Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for January, 2016

Eating My Words!

Posted by admin January - 26 - 2016 - Tuesday Comments Off on Eating My Words!

About two years ago, I commented to a coach on the message board on (my favorite source for Del. Wing T information!) that I did not see the need for a “bunch” of formations. What purpose did they serve? Would using a number of formations create just as much “clutter” in your playbook as well as in your mind when trying to call a play during the game? Do you have someone in the box who can really “see” what you want him to see; i.e., how is the defense attempting to adjust to your different formations? What advantage do they give you? As you can see, all of my comments came from a pretty negative perspective.

Wellllllllllll…. I learned something this past season. After running the Delaware Wing T for 27 years, I was still discovering things about this amaaaaaazing system of offense! The biggest thing I learned is that you CAN run various formations (I prefer to call them “packages”) and they WILL cause problems for the defense— trying to adjust. However, I need to add that I think that our varying tempo’s that we ran our different packages from was a KEY part of the advantage we gained over the defenses, too. Let me explain.

First, TEMPO. Remember 4-5 years ago when everybody’s hair was on fire about Oregon’s high speed offense?! “Nobody will EVER catch up with them! They just move too fast!” Well, funny how it’s just not that big an issue anymore. I think the reason is that defenses have learned to “play fast” too. When you have ONE SPEED that you have to prepare for, I think that’s a lot easier to defend. I always use the baseball batter/pitcher analogy: If a pitcher throws nothing but “heat”— sooner or later, batters are going to sit on that fastball! However, if you have a pitcher who changes speeds, the batter never gets settled in at the plate. It’s the same reason that I like changing the tempo on offense. Huddle (regular); “Sugar” huddle near the LOS; no huddle and then “NASCAR” high speed no huddle.

We found that by changing tempo’s, we could get into various UN-balanced formations without the defense having time to recognize what we were doing. For instance, our SE never huddled! I’d signal to him which side to align on and he’d head over while watching for the play signal which followed. The other 10 broke the huddle and headed to the line. In 4 different games, they didn’t even “see” the SE out there!!! We were so surprised that we never effectively communicated to the QB what to do if the SE was uncovered! Good coaching, right??!!

Then, our PACKAGES. We ran a base, under center Wing T; a shotgun version of the same “base” package” with a Tailback at the controls… a la “Wildcat” look; an unbalanced single wing package which we ran from the line with no huddle and went “fast”; and a couple of spread shotgun looks which were also NO huddle. We changed the speed in our Spread Shotgun packages depending on the time in the game— faster if we needed a “hurry up” offense. We stayed in “base” if things were going well but could go to any of the other packages at any time… anywhere on the field. In our state championship game, we scored from all 4 different packages. We played a well-coached, undefeated team that had shut down most everybody they played. We were up 24-6 at halftime and finished them off in the second half by scoring 14 more!

Platooning Players

Posted by admin January - 20 - 2016 - Wednesday Comments Off on Platooning Players

I was involved in a discussion recently about whether to 2-platoon your players or not. The consensus seemed to be: IF you have a large roster (50-75 players), you should 2 platoon. IF you have a small roster (25-35), you should play players bothways. I disagree!

Regardless of how many players on your roster, I feel that your best players need to be on the field as much as possible. As the old saying goes, “IF you have a cannon, fire it!” Unless you recruit players and can “seed” your roster with the players and positions you need, there are only so many “game-changers” on any high school roster. They can’t be “changing the game” if they’re sitting on the bench!

I talk about this in my book (another shameless plug to check out 101 Little Things if you want a reference book for coaches on how to organize and manage their program) so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. But, we had 2 pretty firm rules about platooning:
1- our Skilled Position athletes need to be on the field as much as possible and 2- our Offensive Line only plays offense!!!

What we strive for in setting up our depth chart is to find ways for skilled players to go “1 1/2 ways!” What I mean is… we want a backup who can give that 2-way player a break (usually on Offense) every 3rd series— especially early in the season when it’s still hot and humid. It builds depth; it gets playing time for a younger player and it gives the skilled player a chance to rest, watch and get rehydrated. I might add that we have no problem with our best athletes playing on kicking teams too. If you want the send the (important) message that Special Teams really are important!— you will play starters on your kicking teams.

As far as those O linemen. Those “big hogs” need more rest. We also tend to go more for size on the O line than we do on the D line. On defense, we want speed! Even our D tackles are oftentimes converted linebackers. We moved a backup LB to DT this fall and the guy was just about UNblockable! He earned 1st team All State honors because of so many TFL’s and Sacks that he made. Let those big linemen rest. We DO bring them in on goal line situations where we want some beef up front but, for the most part, O linemen go one way.

Finally, a limited number of players on your roster may necessitate having more players go both ways. I still think it’s important to get them a break every 3rd series or so. Set up a rotation where, for instance, you don’t have your whole 2nd backfield in at the same time. Getting backups on the field in a judicious manner helps everyone. Kids want to play— not watch! Getting them on the field for limited play gets them more engaged all week. If they know on Monday that they’re going to be participating on Friday night, they’re going to work harder in practice the whole week. We want our players to “invest” in our program… physically and emotionally.

Technology and Scouting

Posted by admin January - 13 - 2016 - Wednesday Comments Off on Technology and Scouting

When did I become so entangled with my devices??!! I remember when my wife started talking about how we needed to buy a home computer. My response: “Why? All I need is a word processor so I can type a few documents!” Now… my computer goes on the blink and I’m lost!

And cell phones. We laugh when we watch old movies on tv. We can guess the year the movie was made by the size of the cell phone the characters are carrying or…. if they pull off the road and dig out change for a pay phone. (Some of you are asking what a “pay phone” is, right??!!)

While I was out of coaching, the biggest change that occurred was in the area of… yep— technology! The advent of brought about a whole new way of scouting and, thus, coaching. Those of you who have read this entries for a while know how I am a strong advocate of The 5 “P’s of SuccessProper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” Without effective scouting, a coach lessens his chances for success on game night. There is NO substitute for scouting. It’s a principle of warfare and it’s even biblical! You need to know your enemy if you’re going to effectively overcome him!

This is where Hudl comes in. The more game video you can collect on an opponent, the more you get to know that team. Yes! It requires time to breakdown video but it is time well spent. We don’t do nearly as indepth analysis as the colleges do (their Tendency Chart is unbelievable!) but by picking up tendencies, your defense (in particular) is better prepared to stop the offense. A classic example of this occurred the other night in the national championship game with Alabama and Clemson. All 3 of those big plays to Bama’s TE came about because they “broke a tendency.” The big one being: Bama just doesn’t throw to the TE very much! So……. don’t worry too much about covering him! Oops! BIG mistake, right??!! Bama threw out a couple of new formations and pass patterns at Clemson plus the Tiger’s starting Corner went out with an injury. It was a recipe for disaster for the Clemson defense and coaches.

Our scouting report is pretty simple compared to some. I don’t want to overburden our kids with too much to think about! The old adage is true: “If a player is thinking too much, he can’t play at top speed.” When we talk to our players, we show them the top 3-4 formations they can expect to see; what are our opponent’s 3 best running plays and 3 best pass patterns (that can hurt us the most) and who are their “go-to” guys. Anything else we work on is standard stuff (like covering the post/wheel combination) or DT’s taking on the trap) that we always want to be prepared for.

Then we rehearse and rehearse against those “Big 3” things: 1)If they’re in this formation, what can we expect to see them do? 2)Where is their best back (that “go-to” guy) aligned? and if he’s aligned, say, in the slot… what do they do with him? (We played a state “big school” powerhouse early in the season this past fall. We knew when they widened him out– past the OT’s outside hip— they were going to throw a swing pass to him. We knew it and we practiced it. But… our kids failed to execute it and he scored on 2 long runs after the catch which ultimately led to our defeat! We obviously didn’t go over that “key” and ensuing play enough during the week! and… 3)Do they have a tendency to run a certain play on 1st down or 3rd and long (I have a coaching friend who is going to run fullback trap is he’s in 3rd and “teens!”) People never seem to pick it up!

Maybe that gives you some things to think about!

Congrats on New HC Position

Posted by admin January - 8 - 2016 - Friday Comments Off on Congrats on New HC Position

I am a proud (retired) HC today. I found out earlier this morning that my DC was hired to be the new HC at a big public school in Virginia Beach. He deserves it! Congratulations JC.

This is an example of someone who “properly prepared” for his interviews and went after it in the right way. Many of the points I have shared on this blog, Justin put into practice. Obviously, it worked out well for him. Rarely do you find a 26-year-old assistant with only 5-6 coaching experience even be considered for a head job… let alone get it!! He did something right to impress the committee.

Justin is a “Student of the Game.” He devours football material like it’s popcorn… he can’t get enough of it! I’m sure his football knowledge impressed the selection committee. More than that, his passion for the game is easily seen by anyone who knows anything about football. Notice this though: He knows that the “game” is not just X’s and O’s. It’s about people. First and foremost are the young men he will be coaching. Second will be the staff that he hires to work with him. But, it goes further. It’s the administrators and parents he will have to work with. Justin is a “people person.” He communicates well and strives to get along with others. That doesn’t mean that he’s a “push-over” though. He has his philosophy well-ingrained in his mind and he will live by it.

Finally, he is a man of faith. Being a good example to young people today requires you to be a “3D” person—physically, emotionally and spiritually mature. He’s got a challenge ahead of him. It’s a school with some athletes in it. His first job is to motivate those guys who haven’t been playing football to come out to the weight room this winter/spring and give it a try. Justin is going to meet some obstacles. His spiritual strength will carry him through the rough waters and on to big things. You’re going to hear a LOT about this young man!!!

On the “Other Side of the Table!”

Posted by admin January - 2 - 2016 - Saturday Comments Off on On the “Other Side of the Table!”

I had an interesting experience the other day. The A.D. of the school where I just retired asked me if I would sit in on the interview of a prospective candidate for my position… head football coach. I told him that I’d be glad to help… so out to school I went. Sitting on the other side of the table watching and listening to a coach talk about himself and how he’d run the program was eye-opening. I’ve written several posts on the interview process for prospective head coaches but have never had the opportunity to observe someone going through the process. Let me share a few observations:

1- He dressed well. He had a coat and tie on and his shoes were shined. Yep… I checked out his shoes. We took him on a tour of the facilities while the AD posed a few “X’s and O’s” type questions. I pointed out some of the positives about our school and program as we drove around. I was mostly observing his body language. I wanted to see if it had as big an impact on the AD as I’ve stated it to have in these blog posts. It did!

We moved into the AD’s office where the real interview began. He had a whole page of questions prepared to ask. He started with the biggie! “Tell me about your coaching philosophy.” I had a young coach ask me last week, “what do you mean by coaching philosophy?” It caused me to pause…. it’s one of those things that we “talk about” but I’m not sure anyone ever really explains what it is! My answer was: Your coaching philosophy is HOW you do things. What you believe in. It’s everything from conducting practices to relating to players, parents and administrators. MY philosophy can be summed up in one phrase: I wanted my players to leave my program even better people than when they came in. What we teach them about character is as important as what we teach them about blocking and tackling! Thus, we want the Double Victory. We want to win ON and off the field.

The young man we were interviewing certainly had his ducks in a row. He’d put together a short packet— I emphasize short cuz you don’t want to overwhelm the interview committee members— that highlighted what his key points are in HOW he’d run our football program. He went, in my mind, a bit too long in covering everything. I think you can lose people if you take too long to answer one question… but he was enthusiastic and it was obvious that he had put this packet together himself! I’ve known coaches who freely “borrow” from the internet! Make it YOUR work.

The AD asked about HOW he would lead his coaching staff. He asked about what offense and defense he would run. I liked that he used correct grammar; spoke clearly and measured his words; i.e., he wasn’t just “talking to be talking.” He knew what he wanted to say and was, wellllll… eloquent. At that point our Head of School walked in and I thought it was time for me to leave.

As I drove home, I thought about what impressed me the most about this young man. It was his demeanor. He got excited talking about the opportunity to lead our football program while still coming across as very much in control. He projected an air of confidence— not cockiness— in expressing his football knowledge. What stood out though was his character. I just knew that here was a young man who was prepared to lead. He possessed that “it” thing. You know it when you see “it”— right?!

I realized that here was a young man who was “properly prepared” to take over a program that has solid citizens as players; are talented; are used to working hard and are winners. I was obviously impressed with what I saw and heard. There are two other excellent candidates. Our AD is going to have a tough decision!!! I’m glad it’s him and not me!