Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Little Things”

Posted by admin May - 24 - 2016 - Tuesday

I spoke at a Nike Coaches Clinic in D.C. in January. I shared some things that I thought coaches may never have thought of as being important in “attacking defenses.” I want to share one of the “unique” ways to attack a defense that I discussed at the clinic. This all came about due to discussions with coaches that I am “mentoring” as they install (or “upgrade”) their Delaware Wing T offenses this spring. What I’m writing about here, though, can impact anyone’s offense— no matter what you run.

The importance of one’s cadence, or snap count, is often overlooked by many coaches. I learned a hard lesson early in my head coaching career. I had simply adopted the cadence that we’d used when I played high school ball. Here was our cadence:

The linemen would get set in their 3 point stances; the QB would get up under center; look around and bark out: “GO!” and the ball would be snapped! and… it would ALWAYS be snapped on “GO!” Simple, effective and easy to learn! Right??? Except… it was ALSO “simple, effective and easy to learn” for DEFENSES!!! We played a lot of teams where their concept of defense centered on pressure! I realized that after 3 or 4 offensive series, the blitzing Linebackers and Ends had our snap count learned just as well as our offensive linemen! In fact, we had one game where a LB actually “stole” the handoff between our QB and the RB!!! Something had to be done to combat this or we would continue to be overwhelmed by pressure defenses.

It was about that time that I was introduced to Tubby Raymond’s Delaware Wing T offense. While studying his “Order of Football,” I was introduced to Tubby’s cadence. When we went Del. Wing T, we went “ALL IN!” I would guess that we incorporated 95-99% of what Tubby was doing. One of the things that I was intrigued with was his cadence. Tubby’s cadence afforded the backs the means of tying in lots of motion and shifts— which are trademarks of the Del. Wing T. What I liked best about it was how it had TWO snap counts… not the one that I had. I knew I was on to something.

Honestly, I don’t remember where I got this next part I’m going to mention but… once we added this piece, our cadence became one of those things that opposing coaches hated! How do I know this? Because I was around for sooooooo long that many opposing coaches were retiring. Once they did, they were willing to “share” things about our offense which helped me to continue to refine it over the years. I had more than one coach say to me, “Lew, do you know how effective your cadence was in CONTROLLING our defense???!!!” My response? “No! Really???!!! I had no idea!” (Yeah… right!!) I knew exactly what we were doing! Here’s how it works.

*I need to add here that in the last couple of seasons we have also become acutely aware of what “tempo” can do to control defenses. More on that at another time! I will say that incorporating the “Sugar Huddle” to our offense made our cadence even more effective.

We “Sugar” huddle about 1-1 1/2 yards from the ball. We break the huddle and move quickly to our alignments and get set. However… our “set” position for our O linemen is a 2 point stance! They have their elbows on their thigh pads and their knees bent– almost in a full squat position. Our backs are all in a 2 point stance anyway (“Tubby style!”) so they get set quickly also. Our cadence is:

“HIT!!….. Red. Set-GO!” There is a pause between Hit and Red. (That’s why I drew the dotted line.) The “Set” can also be elongated depending on how long we want to keep a back in motion before we snap the ball. What we have then is a NON-rhythmic cadence. (It gets better!)

There are lots of times that we open the game by snapping the ball on “1st Sound”— which means we snap the ball on “HIT!” Yes, this means that our linemen are coming off the ball in a 2 point stance but, it has never been an issue for us. We “bird dog” our first steps (from a 2 point stance!) every day! Our linemen adapt to it and many actually like it better. Soooooooo… we snap it on “HIT!” and away we go. We do that for 3, 4… 5 plays in a row. It’s now 3rd and 4 and we want to keep a drive going. The QB steps up and barks out “HIT!” and now, instead of snapping the ball and taking off… each O linemen shoots his hand down (and out! I.e., get a little weight forward… plus it kinda moves their hand “toward” the D linemen!) and everyone remains set for a second. The QB then continues his count and we snap the ball on “GO!” What usually happens (you already know, don’t you??!!) is that a D lineman or a blitzing LB jumps across the line and we get a “cheap” 5 yards. However… opposing coaches may call it “cheap!” We call it a product of hard work and tremendous discipline! We “earned” it the hard way! It takes LOTS of reps to get the players to focus on which snap count we are going on but… it is worth it! Why?!

Because, even if we don’t get anybody to jump… we have sent notice that you better not try to ANTICIPATE our snap count cuz we’ll catch you leaning or actually moving into the neutral zone and pick up 5 “easy” yards! Once a guy jumps offside (particularly in a key 3rd/4th down situation), he becomes HESITANT and back on his heels. We are now CONTROLLING the defense with our cadence!!! We have curbed their aggressiveness and have now made them wait on us! We have achieved our goal of attacking the defense in a “unique” way— even before we snap the ball!!!

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