Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Finding Quality Assistant Coaches

Posted by admin March - 13 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

It has become a bit of a problem in our area. I hope it isn’t the same where you are. But finding (and keeping) quality coaches is becoming difficult. There are too many guys who think because they watch the NFL Network “talking heads” or Mike and Mike in the morning (is that show still on??!!) that they are qualified to coach high school football! Or, in some cases, they are kinda like those guys who come out for the football team cuz all they want to do is “wear the jersey to school on Friday!” They simply have no idea of the time that is required to become a great coach and to make the program the success that everyone wants it to be. They want to be “seen” but don’t want to put in the work.

If you are a head coach and you’re looking for assistants, you might consider a couple of these points that I want to make for you.

First, see if you already have enough coaches… and can promote one of them. I see a lot of staffs on Friday nights that look like an “army” on the sideline. I wonder what all of them are doing during the game? What do they contribute during the week? You may want to consider cutting down on the number of assistants that you have. Look at one of those young guys as someone you can give more responsibility to.

If you do interview guys from outside the program, I think it’s important to get to know them as “people” before you start talking coaching knowledge and experience. What about his family life? Is he currently working full time? Knowing a man’s character before you hire him is vital. Let him meet some of your current staff. Watch how they interact. You want someone who will fit in with your existing coaches.

I recall a young man who I interviewed for an assistant position. He was (to put it mildly) “full of himself” during the interview! I purposely set up the interview time so we’d be done just in time to start one of our summer workouts. I invited him to hang around and watch us work with the kids. He interacted with some of the coaches and talked to a few of the players during the next hour. I was blown away by his comments as we walked in from the field! He began to tell me how many things HE would do differently! He didn’t like this and he’d improve that. Whaaaaat??? I’m no coaching genius but we’d done fairly well working within the system we’d been using. Now this young coach with one year of coaching experience was “schooling” me on how I should be conducting our program. Needless to say when I later asked the other coaches what they thought of this candidate… all I got was a bunch of “raised eyebrows” and shakes of the head! No! Heck NO!!!

If you find a coach with limited experience and knowledge but has a strong work ethic and a positive personality, you can “coach this coach.” It becomes the HC’s responsibility to educate his assistants. Private tutoring sessions are the best way to teach him. If this isn’t possible, make sure he’s attending all staff meetings and is on the field during spring and summer workouts.

Finally, the topic of loyalty must be discussed. It gets back to the reason that this candidate is in the coaching profession in the first place. If he’s in it for himself, you’re going to have problems. As a former assistant used to remind me… “check your ego at the door!” You need assistants who are going to support you…. especially if things aren’t going well. A coach who is going to cut your down behind your back is NOT who you want on your staff. If you get an inkling of this happening, it’s time to call that coach in for a private conversation. It always comes back to character.

Gaining Wisdom

Posted by admin March - 11 - 2018 - Sunday ADD COMMENTS

I am reading through the Book of Wisdom (Proverbs) in the Bible this month… seeking little “gold nuggets of wisdom” to help me along life’s way. The verse that the Lord led me to today was particularly appropriate for coaches! Since it is “Coaching Clinic Season” I think this verse is a strong reminder of how and where we should go to seek advice and instruction.

The verse is Proverbs 19:20. It says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

Two thoughts come to mind as I think on what this verse means to me.
First… we need to have a “teachable spirit.” Don’t be a “know-it-all!” I’ve encouraged coaches for years to be “students of the game.” Your quest for knowledge about coaching is critical to your success. Don’t ever stop studying, reading and listening to other coaches share their knowledge.

If you didn’t notice, this verse has a “promise” in it! It promises wisdom but… to be wise, we have to DO something first: have a “teachable spirit.” This is the beautiful thing about biblical principles. Not only do they impact our spiritual lives but these principles can be applied in our secular (coaching) world and they still work!

The second thing that caught my eye as I pondered this verse was something that my Dad reinforced in my mind while growing up. He’d say, “Consider the ‘source.'” He knew that listening to advice is good. However, he was pointing out to me that we need to be careful about who is distributing the advice!!! This is particularly true when it comes to negative comments. It’s also true when someone is spouting advice about your life. It’s interesting how many “know-it-all’s” there ARE out there in the world!!!

For instance, why has our culture promoted movie stars, celebrities and sports stars as being so wise? Like we should be following their example or their advice!!! Come on man! Most of them don’t even have a college education. Their world view is so skewed by their wealth and fame that most of them have no idea how to cope in the real world that you and I have to deal with each day.

As a Christian, the first person I’m going to turn to when I need advice is God’s Holy Spirit— through prayer. Then, if I need instruction, I’m looking in God’s Word. I have a few close friends/mentors who I call on when I need to “talk things out”… but I’m certainly not listening to any “source” until I first check out their character and background.

So… listen to advice. Seek instruction. But… choose wisely, my friend!!!

Paying Respect!

Posted by admin March - 6 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

My experience as a high school football player in the Tidewater region of Virginia back in the 60’s (and… Yes! We did wear face masks back then!!!) was extraordinary. During my 3 years of playing Varsity football at Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake, Va, I never played in a losing game! Tied 2 and won the others!!! My senior year we were a perfect 10-0!

This was due primarily to one major factor: my high school coaches! Yes, we had some good players but it was the skills that our coaching staff possessed that molded us into a championship caliber team year after year. They were simply years ahead of their time! For example, we had a full-time (BIG-time) organized weight lifting program in the mid 60’s when nobody else was lifting weights. We had a sophisticated passing game and threw the ball 25 times a game when everyone else was still playing “3 yards and a cloud of dust” on offense. We ran a multiple defense with multiple blitzes and coverages (sounds like 21st century stuff, doesn’t it??!!!) Why were we able to execute all of this? Cuz our coaches were “Students of the Game!” They traveled to clinics all over the country and weren’t embarrassed to ask questions of other coaches. Their knowledge and ability to be great teachers and motivators were the key factors to our success.

And now, two of the three are gone. We lost our head coach about 4 years ago and a second one died last week. The Lord kinda touched my heart the other night and impressed upon me that I needed to get up with our outstanding Defensive Coordinator— the last remaining coach of the three. I called him and invited him to lunch. We met yesterday and it was wonderful. I wanted to be sure to “pay my respects” before he died rather than after he’s gone.

We talked coaching… I always enjoy “pickin’ the brain” of successful coaches! It showed me that football coaching wisdom is timeless. Some of the things he shared are still practical today. We reminisced and laughed about the great times that we had as part of a great program. I was sorry that we finally had to leave the restaurant and head home.

Sooooooooo… here I am now, 50 years removed from playing high school football and this man (these men!) still have an impact on my life. Here was a 15 year old boy who they took under their wing and molded into a young man. I remember sharing at the football reunion we had for our head coach 15 years ago. I was invited to be one of the speakers to share a testimonial. I closed with these words — looking directly at those 3 men sitting at the head table, “My dad was a great man and I loved him dearly. But, you three were my heroes!”

Please be cognizant of the impact — positive and, unfortunately, negative! — that you as a coach have on your players. You are someone they will never forget. Make sure that the memories they have will be positive.

Hotbed of HS Football

Posted by admin February - 27 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had the good fortune to have spent the weekend in Durant, OK at a Glazier Football Coaches Clinic. There were HS coaches from OK, TX, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri that I met. Very friendly and eager to learn. When my 8:30 am session on Saturday morning is nearly full, I know that these guys are serious about being a “student of the game!”

The DC’s from Jenks, OK and Allen, TX (the 6A State Champs in both states!) spent some time with me. The thing that I found most impressive about them was their humility. Both guys have experienced a lot of success and they know how fortunate they are to be at such top-tier programs. But, neither one of them sat there and talked about “me.” They complimented their head coach. They talked about the program as a whole. The only time I heard “me” or “I” was in the context of how blessed I am!!!

The Glazier folks had Cory Cain, the DC at Allen, TX HS, and I go head to head in a “Chalk War” segment on Saturday. It was my Wing T offense vs. his Even-front defense. I got the chalk first. I told him (and the audience) that we wouldn’t stand a chance against his team… so I was going to pull out every trick in the U. of Delaware playbook to try and confuse him! Rather than acting arrogant, he took it in good spirits and we had fun bantering back and forth as I tried to exploit his defensive adjustments and he was aligning his folks to stop us. We had a chance to chat afterwards and I found him to be quite engaging. A coach came up to us, shook both our hands and thanked us for a great session. What I appreciated the most was what the coach said as he left… “2 humble guys just having fun trying to out-coach each other.”

The lesson here? You can be proud that you are a high school coach but… stay humble! In my mind, there’s a difference between being cocky and confident. Someone who is “cocky” is trying to convince himself as much as he’s trying to convince others as to how important he is. A confident person, though, is like a black belt in karate. He knows he’s good! Why? Cuz he has successful experience to back it up. He doesn’t have to walk around proclaiming to everyone how good he is.

The last person I want to talk to is a Know-it-all! Give me someone with a “teachable spirit” who is open to learning and I will pour my knowledge and experience into him. Otherwise, don’t “walk around in my head with your dirty feet!” (A wise saying I heard a pastor once share!)

“17 Inches”

Posted by admin February - 20 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

17 inches. Do you know what “sports item” is 17 inches wide?

I came across a Facebook post by a friend who coaches baseball. The post was about a baseball coach who spoke at a major clinic in his area years ago. He was an elderly man — retired by then — who struggled to get out on stage after his name was announced because he had a regulation baseball home plate hanging from a chain around his neck. They’re not light!!!

He spoke for a while about his coaching experience and was visibly struggling to stay upright with this heavy piece of rubber hanging in front of him. Some in the audience apparently thought it was a bit humorous and began to snicker at the old coach’s plight. He finally posed the question to his audience: “I guess you folks are wondering why I’ve got this home plate hanging around my neck, huh?!” Wellllllll… duh!!!

The old coach started explaining that a home plate is 17 inches wide…. whether it’s Little League or MLB… it’s 17 inches wide! If a pitcher can’t muster up the control needed to get the ball over the plate to get a strike, the umpire does not help him out by calling it a strike if it’s an inch or two off the plate. They don’t “widen” the plate for another pitcher with control problems. They just find another player who CAN get it over the plate! The old coach pointed out, “So it is with life. OR… it used to be!”

His point was that as a culture we have lost our standards. In life, a strike is not a strike anymore. We keep cutting corners; giving kids too much freedom and then tell them it’s OK. We don’t widen the strike zone in baseball and we don’t widen the plate to accommodate those who have “control problems.” We find players who can get it over the plate and go with them.

I have never seen an organization, a team… (especially) a military unit that was successful that lacked discipline. We need to set boundaries on what is acceptable behavior and then… we need to ENFORCE them.

I am convinced that young people actually want boundaries. They may complain at first but when they see that there’s structure in the team, it actually promotes a sense of trust. There is comfort in having guard rails on each side of a high rise bridge. We have the “8th Engineering Wonder of the World” here in our backyard— the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. When you’re out in the middle of the bay on that lonely stretch of road, it’s nice to know that they “remembered” to put guard rails up! Our players feel the same way about the discipline that we promote in our program.

Don’t be afraid to have high expectations for yourself, your staff and/or your players. Most of the kids you have on your team are competitive in nature. They understand the importance of having structure. Demand it of yourself and demand it of your players. This doesn’t mean that you come off as a martinet. I have an ex-Marine Drill Sergeant in our Bible study group. He commented this morning about how even a Paris Island Drill Sergeant needs to have a mix of toughness with compassion. Yep! A Marine Drill Sgt. said that!!! And it’s true. As a coach, you need to find that right mix too… if you want your program to be successful.

“Sustainability” in Your Program

Posted by admin February - 13 - 2018 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

I’ve been invited to speak to a group of business leaders this week. The topic the CEO wants me to speak on is “sustainability of success.” He’s a huge football fan and was a strong supporter of our program while I was the head coach of our local high school. With his invitation, he asked that I discuss with his leadership team about “HOW to sustain success over a long period of time.”

He stated that it fascinated him that our team was able to post winning/championship-level records year after year. “Some schools can do it for a couple of years and then they fade away again. Coach J, you did it for 15 straight years! That’s phenomenal! What was your secret? That’s what I’d like you to share with my leaders.” OK. Those of you reading this will now get a preview of what I’m going to share. Here goes:

When Vince Lombardi first took over the Green Bay Packers in the early 60’s it was his first head coaching job. He was confident that he could turn them into instant winners. After one season of futility (I’m not sure that they even had a winning record!), he met with the team on the first day of practice for their second season and began his talk this way: Lombardi held up a ball in front of the assembled team and emphatically stated, “Men, this is a football!!!!”

What he was implying was that the Packers had to “get back to the fundamentals” if they ever wanted to compete for championships. That thought never left my mind the entire time I was a head coach. You may know that Lombardi and the Packers’ offense was famous for their Green Bay Sweep. Lombardi once spoke at a coaches clinic where he spent 8 hours just talking about that one play! His point? You’ve got to get good at 1 thing… and then, stay good at that one thing.

What is the ONE THING that your company (football team) is known for? Be sure to periodically go back and be sure that you are focusing on that fundamental. So the first key to sustaining success is the saying: “Be sure to remember that… The MAIN THING is to keep the MAIN THING, the main thing!!!”

So, the first leg on the “Stool of Sustained Success” is: FUNDAMENTALS

We struggled the first 4-5 years that I was the HC at our local high school. The program had not had a winning record in 7 or 8 years… so I was dealing with trying to change the culture. One major revelation that the Lord brought to my attention after a 4th year of frustration was: I was too nice!

In trying to incorporate an atmosphere of Christ’s love (I was a young Christian at that point… having only been walking with the Lord for a few years), I was failing to establish any discipline in our program. As I said, I was too nice. I found Scripture where it talks about the importance of discipline. It was essential that I create higher expectations of our players and coaches. I developed a Player Policy Sheet and laid out expectations for our coaching staff. I explained that I have high expectations for myself… it is important that I hold the players and coaches to that same high standard.

The second leg of the “Stool of Sustained Success” is: DISCIPLINE

I learned over the years that in order to grow, you have to (occasionally) change. In fact, that’s one of the core values of the church that my wife and I attend! But, if you try something new and it doesn’t work, you can’t be embarrassed to admit you were wrong and go back to “Plan A.” I did that twice during my career. Two times that I tried to change our Wing T offense proved to be a study in futility. I admitted that I was wrong and we went back to the basics. *There’s that fundamental thing again!” It’s important to stay focused and constantly be evaluating yourself, your staff, your players and your program in general. If you see something wrong, it’s your job to fix it— even if that means making a tough decision! The hardest thing I had to do as a head coach was to fire an assistant. It didn’t happen often (only 3-4 times in 32 years) cuz I took a lot of time in “vetting” coaches before I hired them.

Finally, I learned that “preparation comes before performance.” I don’t remember where I read it but the following statement has stuck with me throughout my career. It’s called “The 5 P’s of Success.” It says: “PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
Hard work is important; but, smart work is even more important. Smart work includes preparing your team to deal with any situation or circumstance that might come up during a season. It’s how I came to realize that “little things” can make a BIG difference. That is the mark of a well-coached team. We don’t make mistakes that “shoot ourselves in the foot.” The first coach I worked for was famous for saying “What you emphasize, you achieve!” Emphasize “little things.” I love eating at Chick Fil A. Have you ever noticed that when you thank one of their workers, their response is always, “My pleasure.” I like that! It’s just a little thing but it sets the CFA “culture” apart (and above) other fast food chains.

The third and final leg of the “Stool of Sustained Success” is: PROPER PREPARATION

I’ll close with this. A building/team/organization is only as strong as its foundation. Lay a strong foundation and you can build on it with confidence that the structure will stand— even if weight comes to bear on it. The foundation of our program was: UNITY PRIDE TOTAL EFFORT
We built everything we did on those traits. They served us well. After those first 5 years of creating a new (winning) culture, our regular-season record was 133- 27. An 83% winning percentage. We accomplished that because we had a strong foundation; we stuck to the fundamentals and we prepared properly. All of this was wrapped around an environment of discipline. It kept us unified… even through the tough times! It will work for you too.

3 Legs of the Stool

Posted by admin February - 5 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I’ll say with all the love in my heart that I can muster: I am unabashedly, undeniably a believer in Jesus Christ! I hope that doesn’t turn you off so much that you leave without reading the rest of this post… cuz I have something important to say. Please stick with me.

I once heard a coach who was part of FCA share a “picture story” about how important all 3 phases of our lives (and the lives of our players) are to being able to face the “storms of life” which we will undoubtedly face in our lives. He used a 3-legged stool and a cinder block to make his point!

He talked about how we in the “sports culture” of our country are really focused on our PHYSICAL fitness. We lift weights. We run. We eat healthy. All to build strong bodies so we can succeed in life. He took one of the legs of the stool and screwed it into the bottom of the stool. It had PHYSICAL lettered down it. He then tried to place the cinder block on top of the 1-legged stool. “When the pressures of life come to bear, you can’t ‘hold up’ with just a strong body— no matter how physically fit you are. You need more.”

There is a segment of our culture that thinks if we get everyone “smart” and highly educated, we’re going to be better off. They press for higher education and higher standards in school. They include MENTAL HEALTH in this category too. If we are healthy mentally, we can overcome anything. Really? Substitute out the PHYSICAL leg of the stool, screw in the one with MENTAL on it and see what happens when you place the “stress of life” on the stool. Heck, screw the PHYSICAL leg back in so you have 2 legs now and see if that stool will stand when the pressure/load comes to bear. Ain’t happenin’!!!

We need that 3rd leg. I submit that the “3rd leg” is our SPIRITUAL life. The part that, I’m afraid, too many people ignore. Religion, in particular Christianity, is being relegated to the “outfield bullpen.” Too many people are being sold the bill of goods that our spiritual health is just not that important. I disagree!

Those of you who’ve read or heard reports on the Eagles leading up to the Super Bowl last night know that a LOT of their players talked about their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ… and how important that has been to their team unity. They’ve learned to be unselfish and have bonded like a lot of teams never do. I think it showed last night during the game both on the field and on the sideline. Even Head Coach Doug Pederson professed his faith in Jesus in his first post-game interview. That got me real excited!

It showed me that when we have all 3 legs of the “stool of life” firmly attached, we can withstand an incredible amount of pressure and come through the storm with peace in our heart and joy in our soul.

Efficiency vs. Reps

Posted by admin January - 30 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Let me take you into a typical high school Algebra 1 class. The teacher calls 5 students to come to the front and asks them to put the first 5 homework questions (and answers) on the board while the rest of the class watches. Two of them finish quickly, the 3rd student struggles but finishes his problem… but it’s apparent that the 4th and 5th students have no clue! The teacher looks at their work and says, “You two are good… go sit down. You (the 3rd) messed up that 3rd step. You last 2 obviously have no idea what I’ve been teaching you the last few days. All of you go sit down and let me call 5 more people up to do the next 5 questions. We’ve got 30 equations we need to get through and we only have 20 minutes left to accomplish that objective. Let’s go!”

How would YOU rate that teacher’s instructional skills? I am not very impressed!

What did the students learn from this exercise? Not much! Why not? Because they got little or no feedback; little or no reinforcement. Oh yes, he told a couple of them that they got something wrong but you know as well as I do that most people are visual learners. Explaining something by “talking it through” just does not sink in for most people. They need to be shown their mistakes.

This is why I am such a strong advocate of focusing on getting plays executed correctly (some of my former players would say “near perfectly!”) before we move on to another play. I’ve seen several coaches recently who were more concerned about “getting through their play list/script” in the allotted time rather than making sure that the plays they DO run are run correctly.

I heard a coach bragging the other day that “we get through 80 plays in a 90 minute practice!” Wow… good for you. However, how many of those plays are run correctly? The colleges (and pro’s) have time for meetings and a chance to correct mistakes after practice is over. I don’t know many high school programs that have that luxury. Most kids are not going to look at Hudl unless you sit down with them.

Of course, those who disagree with me would say, “Lew, you don’t get to run enough plays in practice. It will hurt you in games.” My response is: We averaged over 80% wins in my 31 years as a head coach. We averaged almost 40 points a game and over 350 yards of offense per game over that period of time. I submit that focusing on efficiency rather than how many reps you can get in is a more effective way to practice your offense.

Like my granddaughter says to me, “Just sayin’!!!”

Roll Tide!

Posted by admin January - 9 - 2018 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

We got a “ton” of snow last week… 10 inches!! For the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Tidewater area of Virginia, that is a “ton!” I was so bored that by Saturday, I actually watched (some of it) a little NFL. I figured the play-off’s would be a good time to see what I’d been missing. Come on, man!!! Boring! Give me college football anytime! and… that anytime was last night! WOW!!! What a game!! I like both teams; both programs and both coaches… so I just wanted to see a good game. The Bulldogs and Tide did not disappoint. It was entertaining and educational. Studying the strategies employed by the coaches always intrigues me. Saban and Smart both managed great game plans.

Here are some things that I saw that any coach can file away to use with his own team some day:

1) The Alabama players (the front-line starters anyway… cuz #48 needs to spend some time running stadium steps at 6 in the morning for a few weeks! Awful display and an embarrassment to the Crimson Tide program) just kept hammering! I shared a couple of years back on this blog site The Legend of the Stonecutter. It was tagged to Stephon Curry of the GS Warriors. It stresses the importance of persistence. Never give up and never give in! That was how Bama played.

How do you teach this to your players? It’d be nice if high school athletes just came to us with perseverance as one of their chief character traits. Unfortunately, in this day and age of instant gratification, it’s hard to find. My suggestion would be that you just keep repeating (many times!) stories of people who’ve overcome adversity by sticking to their goal. There are some exercises/activities that I’ve done (which are too detailed to type up here… write me if you want the ideas!) that help but it is just too important to just ignore. How many times has your team fallen behind in a game and basically “cashed in their chips.” They just stop playing hard! We need to find a way to teach/coach our players to have a “never say die” attitude.

HINT: Think Facing the Giants movie scene!!! Have you seen it?

2) Coach Woody Hayes of Ohio State had a statement that is soooooooooo good. He said, “Don’t attack walled cities!” (Another plug for all of you to study military strategy and tactics!)

I said that I like both programs because both coaches build their offense around a power running game. That’s MY style of offensive football. However, Georgia realized it early (first 7 plays were all passes) and Saban realized it by the end of the first half. You’ve heard it said: “There are 3 things that can happen when you throw the ball… and ALL of them are bad!” Not true… you Negative Nelson’s out there. There are 4 things that can happen. The 4th is: you throw a long pass on 2nd and 23 and it not only goes for a 42 yard TD but, it wins the National Championship for you!!! Every team needs to be able to throw the ball efficiently.

You only need a limited package of pass plays but you need to work on them so when needed, you can be confident in your QB and receivers being able to complete them.

3) Don’t be afraid to make the “big change” when things aren’t going right. Alabama limped off the field dazed and frustrated at half time. I will give credit to God’s Holy Spirit for this one! but… I sensed in my spirit that, “If Bama is going to win, Nick knows he’s going to have to change QB’s.” And as the first series of the 3rd quarter began, here came Tua!!

Persistence is important. I already established that. However, the flip side of that is Woody’s point of “don’t beat your head against a brick wall.” The only thing that’s going to crack is your skull. Fortunately, Saban had a 5 star QB waiting in the wings. But no amount of physical ability could help a true freshman step onto that stage and perform like he did unless there was mental and spiritual strength involved too!!!

I loved Tua’s statement after the game: “ALL the praise goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
Tua’s spiritual maturity obviously spilled over into this young man’s mental maturity. Even taking that bad sack just before The Bomb didn’t seem to phase him. He got right back up and went to his 3rd read (on the other side of the field!) for the game-winner.

My point is: sometimes you just HAVE to change. This was a calculated risk taken by Saban and his staff. But, it was the “wake up call” that the Tide needed.
Do you need to shift around your coaching staff? Do you need to dismiss a coach? Do you need to take a look at a new player at QB in your program? Do you need to tweak your offense? Do you need to be more demanding of your players and their work habits? Are you afraid to change because some kids might quit? Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk and change some things about your program if you recognize that “change” is the only fix.

Reflections on the Bowl Games

Posted by admin January - 2 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I confess it: I am a COLLEGE football junkie!!! and… when bowl season hits, you can usually find me in my recliner in front of the tv watching (even) Podunk U. vs. Left Out State in the “You Couldn’t Find My Location” Bowl!!! I get to see teams with reasonably good seasons take on another team that they would never play during the regular season. It’s just plain fun!

Admittedly, I do watch most of them from the “eyes of a Coach.” I study alignments; watch for trick plays and just want to see how a run-only team, like Army, matches up against a fast-paced bunch like San Diego State was. One thing I found: those high-powered spread pass attacks didn’t fare as well against opponents who 1) ran the ball and controlled the clock and 2) had 2-3 weeks to prepare for them and 3) had just as many good athletes on defense as the Spread Guys had on offense!

Two teams in particular stood out to me and I want to share some bits of wisdom to coaches out there— things that might help shape (or RE-shape) your philosophy about your team as you prepare for 2018. Those 2 teams are: the aforementioned Army team and… U. of Georgia.

Army: I am proud to say that one of Army’s starting LB’s is one of my former players! #54 did a heck of a job for them all season. However, they had NO answer for that great RB from SDSU! Welllllllllllll…. their defense had no answer; but, Coach Monkin and his staff DID have an answer: keep him and SDSU’s offense on the sideline!!! Army’s offense (to borrow an old B-ball term) “took the air out of the ball.” Actually, what they did was play “Keep Away!” Their players are disciplined… mentally and physically. In a game like the bowl the other night, their mental discipline carried the day. What do I mean? A gain of 2-3 yards is a win!!! 4-6 yards is a bonus!!! They were determined to just grind it out; keep the ball and finish drives. THAT takes a lot of discipline! But… it worked! You should think about that if you are looking at your team for next year and saying to yourself, “We’re going to be the underdogs in 8-9 of our games!” Maybe developing a strong ground game where you can control the clock for big chunks of time is what you need to be looking at!!!

U. of Georgia: Things weren’t looking too good in the first half— particularly on defense! Mayfield was lighting it up! Everything you drool over with the Spread Air Raid offense was on display. Georgia’s run game was working but they just weren’t “keeping up” with OK’s high octane offense! Until……….. just before the half. OK made their first of TWO horrendous Special Teams errors. That poorly executed squib kick allowed UGa to get a field goal just before half. It had to have breathed a little life into the Bulldogs.

The 2nd half was a huge turn around. UGa’s ground game kept pounding the OK defense for big chunks, but UGa’s defense, all of a sudden, was starting to make plays. Mayfield got sacked a couple of times. Give credit to the guys up front for getting to the QB but… why didn’t he catch, set and fire (on time) like he’d been doing in the first half??? Cuz UGa’s secondary was getting much better coverage! Why? Cuz they started playing zone!

There were so many KEY plays but, in my mind, the ONE that lost it for OK was the (partially) blocked FG! Did you study it? I saw it… did YOU??!!! It got blocked because the right end for OK stepped OUTSIDE to block his gap instead of stepping down— right where #7 slipped through to get a hand up!!! Who in the world teaches their PAT/FG team to do anything but: “Block your INSIDE gap… and don’t allow any penetration!!!” What a horrible mistake! It cost OK a shot at the national championship!

Moral of the story: Work on the LITTLE things! One guy not doing his job on a specialty team can cost you everything!!!

Alabama or Georgia? It should be interesting! However… I’m looking forward even more to JMU and ND St. U on Saturday!!! It will be just as much fun as watching the Dawgs and the Tide!!!

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