Friday, January 29, 2010

Attacking Empty Formations

Empty can be a problem for many teams. They force the defense to use coverages different from their typical 3x1 formation. Also, the defense can't be so worried about the pass, because modern spread offense will check to QB draws and kill you there. Many defenses will try to bring pressure at the unprotected QB. I once heard a successful defensive play caller say "I will man you ass and bring six". This is a good idea but vulnerable to the quick and screen game.

Edge pressure is inviting. However many offenses have taken the Texas Tech approach to things and have had their lines spread out to put your edge rushers further from the ball. This however has exposed these offenses to different blitz schemes.

A good adjustment to these types of teams is to place 6 rushers on the LOS and put your secondary into some type of man on the WR's.

The trap these wide split offensive lines put you in, is bringing pressure. They slide one way and then let one of your edge rushers go free from a wide angle, giving the QB time to hit a hot route or set up to throw vertical. The key is to not fall into this trap. Give the appearance of 6 rushers, but only bring 3,2, or even 1. This might sound nuts, but you can disrupt a teams empty formation package with just one rusher. The key is alignment.

If a team is gonna use wide splits, don't align your rushers in the gaps! Get your guys as far from the OL as possible. Put 2 guys on the shoulders of the Tackles and center. This makes it hard for the guards to get position on them. Teams don't want to man block this look. Why would they. The rules will put them into a slide protection look anyway. Give an empty formation team this look and they will slide one way or the other and cut one of the edge rushers loose.

The key to this stunt is in how your rushers blitz the QB.

Rule #1 if you are blocked and unable to get to the QB quickly Drop back and spy QB draw. Also, the droping rushers should play the QB on screens, and hot throws.

The Sliding linemen are stressed. The linemen who slide way across to a man not aligned on them will have a hard time getting to the rushers. The rusher that has the OL man turn his but to him, should hug the OL man's butt and get to the QB. The rusher that has the linemen turn to him should drop. This way the blockers are wasted on rushers whom drop to defend the pass.

In addition to the free rusher you have, you will probably get two more rushers up the middle that have linemen having to cover a long distance to block them. This gives you 3 man pressure with 8 men in coverage. This scheme will close the offenses splits (Allow good edge pressure) in empty or force them out of the package altogether(A plus for many).

The idea here is to use the empty wide splits scheme against them. Don't fall into the trap of getting in the gaps. This puts you close enough to the linemen to block you. Stress the o-line! They don't want to see that. Also, no matter what adjustments they make they will not be able to figure out which guys you have going and dropping because you are dropping based on their protection.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Robber Coverage Notes

I posted a reply on the Coach Huey boards about Robber Coverage. I will probably put a more detailed post with diagrams in the near future, but here is some more detailed technique on the coverage. This should be seen as a more in depth look at cover 2 (robber) technique from my original post on split safety coverage.

The biggest technique issues are for the the safeties: SS (Flat player) and FS (Robber).

VS Twin WR's


Drop back and break to the flat if #2 releases outside. If number two release vertical past 8 yards, drop to flat and get under #1 and check if there is a back out (#3). If number #2 Releases inside get under #1 now and be aware of #3.


#2 Release vertical, get in slow back pedal, if he passes 8 yards you have him man to man.

#2 Release inside, remain flat footed and read the depth of the release. If he releases under the linebackers, rob under #1. If he release above the LB's cut off and cover him now (think PAP/boot).

#2 Releases out-side. The eyes flash to #1. The key is to read the feet of the #1 WR. Most of the time one of three things will occur.

1. WR will buzz feet. FS Should rob curl to dig NOW.

2. WR will plant and drive at 45. FS Should roll into a position to cutoff the post.

3. WR Continues vertical. This is different from other peoples idea. The FS should flash his eyes to the QB and now "ROB" his eyes. Break on the ball. If the ball is thrown to the other side,break across the middle. The FS can't help the Corner when #1 releases vertical.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Football Video and Scouting Software

If you are a coach and have not used or been acquainted with DSV (Digital Sports Video) you need to get up to speed. I have been in charge of my program's video and scouting software for the past 3 seasons. I have used DSV and have had nothing but great results. DSV integrates video into your scouting and self-scouting plans. I am not gonna go through all the positives here, I just wanted to give some updates on the software.

In march DSV will be releasing the new version of their software 7.0. It has added many new features, the best is the ability to run breakdown reports seamlessly within your presentation window. The presentation window is the computer program that allows you to project and watch video from your computer just like you do from DVD and VHS. If you fully integrate your systems into DSV, you can actually eliminate the use of tapes and DVD's (the exception is filming). Trades can be done online. You can even email cut-ups to universities whom are recruiting your athletes. If you have a microphone, you can easily add voice over coaching to game or practice video. You can upload all of your videos to the internet and access it from any computer (windows based) connected to the internet. Finally, the rep from DSV showed me how the online video can be viewed from Iphones and Ipod touches. This service will begin next season.

I am not a representative of DSV in any way. For me DSV has made handling football video and scouting a much easier task. My school does not use tapes or dvds. In fact, the only tapes I had to make were for other schools that did not use DSV software. I am sure most schools use some form of video software. If you don't currently use DSV seriously consider buying it. There are other products on the market, but I have not used any of them. Most of the schools in my league use DSV.

Football and Weight Training Part I- The Squat

All of us coaches are concerned with how to make our athletes stronger and faster. In general, we are always trying to figure out how to produce a better athlete. There are multiple philosophies on how to develop strength through the weight room. Weight Lifting as a stand alone practice comes in two major forms: Power-Lifting and Olympic Style Lifting. Which one is better for football? Some coaches veer one way or the other and some people try to incorporate both. Many people believe the squat is the #1 lift for football training. I agree with this. The key to getting the most out of your squats is how your use it for training, and the technique you emphasize.

The biggest pet peeve I have for coaches in the weight room, is jumping in to squats right away without any attention to proper technique. I have seen coaches from other sports come into the weight room and bark and yell at their athletes because they aren't going low enough. For the most part if you have an athlete whom can't get down below parallel, then you have an athlete with poor technique and/or with weak hamstrings. The average athlete is quad dominant. Meaning they quads are considerably stronger than their hamstrings. When these athlete begins squatting, they usually push their knees forward past their toes when they begin descending. This is wrong, because the next thing that happens is they stick their butt out and bend over at the waist in an attempt to get lower. When they finally begin ascending their knees come in closer to one another and they finish the lift looking awkward. The athletes that try to lift like this will have a hard time getting parallel. In a final attempt to get parallel, the lifter will probably have their heels come off the floor to maintain balance (prevent themselves from falling.)

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Why do lifters instinctively try to squat in this manner. They do this because they are trying to keep to the pressure of the lift on their quads. The most important muscles to develop in the squat is the hamstrings, flexors, and glutes. These muscles are the power muscles that influence speed and explosion.

In reality regular squats are not even necessary for the development of power and speed from the hamstrings and glutes. Many World record holding power lifters with insane squats don't even practice for competition with regular squats.

They use box squats. Box squats are excellent for developing strength in the hamstrings and glutes, and even for the overall development of speed and power. I have used a simplified version for beginning athletes (girls and boys). Typically 10 to 8 sets of 2 reps are sufficient tfor the core lift of a lower-body workout. I will usually have them do this for a month on lower body days before I even introduce regular squats. After a month the hamstrings should be strong enough to squat with proper form. The video from renown power lifting guru Louie Simmons demonstrates the technique of box squats.

The key is to sit back far enough that the knees are almost behind (if not behind) your feet. This makes the lift almost like a "leg curl". This is the exact opposite motion that the typical beginning lifter instinctively tries to do. It helps to get the lifter put their feet very wide too. This really hammers the hamstrings, glutes, hip-flexers, and groin.

From an article by Louie Simmons he says:

"The second reason is equally important. It is generally accepted that you should keep your shins perpendicular to the floor when squatting. With box squatting, you can go past this point (that is, an imaginary line drawn from your ankle to your knee will point toward your body), which places all the stress on the major squatting muscles- hips, glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. This is a tremendous advantage.
Thirdly, you don't have to ask anyone if you were parallel. Once you establish a below parallel height, all of your squats will be just that -below parallel. I have seen it over and over. As the weights get heavier, the squats get higher. This can't happen with box squats."

The big argument against this for football players is that football is not played with your feet wide. This seems logical, however, The football position is built on the field not the weight room. The weight room is for building the muscles that allow players to be explosive. Box squats, if done properly, allow your players to be more explosive. 40 times go down, verticals go up, and overall power shows a dramatic improvement.

Here is an example of how Box squats can even serve as an indicator strength and power. I worked with two athletes, one was a linemen the other was a running back. The linemen was very strong, but slow. He had squatted 715 lbs in a power lifting meet. Despite his strength he would struggle to properly box squat 225 2 times from a 12 inch box. On the other hand, the running back which was very explosive and squatted 480 lbs in power lifting meet had no trouble taking 225 off the same 12 inch box. I even put a foam box that stood a mere 6 inches from the ground to test the running back. The back took 225 from from the 6 inch box 3 times no problem. The linemen could not even sit on the box, he would fall over (WITH NO WEIGHT!). Flexibility played a role here. The point of the example was that the back had more explosive power than then linemen did, despite the apparent difference in strength (715 vs 480).

If you are looking for ways to develop explosive power in your players, try looking at some of the articles by Louie Simmons from west-side barbell. I read some of these a few years ago and implemented them into my weight lifting routines. I have seen nothing but good results from them. If anything, as a coach you can use them to teach the proper technique of the squat. I don't want to go to deep into proper technique, if you look at the articles by Simmons, you will get a great idea about what proper technique is.

In the next article I will discuss the role of the power clean. Here is a prelude: (I will probably be stoned to death by most coaches for what I will say.) I believe they do not need be a big part of the lifting routine of high school athletes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

General Football Philosophy Part I

I am often confronted about football philosophy, specifically between different schools of thoughts that surround offense, defense, and the whole team philosophy in general. I will discuss the extremes of the philosophies and try to avoid the standard "create a balance of both" position. On the offensive side, the debate centers on ball control vs passing. And on defense the battle is on Safe/read and react defense focused on not giving up the big play vs aggressive defenses can be at time greedy about giving up anything, not worried as much about big plays.

As a coach what side of the debates do you lean more towards? No one is 50/50. We all have a preference. Why do some coaches lean one way more than the other. Lets talk offense first.


The ball control school, wants to establish the run and control the clock. Shortening the game, keeps scores low, and creating chances to compete against more opponents. UT last two opponents are examples of this. Nebraska tried to play behind a good defense with ball control offense, and eventually lost on a last minute field goal in a 13-12 game. Many people thought Nebraska had no chance. The strong defense coupled with an offense that shortened the game gave Nebraska a chance many argue. The National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide ran for 205 yards and passed for a measly 58 yards, and won the national championship by 37-21. They stuck to this run first conservative philosophy that put the game in each team's defense's hands. Alabama was the better team going in, this philosophy seems to have allowed an over-matched team (Nebraska) and a favored-team (Alabama) to use a run-first offense as an optimal strategy vs Texas. Optimal vs Texas whom had the #1 Run Defense in FBS.

On the other hand you have passing teams like SMU that destroyed the #1 running team in football with a heavy passing game. Even Bill Walsh has been quoted saying that establishing the run (in my view) is overrated. The best passing down for him, are 1st down. Gus M. From Auburn made a living breaking the mold as well.

What is the best system? Its hard to tell. I equate it to poker. In poker you can play tight-Aggressive or Loose-Aggressive. Some people like to control the game of poker so the cards can do their work, and some like to play so their card reading can do their work. The difference of the preference in poker is skills. As a coach, if you can call great and anticipate the offense you can call more agressively. On the other hand, if you are behind in this respect you can play more base and rely on your players and your "technique coaching" to get you through the game.

More will come on this subject, I am not advocating one method or the other, just starting thought on this philisophical debate.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Attacking the Away Side : Boise State vs TCU

After looking a little more in depth at the game last week, I really noticed how good a job Boise State did attacking the TCU defense. Boise State runs a similar 4-2-5 Defense and understands the principals of split safety coverage. In addition to this, Boise was aware of the run support techniques of TCU's Front 6. Boise in different parts throughout the game, revealed a plan to attack the away side in the running game, and at the same time run away from All-American DE Jerry Hughes. I will look at one play in particular from the 1st quarter that illustrates this.

Initial Alignment

With the ball on the left (offensive) hash, Boise broke the huddle and aligned in a 11 personnel formation.

TCU front 6 and Secondary call the strength separate from one another. The front 6 (box) calls the strength to the TE (Y). The TE is set behind the LOS, still they treat him as a TE and align the strength to him. The DE #96 Wayne Daniels aligns in a 6 technique head up on the TE. The 3 technique aligns towards the TE along with the Sam linebacker. The nose aligns weak along with DE Jerry Hughes.

The secondary calls their strength opposite. The SS and FS align to the twin WR's while the WS plays to the TE side. The twin receivers are the passing strength and even more dangerous because they are also aligned to the field side.

Attacking the Box

TCU has a great ability to read and attack running plays quickly. Boise State used this ability against them. Prior to the snap the Slot receiver (H), went into motion and the ball was snapped right before he got to the quarterback. The motion and snap was so quick the TCU box did not have enough to time to account for him.

After the snap the OL blocked to the right and the RB ran right simulating a zone run. The Box did a great job of leveraging the Zone run and filled their gaps perfectly.

This play shows how well the TCU D-line is coached. Jerry Hughes sees the Tackle step towards him, and fights up field to avoid getting reached. On the other side Wayne Daniels sees his tackle block down. Daniels wastes no steps here and immediately steps inside and down to leverage his C-Gap and prepare to spill (wrong arm) any pulling play. As the play develops Daniels is down the line right next to the OT blocking down.

The TCU linebackers Daryl Washington and Tank Carder read the run blocks, see the back movement, and immediately leverage their respective A and B gaps. If the back gets the ball he will have nowhere to go.

Unfortunately, the play is not a zone run. The slot in motion gets the handoff from the quarterback and attacks outside. Since the box is tied up defending the zone run, the only players TCU has left to defend the run with, are the Corner and Weak-Safety.

Attacking the Away-Side Secondary

Boise cross blocks them. The WR releases inside to crack the WS and the TE releases outside to block out on the corner creating a running lane. Boise actually uses no one to block the play side defensive end (Daniels). He takes himself out of the play by leveraging down the line on the tackles down-block.

Here is the actual EZ view:

The picture above shows the positioning of the players as the Slot attacks the edge. The TCU box is out of position to defend it. And the cross blocks by the WR and TE create a good running lane for the receiver. The play ended up gaining 18 yards. It could have been more if the WR blocked the WS longer, the WS got off the block and forced the slot out of bounds.

The whole play looks like this.


TCU plays great defense because they read well, and pursue the ball fast. This is difficult for offenses to attack. Boise State put together some good plays to attack TCU. In creating these plays they had to account for the technique and reads of the TCU players. By understanding this, they were able to put together a play, that left a point of attack defender unblocked (without optioning off them). That takes intelligence and a respect for a defender's discipline to execute. Like all things in football, the team that stays a step ahead will find ways to execute.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Random Thoughts

Haven't had time to get a good post together, been busy at work. I wanted to note a a couple things.

#1 TCU Vs Boise

The Boise State offense came out with a good game plan vs TCU. A lot of their motions were designed to change the read side and cause the secondary to move. Change of passing strength is an issue 4-2-5 defenses don't like to see very much, because it forces the WS and SS to change responsibilities. If you are running the D without interchangeable personnel, you are gonna have some trouble.

I liked the post from BROPHY FOOTBALL and the pictures it had from the game. I will discuss a couple of them.

1st Is the aggressive alignment to 32 personnel.

It is 3rd and 1, Boise has put its short yardage personnel on the field. TCU did not make any substitutions. 5 DB's are still on the field. However, they did adjust their alignments and coverages to handle this set. The front 4 are playing base alignment vs double tight (Vs double tight the shade nose shifts to a 2i.) The backers get a slide call from the WS and shift over a gap. The WS plays behind the DE. (I am not sure coverage wise what was actually called, but given the alignment I will discuss what it appears to be.)

On the Read side the SS plays a loose 9 responsible for forcing the ball on run, and taking the 1st route to the flat on pass. The read corner and FS are playing a banjo on the TE and back out. In this alignment the FS is real active, if he gets a run read, he is up into the line filling now. On the away side the corner and WS are banjo-ing the TE and back out. It is interesting to see how aggressive TCU was with this alignment. All 11 players are within 5 yards of the LOS.

2nd is the adjustment TCU made to a special set.

This is technically 11 personnel. However the RB is cheated up in blocking position and can function like a TE with the ability to motion. TCU put the read and away sides in blue (possibly man) The FS and WS cover with the corners. this leaves the SS free in the middle spying the back.

Final Thoughts

As a coach I am reluctant to criticize what others coaches do (especially college) in a game, I am often bothered by the vocal opinions of fans whom don't know the game. But I thought TCU offensively did not try to establish the run. Tucker has shown a lot of promise as a freshman and he only got 1 carry. The TCU coaching staff has done a fabulous job with their team, and I am excited about seeing what they can do.