Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two-A-Days Tips

As the summer heats gruelingly strikes the United States, it is a clear sign that football season is coming up!  Soon enough, the heat will give way to cool, damp mornings, where smells of grass and sweat blend together with the August sun.  We are approaching the greatest time of year, FOOTBALL SEASON!  
Bleachers and field in the hot sun

Young men from all social, racial and economical backgrounds are coming together with one goal in mind, to succeed in the battlefield known as football.  Football, I am talking about football here people!!!!  The greatest team sport on Earth!  If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, then nothing will. 
Heart pumping.... get it?

As football coaches, it is our responsibility to bring these young men together.  This job is a privilege and a great responsibility.  When talking to a fellow coach over the past few days, he asked me what I felt were the most important parts of the two-a-days season.  He talked about schemes and x’s and o’s, and while he talked; I felt that those are important, but what’s more important is developing your team and staff.   I wanted to share some of my thoughts going into two-a-days that have helped me be successful:

#1  Find the leaders on your team and get them to buy in

The leaders on your team might not always be the best player or athlete.  Your responsibility is to search them out, and let your team know that any one player could be a leader or captain.  Many teams and coaches automatically name the best player the “captain.”  I suggest that you do not follow this old model, instead search out for the player that all of the team respects.  It is easy to identify them, you’re your team gets water or is eating together, see who the players gravitate towards.  They can be the second string QB, or smaller DB, but they are popular and understand their role and the game of football.  Most importantly, they are VOCAL.  When crunch time shows up, they have the guts to stand up, be VOCAL, and lead their teammates to success.  Find that leader among your team!

#2  Promote position competition during two-a-days

Each season I have coached, I have realized how important it is to promote competition for positions.  Just because “Joe Schmoe” started at middle linebacker last year as a junior does not guarantee he has a starting spot this year.   Young players are smart, and if they know they have a guaranteed spot, motivation often drops off.  If they feel the heat of someone taking their position, two positives happen:  they perform under stress and they still motivated to continue to improve themselves.

Consequentially, the other players on the team are motivated to earn that starting spot.  There is nothing worse than a player feeling he “shouldn’t try” because someone has the starting position locked up from day 1.  These players staying motivated and invested also help get them prepared for when they do have an opportunity to play. 

QB Competition

#3  Make sure all of your coaches are on the same page

As a player, there is nothing more frustrating and confusing than having three different coaches telling the player to do three different things.  All off-season you have probably met with your coaches and discussed the schemes and plans for the season.  Make sure that your coaches are following the plan and running a tight ship.   
Same page right coach?

#4  Standards don’t float

Work with your team to understand what the following statement means “Standards don’t float.”  An Army General taught this saying to me recently, and I love it.  It means that just doing the standard or minimum is not enough. 

The General shared a story about how a recruit came to him and asked “Do you think I will be able to do the minimum on the physical training test?”  The General responded “Son, you should be asking me ‘Do you think I will be able to do the maximum on the test?”

The whole idea is to get your players to do more than just the minimum.  Block until the whistle, run to the football on defense, heck, even clean the tables spotless after team dinners.  Push your team to the maximum of its potential, because…. “Standards don’t float.”

#5  Remember, we are not perfect, but we will strive to be

Young men and women are raised to be perfect, and often struggle with how to respond to challenges.  Work with your players, and let them know that plays will sometimes not work, that turnovers will happen, and the other team will score.  This is not a time to tuck our tail and take our ball and head home.  This is a time to rise to the challenge.  Show character and exceed past the failure.  Communicate this to your players, and if mistakes happen, they will be able to push past it.   

With the ending of one of network tv’s greatest shows “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS” I am reminded of Coach Eric Taylor’s speech to his players:
I am going to miss this show..,
“We will all at some time in our lives, fall. Life is so very fragile, we are all vulnerable, and we will all at some point in our lives, fall, we will all fall.  We must carry this in our hearts, that what we have is special, that it can be taken from us, and that when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will all be tested.  It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”

Let your team know that failure will happen, and it is what happened, it is how the team responds.  As a defensive coach, the best example I have of this is during a sudden change moment (turnover by the offense, blocked punt/FG).  We pride ourselves in stepping up to the challenge of a failed opportunity.  Instead of putting our heads down, we will find the character inside us and meet the challenge.  We may not be perfect, but we will strive to be.  

These are five basic tips for your upcoming camp.  With all of these, most importantly, have fun and enjoy two-a-days!  Football 2011 is upon us, and I wish the best of success for each and every team.

A couple of shoutouts

Check out for the best coverage of football on the web.  A great website

Also, Coach Hoover breaks down the fire zone out of each defensive front.  A great read!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Defensive Line Play in the 3-5

With the creation and popularization of the 3-5 Defense and all of its blitzing packages, it is important to understand that the game is still won up front.  Throughout this post, I will be discussing the fundamentals to positive defensive line play out of the 3-5 Defense.  There are three consistent essentials that all 3-5 defensive coaches emphasize.  They are:

1.  Get off the block-  Defensive linemen must be able to use their athleticism and aggressiveness to get off the O-Line's block.  

2.  Pursue the ball-  Defensive linemen in the 3-5 must be RELENTLESS.  They must have a great motor, always running to the football.

3.  Perfect Tackling-  Defensive linemen in the 3-5 must have perfect tackling technique.  When they do come through gaps and/or down the line on a pursuit, the linemen must be able to tackle that RB/QB.  

With these three essentials in place, 3-5-3 defensive line coaches stress perfect fundamentals.  The fundamentals of a 3-5 DL are the following:

1.  Proper Alignment-  DL must know where to line up in each call

2.  Proper Stance-  DL must know slant stance and run/pass rush stances

3.  Proper Steps-  While slanting and moving, it is important for the DL to take the proper steps to get themselves in the perfect place.  

With all 6 of these teachings in place, Defensive Lineman work themselves into the proper position to be successful.

Here are a couple of drills to continue to improve defensive line play in the 3-5.

Slanting Drill
This drill is designed to work with the defensive linemen through repetition and focusing on proper footwork.  The coach stands in front of the three linemen, and calls out the defense/blitz/line stunt.  He then proceeds to call out a cadence and moving the ball when he is ready.  This helps teach the D-linemen to move when the ball is snapped.

Coaching points:
     -  Watch footwork and make sure DL is stepping with proper foot.
     -  Check for flat back and explosiveness out of stance
     -  Use get off techniques (club/rip) on snap of the ball

Pursuit Drill
The pursuit drill goes hand in hand with the 3 essentials of the d-line, and allows players to drill pursuit over and over.  On the snap of the ball, the player will slant to their gap and get their eyes up on the coach.  The coach points in a direction and the player redirects themselves, pursuing after the ball carrier down the LOS.  This is a hustle drill, so make sure the use a lot of excitement in the drill!

Coaching points:  
     -  Watch footwork and make sure DL is stepping with proper foot.
     -  Make sure players eyes are up, looking for the ball carrier
     -  Play aggressive and transition to the ball carrier 

These are the basics of 3-5-5 defensive linemen.  The most important thing is to get these linemen to play fast and aggressive, so that the 6 key essentials comes shining through their play!

Happy belated 235th birthday America!  Hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th!
As always, check out  for THE BEST coverage across the web!  Coming up........... it is up to you!  Let me know what you want, a certain offense, defense or special teams explained!