Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Keys to Success in HS Football

Posted by admin November - 1 - 2016 - Tuesday

I’ve watched Hudl video and seen a bunch of different HS teams in the area this fall since I am not coaching. I have drawn a couple of conclusions that those of you who are coaches might find of interest and value. I’m calling this the Keys To Success.

First and foremost, the obvious key is the “Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.” X’s and O’s are important but unless you have some talented players, it’s going to be difficult winning on a consistent basis and… at a high level. But, I have also discovered that talent involves more than just being 6’3 225 and benching 300!!! I have found that the great equalizer is: speed! If you have more kids who can RUN than your opponent…then, sooner or later in the game, you’re going to be able to exploit your advantage and make something happen.

I have been fascinated with the program at North Dakota State for the last few years. I don’t get to see them on TV until the 1AA Playoffs but when I do, I am always amazed at the speed they put on the field— from guys that you’d normally not think of as being “speed merchants!” I’m surprised that more people haven’t talked to their Strength & Speed Training staff to find out their secret! It’s obviously working! I watched Carson Wentz on TV Monday night and marveled at his ability. Then it dawned on me: IF he was THAT good in high school, why didn’t Ohio State or Michigan sign him?? ND State’s program developed his skills.

What I’m getting at is: don’t look at your roster and say “he’s too slow.” Make him/them faster!!

Secondly, having a mobile QB is a “difference-maker.” We see it on the college level all the time and we’re beginning to see it in the NFL. Having a high school QB who can turn “nothing” into “something” is huuuuuuuge! Having some basic passing skills helps but (again) working with him in the off-season can develop those skills. It’s tough to teach “escapability” though.

You’d think I’d say a big, dominating line would be the next thing… but it’s not! I used to think that the “good BIG man will beat the good Little man” every time. As Lee Corso would say: “Not so fast, my friend!” Or rather… “Yes, so fast, my friend!” Once again: speed on the line is a great equalizer…. especially on the defensive line. Find a tough, aggressive, FAST kid and turn him loose! Of course, a 6’6 285 lb. guy who runs a 4.8 would be preferable but how many of those have you had in your program over the past 20 years???!!!

On Offense: Execution. On Defense: Pressure. Being able to block the blitzes when you’re trying to move the ball is key! When you’re trying to play defense, the ability to pressure a QB and dominate the O Line comes down to stunting and blitzing till you get the guy with the ball! I heard a former college coach whom I really respect once say: “The key to HS defense is putting pressure on the QB. Rarely do you find a HS program that is willing to let their QB get hit in practice! Thus, that QB doesn’t see many people in his face on Monday to Thursday. Sending that extra guy on a blitz can cause real problems for them.” Think about how many “Summer Wonder” QB’s you’ve seen! They tear it up during summer 7 on 7 games but… when it’s time to put on pads and NOW a pass rush is added???!!! Welllllllll… that “summer wonder” QB just became a “Fall Flop!”

Finally, taking time to make your Special Teams “special” is the final key. Wow!!! How many poor or bad punt snaps have I seen this fall??!!! And rarely does anyone take advantage of it!!! So, first, you have a coach who did not find a decent punt snapper and second an opposing array of coaches who did not take the time to scout that bad snapper and work on a punt block scheme to capitalize on it. I have always ascribed to the following “truth” about football: “In a close game, between 2 evenly-matched teams… it usually gets decided by a mistake in the kicking game!” (Think Michigan/Michgan State last year! Think of Auburn/Alabama 3 years ago! Or “wide right” for Florida State all those years.)

Those of you going into the playoffs now need to be aware of this… cuz you’re going to be playing teams that are probably just as good as you or a little better. Something you can capitalize on in the kicking game could win that contest for you!!!

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