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  http://southcarolina.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1267364  (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.