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.)

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