Archive for May, 2011

Washington Huskies starting quarterback, red-shirt sophomore Keith Price, wore a helmet-cam during the UW spring game.  This video is from Football Scoop and it’s a pretty cool look inside a Division I College Football huddle.

I like the urgency in which Price snaps off the play-calls, how he gets his teammates in and out of the huddle with encouragement, and keeps them going when they are tired toward the end of a drive.

Something you might also appreciate is the perspective from inside the pocket as the play develops.  It really demonstrates all the working parts that a high functioning quarterback has to be aware of.

Price points out the “Mike” on every play so that the offensive line can set (or bluff) their protection, initiates shifts and motions on time while surveying the defense, makes sideline adjustments with coaches, and delivers the ball on time in the face of pressure.

UW head coach, Steve Sarkesian, can be heard through voice overlay comparing him to Charlie Ward, the former Florida State Heisman winning quarterback and basketball point guard.


An excellent football coaching website with tons of useful material and information:

Cripes! Get back to fundamentals…

Clink the link below to their latest post  – a collection of legitimate coaching cutups (not the stuff you see on Fox) containing the first quarter of the 2010 BCS National Championship, featuring Cam Newton running Gus Malzahn’s power spread offense, Chip Kelly and the lightning attack spread of Oregon; Nick Fairley, Casey Mathews, and some defense too.

Also featured in the thread:

  • 3 quarters of 2010 Rose Bowl contest between Wisconsin and TCU
  • First half of 2010 regular season match-up between Oregon and Stanford


You will definitely see a lot of down blocking and pulling by the Auburn and Stanford offenses.  Among many perceived differences between these two offenses, you will also find similarities in the execution of the power play as a base run.  Auburn works from a predominate shotgun set while Stanford prefers more traditional under center sets.  Auburn will employ multiple variations using the quarterback both as a misdirection key and a ball carrier.  Stanford likes to shift run strengths to gain a formational advantage, often using a double shift or shift/motion pre-snap movement variance.

Luck under center

Conventional power sets

Newton in the gun

Spread power set

The end-zone clips are great for studying the run game (more on passing game to come).

All the teams featured run some aspect of zone, with Oregon heavy in outside zone/read action; Stanford runs some of their zone packages out of shotgun with a read element as well with Andrew Luck (as does TCU and Dalton); Wisconsin likes to run lead and outside zone with multiple tight-end and fullback sets; both Auburn and TCU will run some fly sweep, quarterback zone reads; Auburn will also run veer with heavy backfield misdirection more than Oregon because of the inside running threat of Cam Newton.

Oregon’s efforts to diversify an admittedly simple scheme were focused on two back sets early – using orbit motion with a third skill player – attempting to create confusion and hesitation with fast split flow action, elements of deception and surprise.

All this focus on offense, lest we forget…

  • Will Muschamp and the Auburn defense added fuel to the fire on an old football cliche: offense scores points but defense wins championships.

  • TCU is head coached by 4-2-5 technician, Gary Patterson, and capitalizes on fast, athletic, and aggressive play.

  • New 49ers defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, while anchoring the same position at Stanford, utilized a heavy four down set and emphasized keeping leverage on the ball and keeping Oregon skill players in front of them.

Enjoy the film and the site!

Former New England Patriot’s CMO Lou Imbriano writes about making mistakes, taking responsibility, making amends, learning, growing, and more here.

Great defensive article about disguising blitz looks with coverage looks from Blitzology here.

From the same website a 4-2-5 research guide here.

Smart Football breaks down the west coast offense: timing, planning, balance, limitations, and personnel here.

A detailed west coast offense reference site here.

Kokoro – A warrior spirit; mental toughness training through SEALFit by Crossfit

More from SEALfit by Crossfit here.

I just found out that Bud O’Connor passed away.

I can still remember an August morning in the high school auditorium.

Humma humma! … Daylight’s a burnin’!” the gritty offensive line coach hollered.

Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror blared from the speaker.

Coach Bud would put his trucker’s hat on and knowingly smile as he delighted in waking the team up before 6am.

Up we would go on our morning run.

Coach Bud made a kid want to be a better person.

He was demanding but flexible, always motivating, ever positive.

If you didn’t do it right this time then “dad-gummit,” you’d do it right next time.

You had better focus.  He could challenge you at any time… make you stand up for what you believe in.

Getting ready to play football.

Getting ready for life.

Much love and respect to a great teacher.

R.I.P. Coach Bud

Breaking News*

Posted: May 7, 2011 in Features
Tags: ,

*Not Really, but absolutely hilarious, nonetheless.

In no way do I mean to mock the historical event paving way to American retribution for the 9/11 terrorist attacks (no matter what Rashard Mendenhall says) – the deftly coordinated Navy SEAL raid and consequent termination of Osama bin Laden (read a short tribute I put together about the members of SEAL Team 6 here).

But, what would this momentous occasion be without commentary from everyone’s favorite (pseudo) President Bush.  Currently declining to share the spotlight with President Obama, camera’s caught the reticent former Commander in Chief at his favorite Sizzler Steakhouse on Canyon Ranch Road, right outside of his gate guarded community in Dallas, TX.  There, he shared insight into a recent “covert and strategic operation” in which he directed:

Bill Walsh innovated the planning and execution phases of the game of football

Some time ago, I was asked the question in an interview to give my interpretation of coaching theory and describe how it is applied to competitive athletics.  My initial thought was… wow, vague.

Maybe some of you who are reading this are coaches or teachers (or, maybe you just enjoy the sport and want a different perspective to draw from) and, if you are like me, you enjoy learning about the experiences of others in pursuit of similar goals, sharing ideas, searching for better ways to do things, and helping others out along their way… also acknowledging that only a fool thinks he knows everything there is to know about everything.  To this end, I have an anonymous quote posted on my office wall reminding me that:

A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know.

With this logic, there is always going to be reason to continue to build your knowledge base, examine the way you think about things, and challenge the status quo.

Knowing the cat-and-mouse/dog-and-pony-show that interviews can be, I knew they were just waiting to see how I would respond to such an open ended question.  Could I think on my feet, make snap judgments, and ultimately decide a certain course of action and go down that road with confidence?

As far as coaching goes, I think it is fairly safe to say that many would agree there is definitely more than one way to skin a cat – concerning all things related to our profession: developing young men and women, teaching, leading, relating, explaining, demonstrating, evaluating, communicating, and much, much more.

I have found documenting and reflecting on my efforts to be extremely valuable in providing hindsight (paving way to foresight) not only in preparing for interviews, but also as a measure in evaluating choices, decisions, and actions.  When I reflect on my answer to the interview question regarding coaching theory, I ultimately felt that I did not think in global enough terms.  When I heard “coaching” and “theory” my brain automatically went to “scheme” and “philosophy.”

To compound the fact that I had just made a common interview mistake of hearing the question but not listening to it (as opposed to Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump), I was interviewing for a defensive coordinator position and the answer I provided was from an offensive perspective.  In a sense, I fell back to what I was comfortable with having coached offense for the entirety of my ten year career up to that point.

So, I answered the question with the following points from my coaching portfolio in mind as an outline to guide me – however, only briefly touching on some of the points in the following excerpt:


1. Protect the football and protect the quarterback

  • This is accomplished through various methods. Game planning and play-calling is set up with this philosophy at heart. Take external elements into consideration when deciding on play selection (weather, field conditions, score, field position, defensive strengths, etc.). Offensive line personnel strengths and weaknesses will be considered when evaluating potential use of full-slide, half-slide, man and hot principles; sprint-out, naked/boot, drop-back and play-action protection schemes. There will be simple rules and the quarterback must understand the workings of each protection employed. Also consider quarterback involvement in the run game (defensive players assigned on bootlegs, play-fakes, and options; involvement in inside/outside run game) and how that will affect his stamina, mental processing, and physical abilities during a contest.

2. Keep things simple for the offensive line

  • Maintaining consistency for this group is key in establishing any kind of offensive identity. Our base run schemes will consist of power, split flow/lead inside zone, strong and weak toss (outside zone), and fly sweep. Calls and techniques will reflect their similarities in the run (e.g., front-side power double team block mirrors technique with backside zone combination technique) and pass (i.e., front-side/back-side slide calls/techniques/assignments are the same regardless of full or half-slide) game to minimize the amount of concepts we ask the offensive line to execute. We will have the ability to carry one full-slide protection, one half-man/half-slide protection, and possibly one man protection scheme into a contest. Variations off those protections based on running back blocking responsibilities, quarterback/receiver hot adjustments, and directional calls can be made to fit into different passing concepts – but everything is still the same for the offensive line, regardless of the protection variation.

3. Put players in the best possible position to achieve success

  • Package run plays with quick screens and/or automatic quick pass check based on 1) single isolated defender 2) safety alignments and 3) number of defenders in the box. Also set up run plays to have the ability to check direction based on technique/angle advantage.
  • Work half of the field in quick passing game. Build confidence through repetition of identifying and reading isolated defenders varied by concept. Build in man-to-man automatic response process for single and double wide receiver sets.
  • Categorize drop-back and play-action concepts by route distribution and read principles (i.e., 3-man hot combos, Inside Hi-Lo’s, Outside Hi-Lo’s, Oblique, Vertical, and Horizontal stretches) and teach the quarterback the basic read principles. Once he can recall the read principles based on film study and practice repetition it does not matter how the routes are distributed. This insures that offensively we are consistent in what we are teaching, but from a defensive perspective, we are not always doing the same thing from the same looks. We can be diverse in personnel, formations, and motions but consistent in principles and rules.
  • Have a plan to get our most explosive play-makers the ball in the most effective method possible. Use of fly sweeps attached to base run game, bubble and fast screens, and special personnel packages for direct snap opportunities are all simple ways to attempt to let our best athletes make explosive plays.

As I stated previously, when I answered the question I was no where near this in depth.  I simply noted that coaching theory was such a broad area and it could encompass so many different things (as I was stalling to try to think of something profound to say).  Then, all that I could recall at the time was bits and pieces of the scheme and philosophy that I had scribed into my portfolio.  So I went with something to that end.  In retrospect, this would have been an acceptable time to physically bring out the portfolio and point to it as a reference.  Next time.

In the days following, I started to think about all the areas I could have done a better job in during the interview.  This question was one of the first things I toiled over.   There is so much regarding coaching theory in everything I do on a daily basis.  Essentially, I panicked, went blank, and reverted back to what I was comfortable with instead of digesting the question and really identifying some solid elements of true coaching theory and breaking it down.

Years ago a colleague, friend, and former teammate of mine brought up the concept of Stimulus Response (SR) in conversation as a reference to defensive line play.  The basic idea being that his defensive linemen were cued in to common offensive lineman techniques (ie, base, drive, reach, down, double, etc).  Each one of these techniques was considered a stimulus (a visual signal telling the brain to send a message to the body) to the defensive lineman’s response (the appropriate counter movement technique).

Since then I have engrossed myself in the details of applying this concept to all groups on the field, breaking it down position by position, drill by drill.  To take a closer look at some of the points in my Philosophy/Scheme section, there is an element of stimulus response built in.

In reference to keeping things simple for the offensive line:

“Calls and techniques will reflect their similarities in the run (e.g., front-side power double team block mirrors technique with backside zone combination technique) and pass (i.e., front-side/back-side slide calls/techniques/assignments are the same regardless of full or half-slide) game to minimize the amount of concepts we ask the offensive line to execute.”

The only difference between this example and that of my colleague’s is that here, our stimulus is not necessarily created by the movement of an opposing player.  In essence, an offensive lineman’s stimulus is created by the pre-snap alignment of the defenders they are assigned to and whether they are on the front side or back side of the play.

In theory, several layers of SR can be identified in terms of the play call creating stimulus to the athlete’s response –  the thought process of determining his corresponding technique/assignment.  And even deeper, the down and distance, field position, field conditions, score, etc, each present a stimulus to the stimulus (and so on) to the response.  Tony Blauer of Blauer Tactical Systems draws a correlation to this concept related to hand-to-hand combat (at the 2:10 mark he explains the SSSR model):

Ultimately I was disappointed that I hadn’t brought up anything to do with the principles of training the body and the mind for competitive athletics.  Looking back, I have a feeling that is closer to what they were looking for than some canned answers about putting people in position to achieve success, getting your play-makers the ball, and keeping things simple.

It really wasn’t a scheme question and I think that point has been established.  The real letdown is that I blew a good opportunity (by not listening and just assuming that I had the answer) to share my thoughts on a process (one of many processes including but not limited to concepts for visualization, motivation, goal setting, focus, and more; not to mention other principles such as motor learning theory and its foundation supporting skill development and application of practice, feedback, repetition, and mastery) that is crucial to coaching theory: essentially, through repetition, building stimulus response in the nervous system (reaction time) and the muscles (movement time) to improve an athlete’s overall performance.

In the end, to make a short story long, the main idea behind this anecdote is that I simply was not prepared to answer an open ended question regarding coaching theory.  As much as I wanted the job, and as prepared as I thought I was for the interview, I had simply never been asked that question before and surprisingly it never crossed my mind to connect these concepts to the context in which I was asked about coaching theory.

So all this begs the question…

I guess what they say about interviewing is true, right?  The more actual experience, the better off you are…

Well, I guess I can chalk this one up to experience.  I can tell you one thing for sure:

Next time I won’t be caught off guard by a question on coaching theory…