Monday, October 31, 2011

Adjusting On The Run

Like every other woe begotten soul that follows Ole Miss Football, I sat there Saturday night watching the Rebels take on Auburn.  For the second week in a row Ole Miss has played a solid first half of football before falling apart in the 3rd quarter.  All of the message board pundits over at The Spirit and in The Grove are fuming over the 2nd half meltdowns and the word “Adjustments” has become a time bomb of hatred, malice, and confusion.   Well, I finally decided that I should make an adjustment to this website (1st post in about 6 months) and go over some of the things that I saw during the game.

Someone must have mentioned Pete Boone
-I did not TiVo the game so I have not been able to review things.
-I was so focused on the Ole Miss offense – particularly their newfound fondness of gap scheme run plays – that, like David Lee, I didn’t notice any adjustments by AU’s defense.
-This post is being based off of memory and watching live football so it may contain errors.

AU Run Game:
Gus Malzahn’s offense has been cataloged and dissected by every football writer in the country.  People that study his offense start to notice the reality: is not an overly complex scheme that is loaded up with a bevy of different plays and schemes, but rather a nice mix of plays that are masked several times over and executed from a number of different formations, shift, motions, and personnel groupings.  Today I really just want to hit on two of Malzahn’s top run plays against Ole Miss: the Power and the Hand Sweep.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The 3-4 Defense: Developing the Personnel for the 3-4

*This is the 2nd post in a series on installing a 3-4 defense for use in high school and small college football.

In my last post I briefly discussed the skills you are looking for in each of the “Box” players. Box players are the positions that we use to identify the front 7 (Anytime I add a safety to the Box with a pre-snap alignment we alert the front 7 with a “BOX” call from the safety to remind them of his presence). Our goal is to play multiple fronts to defeat the offenses personnel, formations, and tendencies. Despite the effort to be multiple, I try and limit the number of techniques and skills that each player must learn. Below is a rundown of the alignments and skills each player must focus on:

NOSE-Alignment: Our Nose will only play two alignments. He will play a shade on either side of the offensive center, he will also align in a head-up Zero but will never be asked to two-gap as he will always slant with the call.
-Technique: The nose has one major rule – demand a double team. We want to keep the linebackers free to make plays. The Nose will always try to fit into the block and make it tough for any zone scheme or double to work up and “trade” him off to another lineman.

TACKLE-Alignment: The Tackle will play three alignments. He will align in a tight 5 technique, a 4i, and a 3 technique. He will play a three technique on either side of the center (Under and Solid), but the technique is the same. *Note: some coaches I know have chosen to use either a 4i or 3 and not both*-Technique: Like the Nose, the Tackle will always fit into the block and fight pressure with pressure. He will squeeze any down block.

END-Alignment: The End only has two alignments. He will play a 5 technique and he will play a 4i.
-Technique: In an “Open” formation – without an in-line TE – will focus on squeezing any down block. Against any other block he will try to fight up field and turn the ball back inside unless a stunt sends him anywhere else. He will align in a five and slant inside to B gap. Against a TE, or when in a 4i, he must fight force with force play into the block.

Thursday, February 17, 2011



One thing I feel certain in saying is that there is no defense that serves as the definitive “answer” for stopping offenses. At the end of the day your ability to stop offenses relies on 1) the player’s that you have on defense, 2) your knowledge of the defense and ability to apply it against your opponents, and 3) the opponents ability to both excel and/or shoot itself in the foot. There are many great coaches that swear by certain schemes, fronts, and coverage’s. You look around the country and you see different schemes working all over the football map. TCU’s 4-2-5 has been a hot topic lately. The success of Dom Capers (Green Bay) and Dick Lebeau (Pittsburgh) in the NFL has kept the 3-4 newsworthy. Too many programs have success with the “multiple” 4-3. I see merit in each and every scheme out there, but at the end of the day I have a certain affinity for one: the 3-4.

Why the 3-4? Several reasons:
Personnel: some areas/schools seem to “grow” a certain type of athlete, but at most of my stops I see more hybrid type kids than I do true defensive ends. I think find it easier to find a hybrid kid that can do multiple things than I do kids that I feel safe anchoring down as a four man front DE. I think that this defense also lends itself Nickel and Dime package(s).

Box Alignment: I think the 3-4 allows you to be multiple in your box alignment. I also think that your alignments can more easily be tailored to your strengths in this front.

Secondary Alignment: My preferred coverages will come later, but I think that a 2-high shell is the best starting place when designing the back end of your defense and the 3-4 allows you to use the 2-high shell but still adjust as needed.

Balance: I think that the “base” alignment for a 3-4 defense allows you to balance up to any formation. This benefits the defense in the run game, passing game, and also in the pressure/blitz game.

DISCLAIMER: Below are a few things that I want to put out there before I go any further, some of this applies to football schemes in general and not just this post –
1. We all know that the last guy with the pen wins on the grease board. Players make plays, not markers and diagrams.
2. Almost all schemes are related in some way. This scheme, like others, employs certain principles that make it akin to other defenses so I know some things might enter your head as being “contradictive” to my argument for the 3-4.

3. Most of my 3-4 knowledge comes from a good friend and former co-worker and an outstanding clinic weekend with the defensive staff at Liberty University (Parcells/Belichick/Groh line of 3-4 coaches) and a staff I worked on.

4. It is my blog so I can say what I want.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Don't Call It A Comeback...

I've been here for years. Well, I've been here for a month anyway. Of course I disappeared for a few weeks...

I'm back now though!

Things have been hectic and posting had slipped way too much. All I needed was a good shot in the arm. Thanks to the vote of confidence over on Brophy's site (thanks BTW) I am ready to work again.

In the few weeks since my last post quite a bit has happened. There has been a change of power on our coaching staff as a good friend and boss stepped down, and a new (and respected) coach was hired. I tested the waters (just in case) and had one great interview and several very positive conversations (that could still lead to something). I've endured, and almost completed, the start of track season (I am the Girls Head Coach) and the mountain of paperwork that goes with it. Then of course there are the five classes of 9th grade Language Arts that I teach. Needless to say, it has been all I can do to stay afloat...

The truth is without it all I would get bored. Work is what keeps me going most days because I love it. I might not love every aspect of it, but it is a part of who I am. I love knowing that I could be making a difference, and I love coaching. Sometimes working is hard when suddenly nothing is guaranteed and that is when you need a plan. My plan is simple: keep working. I have no idea what or where the next step for me may be, but I plan to keep working as hard as I can. My life, my accomplishments, my team(s), and my resume are only as good as the work I can produce. Therefore I grind. Oh, and hopefully post more updates to this site.

A few links to share:
A guy that makes a difference

A guy to admire

Friday, February 11, 2011


Continuing on the theme of the 3 step passing game, it is important to recognize Y-Stick and note its prominence in modern football. Y-Stick has become one of the most popular passing plays that coach coaches utilize in early down situations. Many offensive coaches consider the Y-Stick to be a free 4-5 yard play. I prefer to use the Y-Stick concept while still keeping our customary access rule on the back side of the play. Other teams, like the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, get more creative on the backside, especially in empty sets.

I prefer Y-Stick from some type of 3 X 1 formation. Pretty much any form of a 3 X 1 will work.

We use our Access Rule on the backside of Y-Stick. The Concept Side of the play is as simple as it gets. I believe in giving young QB’s simple and sure reads so that they can make a throw with confidence.

Our Progression: (With Access CLOSED)
Z: is a pre-snap read only. Z is out of the equation unless we see two things: Man Coverage or Cover 2 with a big window.

Y to H: The rule is simple; the ball automatically goes to the Y unless color covers the route. Color = H on the speed out.

The goal is to out-leverage the invert or force defender with a horizontal read and make him wrong.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Accessing A Great Quick Passing Game

*Updated with video (at bottom of post)

Some passing offenses are designed to take shots down the field. Some teams rely heavily on play-action for their passing game. Some systems are based on concepts designed to attack the defense all over the field. Due to personnel, some teams are forced to design their passing game around the one true threat that they might have. I feel like I have done a little bit of everything in my time as a coach, but my studies have led me to one strong conviction: to have a great passing game you must be great in the quick game.

An efficient quick or 3 step passing game can be an extension of your run game. If you are the 2007-2009 New England Patriots, a good 3 step package can BE your running game. This past season we made great strides in our quick game, and as a coach I learned lessons that I will carry with me as long as I stroll the sidelines as a coach. These lessons took shape when we implemented simple rules and proven concepts that proved to be effective for both our JV and Varsity programs. These same concepts are the ones I see utilized time and time again by some of the most successful offenses in college and professional football.

Our journey started by teaching the Read Slant that I discussed in a previous post. As noted, I taught the route to our quarterbacks and relied on them to work the routes with the receivers. Our offensive staff made sure to utilize this route from the start of our spring install calendar. Using the same 3X1 (or offset I) formations that we use in our run heavy offense, we would call an “Access” route for the single receiver and match that route with a quick game concept on the 3 receiver side. One major advantage is that any of these plays can be run from multiple formations without changing the read for the QB.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Read Slant

The slant route has been a staple in the passing game for decades. The route has remained popular because it can be a high percentage throw and has the potential to bust for big gains. Guys like Jerry Rice made their career off of running the slant. NFL teams still execute the slant flawlessly. There might not be a better slant team in the NFL than the Green Bay Packers. For some reason though, you have started to see less and less of the slant in high school and college football. I think a lot of this can be attributed to three things: 1) NFL defenses run a ton of cover 1 where good receiver’s can get loose on a 1 step slant, 2) defenses on the HS and college level have become more multiple, and 3) the threat of a spinning safety or dropping lineman in a zone dog/blitz scheme.

Many teams have adjusted their slant game to answer the evolving defenses. Last spring we incorporated the Read Slant to our offense and found it to be successful this season. We borrowed this idea from Rich Skrosky (formerly of Elon) and a video he shared with A Play A Day. Many coaches, particularly high school coaches, prefer to abide by the K.I.S.S. rule and stop reading at this point, but I assure you that this concept is simple and can be learned and employed by athletes most any level.

What is the Read Slant? A smart way to assist your quarterback and receiver’s and help create open space for a high percentage throw.

What exactly are we reading? The “Read” portion of this concept is based on the alignment of the defense and the rules are simple. First, is there a slant threat? Second, what kind of cushion am I going to get? From there the route develops.