverage, the 4 spoke secondary plays a predetermined responsibility without regard for motion or flow.
The OLBs are Flat / Contain / Pitch players and the DBs are Deep 1/2 safeties. In this coverage, the deep safeties are told to simply be safe and prevent the long pass.

      The next question we face is what to do vs a spread formation (split receivers to each side). Against a 2 RB set, we will simply check to 2 SAFE coverage.

When faced with a 1 RB look, we will usually just check to what we call Dallas .  In Dallas coverage, the DBs lock up man on the widest WRs and the OLBs will man up the inside receivers. I will then bump one of my LBs to FS depth and tell him to play "playground" ball. ("Playground" means look at the QB and try to intercept the pass. Don't overthink it.) While this means we are in some dangerous man coverage, keep in mind that we are not playing this against a true spread passing team. Also remember that I still have a 5 man rush coming very hard against an OL and a QB that play in a predominantly-running offense.

I realize that he who has the chalk last wins and I realize that there are some weak points in this front. When we play this, we are careful to emphasize that the opponent will get us sometimes; we just cannot let them get for big play touchdowns. This front may give up some first downs and some moderate gains, but it also will put huge amounts of pressure on the line of scrimmage and it will create negative plays. As long as we don't give up the quick big-play score, we will eventually catch that TFL or QB sack and we will be able to stop the drives.

            Would this work against some of the DI run-oriented attacks? I would like to think so, especially with creative placement of your talent. For instance, for those of you that follow the SEC, imagine Melvin Ingram and Jadaveon Clowney playing the BULL LB techniques and tell me that wouldn't have given Navy some headaches....Tackling and Pursuit ultimately win games but the BULL front has been good to us. I would be interested in heaing your take on this , as well as some things other coaches do against these types of run-oriented offenses.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Can We Learn From "Big-Time" Coaches?

         I wanted to post some food for thought and also get some other points of view. If you have read this blog, you have seen the Coaching Knowledge Project that I have put together, consisting of my notes from reading about various high profile football coaches. After my recent Urban Meyer post, I received a comment which I actually very much agree with....
          This is the comment: With all that said, what about the comments he made to Muschamp? "This program is broken". WTH does that mean? What it means is, he didn't follow what he has written here. 32 arrests in his time at UF?! I may be a bitter Gator fan, but there is no greater hypocrosy than what you have written here (not attacking you, I'm talking about Meyer, this is a GOOD blog post). Look at his player goals, and tell me if they acheived that with 32 arrests during his tenure. The program was broken b/c Meyer broke it...just keep that in mind to all that read this...
      I believe this comment has several very good points. There are some strong accountability questions with Urban Meyer and the current state of the Florida Gators Football Program. But the sad thing is, I don't think that Meyer is neccessarily unique among the profession. I have been lucky enough to coach young men that were highly-recruited, allowing me some limited access to meeting some of the greats of college coaching, as well as some up and comers. When you spend time around coaches or you hear some of the inside stories or even read some of the books about these men, you realize that, almost to a man, they are very flawed individuals.
       For one, the top coaches are almost always borderline (or sometimes not so borderline) egomaniacs. Sometimes these anecdotes have a "cute" feel to them, like Holtz insisting on his soft drinks in the cart at practice or Sean Payton and his chewing gum. You laugh, but do you really stop to think about this? What other profession would this fly in? But I also have knowledge of a DI Head Coach (not anymore) who stopped practice and ordered his assistant coaches to sprint across two practice fields, touch a fence, and come back, all while the players sat and watched, simply because the team was practicing badly. Are you kidding me? The most disturbing point of this is that all of the assistants complied. What that tells me is that many of the assistants in DI jobs are willing to do almost anything to keep their job.
          And I don't think this is anything new. The point that I am getting to is that, on the way up the ladder, I think that many of these high-profile coaches have had to make compromises that have damaged their integrity, their character, and their self-awareness. For instance, how could Todd Graham not realize that texting his resignation was absolutely the wrong way to do things. And yet, he appears oblivious. And I have heard good things about Graham before.
       Unfortunately, the men who have had the greatest success in our profession are not balanced men. They have had to sacrifice some of who they are off the field and at home in order to reach their ambitions. The worst thing seems to be that when they reach the pinnacle, they appear to have some disconnect from the rest of the world. I'm not just talking about the "outlaw" coaches; I'm talking about Bowden and Walsh and even Paterno (for years the bastion of integrity in the coaching profession).
        Are these coaches bad people? No. Should they be drawn & quartered and thrown away? No. Do they have knowledge to offer that is of value to those of us trying to become better coaches? Yes, of course. These men have been outstanding or else we would not be discussing them. I will use Urban Meyer as my example. When I look at some of his thoughts and ideas and philosophies, I am studying someone who took three programs (Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida) from downturns to extreme heights in a very brief amount of time. I am also studying a coach who has helped many of the young men who played for him attain outstanding athletic and personal growth. I believe that he cares about his players deeply. But I also believe that he let the program at Florida get away from him and, instead of determining to right the ship, he took a sabbatical.
      I don't know these men personally. We all have flaws and issues, with our ego and other things. And we have the luxury of living outside the spotlight, so our flaws are not necessarily on display. What I am asking is, "Can we gain any knowledge of value from thse men, even though we may question their integrity or values?
       As a young coach, I worked as a GA for an underfunded I-AA program that at times was run like a club team. I also worked for a high school state championship program that is still the most professional organization that I ever spent time with. The funny thing is, I learned a huge amount from both situations. You learn how things should be done and you learn what not to do. I believe that this is how we should study the "Big Time" football coaches, looking at the good and the bad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coaching Knowledge Project #6 Urban Meyer

      Over the last few summers, I have started taking notes on some of the coaching biographies and books that I have read. One problem that I have had over the years is that I read so much and look at so much different info that I don't ever retain the knowledge for future use. I will read about a drill or a philosophy and I will think "Hey, that fits pretty good with my guys. I wanna use that this year." Then I will lay the book or the info to the side and forget all about it.
       Earlier this year, I began to compile & organize these notes & axioms into a single document. Ideally I would like to eventually have a notebook that I could add to each offseason and look at again each pre-season as I reevaluate my program. I thought that as part of this blog and my compilation efforts, I would share some of the things that I've found.
       These are quotes about coaches, quotes from coaches about their influences, and outside observations on coaches and their programs. Some of these are Hall of Fame coaches, some have losing records, and some are career assistants; all have good things to offer.
      Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several years, then you should be familiar with Coach Urban Meyer of Utah, Florida, and now Ohio State. These notes come from the book Urban's Way ,written during his Florida days.


·         He has a conviction that he owes every player a chance to play, to graduate, and to achieve a normal, happy life by sorting out whatever demons haunt him.

·         He talked about total commitment for the 107 days leading up to the SEC Championship Game. I try to break everything into segments. On our bowl preparation, I don’t go beyond 4 or 5 day segments because you lose the players.

·         Tucked inside Meyer’s 129 page document is the Plan To Win. It’s only one page.

·         It drives every player personnel issue, every game plan, and every decision he makes in football.

·         PLAN TO WIN:

-Play Great Defense


-Score in the Red Zone

-Win the Kicking Game

·         CORE VALUES For Players:


Respect Women

No Drugs

No Stealing

No Weapons

·         DO YOUR JOB for coaches

-          Take care of your family and your health

-          Take care of your players (academic, social, spiritual, family)

-          Be an expert at your position and excel as a teacher

-          Recruit every day

-          Be passionate about coaching & football

·         I never got a book like that from a coach. I just kind of put it together myself. I wanted to have a resource when the situation called for it – I didn’t want to have to grab from air.

·         Four to six seconds of relentless effort.

·         If you are a teacher, you teach, and if you don’t teach your players properly, then it’s on you.

·         The Champions Club – It is a circle of trust based on adherence to team rules and putting forth a higher degree of effort in the classroom and on the field.

·         Players have responsibilities / obligations, not entitlements.

·         Selfish people fail

·         We know we cannot save them all, but that is what we must try to do. In the end, that is a coach’s responsibility, and not what people think.

·         Some of you woke up on third base and don’t even realize how you got here because you didn’t hit the triple.

·         Just to watch Coach Lubick operate, the way he treated everybody – secretaries, everybody!

·         Are you changing people’s lives? Are you really involved?

·         Relationships with players became everything.

·         My job is to get that kid the ball.

·         It’s not a very good job. Of course it’s not. If it was, why would they call you?

·         The fruits of all his note taking over the years was his manual.

·         Just as he had reinvented himself as an athlete, he would do so as a head coach, jettisoning bad habits as he moved from job to job.

·         We’re going to figure out whether we’re going to be coming together or we’re going to be going apart. If at any point and time you want to leave, you’re more than welcome to quit. But I’m not going to quit on you.

·         If you screw up, you run.

·         So disgusted with losing were the players that they welcomed coaches who offered a personal touch, who invited them over to their houses and encouraged them to stay committed to their education.

·         Every player just wants to be helped.

·         Because Meyer paid tribute to his seniors and said he wanted to send them off on a good note, they felt a sense of purpose and responded positively.

·         It was really just going to be a personnel-driven option out of a spread formation designed to get the ball thrown, pitched, or snapped to speedy athletes in space.

·         The first day I thought I was going to die. The second day I was sure I was going to die. And by the end of the week, I was hard as a rock.

·         If done correctly, the player-coach relationship is the most meaningful relationship, second only to the parent-child relationship.

·         At the insistence of their coach, Utah players began to find out the family backgrounds of their teammates, their hometowns, their high schools, their likes and dislikes. If they didn’t have the correct answer, they had to run.

·         Everyone is so tight because you’ve been thru so much together. Those mental barriers are broken down. You found yourself really engaging that stuff and really wanting it, knowing it was going to make you better and pay off.

·         Try to be the most invested team in the country.

·         At the retreat, they openly challenged each other’s theories & philosophies – they would be encouraged to give their opinions & challenge fellow staffers, even when their opinions were different from the boss.

·         The “Do your Job” mantra goes for assistant coaches as well as players.

·         He not only recruits the player, but also the 13 or 14 people around him.

·         How important that relationship is with the kids, how to get involved in their lives and how to develop their trust.

·         Discipline is 90% anticipation, not reaction. Discipline is making sure you talk to them before that party & then have someone there if it happens.

·         The idea behind the offense is to have one more blocker than they have defenders – or “plus ones”

·         Spread Offense

-          One High = equal numbers, you can run the ball & be OK

-          Two High = You’re Plus One. Run the ball, because they can outnumber you in the passing game.

-          No Deep = You cannot run the ball. You are Minus One. There are two answers: Run the option or Throw the ball

·         He let you know that if you didn’t want a part of this, now was the time to leave. “If you want to get off, get off now. But when it’s all said & done, we’re going to get the train back on the track with you or without you.”

·         Mental toughness would be a requirement for all.

·         Even in our off-season workouts a lot more of the stuff was team-oriented instead of individual stuff. If a teammate fell down, you had to have his back. You don’t want to be that weak link.

·         Something was going to happen, somebody was going to make a play but we weren’t going to lose those games.

·         If you love football and you’ve got somebody coming in to help you, then why not accept them?

Gettin My Mind Right....

         I regret that my posts on this blog have been very sporadic over the last several months. Like most of you, I got caught up in juggling the events of the season with my family and my two young children. In addition, one of my closest friends (and a Hall Of Fame-caliber wrestling coach) was killed in a freak accident, leaving behind a two daughters and a son, all under the age of 7.
       We were the same age and our sons are the same age and this has been a struggle for me. Both of us had taught and coached from a young age, sowed wild oats for a good little while, and now had settled down and started families. Over the occasional cold beer, we would talk about things that men should talk about but rarely do. We laughed and cussed and joked and fussed. We talked about the great mistakes that we had made and about the things we were proud of. We talked about coaching, and developing young men, and marriage, and fatherhood, and reconciling the person we had become with the person in our past. Some of these talks are what led me to try this blog, as a method of self-reflection, among other things.
      But Mike is dead now, taken from this earth in the blink of an eye and I don't understand. Dozens of times in our youth we had done stupid, reckless things that could have gotten us killed. But why now? When he was the epitome of a great father to those three children and a role model to an entire generation of young men that had wrestled for him. I don't understand.....
    Mike was one of only a couple of people that I told when I started this. He thought it was a great idea and was very encouraging about the whole endeavor. So for my friend Mike, and for myself, I am going to get back on this horse and try to be much more disciplined and diligent about posting. I am going to get my mind right.....

PS: Thanks for letting me vent a little

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sun Tzu and the Art of Football

              I believe that most coaches have at least heard of the book The Art of War by Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. Written in the 2nd Century BC, the book is said to be the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time. It is still widely read, not only in military circles, but also in several other professions in which competition is a key component, including certain levels of coaching. Most coaches have at least a passing familiarity with the most common sayings, such as "Know the Enemy", but I became curious as to how much of the actual writing can carry over to coaching the game of football. What I found is that a huge amount of this book can be regarded as relevant specifically to the game of football. By no means am I comparing coaching football to war, but if you look as this book as a guide to competition while directing larger numbers of people (as many business leaders do), then it is a fascinating piece of coaching material.
               The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters, each devoted to a different aspect of warfare. For the purpose of this analysis, I have used the translation that was edited by author James Clavell. For each relevant  chapter, I have included a sample of the writing, followed by notes connecting the strategy to
 the game of football.

Chapter 1   Laying Plans

The art of war is governed by five constant factors, all of which need to be taken into account. They are: The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander, and Method & Discipline.

The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.
  • The Head Coach is in charge and the players and assistant coaches believe in him.
Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
  • Weather variables on gameday
Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes.
  • Down and Distance, Time factors
The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.
  • The players play hard and are mentally ready.
Method & Discipline are the marshaling of the army in its subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers...
  • Every player and coach knows his role and his job.
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.
  • Which coaching staff does a better job of gameplanning before the actual game?
Chapter 2  On Waging War

Cleverness has never been associated with long delays. The value of time - that is, being a little ahead of your opponent - has counted for more than numerical superiority.
  • The team that is more sure of itself, more sure of its assignments, can play faster that a team with more stopwatch speed.
Chapter 3  The Sheathed Sword

The highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans...
  • The most difficult coaching to accomplish is to completely surprise the opponent.
...The next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces...
  • Coaches should try to take away the opponent's best plays.
...the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field...
  • This is when the coach leaves it up to his players to out-athlete the opponent. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
...and the worst policy is to beseige walled cities...
  • This is when the coach attacks the opponent's strength. For example, playing a single, static front against an opponent with a superior offensive line.
If a general is ignorant of the principle of adaptability, he must not be entrusted with a position of authority. The skillfull employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man.
  • A good coach must be able to put his players in a position to be successful. He must be able to determine "How can a player help us?" by focusing on what the player can do, not what he cannot.
There are five essentials for victory:
  He will win who knows how to fight and when not to fight.
  • The coaching staff must have a good sense of play-calling strategy on both sides of the ball.
  He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  • The coaching staff must have a plan for games when they have better athletes than the opponent, as well as for games where they do not match up athletically.
  He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
  • The coaching staff must have the entire team mentally prepared and ready to play hard.
  He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. 
  • The coaching staff must prepare and have plans for whatever strategy the opponent may employ. They must go into the game anticipating possible strategies and they must have already thought of possible counters that the opponent would not anticipate.
  He will win who has the military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. 
  • The coaching staff must have the support it needs from administration without being handcuffed or limited.
The following is probably Sun Tzu's most famous teaching:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
  • If you know your team's strengths and weaknesses and your opponent's strengths and weaknesses and you can take advantage of that knowledge, then you will win most of the time.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
  • If you know your team's strengths and weaknesses, but cannot determine your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, then you will lose as much as you win.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  • If you, as a coach, cannot figure out your own team's strengths and weaknessess, you will lose many games.
Chapter 4      Tactics

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. He wins his battles by making no mistakes
  • A cliche, but true: The team that makes the fewest mistakes wins.
Chapter 5        Energy

Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all.......Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline.
  • Be effective at disguising, stemming, and moving on defense. Use misdirection and play-action on offense.
The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. He takes individual talent into account, and uses each man according to his capabilities. he does not demand perfection from the untalented.
  • A good coach evaluates his player's abilities and put his them in a position to be successful.
Chapter 6    Weak Points & Strong

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight.
  • Try to be the first team out of the huddle and lining up.
Appear at points that the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.
  • No-huddle, hurry-up offense can put a great deal of pressure on the opponent.
Therefore, the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.
  • A good football team can use tempo, both fast & slow, to dictate the pace of the football game and what their opponent is allowed to do.
You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places that are undefended. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known, for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points.....with his forces being thus distributed in many directions
, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately fewer.
  • A good team is multiple on offense and can attack in several different ways.
  • By being multiple, a good coach forces the opponent to prepare for several things, limiting the number of quality reps practiced against any one aspect of the offense.
Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against several possible attacks. Numerical strength comes from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us.
  • A good coach forces the opponent to waste valuable preparation time on several different things.
To Be Continued...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Venting about the lack of imagination defending the flexbone in college football.....

              Last Friday, we picked up our 2nd victory of the season with a hard- fought 17-14 win over a Double Wing team. Over the last several years, we have faced this offense at least a half a dozen times. A few years ago, we put together a package that we called BULL to defend this and it has worked very well. Since we began to use this package, we have tweaked it and used it against other run-oriented offenses as well.
                 Saturday night, I watched Navy's offense give South Carolina extreme trouble in a narrow 24-21 victory, despite the Gamecocks having defensive line talent equal to or surpassing anyone else in the country. As I listened to the ESPN announcers constantly praise the option as if it is a magic pill capable of rendering any top level defensive players instantly useless, I shook my head. While I have great respect for the offense, it is simply a scheme; like most schemes, it is dependent upon execution and is vunerable to Jimmys and Joes like all Xs and Os are. Ellis Johnson, South Carolina's highly-regarded DC, seemed content to take a bend but don't break approach that did hold Navy well below it's season rushing average. Still, the attack, coupled with the passive way the Gamecocks defended it, allowed Navy to push a Top 10 SEC team with outstanding DL talent to the brink. Former South carolina player and high school coach Marty Simpson does a great job breaking down the defensive approach in this link  (should be free).
 I caught myself wondering how our schemes ,coupled with South Carolina's talent, would hold up against the Midshipmen. Two of our other coaches called me during the game wondering the same thing. Whether or not it would is not necesarily the point. (I think it would; I'll come back to this in another post.)
                 The point is that there is an extreme reluctance to think outside the box on defense in big-time college football. It is as if coaches would rather play a scheme that is probably going to struggle instead of taking a chance. If a college coach runs the same stuff that they have seen other teams run and they fail, they can say "Well, we did the same thing everyone else did...nobody else had a better idea." as opposed to a situation where they run something unorthodox (not unsound) and fail, leading critics to criticize the signall caller for not being a good coach.
                The same philosophy is everywhere now in recruiting, where the first question you hear when recommending a player is "Who else has offered?". Recruiters today have no interest in finding that diamond in the rough that nobody knew about;they are interested in the rating from the recruiting services. Because if you sign a 5 star kid that had 20 other offers and he turns out to be terrible, the coach can cover his a## by saying,"Everybody else offered him too." If the diamond - in - the - rough kid doesn't pan out, then the accountability falls squarely on that coach. So the college recruiter is trying to avoid being solely held accountable.
                 While I disagree with this, I do understand it. I understand that coaches are trying to protect their job in a tough,unforgiving environment. I understand that taking chances, whether it is on unheralded kids or on unorthodox schemes, can leave a coach vunerable to criticism that could cost him his job. But the way I see it, this is the job you signed up for. If you are the DC, you are supposed to put the players in a position to win the game (which the Gamecock staff did by the way) ,whether it is by running a 4-3 or a shade 50 or the Facemelter 3000 defense. If you are a recruiter, you are supposed to sign the best players for your team, whether it is Joey Five Star from the State Champs or some kid from a single A school in the sticks. And if you signed up for this job, what is wrong with being held accountable?  (And FYI, I know a lot of high school coaches that could take Jadaveon Clowney and Melvin Ingram and make Navy's head hurt.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coaching Knowledge Project #5 Barry Alvarez

Over the last few summers, I have started taking notes on some of the coaching biographies and books that I have read. One problem that I have had over the years is that I read so much and look at so much different info that I don't ever retain the knowledge for future use. I will read about a drill or a philosophy and I will think "Hey, that fits pretty good with my guys. I wanna use that this year." Then I will lay the book or the info to the side and forget all about it.
             Earlier this year, I began to compile & organize these notes & axioms into a single document. Ideally I would like to eventually have a notebook that I could add to each offseason and look at again each pre-season as I reevaluate my program. I thought that as part of this blog and my compilation efforts, I would share some of the things that I've found.
           These are quotes about coaches, quotes from coaches about their influences, and outside observations on coaches and their programs. Some of these are Hall of Fame coaches, some have losing records, and some are career assistants; all have good things to offer.
             Being from the South, I was that familiar with Barry Alvarez. A friend recommended his book and I found it to be one of my top five coaching books of all time.Alvarez served as the head football coach at Wisconsin for 16 seasons from 1990 to 2005, compiling a career college football record of 118–73–4. He has the longest head coaching tenure and the most wins in Wisconsin Badgers football history. He also played for Bob Devaney at Nebraska and coached the defense on Lou Holtz's Notre Dame National Championship team. Alvarez stepped down as head coach after the 2005 season, remaining as athletic director. Alvarez was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2010.

·         He made us feel like we had an edge on every opponent.
·         His personal motivation each day in practice was an inspiration to every player.
·         He instilled confidence in the team.
·         I’ve established a philosophy that fits my personality and developed my plan to win.
·         I wanted them to dress nicer than the other team’s players. I don’t care what the competition is. We’re sending a message – we came here to win everything we do.
·         We know the game plan and there’s no reason to be hesitant. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. But play fast. Let’s go turn it loose, men.
·         As a more mature player, you have to lead by example – making sure things are done the right way.
·         I tried to get everyone involved at every level because I needed to sell myself and my program.
·         7 areas of a football game
- Kicking Game
- Big Plays
- Goal Line Fundamentals
- Mental Errors
- Minus Yardage Plays
- Foolish Penalties
·         When you get in big games, you have to realize that you can drain your kids by getting them too cranked up, too emotional. Just concentrate on the game and don’t try to be superhuman. There is nothing magical about the formula. Your great players have to play great.
·         I was confident, and I wanted to send him one message – loud & clear – that I was ready to be a head coach.
·         A rebuilding project is about creating an attitude and an image, and it’s about making a statement “This is how we are going to run our program.”
·         I wanted to learn the history behind everything. I wanted to identify certain hurdles.
·         In the after practice meeting on Thursday, sometimes I might hand out pens & postcards and tell them to write a note to their mother or someone special in their life, someone they really care about. Take the time to tell them you love them.
·         The best teams take tremendous pride in their chemistry.
·         Leaders: Don’t change, just try to set an example for everybody else.
·         If you have 5 great players – and you surround them with players who wouldn’t hurt you – you had the makings of a championship contender.
·         These are the principles I want coached. Take care of these and you’re not going to have any problems with me.
·         He was nurturing me. That’s the greatest sign of a leader – if he can get you to do things without you knowing it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Coaching Knowledge Project #4 Bill Snyder

Over the last few summers, I have started taking notes on some of the coaching biographies and books that I have read. One problem that I have had over the years is that I read so much and look at so much different info that I don't ever retain the knowledge for future use. I will read about a drill or a philosophy and I will think "Hey, that fits pretty good with my guys. I wanna use that this year." Then I will lay the book or the info to the side and forget all about it.
             Earlier this year, I began to compile & organize these notes & axioms into a single document. Ideally I would like to eventually have a notebook that I could add to each offseason and look at again each pre-season as I reevaluate my program. I thought that as part of this blog and my compilation efforts, I would share some of the things that I've found.
           These are quotes about coaches, quotes from coaches about their influences, and outside observations on coaches and their programs. Some of these are Hall of Fame coaches, some have losing records, and some are career assistants; all have good things to offer.

In the 1990s, Bill Snyder left the offensive coordinator position at Iowa under Hayden Fry to become the Head Football Coach at Kansas State University. He is widely regarded as steering the biggest turnaround of any college football program in history. This is good stuff by and about Bill Snyder:

·         He was clearly organized, had a vision and an expectation. Visible toughness was demanded.

·         The idea was that if each one of us found a way to make that daily improvement, then individually we would grow, which means collectively we would be growing.

·         Some guys didn’t stick. Snyder didn’t view those guys as bad guys or guys with poor character. To them, it just wasn’t worth the price, which was ok to admit.

·         It was a way of showing how we cared and we were going to do everything possible to help them live their lives in a positive manner.

·         When we came to Iowa, every visual image of the past, and losing, had to go.

·         The players wore blazers. It is a way of saying, “I’m going to do my part.” It demonstrates a professional presence and sets an example for the players in the program. To the players, it’s likely that everyone they have known in their life that wore a suit held some position of authority.

·         Win your games and you’ll get where you want to go.

·         Being persistent in what you believe in, sticking to your guns, and when things are bad, finding a way to make them better.

·         His attention to detail and his organizational skills on a day to day basis were just astonishing

·         Commitment - We wanted everyone committed to a common cause.

·         Unity - There was a commonality of purpose and caring about one another and our team.

·         Toughness – There has to be the ability to get thru and extend that breaking point.

·         Expectations – But if you do collectively prepare to win; players & coaches there is every reason to believe that it can culminate in success.

·         Leadership - On a football team, you want only 2 groups, Leaders & Followers

·         Improvement – Do something each day to help you improve in each of the key areas.

·         Eliminate the types of mistakes that we had total control over.

·         Expect more out of ourselves than anyone else.

·         Responsibility – The responsibility comes with holding yourself accountable to achieve the things that you have control over.

·         My message to the team was the greater the investment, the greater the pain in defeat, and I didn’t see any great pain. The pain was going to be equivalent to what you’re putting into it during the course of the week.

·         No task was beneath me. I wanted our players to know that. It was about setting the example.

·         What I assessed the year on was steady improvement made during the course of the year individually, and to some degree, collectively and that we had gotten ourselves into the fourth quarter with a chance to win in four of our games.

·         Confidence is a quality that allows abilities to surface.

·         We didn’t all of a sudden become a better football team. We were a better football team by first being individually better, and then collectively better.

·         The secret to success is constancy of purpose.

·         He had such attention to detail for absolutely every facet of our football program.

·         Here is what we expect the opponent to do, and here is what we want to do.

·         This was a way to have players perform under pressure. You knew they were going to answer most of the questions right, which allowed the team to gain confidence.

·         Make sure you take 5 minutes today to come up with something that can make you a better coach. Practice was to be thought through with a sense of purpose.

·         We play with one heart and eleven heads.