Interview with Jeff Reinebold Interview with Jeff Reinebold



Interview with Jeff Reinebold Interview with Jeff Reinebold
June 2010
Vol. II • No. 6
In This Issue
Steve Axman
Chris Booth
Steve Loney
Mike McQueary
Jerry H. Moore
Ken Niumatalolo
Jeff Reinebold
Kirby Smart
Jim Tkach
Larry Wilcox
Interview with
Jeff Reinebold
June 2010
Volume 2, No. 6
The Competitive Edge
Interview With Jeff Reinebold
Under the Helmet: Depression and Mental Health (Jim Tkach)
Why and How to Run the Triple Option (Ken Niumatalolo)
Basic Principles of Route Running (Mike McQueary)
Defensive Principles and Secondary Drills (Kirby Smart)
Youth Football Play: Blue Right 29 Belly vs. 4-3 (Chris Booth)
Effective Football Practice Concept: You Play as You Practice!
(Steve Axman)
Counter-Pulling Drill (Steve Loney)
Noseguard Explosion Drill (Jerry H. Moore)
Find-the-Window-Under-Pressure Drill (Larry Wilcox)
Photo credits
Page 18
Page 30
Page 42
Page 50
Page 57
Dennis Hubbard/Icon SMI
Al Bello/Getty Images Sport
John Green/Cal Sport Media
John Green/Cal Sport Media
Jeff Johnson/Icon SMI
Editorial Director
Managing Editor
Project Manager
Dan Robinson
James A. Peterson
Brenden Murphy
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Message from the Publisher:
The Competitive Edge
uch of the communicating football coaches do is wordless. In fact, over 90
percent of the communication of most coaches is nonverbal. While verbal communication
enables other people (colleagues and players) to learn about a coach’s thoughts and ideas,
nonverbal communication helps to paint an image of who he is and his feelings. As such,
nonverbal communication is an essential component of skillful communication for all
individuals—including football coaches. Nonverbal communication involves four broad
elements: voice qualities, body language, facial expressions, and clothing and grooming.
Everyone knows a coach on the opposite end of the spectrum on each element.
Certainly, the calmness, strength, and confidence projected by the voice of someone like
Tony Dungy stands in sharp contrast to the elevated excitement conveyed by the voice of
Vince Lombardi on the sideline during a game. By the same token, the message dispatched
by the body language of Nick Saban differs substantially from the one communicated by Joe
Paterno’s body language during the course of a game.
The takeaway point to be made by the aforementioned examples is that the list of polar
opposites in the coaching community on the nonverbal spectrum is potentially endless. In
turn, another key issue in this regard is that no single “right-way” roadmap exists concerning
how to handle nonverbal communication. Within the boundaries of common sense and
appropriate behavior, every coach needs to be himself. Trying to be someone else, someone
or something they’re not, can be catastrophic for coaches at any competitive level.
James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM
Coaches Choice
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Interview With
Jeff Reinebold
Q How did you first get started in coaching?
My college coach at the University of
Maine, Jack Bicknell, was the first guy
who really encouraged me to think
about making coaching a career. Jack
was an individual who was loved by
his players and when he talked to us,
we all listened.
Q Which individual has had the greatest impact
Jeff Reinebold
Jeff Reinebold is the
wide receivers coach at
Southern Methodist
University, a position he
assumed in 2008. His
coaching career has
spanned almost three
decades, and has included
stints at Western Montana
College, Dartmouth, Rocky
Mountain College, and the
universities of Montana,
Pennsylvania, New Mexico,
Louisiana Tech, and
Hawaii. Much of his career
has involved working with
special teams and includes
spending 12 seasons
coaching professional
football in the CFL and
NFL Europe.
on you personally in your coaching career?
A number of individuals have made a
lasting impression on my career and
my life—Jack, of course; my father;
Jim Reinebold, who is in the Indiana
High School Baseball Hall of Fame and
is to this day one of the top teaching
coaches I have ever been around. Two
individuals, in particular, stand out on
my list of people who have influenced
me. June Jones and Dick Vermeil
continue to be two of the biggest
influences in my coaching and personal
life. Not only has June been exceptionally
good to my family, he has also brought
me closer to God and has given me an
unbelievable gift of knowledge and
loyalty. Coach Vermeil is the guy for
whom I would most want one of my
sons to play. After interning for him in
Kansas City, as I was leaving, I told him
that in all of the interactions that I had
seen him be a part of—from fans to
players to coaches to media to the
janitors in the dorms, I had never seen
him once treat another person with
anything but respect and genuine interest.
Q What advice would you give a young coach
just starting out?
JR Young guys sometimes ask that question
and the advice I give is the same that I
got as a young guy...go learn the game,
watch as much tape as you can, ask
questions, listen more than you talk,
care about the kids, and respect the
game. The second thing is make sure
you find a great wife! My wife, Ellie,
who runs the pediatric cardiovascular
intensive care unit at Lucille Packard
Children’s Hospital at Stanford
University is a great example: a tough,
strong, independent, loyal, and loving
partner and great mother to our kids.
Q What’s the most enjoyable job you’ve had
in your career?
Two things in my coaching career are
my most deeply cherished memories.
First, it was my opportunity to be a part
of the Kansas City Chief ’s training
camp in Coach Vermeil’s first year in
KC. If I never coach another down in
the NFL, I will always remember how
it felt to go out and play the Bears in
Arrowhead, with the KC crowd doing
their “and the home of the CHIEFS!”
as the national anthem was played; it
was awesome. The second was having
a chance to coach at the University of
Hawaii under June Jones. Hawaii is a
place I always said I wanted to be and
the experience under June was very
special to me and my family.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Q What’s the biggest challenge that almost
every football coach faces?
Our egos. Too many times, a coach’s
ego takes over. Truth be known, I am
as guilty as anyone. Coaches have a
responsibility to the game to remember
it is about the players; it is their game,
we had our time and, at this point, it is
about helping every athlete grow as a
player, a student, and, hopefully, as a man.
Q What competitive level (high school, college,
or pro) have you enjoyed coaching the most?
JR While I have never coached high
school, I sincerely believe that because
of the age of the kids you work with,
coaching at the interscholastic level has
to be extremely rewarding. In reality,
each level has its positive and negative
aspects. I really loved my experience
in the NFL Europe League. We had
young NFL guys who were there to
get better or prove they belonged in
the League. We lived together in a
hotel in a foreign country, and, by the
time the 10-week season was over, we
were a very close football team.
Q Have kids changed much since you first
started coaching?
I really don’t believe kids have changed
fundamentally since I started my
coaching journey, but the world has
changed. Kids learn differently today
than we did. We learned by listening.
Kids now need to see what it is you
want them to do. The best coaches I
know are the best teachers. These
coaches are able to utilize all of the
technology available to help their athletes
have success. The game is still the same
wonderful game I fell in love with in the
neighbor’s front yard, playing tackle
football. Now, I see my 14-year-old son,
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Kekoa, trying to be like his idol—
Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers,
and it makes me smile—another
generation falling in love with the game.
Q Is there anything on your “coaching bucket
list” that you haven’t done yet, but would
like to before you retire?
JR I would like to coach in the National
Football League. The NFL is the highest
level of competition. As a competitive
person, you want to test yourself on the
biggest stage against the best in the
business. If it doesn’t happen, that is OK,
because as my father taught me,“it is not
the level you’re coaching at, it is the
level of your coaching that matters most.”
Q What trait do you admire most in a
coaching colleague?
Honesty is the single most admirable
trait a human being can have. If you are
honest with yourself and others, you
will take care of a lot of the other issues
that might arise. Sometimes being
honest, truly honest, can be tough both
on you and on others. In the long haul,
however, it is always the best path to
take. Being honest doesn’t mean you
have to be rough. You can still find a
way to communicate the truth in a
compassionate way that isn’t hurtful.
Q What would you like your coaching legacy
to be?
JR Hopefully, the players, coaches, and
people who have been part of my
coaching journey will realize that I
cared for them and that I had their best
interests first in my line of priorities. If
“HE CARED” was written on the
headstone of my coaching grave, that
would be enough of a legacy for me.
Under the Helmet:
Depression and
Mental Health
By Jim Tkach
o introduce this article, I’d like to give
you an overview of my son, Bo:
She told us he should not be having these
thoughts at five-years old.
• Two-time first team all-state football
• Two-time District XI javelin champion
• ESPN’s 2000-2001 Academic High
School Football All-American
• Youth volunteer
• 2007 Wilkes University magna cum laude
• Lifelong battle with obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD) and depression
• July 2007: Lost to suicide
We summed up the situation and were
led to believe that it was because Sandi was
going to give birth to our third child soon,
and perhaps some jealousy was going on.
The primary purpose of this article is to
raise awareness about a problem we face in
America today. The introductory list details
the things that Bo Tkach achieved in his short
life. My wife, Sandi, and I lost him in July of
2007 to a miserable disease called depression.
One of the first points I’d like to make is
that depression is a disease, and that it is not
a state of mind.
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 2009 Coach of the
Year Clinics, edited by
Earl Browning
Our first indication that Bo had a
problem was when he was in kindergarten.
He was five-years old at the time. His
teacher sent him to the guidance counselor
and told her Bo was having bad thoughts.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
In the seventh grade, things got worse.
We noticed he was pulling his pants up tight.
I told him to pull his pants down, and I
looked at his waistline. He had on four pairs
of underwear.
Subsequently, he was diagnosed as having
an obsessive-compulsive disorder caused by
a chemical imbalance in his body. Through
all of this, it created a whole life of
uncertainty. In spite of all of this, he was
able to have an unbelievable imprint on life.
Two nights after his death, they had
calling-hour at the church, and in our small
town, they had to call out the fire department
and police because over 1,400 people came
to pay their respects. They included college
coaches, high school coaches, and players
from around the tri-state area.
Sandi and I decided we would try to do
something to make an imprint on young
people and coaches concerning the issue
of depression. As a result, the Bo Tkach
memorial “Under Every Helmet and Hat
Is a Child Who Needs Us” was developed.
I found out that 15
of our players were
out drinking the
week before. I
benched those 15
players who were
guilty of drinking.
We lost the game by
three points.
Our daughter, Tristin, and our other son,
Tyler, convinced us to use this name for the
project. Tristin is a schoolteacher, and Tyler
is a defensive end at the University of
Both of my sons played high school
football for me. If you have coached your
own son, you know that can be stressful.
When I coached my sons, it was the best
seasons we ever had. Our house was filled
with kids during that time. Football has been
very special to our entire family and has
affected the manner in which we conduct
our lives. I have been fortunate to have been
in football for 30 years. I continue to go to
as many clinics as I possibly can because I
am still learning about the game of football.
The second part of this story comes about
three weeks after we lost Bo. In 2005, Matt
Millen, the former president and general
manager of the Detroit Lions, called me up
to talk. We grew up 20 miles from each
other, but I did not know him. In 2005, I
was the coach of a very good team that was
undefeated. I found out that 15 of our
players were out drinking the week before.
I benched those 15 players who had been
drinking. We lost the game by three points.
We missed a fourth-and-one by just one
inch, and we lost the game.
Matt Millen called me up and let me
know that he thought it took some stones
to do what I did with those 15 players. It
was a very controversial decision. The rule I
had to follow was the fact that anyone who
was caught drinking would have to sit out
the games for two weeks. I did not talk with
Matt Millen again for the next year or so.
After losing Bo, Sandi and I started going
to some regular counseling. We did not feel
it was going the way we wanted it to go. We
would go to the meetings, and after the
meeting was over, they would tell us that they
would see us the next week, which was not
strong enough for us. We wanted to go to a
Christian counselor. Matt Millen called again
and said, “I just heard about what happened.”
A newspaper reporter who used to be in
our area had given the message to Matt
about our Bo.
I told Matt that we were looking for a
counselor. He replied, “Jim, that is what my
wife does.” Two weeks later, we were sitting
in his home, and we began the process of
counseling. Every two weeks, we met at his
house with him and his wife and went
through a series of biblical studies to try to
help us deal with the pain of losing a child.
I did not know anyone who had ever
lost a child through a suicide. I emailed the
Indianapolis Colts, because I knew what
had happened to Tony Dungy’s son. What
were the chances of getting through to Coach
Dungy? The very next week, he called me.
He called me on my cell phone and said it
was Tony Dungy. I knew that no one who
knew me would try to play a joke on me
after what had happened.
Tony Dungy talked to me for about 45
minutes. He told me two things that stuck
in my mind. He told me that my marriage
would go into the 80th percentile in regard
to divorce because my wife and I may not
deal with this in the same way. He also went
on to say that our own children may not
deal with it in the same way.
My daughter was a “day counter.” We
were going to see the University of
Pittsburgh play one day, and she called me
up. I answered the phone, and she asked me
if I knew what day it was. I told her I was
Football Coach e-Magazine |
not sure what she meant. She replied, “It has
been 30 days since we lost Bo.” Before the
call, I was having a “good hour,” and that got
me upset again. Sandi reminded me what
Coach Dungy had told me about this kind
of thing happening. Everyone is going to
interpret it differently.We need to understand
that everyone is trying to help in this regard.
We had a lot of people come up to us and
say the stupidest things you can imagine.
They did not want to hurt us, but they were
just not used to dealing with this topic.
The morning after the first call from
Coach Dungy, he called back, and said, “I
forgot to tell you something. If you really
believe in heaven and that your son is better
off in heaven, then it is almost selfish to want
him back.” The key thing about this point is
the fact that Tony Dungy called me back.
My son, Tyler, came home for the Labor
Day weekend. He told me that he was not
going to go back to Pitt unless I went back
to coaching. I had been out of coaching for
one year. I asked him what he meant by
those comments. He told me he thought I
would die if I did not do something to get
my mind off the situation. He said, “All you
are doing is crying.” He was right.
I had some coaches ask me to come back
to coaching, and I did. It was good for me,
until I was driving home from practice one
night. I could not stop crying. It was on a
Monday evening, and I called Coach Dungy.
I told him that I was struggling to keep
from crying. Tony talked to me for several
minutes, until I got back home. I walked in
the door at home, and the TV was on. The
announcer on the TV said, “The Colts will
be kicking off to start the game.” I could
not believe it. Tony Dungy took my call an
hour and a half before the kickoff. I make
that point to tell you that football people
take care of football people. We all need to
Football Coach e-Magazine |
be examples to start reaching out.
Recently, after breakfast one morning, I
received an email from Matt Millen. In the
Super Bowl (which occurred the previous
week), Matt had been sitting next to Tony
Dungy during the pre-game show. Matt’s
email said, “Jim, Coach Dungy asked how
everyone was doing.”
We are from a small town in Pennsylvania
on the edge of the coal region. We are not
everyday “newspaper-headline” type of
people. The point is Matt and Tony could
have forgotten about us and not called us or
said one word to help us. They did not do
that, and that is one of the points that I
want to get across in this article.
I coach hard. Don’t think this is going to
be a “soft-soft” discussion from this point
on. If kids are not doing things right, I am
going to crew them. If they make mistakes,
I am going to rip them. I am a line coach,
and I coach hard. No one is saying you
cannot coach kids hard. The thing you must
do is to love the kids you are coaching.
They are the only kids you have. Football is
in a position to have an influence over more
kids in this country than anything else.
A recent USA TODAY headline read:
The U.S. Army sets a record for suicides in the
month of January. We lost more soldiers to
suicides than we lost in the war in January.
Perhaps, another enemy exists that we need
to fight. They do not have enough therapists
to help the soldiers who are returning from
the war. In addition, we do not have
enough people to recognize that we are
dealing with a disease.
I could not believe
it. Tony Dungy took
my call an hour and
a half before the
kickoff. I make that
point to tell you
that football people
take care of
football people.
One of my former college teammates
called me up one day and told me about his
two sons. He has one son that is signing a
scholarship with West Virginia University,
and the other son, a junior, is a Division I
basketball player. He has an obsessivecompulsive disorder just like my son had.
My friend asked me, “How did this happen?”
We talked some more, and he kept coming
back to how this happened.
Because of the unfortunate
circumstances, this is what the good Lord
has led my wife and I to do. We are taking
this challenge. At this point, I’d like to go
over the program that we have put together.
I asked him, “If he had been diagnosed
with diabetes, would you question what had
happened?” He said he would not question
it if it were diabetes. “If the situation was
diagnosed as cancer, would you question
it?” Again the answer was, “No.” No, we do
not question these diseases. Depression is a
disease! Until we recognize this fact, we are
going to have a problem on our hands.
Under Every Helmet and Hat
Is a Child Who Needs Us
Last August, I spoke to the Lycoming
College football team.The coach told the team
that I was coming in to talk to them about
depression. When I walked into the room, I
had over 100 kids looking at me as if they had
lost their best friend. I got up to speak, and
the first thing I said was this: “Listen you—
young and restless—give me your eyes.”
The players sat up and listened to what I
had to say. I had gotten their attention.
Depression is a
disease! Until we
recognize this, we
are going to have a
problem on our
This situation worked out to be a neat
exchange, because after the talk, we had two
kids come up to talk with us. We had a big
kid who was a lineman come up, crying his
face off. He said, “Coach, my best friend in
high school just shot himself, before I came
to camp.” I did not know what to do or
what to say. I called his head coach over,
and we arranged for him to see the college
counselor. We got the process started.
I am not a physician. I am not a therapist.
I am a football coach. That is who I am.
Someone once summarized my life when
he said about me, “This man coached for 30
years, and after he retired, he realized he did
not have any hobbies.” I can’t golf, and I
can’t fish. I am a coach.
Bo Tkach Memorial
in Conjunction With the University
of Michigan Depression Center
This program was written with Eric
Hipple, a former quarterback for the Detroit
Lions. He lost his son six years ago to suicide.
We were introduced to Eric through Matt
Millen. We started talking, and I talked about
the coaching aspects of what needed to be
included, and Eric included the aspects
related to the suicides. Then, the University
of Michigan put its stamp on it, which simply
means that I am not a nutcase coming to
talk with you. It is a legitimate educational
program, which is why the University of
Michigan has their seal on our material.
Eric Hipple is the outreach coordinator
for the University of Michigan Depression
Center. It is the first depression center in the
United States on a college campus. They are
doing some great work there. I’d like to review
some of the information they are covering.
When I go out to talk to kids at schools,
I do not show Bo’s picture to the kids. A
kid in the audience may recognize the
picture and see it as “the attention Bo is
getting.” Believe it or not, kids will hurt
themselves for that kind of attention if they
are having this problem . . .
Football Coach e-Magazine |
The following list of goals details what
we are going to try to do:
Mission (Program Goals)
• Promote mental health awareness in
athletics; holistic care:
High schools, colleges
Coaches, parents, student-athletes
• Encourage relationships; establish trust:
Coaches and student-athletes
Team members
• Educate communities and provide
Tools for everyone involved
We are working with Nike to develop
information that we can give to football
coaches to start out with some things they
can do if they are faced with a kid who has
a problem with depression. What do you do
if a kid comes in to see you and tells you, “I
just don’t know if I want to live anymore.”
What do you do? As such, we try to spread
relevant information to help educate
coaches about the disease of depression.
I want to stress one thing about
coaching. I am a tough coach. I rip them
when they make silly mistakes. However, I
do not name call them.You do not want to
call a kid a name. Criticize what they are
doing wrong. If you are going to yell at a
kid, teach them something. Coach them if
you are going to raise your voice.
One thing we did this year at Liberty
High School was to meet as a “book-ofthe-week club.” We met at a pizza house
and talked about books. We had 14 kids a
week who came to the meetings. We had
some quality football players come to the
meetings. The first book we took up for
review was Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx.
The conversations we got into were
amazing. I would recommend doing that if
it is something you can do. If I had called
Football Coach e-Magazine |
the program an FCA group or a Bible study,
it was going to flash a red light, and we might
have scared some of them away. It worked
fine for us. I let the players in attendance
guide the level of intensity at the meetings.
The mission we are doing personally has
been great. We had a golf tournament last
summer. Two of my former students put it
together. They both work in TV and in the
Internet industry. In one day, they raised
$55,000. If anyone in our area under the
age of 25 does not have insurance to cover
the cost of a mental-health assessment, we
pay for that. We also pay for their counseling.
Last month, we had 15 people whom we
helped with counseling. The cost is $250
per hour. Fortunately, we arranged for a
special counselor to come out to help us,
who only charges us $125.00 per hour.
What do you do if a
kid comes in to see
you and tells you, “I
just don’t know if I
want to live
anymore?” What do
you do?
We had a flag football game between two
rival schools. Each group made $10,000. the
key point is that people want to help with
these projects.
I also want to discuss awareness. The
University of Michigan did a study of
Major League Baseball. They found that
winning percentages were very low when
teams traveled. Why is it lower? Is it the ice
machine out in the hall? Is it the different
bed they are sleeping in? Is it a different
sleep pattern they are in?
Take a look at high school football players.
They are up late on Friday night after a game.
On Saturday night, they are out doing what
high school kids do. On Sunday night, they
are trying to get to sleep, but they have slept
late that morning and have a hard time
going to sleep. Come Monday morning,
they are rolling out going to school early in
the morning. Take this kind of schedule for
four to six weeks. Most school principals
can tell you that most problems start four to
six weeks after school starts. The records are
starting to point to the fact that the sleep
patterns of kids is one of the reasons they
are having problems.
It has always been
interesting how I
deal with most
parents. I bring
them into a summer
meeting. I sit them
down, look at them,
and say, “Unless I
do something
illegal or immoral,
do not talk to me
about your kids’
playing time. Let
your kids play.
One particular point is something that I
have a hard time trying to figure out.Young
kids usually wake up early. Those young kids
will be up at the crack of dawn. We send
the young kids to school at 9:00 a.m., and
the older kids go at 7:30 a.m., in many cases.
The high school kids want to sleep in, and
we get them out early. Over 15 school
districts in the United States are looking at
swapping times to get kids back on a better
sleep track. While a lack of sleep is only one
consideration, a lot of little things can add
up. Sleep is one factor you need to address
with your players.
• The importance of recognizing stress,
sleep, depression, and substance abuse
• High schools/colleges:
Different levels of competition require
different approaches
For example, Division I vs. Division III
• Coaches:
How can you encourage positive
mental growth and development?
Activity and discussion
Your role as a coach
How do you impact your studentathletes?
• Parents:
Open communication
Summer meeting for parents and
coaches to maintain contact
• Athletes:
Encourage accountability
Promote responsibility for self
Discuss sleep schedule/nutrition
It has always been interesting how I deal
with most parents. I bring them into a summer
meeting. I sit them down, look at them, and
say, “Unless I do something illegal or
immoral, do not talk to me about your kids’
playing time. Let your kids play. You go out
and cheer for them.” If you run that through
some situations, you can keep yourself out
of a lot of crap. I tell the parents that if they
want their kids, they can take them home
with them. If they are going to grow, the
parents must leave them with the coaches.
You have to teach the kids how to dress,
how to walk, how to talk, how to sleep, and
how to eat. We tell our kids to be on time,
follow rules, and make no excuses. I put it back
on the kids. It has worked for us, but I am not
saying this way is the only way it will work.
Next, I’d like to discuss relationships. We
need to establish relationships, and we need
to be around the kids. In that regard, we discuss
several factors, including the following:
Coaches and Student-Athletes:
• Act as a mentor and friend with a shared
• Develop trust.
• Make a commitment to the individual
and the team.
• Stay positive.
• Exhibit fairness and integrity.
• Have a strong work ethic, coupled with
maintaining balance.
• Learn from mistakes. A quote from
basketball coach, Rick Pitino reinforces
the point:
“Everything I’ve learned about coaching, I’ve
learned from making mistakes.”
Team Members:
• Delta Force mentality: No one gets left
• Cohesive, coordinated team
Coaching staff is on the same page
Shared respect for each other and the
team vision
Team spirit: motivation and inspiration
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Next, I’d like to discuss education for
those who need to become involved in
depression awareness. As such, steps should
be undertaken to enlist the following:
• Targeting athletic programs nationwide
• Outreach efforts:
Speaking engagements
Implement mental health awareness
In reality, a number of relatively well-known
athletes struggle with depression. Several of
these athletes have come forward in the last
three to four years to speak publicly about
their problems with depression, including:
• Boris Becker, tennis
• Vin Baker, basketball
• John Howell, football
• Barret Robbins, football
• Dan Cody, football
• Jim Shea, skeleton racing
• Terry Bradshaw, football
• Russ Johnson, baseball
• Picabo Street, skiing
• Julie Krone, horse racing
• Pat LaFontaine, hockey
• Pete Harnisch, baseball
• Nikki Teasley, basketball
As such, many more names could be
added to this list.
Who Is at Risk With Depression?
• Depression impacts all income levels, men
and women, all professions.
• One in 10 people will experience some
form of depression or bipolar disorder
between the ages of 13 and 19.
• Fourteen percent of everyone will have
depression at some point in their lives.
What Is Depression?
• Depression is not:
• The blues, being sad, stressed out, or upset
• Caused by a bad day
• Normal for anyone
• A weakness or a character flaw
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Depression is:
• A chemical change in the brain, involving
neurotransmitters, genetic vulnerabilities,
and environmental stressors (Diagram JT-1)
• Accompanied by intense, persistent
symptoms, which prevent optimal
Diagram JT-1. Interactions among genes,
biology, and environment
Diagram JT-1. Interactions among genes, biology, and
Interactions Result in Clinical
• Depressed mood (blue, gloomy, tearful, sad)
• Diminished interest/pleasure in most
• ìSlowed down,î anxious, irritable
• Trouble sleeping or too much sleep
• Increase/decrease in appetite/weight
• Unexplained physical symptoms, fatigue,
loss of energy, pain
• Feeling worthless, inappropriately guilty
• Trouble thinking, concentrating, making
• Recurrent thoughts of life not being
worth living, death, suicidal ideation,
specific suicide plan or attempt
Interactions Can Also Trigger
Bipolar Disorder
• Inflated self-esteem, grandiosity
• Decreased sleep
• Pressure to talk
• Flight of ideas, racing thoughts
• Distractibility/lack of focus
• Hyperactivity in the workplace/socially,
spending sprees, sexual indiscretion
• Irritability
It should be noted that depression cannot
currently be diagnosed based on brain images.
What is known is that treating depression
can make a difference. Another thing that is
known is that depression is a disease. When
the brain is scanned, these depressions do
show up. On the other hand, they cannot
be diagnosed at this point in time.
Facts About Depression
• Suicide is the third leading cause of death
of individuals in the 15 to 24 age range
(Table JT-1).
• Every year, four to eight percent of
adolescents experience a major depression.
• Children of depressed parents are three
times more likely to experience a major
depression in their lifetime.
Suicides per 100,000 for those 15 to 19 years
old, compared with the rate for the entire U.S.
population (USA TODAY 2/9/2000)
15-19 years old
U.S. Pop.
of Table JT-1. Center
1966 for the top4.3
on 1971
of box]
• Education:
Have a list of resources on hand.
Coordinate a support system with
parents and teachers.
Educate yourself to counteract stigma.
• When someone is showing signs/having
Encourage talking.
Seek treatment (make referrals).
Offer support and follow through.
• University of Michigan Depression
• Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance:
• National Mental Health Association:
• National Institute of Mental Health:
• National Alliance of the Mentally Ill:
• American Foundation for Suicide
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
(800) 273-8255
Table JT-1.
What Can COACHES Do to Help?
• Awareness:
Stay vigilant; be aware of what’s going
on with your team.
• Relationships
Continue to build trust, open
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Resources for Parents
• Mentor Research Institute
• Consult with your local mental health
department for services in your
One video that I would encourage
everyone to see features Randy Pausch and
is entitled, “The Last Lecture.” Randy was a
professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
The book by Randy on the same subject is
also superb. We used it in our book club.
The University picked a profession to do
what they call “The Last Lecture” to give to
the kids. No one knew this, but Randy only
had six months to live. He got up and gave
an incredible lecture. One point that stood
out with our kids in the book club was his
comment: “The brick walls are there to give us
a chance to show how badly we want something.”
That line stood out with our kids. I was
once one of those guys who always wanted
to know what life is throwing at me next.
Coaches should teach kids that life is up
and down, especially in football. One week
you are happy, and the next week you are
down in the dumps.
If coaches will take one or two points
from this article and stress them a little
more next year, I guarantee that they will
see a difference in their programs.
One of the focal points that I wanted to
make in this article was to exhibit a Delta
Force mentality. The Delta Team has a motto
that is particularly relevant to me and my
circumstances: “We all come back out of
this mission together. No one is left behind.”
We started emphasizing this point with
our kids. Our team is only as good as the
weakest man. We tried to sell it to the kids
that they had to take care of each other. Just
because a kid is not a starter, it does not
mean that we cannot pay respect to that kid
who is out there every day. If the coaches
will let the players who are not starters know
that they are proud of them for busting
their tails, I am sure it will boost those
athletes. These athletes should not be left
behind. As such, you can take negatives and
turn them into positives.
Coaches should
teach kids that
life is up and
down, especially
in football.
The website,, has a
lot of information about mental health
problems, depression, obsessive-compulsive
disorders, and much more. Two former
students set this site up for us, and they
maintain the cost through the local TV
station. They also developed a video that is
shown every Friday night on local television.
Showing this video has helped get the
message out, because we have had a lot of
people come to us for help. Football coaches
were starting to ask pertinent questions.
We also produced a commercial that
promoted the need for awareness
concerning mental health and depression.
Football people were behind making that
commercial. Like many things in life,
football people made a difference in
ensuring that the commercial was made.
Football people can also make a difference
in raising public awareness about depression.
Toward that end, hopefully, this article will
encourage them to do so. R
Jim Tkach is an assistant football coach at Liberty (PA) High
School. A 1978 graduate of Lycoming College, Tkach previously
served as the head football coach at Northern Lehigh (PA) High
School, from where he retired following the 2005 season.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Why and How to Run
the Triple Option
By Ken Niumatalolo
efore I get into my article, I want to
share a few things. I sometimes wonder if I
am using certain terms to impress the players,
or someone else. Many times, simpler terms
exist that carry more meaning with the
players. Coaching is not about how much
you know. It is about how much you can
communicate to your players. They have to
know what you are saying.
I once went to a clinic and listened to a
coach, who had a great offensive mind, but
I found myself wondering what he was
talking about. He made a simple explanation
of an out cut that made me think I should
go back to engineering school. Football is a
great game, but it is not very complicated.
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 2010 Coach of the
Year Clinics, edited by
Earl Browning
I’ve learned a number of important things
at the United States Naval Academy. I have
been coaching for 20 years, all of them at
the college level. The thing that separates
the Naval Academy from the other schools
I have coached at is leadership. Football is
the most unselfish sport there is. In what
other sport do you have so many individual
skills? Everyone’s individual skills are unique
to themselves. When the ball is snapped,
everyone must do his job for you to have a
successful play. Everyone must worry about
his individual skill as it fits into the total
Football Coach e-Magazine |
play. At Navy, our athletes are not concerned
with what someone else is trying to do.
When players do that, they excel as a team.
I coached at the University of Nevada,
Las Vegas before I came to the Naval
Academy. We had four players at UNLV
who were considered draft choices for the
NFL. We were more talented there, than we
are at the Naval Academy. We were spending
countless hours at UNLV on the offense,
but we were barely scoring 18 points a
game. When I came to the Naval Academy,
the players were not as strong or as fast, but
the offense was better, because the players
did their jobs. We had less material, but we
were so much more efficient with our
offense. We have averaged close to 30 points
a game since I have been there.
We had a player come back from Iraq
and talk to our team about leadership. He
talked about two things. He talked about
leading and teaching. He said that when you
lead men, you have to love those whom you
lead. That concept fits in with a coaching
staff. You have to love the guys you lead.
The second thing is to lead by example. If
you are the coach and you want your players
to play with high energy, you have to show
high energy. If the coach has his hands in
his pockets and is yelling at his players to
show some energy, they look at him. What
kind of example is that coach showing?
Players watch what
is going on with a
staff. If some
friction exists in the
staff, they sense
and know what is
going on. We want
all the arrows
pointing in the
same direction.
When you lead, you have to lead from
ahead. Everywhere that player went in Iraq,
he was in front of the troops. The players
have to see that their coaches are just like
them. Regardless of your title, you’re not
trying to be something better than they are.
The last thing is devotion to your men. If
you use the words love, example, ahead, and
devotion as an acronym, you get the word
lead. I have learned these things at the
Academy. We have players and coaches who
are not as strong as the people we play, but
the leadership in our group is tremendous.
We have early morning workouts. We
start at 5:30 in the morning. We call the
workout the fourth quarter. During this time
period, we are doing football drills, but we
are working on mental toughness. We do
eight different drills that are football-related.
We used to use monkey-roll drills, but we
do not do that anymore. You do not need to
teach players to get on the ground. We want
our drills to be football related, but what we
are looking for is perfection. We want to
make sure everyone does everything right.
It is important in a football organization
to have staff unity. We want the coaches to be
“all in” when it comes to the team. When
the coaches walk through the door, we are a
coaching staff that is on the same page and
reacts as one. Players watch what is going on
with a staff. If some friction exists in the staff,
they sense and know what is going on. We
want all the arrows pointing in the same
The scheme we use at Navy gives our
players a chance to play. We have been using
this scheme for some time.When we practice
the offense, we have a team option drill. In
this drill, we have two huddles. I noticed in
the national championship game that the
University of Texas’ second quarterback did
not look like he had taken too many reps in
practice, which is the reason we run two
huddles in this period. We prepare our depth,
and we get up to 40-plus reps in a 20-minute
period. If you run the triple option, you
must rep the offense.
The secret to this offense is to keep it
simple. When you have a simple plan, you can
play fast. Add that factor to the repetitions
you get, and you have a chance to be good.
We want to be sound in the offense. Running
the option attack at Navy is like Karl Malone
and John Stockton running the pick-androll in basketball. Everyone in the NBA
knew they were going to run it, but no one
could not stop them because they adapted
to every scheme the defense presented.
We do the same thing. Everyone knows
we are going to run the option. We have to
get good at our scheme and adapt to what
the defense is trying to do. We do not care
what the defense does. We try to get good
at what we do and run it.
Be Demanding: Don’t Make Excuses
• Toughness
• Great effort
• Ball security
• Flawless technique
When you run a football program like the
one we have at Navy, you have to be very
demanding. We do not make any excuses for
players. One good thing about the players
at the Naval Academy is that they are all
mentally tough. We try to build off that trait.
We want to emphasize the intangibles in
football. The toughness and effort are the things
that we must excel in. You do not have to be
talented to have great effort or toughness.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
When you run the option attack, you
have to coach ball security. We do not think
of the offense as a high-risk offense, but we
do not want the ball on the ground. We
coach the four points of pressure on the
ball, and we want the players to know that
ball security is important.
When we run our offense, we align and
see how the defense is going to play us. We
have been running this offense for a long
time. Reasons exist as to why we run the
Why Play Option Football?
• Help in recruiting
• Do not have to block everyone
• Three days to prepare for the option is
not enough
Personnel-wise, we do not have to block
everyone in this scheme. It may be their best
player whom you do not have to block. The
offense itself is a unique offense, and it is hard
to prepare to defense the scheme. To play an
option team, the defense must play assignment
football. When you force the defense to play
assignment defense, you slow them down.
You stop their blitzing game by running the
option. It becomes very high risk for the
defense to blitz linebackers. Someone must
play the dive, quarterback, and pitch.
To play in the option offense, the players
have to be unselfish. If you are a player who
wants to run the ball 20 times a game, it
will not happen in this offense. We were in
a recruiting battle for a running back. The
other service academy told the player he
could play in the I bone and run the ball at
least 20 times a game. He asked how many
times he would run the ball with us, and I
told him I did not know. I do not want to
mention any names, but the other service
team had a lightening bolt on their helmet.
Players who come into our program are not
worried about how many times someone
Football Coach e-Magazine |
carries the ball. They are focused and do
not care if they run the ball 20 times or if
they block 20 times a game. That attitude
helps us compete with the teams on our
schedule. We do not have the physical talent
that most of our opponents have.
The statistic that favors a team like Navy
is time of possession. We run the football,
which is something we led the nation in
four out of the last five years. We do not
turn the ball over, and we do not commit
too many penalties. If we do those things,
we have a chance to beat anyone.
The top three rushing defenses in the
country are the University of Alabama,
Texas, and Texas Christian University. In
today’s football, with all the spreads and the
bubble screens, there is something to be said
about running the football and stopping
people from running the football. If you can
stop teams from running the football, you
force them to be one-dimensional.
We have to coach the intangibles, which
we talk about daily to our players. We stress
the brotherhood within the team, and they feel
accountable to their teammates for how they
play. The players believe in each other, and
those are some of the things they take with
them as they go to serve our country. They
are very proud to be an American and will
do whatever it takes to serve their country.
At this point, I want to cover the triple
option and go over the rules of how we run
the offense (Diagram KN-1). We try to run
this play 20 times a game if we can. The
playside wide receiver is assigned to the deep
defender. If the coverage is cover 3, the wide
receiver blocks the corner. If it is a two-high
safety look, he blocks the high safety to
his side. The playside slotback is called the
A-back. His rule is to block the run support.
If the strong safety inverts out of the
secondary to support the run, the A-back
In today’s football,
with all the spreads
and the bubble
screens, there is
something to be
said about running
the football and
stopping people
from running the
uses an arc release and blocks him. If the
cover-2 corner rolls down as the support
player, the A-back kicks him out. The
wideout and slotback are responsible for
perimeter blocking.
Diagram KN-1. Triple option
Diagram KN-1. Triple option
The playside tackle has the playside
linebacker. To block the linebacker, he takes
the best release available to him. The definition
of the playside linebacker is any linebacker
from the tackle’s outside shoulder to the
inside. It does not matter whether it is a
linebacker. It is a defender on the second
level of the defense aligned over or inside the
offensive tackle. It could be a nickel back.
He has a simple rule for his release. If the
guard is covered, he takes an inside release.
If the guard is uncovered and can prevent a
B-gap run-through, he takes an outside
release. Those guidelines are two simple rules.
The playside guard has a base rule. If a
down lineman covers him, he blocks him. If
he has a 2i-technique defender, he steps with
his inside foot. If he has a 3-technique
defender, he steps with his outside foot. If
he is uncovered, his assignment is the playside
linebacker, which puts the playside guard
and tackle on the playside linebacker. The
playside guard and tackle, in that situation,
are responsible for the playside linebacker
and backside safety. If the linebacker scrapes
outside, the tackle blocks him, and the
guard goes up on the backside safety. If the
linebacker hangs or blitzes, the guard blocks
him, and the tackle takes the backside safety.
The center and backside linemen have a
scoop rule. If the center is covered, he is
responsible for the playside A gap and scoops
half of the nose. If the nose stays frontside,
he drives on him. If the nose stays backside,
the backside guard has the other half of the
nose and tries to take over the block, which
allows the center to climb to the second level.
We define the backside guard’s responsibility
as from his crotch to the crotch of the center.
The backside tackle has the same rule. He
scoops inside and is responsible from his
crotch to the backside guard’s crotch.
They are blocking an area rule to the
backside. If anything shows in the backside
A gap, it belongs to the guard. If anything
shows in the backside B gap, it belongs to
the tackle.
The fullback aligns five yards from the
football, depending on his speed. If he is faster,
he can get more depth. If he is slower, he
may move closer to the line. The backside
A-back aligns on the tackle’s outside foot.
The split of the offensive linemen is three
feet across the board. The guard aligns with
his hand on the toes of the center. The
tackles take their alignments on the guards.
We used to align with our hands on the heels
of the guard, but we got too many penalties
for not being on the line of scrimmage. The
line is uniform across the board, with threefoot splits and their hands on the toes of the
If the defenders split wider than three
feet, the linemen attempt to split them up
to five feet. The farther the defender goes,
the more natural running lanes we will
have. Most defenders will not let you split
them that wide.
When the linemen come off the ball, we
Football Coach e-Magazine |
try to play with a flat back. In this stance, we
are heavy weighted forward. We have 60
percent of the weight forward. We have an
elongated stance, and the linemen’s hips are
higher. We are not like a zone team and have
narrower bases in our stance. All we are doing
is coming off the ball. We have a blocking
scheme where we double-team the 3technique and combo for the playside
The backside A-back is the pitchman on
the option. When he comes in motion, his
aiming point is at the butt of the fullback.
He is on a dead sprint for the butt of the
fullback. After he gets to that depth, he
mirrors the quarterback. Ideally, we would
like to have the A-back take three flat steps
and turn up. On this play, we are trying to
get north and south. We are not trying to
attack outside. If the quarterback turns up,
the A-back has to keep up with him.
We want the pitch relationship between
the quarterback and the A-back to be a
4x1-yard relationship. We want to pitch the
ball parallel to the line of scrimmage. We do
not want to pitch the ball perpendicular or
behind. We want the ball parallel to the line
on an outside pitch.
The quarterback’s read is the first down
lineman. His pitch read is the next threat
going to the outside. We have tried to read
the head, the numbers, or whatever.We coach
the quarterback on the read with a simple
rule—can the defender tackle the fullback?
If he can, keep the ball. If he cannot, give
the ball. Our quarterbacks are so smart and
we do so many reps, that they know the
difference.We try to make it as easy as possible.
I am not trying to hide anything from you,
which is what we tell our quarterback. The
secret to the read is repetition. The second
step the quarterback takes is different from
most people. We do not have a ride step. We
Football Coach e-Magazine |
try to get the second step of the quarterback
on the ground as quickly as we can. He
wants to extend the ball back as far as he
can and keep his eyes on the read.
Sometimes, the quarterback’s feet end up
in a stagger, which is a personal preference
with me if that situation happens. If he ends
up with his feet parallel, it makes it harder
to extend the ball back. By the time the ball
reaches the quarterback’s front hip, he has
made his decision to pull or leave the ball with
the fullback. The staggered feet allow the
quarterback to make some last-second
If the reach key and pitch key are both on
the line of scrimmage, we tell the quarterback
to look through the first defender to the
second one (Diagram KN-2). The defender
who tells the quarterback everything is the
second defender. If the second defender closes
inside, he gives the ball to the fullback. Too
many times, the quarterback is concentrating
on the first read and gets hit in the lips by the
crashing second defender. He has to see the
read defender, but he must feel the pitch key.
Diagram KN-2. Pitch key
Diagram KN-2. Pitch key
If the second defender is coming hard, the
quarterback disengages from the fullback
but does not attack the second defender. He
wants to keep space between himself and the
defender. He wants to see what the defender
is doing. We want to know if he is attacking
the quarterback or going to the pitch.
The disengagement from the fullback
gives the quarterback a split second longer
to see what the defender is doing. If the
defender comes to the quarterback, he loses
a bit of ground toward the pitch and delivers
the pitch outside. Obviously, if he attacks
the pitch, the quarterback keeps the ball.
the scrape of the linebacker. The quarterback
does not look at the inside linebacker. He
concentrates on his outside keys. If we miss
the block on the scraping linebacker, the
quarterback gets earholed by the linebacker,
which is when you get a fumble.We want the
tackle to stay tight on his release and get vertical.
The blocking technique for the center is
the playside number of the nose. He wants to
get his second step on the ground and keep
his shoulder square to the line of scrimmage.
He wants to rip through the playside armpit
and keep a vertical line up to the backside
linebacker. If the center is uncovered, he
works through the A gap and climbs for the
two linebackers. If the playside linebacker
blitzes through the A gap, that is his block.
If the playside linebacker flows, the center
climbs for the backside linebacker.
The fullback aims at the outside hip of
the guard and reads the first down lineman
inside of the read key (Diagram KN-4). If
the center is covered by a nose or has a shade
defender to the playside gap, his rule is to
reach playside. If the nose works hard to the
playside, the center may be able to block
him past the handoff gap, which tells the
fullback whether to stay on track through the
B gap or bend behind the block of the center.
The backside blocks are more of a banana
step. We are not trying to run flat down the
line of scrimmage.The first step is a 45-degree
angle, and the second step is a 90-degree
angle. We want to cut off and get upfield.
We want the playside tackle to stay tight on
our outside releases to the playside (Diagram
KN-3). The first step is at the armpit of the
linebacker, and the second step is to the
crotch. If the defense runs a C stunt with the
5-technique tackle and the 30-technique
linebacker, the tackle does not want to miss
Diagram KN-4. FullbackTread
Diagram KN-4. Fullback read
Anytime we have a double-team at the
point of attack, the fullback looks to stay on
track (Diagram KN-5). If the scheme is to
double-team the 3 technique, the fullback
Diagram KN-3. C stunt
Diagram KN-5. Double-team track
Football Coach e-Magazine |
stays on track and does not cut back. If the
center and playside guard double on the
nose and the tackle veer releases inside, the
fullback stays on track.
We give the offensive tackle some options
on his releases, depending on how the
defender tries to handle him. If the defender
tries to cancel any inside move by the
tackle, he can take the outside release. That
stipulation is contrary to our rules, but we
are flexible in that area.
This scheme is simple. I learned it at the
University of Hawaii, and you have to keep it
simple for us Island guys. Anytime the defense
has two stacks, the quarterback reads the area.
If the linebacker blitzes for the fullback and
the defensive end steps outside for the
quarterback, we can read that situation. We
work on that in practice daily. All they have
done is swap responsibilities and we can
handle that.
If the center has an A-gap responsibility
to the Mike linebacker and he fast flows to
the strongside, the center climbs to the
backside safety. During the course of a
game, the linemen move their splits in and
out to find out what the defender will do.
We flex the A-back and move the splits of
the wide receivers to see what adjustment
the defense will make.
This offense is simple and sound. It is all
about getting numbers in the right places.
We also take advantage of the angle we have
on the defenders.
On the midline option, the fullback’s
aiming point is the playside cheek of the
center. The read for the quarterback does
not change. He reads the first down lineman.
Different things exist that we can do with
the play after the read. The quarterback can
carry the ball, or he can run the option and
get it out of his hands.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Against the 3-4 look, the playside tackle
turns out on the 9-technique defender
(Diagram KN-6). The quarterback reads the
5-technique defender. The playside guard
climbs to the 30-technique linebacker
aligned on him. The center blocks the nose.
The backside guard wants to run through
the heels of the nose and get vertical to the
backside linebacker. We can motion the Aback toward the fullback and turn him into
the B gap for the playside linebacker. They
work a combination scheme. The backside
A-back comes around for the pitch as window
dressing for the play. The quarterback gives
the ball to the fullback or keeps it in the B
gap. If he keeps it in the B gap, he follows
the block of the A-back.
Diagram KN-6.
T Midline option
Diagram KN-6. Midline option
One thing we do when teaching ball
security is to have the backs get up with the
ball. They get off the ground each time and
give the ball to the officials. We do not want
to leave it on the ground. If we do not
secure the ball, we cannot beat anyone.
The thing the midline does is to soften the
3- and 4-technique defenders.When we have
to base block them, it is an easier block. If
we want to give another look to the play,
we bring the A-back in motion behind the
fullback and lead him up to the other side of
the play (Diagram KN-7). Instead of being
the pitchman, he becomes the isolation
blocker for the quarterback. The good thing
for us this year was that our quarterback was
a strong runner. By the time the defense
found him, he had gained four yards.
tackle goes inside for the linebacker, and the
pulling guard logs the defensive tackle.
Diagram KN-7. Midline/cross motion
Diagram KN-7. Midline/cross motion
When the playside tackle turns out on the
defender, he wants to stall the inside shoulder
and get separation.We run the counter option
(Diagram KN-8). If the defense is in a 3-4
look, it is a simple play and most of the
playside rules are the same. On this play, the
fullback runs opposite the playside. The
fullback and backside tackle are responsible
for the two defenders to the backside. The
center and playside guard are blocking back.
In this case, the center is covered and combos
with the playside guard for the nose and
backside linebacker.
Diagram KN-8. Counter option
Diagram KN-8. Counter option
The playside tackle and backside guard
are responsible for the first down lineman
and the playside linebacker, whoever that
may be. If the 5-technique closes across the
playside tackle’s face, he locks onto him and
drives him down the line. The backside guard
pulls around the offensive tackle and blocks
the playside linebacker. If the 5-technique
tackle plays to the outside, the playside
The A-back comes in step-motion toward
the fullback and turns back to block the
support player. The split end to that side has
the deep defender. The backside A-back is
the pitchback on this play.
The quarterback steps toward the fullback
and counter runs to the playside. He options
off the #2 defender to that side. In his presnap read, he has to locate the #2 defender
to the playside. If he is on the line of
scrimmage, as the quarterback steps for the
fake, he has to peek over his outside shoulder
on his second step to see if he is on a hard
charge inside. If he closes on the quarterback,
he pitches the ball to the A-back.
The quarterback steps with his foot to
the fullback on his first step. His second
step should be perpendicular to the line of
scrimmage. He pivots away from the line
of scrimmage on his outside foot. I learned
this offense from Coach Paul Johnson when
we ran it in Hawaii back in 1989.
The A-back tried to confuse the
defender who was keying on him with his
release. We found if we arc released with the
A-back, the defender read that release as a
run block. We released the A-back straight
at them. They did not know if it was a playaction pass or a run, and it froze them.
From time to time during a game, we
change up the techniques of the A-backs.
When we go into a game, we do not
have a call sheet. We have assistant coaches
watching positions to see how the defense
is playing the option. We have coaches
watching the secondary, the defensive ends,
and the linebackers.
Against the 4-4 front with 1- and 3technique defenders, we want to run the
Football Coach e-Magazine |
play to the 1-technique side (Diagram KN9).The fullback cuts off the backside, blocking
the 3-technique defender. The backside
tackle turns back on the defensive end. The
playside guard and center run a combination
block for the 1 technique and the backside
linebacker. The playside tackle areas the stack
over him. He releases inside and blocks the
B-gap defender. The pulling guard blocks
whichever defender is playing the C gap.
The A-back comes in step-motion and
turns back on the safety. The split end to
that side blocks the corner. The quarterback
options the outside linebacker to that side.
N vs.E4-4
T Counter
Diagram KN-9. Counter vs. 4-4
Defensive ends like to chase the triple
from behind and try to run the quarterback
down. When we see that, we run a reverse.
We run the triple, midline, and counter.
We also run the zone play to take advantage
of aggressive running linebackers (Diagram
KN-10). On this play, we base block at the
line of scrimmage. The fullback, on the
zone play, still reads the first lineman to the
backside. The fullback reads the zone play
like any other zone play. If the A gap is
open, he runs it in the A gap. If the Mike
linebacker plugs the A gap, he looks to bend
the ball behind the backside down lineman.
We use this play when we find the Mike
linebacker cheating into the wide field. If he
is running to the alley, it is hard to block him.
This play slows him down and makes him play
more honestly. This situation becomes a catand-mouse game with the Mike linebacker.
I want to finish this article with an
overview of our play-action passes. When
we run the play-action game, we try to get
crossing patterns going against the action of
the triple. When teams defense the triple
option, they have to use their secondary to
support on the run, so they can balance the
defenders to blockers. When the backside
safety tries to run the alley to the triple
option opposite him, that situation is what
we are looking for. We then throw the ball
to slow the secondary down.
In our protection scheme, we block bigon-big. The fullback is responsible for the
linebacker to his side (Diagram KN-11).
The backside A-back comes in motion and
becomes the pressure-release blocker to the
frontside of the protection. The backside
split end takes the top off the coverage and
clears the deep third. The playside A-back
runs a six- to eight-yard drag pattern against
the grain of the play. He is running high or
low off the linebackers. The split end to the
playside runs a climbing inside route. He is
looking to create space for the drag pattern.
He occupies the safety and keeps him from
falling down on the drag route. We do not
talk too much to our receivers about route
running—we ask them to get open.
Diagram KN-10. Inside zone
Football Coach e-Magazine |
From Coaching the
Spread Option
Counter by
Tony Demeo
From Integrating
the Triple Option
Package Into The
Wing-T Attack
by Pat Fox
Ken Niumatalolo is the
head football coach at the
United States Naval
Academy, a position he
assumed following the
2007 season. Prior to
being named head coach,
Niumatalolo had two
coaching stints at the
Naval Academy for a
combined 10 seasons,
including the last six where
he served as assistant
head coach and offensive
line coach. During his
tenure at Navy, the
Midshipmen have
consistently been one of
the top rushing teams in
the nation.
Diagram KN-11. Drag
We run a post wheel pattern from the
triple option fake (Diagram KN-12). The
wide receiver runs a three-step pattern to
the post. The A-back runs the wheel route
behind the post cut. The wide receiver tries
to keep the post skinny and stay away from
the backside safety. He tries to split the corner
and safety. We keep the pattern on the same
side of the hash marks and high-low the
corner. We are trying to get the patterns at
two levels so we can stretch the corner.
good at it. We have to pick our poison. We
do not have our players long enough to
teach a multiple-faceted scheme. It is a
preference for us. We spend all our time on
the running game.
We have a pattern that we try to run by
the safeties (Diagram KN-13). We run a
vertical pattern with the A-back and split end
to that side. This pattern takes advantage of
the safety trying to get to the alley to stop
the option. Oftentimes, the defense will try
to replace the safety with the linebacker
away from the play-action. They roll the
safety down into run support and try to
invert the backer into the middle.
Diagram KN-13. Two verticals
Diagram KN-13. Two verticals
Diagram KN-12. Post wheel
Diagram KN-12. Post wheel
We like to throw the ball, but the only
time we can do it is in definite running
situations. The offensive line cannot protect
unless it is that situation. We spend our time
on the option and not the passing game. We
do not spend enough time on it to be very
If they read the pattern, we stop the
receivers at 12 yards. The offensive linemen
have to come off the ball and run block to
sell the play. If they try to pass set, all they
do is back up. The quarterback we had this
year could definitely throw the ball. He is
the best play-action quarterback we have
ever had.
We do not have any secrets. Everyone
knows what we do. We accomplish what we
do because of the repetitions we put into
the attack. R
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Basic Principles of
Route Running
By Mike McQueary
receiver has to adhere to several
principles in order to run a good pattern.
The first principle involves the feet in press
coverage. Coaches see too many receivers
who are horizontal at the line of scrimmage
on press coverage. To run an effective route
off a defender, the first thing the receiver
must do is push to the feet of the defender
and step on his toes. It does not matter
whether the defense are in tight- or looseman coverage, the first thing the receiver
does is step on their toes.
Before the receiver makes his break, the
closer he is to the defender, the better his
route will be. On a comeback pattern, the
receiver releases outside, pushes vertical, and
leans inside on the defender. The receiver
runs as hard and as fast as he can up the
field vertical. He throws his shoulder and
hips forward as he starts to make his break.
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 2007 Coach of the Year
Clinic Notes, edited by
Earl Browning
Personally, I do not like the term “drop
your hips” in connection with route running.
The term is a contradiction with many
wideout coaches. You will never hear me
tell a tight end or wideout to drop his hips.
If a receiver drops his hips, the shoulders
come up. He cannot drop his hips if he has
forward lean. I think forward lean is the key
to receiver route running. I use the terms
Football Coach e-Magazine |
pad level, forward lean, throw the shoulders,
and throw the head. I think the term “drop
your hips” is wrong. I know that contradicts
the opinion of many great wideout coaches.
We have two different post routes at
Penn State. We have a bang post, which is
run at 12 yards. The receiver takes five steps,
which brings him to 12 yards. He plants at
12 yards and catches the pass two to three
yards coming out of the break.
The second post is an over-the-top post.
This pattern comes off of most of our playaction passes. We do not give a yardage
landmark on this pattern. The coaching point
is to get to the feet of the defender. If it takes
the receiver 16 yards to get to the defender’s
feet, that distance is the depth of the pattern.
If the receiver gets to 18 or 20 yards and has
not run down the defender, he breaks to
the post because he will not get the ball.
The ball will go to the underneath patterns.
When the receiver runs his patterns, he
has to get leverage on the defender. We
want to be able to run the pattern inside
and outside of the defender equally well. We
want to put the defender in a head-up
position on the receiver or a position that
suits the route we are running.
Coach Biletnikoff
told Tim to “break
the glass.” I did not
know what he was
talking about. When
Coach Biletnikoff
was a player, he
used to envision a
glass plate on the
ground. Whenever
he made a break in
his route, he
envisioned breaking
the glass with his
foot. What he was
trying to get Tim
Brown to do was
stick the route.
One coaching point that I give the
receivers on an over-the-top post is that a
blind spot exists against a three-deep corner.
The corner looks in to the quarterback and
opens up with his butt to the boundary. He
is 9 to 10 yards off the receiver and slowly
backs into his coverage. The blind spot is
behind the defender and toward the sideline.
I tell the receiver, when he gets to the tip of
his stem and close to the feet of the defender,
he should widen his course slightly. We widen
outside and get to the back hip of the
defender, which is the defender’s blind spot.
Route running is an art form. When I
came out of Penn State, I caught on with
the Oakland Raiders as a free agent. I heard
Fred Biletnikoff coaching Tim Brown one
day. I knew I wanted to get into coaching,
and I certainly was not good enough to
make it in the pro league, so I listened to
the instruction. This situation was the Hallof-Fame receiver coaching a future Hall-ofFame receiver; I figured that advice would
be worth hearing.
Coach Biletnikoff told Tim to “break the
glass.” I did not know what he was talking
about. When Coach Biletnikoff was a player,
he used to envision a glass plate on the
ground. Whenever he made a break in his
route, he envisioned breaking the glass with
his foot. What he was trying to get Tim
Brown to do was stick the route. He wanted
him to stick his foot in the ground with
force. It is a coaching tool that you may use
with your players. Sometimes, you have to
say the same thing a thousand different ways.
Never curve off a route. Make them crisp
and sharp. When you coach a point that you
want to hit home with your players, give it a
sound. When you emphasis the stick point,
yell, “Bang!” at the point of the stick.
When the receiver runs a post pattern,
we want him to keep the pattern high, which
means do not run the pattern into the middle
of the field. If the quarterback wants the
receiver to move into the middle, he throws
the ball and leads the receiver into the
middle. In some cases, the backside corner
can make a play on the deep post, if the
receiver allows him to follow him.
The receiver can adjust to the ball
thrown to the inside. It is hard for him to
adjust back to the seam to make the catch.
If the quarterback wants to throw the ball
high, the receiver is already there. If he wants
to lead the receiver to the middle, it is an
easy adjustment. Coaches know that, but
receivers sometimes do not grasp the concept.
When a receiver comes off the line of
scrimmage, he should never release straight
up the field. For example, if a defender is
aligned on the receiver’s outside shoulder,
the receiver should release and immediately
stem to the defensive back’s outside. As he
runs the route, he should try to get the
defender inside of him, because he is
running an out cut.
If the pattern he is running is a speed out,
the receiver should make his cut at 10 yards
and catch it at 12 yards going to the sideline.
It is not a breakdown and turnout cut. If
the receiver plants his foot at 10 yards and
rolls his momentum to 12 yards, it is a fullspeed cut. If the receiver runs the route at
10 yards and never gets deeper than 10 yards,
he has run the wrong route. In the speed
cut, the momentum carries the receiver up
the field to 12 yards.
We have baseline rules in running pass
routes. I have been talking about them all
along. While they are base rules, they are
more of a thought process:
• Feet: push to the feet of the defender.
• Leverage: get leverage and never give it
• Come back: come back to the ball.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
• Do not run yourself open; run the pattern
and never stop.
On the other hand, the receiver has to
temper the rules with common sense. If the
receiver runs an out route and the defender
is five yards inside of him, he should not run
inside to the defender’s feet. These thoughts
are baseline thoughts I want receivers to have.
When the receivers run patterns on turffield grass, you can tell when they stick a
good cut. The residue from the shredded
tires puffs into the air when they make their
cuts, which means they are “breaking the
glass.” It tells me they broke the glass and
stuck the route.
A coaching point for the receiver is what
he sees as he makes his break. He should
never cross the defensive back’s face after he
makes his break. If the receiver makes his
break and the defender is there, he has run
a bad pattern. He has made a mistake in
leveraging the defensive back.
If the depth of the route is timed to go
10 yards, that has to be the depth of the
pattern. If the receiver runs his pattern at
nine-and-a-half yards, the ball is delivered
late. The route is early, and, therefore, the
ball comes out late. When that situation
happens, we have an interception. The
timing of the pattern is done because the
defensive back breaks on the route of the
receiver. The defensive back reacts to the
route and is there when the ball arrives.
In my opinion, as a former quarterback,
half of the interceptions a quarterback throws
are the fault of the wide receiver. I tell my
wideouts and tight ends the same thing. If
the quarterback is working on one timing
sequence and the receiver runs the wrong
depth or direction, the quarterback throws
the ball to the defender. He gets the
interception, but it was not his fault.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
The next route I want to discuss is the
curl. We run our curl route at 12 yards. The
receiver works down the field to 12 yards and
breaks the glass. He throws his shoulders
forward, turns, and works directly back to
the quarterback. He does not come back
down on the stem, and he does not curl
inside. We do not tell our receivers to work
inside if the alley defender is under the curl.
If the alley defender is underneath the
curl, the flat has to be open. We do not want
to make football harder than it has to be.
The strong safety is the flat defender. If he is
under the curl and the pattern has been run
correctly, the flat is open. If the alley
defender has run out to cover the flat, there
has to be an open throwing lane to the curl.
When I coach the wideout on this play, I
tell the receiver he is responsible for the corner.
If the corner intercepts the ball, it is the
receiver’s fault. The quarterback is responsible
for the safety and the alley defender. If the
alley defender or the safety makes the
interception, it is the quarterback’s fault. If
the receiver works inside to get open, the
quarterback may not know exactly where
he will stop. If he throws the ball behind the
receiver, it is a miscommunication problem
between the two players, which is why we
do not move on our patterns.
That factor goes back to the fourth point
in our baseline rules. Never run yourself
open; run the route that is called. Never
stop the pattern, because every route has a
reason for the receivers to be where they
are in the pattern.
Another way of teaching the curl is related
to basketball. We tell the wide receiver that
as soon as he runs his curl, he plays lowpost basketball. The receiver wants the
corner on his back, having to play through
him to get to the ball. If the corner is not
on the back of the receiver, chances are we
The quarterback is
responsible for the
safety and the alley
defender. If the
alley defender or
the safety makes
the interception, it
is the quarterback’s
are in trouble. On this pattern, base rule #3
is important: work back to the ball. The
receiver has to come back to the football,
hard and aggressively. We want him coming
back at least three to four yards.
Another key point involving the curl
pattern occurs when the receiver begins to
do what we call “peek” in the pattern. He
breaks the pattern at 12 yards, but as he gets
to 10 yards, he starts to look around. The
defensive back reads that and gets a good
break on the ball. We do not want the
receiver to peek on his curl route.
Route running is an art. It is not going
out to the mailbox and cutting right. I may
be the only coach in the country who believes
this next point. I do not coach catching the
football. I worked with the tight ends when
I was a graduate assistant. I never once
coached them how to catch the ball. I never
instructed them about how to position their
hands.You either catch the ball, or you do not.
If I have a receiver who cannot catch the
ball, I screwed up when I recruited him. If a
player can catch, but he does not catch it
the right way, why would I mess with how
he catches it? I have certain beliefs about
catching the football, but I do not coach it.
Route running is an
art. It is not going
out to the mailbox
and cutting right.
If the route is run correctly and the ball
is delivered on time, it does not matter who
plays defense. In the stance of the wide
receiver, the inside foot is always up. It does
not matter what type of play is being run, the
inside foot is up. In our three-step passing
game, we count steps, which is the only
reason our inside foot is up. Our hitches are
five steps in depth. The slants are three-step
patterns, and the outs are four-step patterns,
which means the total number of steps in
the slant route is three. On the down-thefield patterns, we teach yardage.
The regular five-step out is run at 10
yards, not five steps. Even though the depth
of the route is the same, it goes back to
constancy of teaching. We are probably the
only team in the nation that does that. This
system comes from Dick Vermeil, when he
was the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. They
did timing steps up to five steps and yardage
throws on everything else. The five-step
hitch is the same pattern as the 12-yard curl.
One of Coach Paterno’s base coaching
and teaching points over his whole coaching
history is simplicity. He always reminds us
to know what we are asking our players to
do. Even if you like a particular scheme or
route, always coach to your players. If you do
not have the players to perform the skill, do
not do it. He has come into our offensive
staff meeting, looked at the game plan, and
cut 20 plays off of it.
The next thing I’d like to discuss is our
four-vertical pattern. In this pattern, we ask
the slot receiver to the field to be our middle
adjuster. If the coverage is three-deep, he stays
up the seam. If the coverage is two-deep, he
runs the post. When the ball is on the hash
mark, the safety to that side has a heavy skew
off the hash mark toward the boundary. He
skews that way, because it is a shorter throw
when the ball is on the hash mark. The slot
receiver has a bad leverage problem going
to the post, because of the skew of the half
player in the wideside of the field.
At USC, they handled the problem by
letting the tight end to the boundary in the
formation be the adjuster. He has more
leverage on the safety cheating to the
boundary. We thought that was a good idea.
We had a freshman tight end this year. He
will be a first-round pick, but he is a
freshman. We told him he was going to be
the adjuster in this set. The first time we ran
the play, he made a mistake. Joe went nuts
and blistered my butt when we got in after
practice. To make a long story short, do not
Football Coach e-Magazine |
ask your players to do more than they can.
Coaches should make sure that what they
advocate is sound, but they should not ask
their players to do more than they can.
Next, I want to talk about two-deep and
three-deep zones. When teams start to attack
those coverages, they have to know what
they are. I do that in my meetings. I show
the players the coverage and why we run to
where we do. They need to know what the
defense is and why we run the patterns we
do. Teach the players the concept of what
you are doing. That advice comes directly
from Joe Paterno.
The first thing the quarterback has to see
is two high safeties. Teams we play skew the
safety to the boundary, if the ball is on the hash
mark. The attack points against two-deep
coverage are anywhere on both boundaries
over 18 yards and in the middle hole at 16
to 22 yards. It is essential, however, to use
the checkdown receivers, which means throw
the ball to the backs and outlet receivers.
pattern we run is a four-vertical route. The
set can be a triple-receiver or a double-slot set.
In the 3-by-1 set, we put two wide
receivers and the tight end to the field and
the single receiver to the boundary
(Diagram MM-1). The outside receivers have
to get vertical and wide as fast as they can.
The offense stretches vertically, and the defense
stretches horizontally. The best way to stretch
the defense is to get all four receivers down
the field as fast as we can. If one of those
receivers lags behind the others, you can
almost write that side off.
Diagram MM-1. Four verticals
Diagram MM-1. Four verticals
When the Indianapolis Colts won the
Super Bowl, they picked up seven first
downs against two-deep cover throwing to
the checkdown receivers. That statistic is
unbelievable in pro football. Their running
back had over 100 yards receiving.
If the safeties do not skew with the ball
on the hash mark, hit the throws into the
boundary. They cannot cover that area. A
football field has five underneath zones and
two flats areas. Two curl zones are 10 to 12
yards deep on the hash mark for high
school and two outside the hash mark in
college. A middle zone, 15 to 18 yards deep,
is right in the geometric center of the field.
The attack point in the middle of the
field can be no deeper than 18 to 22 yards.
Anything thrown in the middle of the field
over 22 yards should be picked off. The
Football Coach e-Magazine |
The tight end runs up to eight yards and
gets across to the opposite hash mark. It is
difficult for him to get deep and stay up with
the other receivers, as they push for depth.
If the receivers are even in their depth,
they put great pressure on the safety. The
safety has to respect the slot receiver,
because he knows he has no help in the
middle of the field. He knows the middle
of the field is the attack point for most
offenses. The safety to that side knows he is
in trouble, if all those situations are present.
The back runs what we call a “doc”
pattern, which stands for “delay over center.”
The back has a blocking assignment and
checks his way out into the center of the
field. Based on the scouting report, the back
may have to help one of the offensive
linemen on a tough match-up. He chips his
way out, if his primary assignment does not
We want an outside release by the receivers.
If he is forced inside, the first thing he has
to do is get wide again. Against cover 2, I
want them as close to the sidelines as they
can get.
Against three-deep coverage, we do not
adjust the slot receiver. The inside receivers
are two yards outside the hash marks
(Diagram MM-2). The split receivers are on
the sidelines no closer than four yards from
the boundary. One high safety is in the middle
of the field. The corners are eight to nine
yards deep and usually one-yard outside the
wide receiver. Five underneath zones are on
the field. If the defense rushes four defenders,
they have four underneath defenders for
five zones.
SS cover43
Diagram MM-2. Four verticals,
going to the fieldside. The defense figures
he can play the curl and react to the flat. The
defense teaches to carry the curl and tackle
the flat, which means they cover the curl
and react back to the flat and make the tackle.
On first-and-ten, the defense gives up the
flat. We want to throw the ball into the flat
and make the defense miss the tackle.We want
to turn a four-yard play into a first down.
The concept in the four vertical is the
same for the corner in the three-deep as for
the safety in the two-deep. We have to
pressure him to cover both verticals.
The next formation I want to discuss is
the 2-by-2 set. The pattern is a verticals
pattern by the two wide receivers and two
outs by the two inside receivers. In this set,
they are the slot and tight end (Diagram
MM-3). The concept behind the route is to
attack the corner defender—long and short.
The pattern puts the wide receiver on the
boundary at 20 to 25 yards. The second
receiver is up front on a pattern between six
to eight yards. The running back releases
into the flat. The pattern works the corner
on an up-and-back type of concept.
Diagram MM-2. Four verticals, cover 3
Diagram MM-3. Up and back
The weakside linebacker has to cover the
boundary flat zone. The defense asks the next
inside linebacker to cover the boundary curl
zone. The outside linebacker to the field has
the middle zone. The strong safety plays the
curl-flat zone to the fieldside.
I ask my players why the defense asks
the strong safety to cover two zones to the
fieldside. The answer is the strong safety
usually runs better than the other underneath
defenders, and the ball is in the air longer
Diagram MM-3. Up and back
The corner will carry the vertical until
his flat is threatened. The corner starts with
the vertical up the field. The fullback comes
out late into the flat.When the corner sees the
fullback, he starts back to his flat coverage.
The inside receiver breaks his pattern
Football Coach e-Magazine |
behind the corner and into the sideline.
The attack points in the three-deep
coverage are up the seams at a depth of 18
yards. We attack the flat-to-curl area to the
fieldside and the one-on-one matches
throughout the defense.
Nothing is better then the three-step pass
game if the defense gives it to you. Coach
Paterno always says take what the defense
gives you. Do not make it a complicated
game. Make it simple. In three-deep coverage,
the one-on-one coverage is outside with the
corners. Against Wisconsin in the second
half, they backed their corners off to nine
yards. We completed six quick-out patterns
for four first downs.
At Penn State, we give our patterns six
basic numbers. They make up six basic
combinations of routes. Everything else we
run we tag to those numbers. If we tag the
number with a player, we change one route
in the pattern. If we call “X streak,” we have
given the X receiver a streak route. If we give
a city name or animal name, we are changing
more than one route within the pattern.
The zero pattern is the base, simplest
route we can run. The X receiver is the
flanker to the field and runs a 10-yard speed
out (Diagram MM-4). The Z receiver or
split end to the boundary runs a 14-yard
comeback. The tight end has a two-deep
middle read. If the coverage is three deep,
Diagram MM-4. Zero
Football Coach e-Magazine |
he works up to 10 yards and does a turn
out. As he turns out, he feels the strong
safety playing the curl-flat and finds a void.
If the coverage is two-deep, he works out
wide and comes into the post at 12 yards.
He keeps the middle of the field on his
inside shoulder and never crosses it.
If we throw the ball to the tight end
against two-deep coverage, it has to be
thrown at 18 yards. The best passes are the
one-on-one passes that the defense gives
you. If teams play Tampa-2 coverage against
this pattern, we treat it like a cover 3. The
tight end stays on the seam and does not go
to the middle. The tight end running the
vertical up the seam seals the seam defender
to the inside, so he cannot get out to get
under the 14-yard comeback, which is the
seam defender’s rule in the defense. He
carries the seam player to the middle third.
If he does that, he is no help to the corner
on the 14-yard comeback.
When attacking the curl-flat defender,
we do not like to put wide receiver on the
curl with the tight end in the flat (Diagram
MM-5). We like to have the wide receiver
running the curl, the tight end running a
vertical, and the running back into the flat.
That scenario seals the seam defender and
keeps him out of the flat-curl area. It gives
us a 12-yard curl pattern, with no one in
the underneath coverage. If the defense tries
try to get someone under the curl, the flat is
wide open.
Diagram MM-5. Curl-flat, cover 3
Instead of the flat pattern, we can run the
flare route. That pattern puts the running
back in space against a linebacker coming
from far inside.
Diagram MM-7. Up-and-back, cover 2
If the alley defender gets underneath the
curl, throw the flat, which is why we do not
slide the curl receiver. If he is covered, we
throw the flat. We do not want to force the
ball to the curl receiver. We want to take the
open throw. To the backside, we have the
same pattern, except we have no flat receiver.
The first baseline rule applies to the curl
receiver. He has to get close to the feet of
the defender before he makes his break.
That defender has to feel the receiver will
run by him if he does not get out of his
backpedal and run deep. When the defender
does that, we break the curl.
If the coverage is cover 2 and the seam
runner does not stay with the tight end, he
carries his pattern up the seam and breaks
into the post (Diagram MM-6). The ball is
thrown into the middle at a depth of 18 yards.
Diagram MM-6. Curl-flat, cover 2
Diagram MM-7. Up-and-back, cover 2
It puts the corner in a bind. He has a
five-step hitch in front of him and a 25-yard
smash route on the sideline. The half-cover
defender runs deep with the vertical by the
inside receiver. The coaching point for the
quarterback in this situation is the shoulders
of the corner. If the shoulders are open, he
looks for the hitch. If the shoulders are closed,
he looks to go over the top to the smash.
Even if the corner is giving ground, with
his shoulders closed, he cannot make a play
on the smash route 25 yards deep.
We coach our receivers on a four-verticals
pattern, that if a defender is on his spot, he
adjusts to the middle. The spot is over the
receiver at a depth of 8 to 10 yards. We got
this concept from the University of Texas.
In our play-action game, the only
difference between the bootleg and the naked
is the line protection. When we call naked,
the offensive line blocks the outside-zone
play. If we run the bootleg, the backside guards
pull to the callside to protect the throw
(Diagram MM-8). The number-one
Diagram MM-6. Curl-flat, cover 2
Another pattern we run with the upand-back concept comes from a 3-by-1
formation (Diagram MM-7). On this pattern,
the outside receiver runs a five-step hitch
pattern. The split end runs a smash route to
the corner. The inside receiver runs the
vertical. The backside receiver runs a shade
route to the middle of the field. The
coaching point is to take the easy throw.
Diagram MM-8. Boot and naked patterns
Football Coach e-Magazine |
receiver to the callside has an over-the-top
post route. The number-two receiver to the
callside runs the flat. The number-one
receiver opposite the call runs an 18- to
20-yard deep cross. If there is a number-two
receiver to the backside, he runs a shallow
8- to 10-yard crossing pattern.
pattern so the number-two receiver knows
he runs the wheel, instead of the flat. The
number-three receiver to the callside runs
the flat. The reason we run this play is the
action of the strong safeties in the Big Ten.
More often than not, they are linebackers
playing in the secondary.
We run the naked and bootleg from
many different formations. We have specific
rules for the receivers on every one of the
formations. The first formation is the pro
set, with a weak adjust by the running back.
We have no number-two receiver to the
backside. If the number-one receiver cannot
get to the post, he adjusts to a deep flare or
streak route. The play-action is outside zone
to the weakside. The Big Ten is known for
hard safety fills. If the safety in the middle
jumps the cross, the post is an option.
The next pattern I’d like to discuss comes
off the draw action. The draw has been one
of our staples in our offense (Diagram MM10). This pattern is a double-cross pattern.
The number-one receiver to the callside runs
a post route. The backside flanker comes in
motion, as if to crack on the support
defender. He runs a crossing pattern to get
to the opposite hash mark at a depth of 18
yards. The tight end comes out late on a
shallow cross at 8 to 10 yards. We look for
the post, deep cross, and shallow cross in that
progression. This read sequence allows the
quarterback to work the up-and-back read
on the callside corner. It is an easy throw.
The tight end is coached to recognize
the defensive-line alignments. If he has a
5-technique and 9-technique alignment, he
blocks down on the 5-technique and releases
to the flat. If he only has a 9-technique, he
holds for a two count and releases. If the
play is toward the boundary, we hold him
for an extra second. On the other hand, we
do not want the tight end to think delay.
On the 3-by-1 naked play, the numberone receiver applies his rule (Diagram MM9). The tight end applies his rule, and the
slot receiver runs a wheel route up the
sideline, following the vertical. The backside
receiver runs his deep cross. We tag the
The next pattern comes away from the
tight end. The split receiver runs a post cut,
which is a post cut, but not the over-the-top
post. It is the post cut at 12 yards. The
running back comes out of the backfield to
that side and runs the wheel. The tight end
runs a six-yard drag, and the backside wide
receiver runs an 18-yard dig across the
middle. If the quarterback wants to throw
the post, he has to throw it on time.
Diagram MM-10. Draw action
Diagram MM-10. Draw action
Diagram MM-9. Wheel
Football Coach e-Magazine |
From Attacking
Cover 3 With the
Multiple Pro
Passing Game
by Dan Robinson
From Attacking
Split (2 High)
by Gunter Brewer
From Cover 2
Pass Attack
by Steve Axman
We run the same concept with the postand-out cut (Diagram MM-11). We bring
the third receiver in motion to that side and
send him straight to the flat. The outside
receiver runs the post cut, and the inside
receiver runs the speed out at 14 yards,
rolling to 18 yards on the boundary. He
does not break down and stick the route.
He speed-cuts as he fills the void in the
coverage. His momentum will carry him
deeper at the boundary. R
Diagram MM-11. Post-and-out
Mike McQueary is the wide receiver coach and the recruiting coordinator at Penn
State University, his alma mater. McQueary’s connections to Penn State are
extensive. A state college native, he played at Penn State from 1994 to 1997 and
was the starting quarterback in ’97, leading the Lions to a 9-3 record and a berth in
the Florida Citrus Bowl. From 2000 to 2002, he served as a Penn State graduate
assistant coach. In 2003, he spent the season as an administrative assistant with
the football program, before assuming his present position.
From Quarters
Coverage Pass
Attack by
Steve Axman
From Concepts and
Patterns to Attack
Quarters Coverage
by Stan Zweifel
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Defensive Principles
and Secondary Drills
By Kirby Smart
efore beginning, it is important to note
that this article does not address anything
that is revolutionary or anything we have
invented. We win because we can run the
ball and stop the run. It is that simple. People
say that principle is old-school mentality. It
is, and we practice that way. Everything else
we do comes off that premise. Historically,
the teams that can run the ball and stop the
run win more games.
The offenses today want to throw the
ball. The players like it, and it is fun. At the
University of Alabama, we are not about
fun. We are about toughness, being physical,
and winning ball games. The players have fun
by winning games and championships. We
do things that way, and our players buy into
that idea and play hard for us.
In this article, I will cover some defensive
drills that we use. I will tell you why we do
the drills. After I’ve reviewed the drills, I will
discuss some man-coverage concepts and ideas.
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 2010 Coach of the
Year Clinics, edited by
Earl Browning
Nothing is special about the drills. When
we start the drill session, we start everything
with A, B, and C. We want some kind of
agility in the drill.
We want to see block protection on defense.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
These drills are for every group on the
defense. We do drills for the linebackers,
defensive line, and defensive backs. We do
cut-block drills, stalk drills, and drills of that
nature. We are no different from anyone
else. We are working drills in which we use
our hands. You cannot play defense without
using your hands. We want to play with the
hands, lock out, and control blockers.
We want to see contact in our drills. The
C in our drills stands for contact. You cannot
play football without contact. Although we
may not take players to the ground, we are
physical in these drills. In our practices, we
do not take players to the ground except in
two or three scrimmages each year.
We do not teach the drills on the field.
We want to prepare the players for what we
are going to do in a position meeting. When
we go to the practice field, we do not want
to spend time explaining the drills. We do
not want to explain what we want to
accomplish. We want to repeat the drills that
we use, rather than having to teach them
daily. Drill work is important, but the time
we have to work on individual skills is
limited. When we get to the practice field,
we want to get as many repetitions as we
possibly can.
We do not waste
time doing
different drills or
creating new drills.
We want the
maximum number
of repetitions for
the individuals, and
we want to make
the most of the
time we have.
Our managers set up the drills and have
them ready to go when we get to the field.
This procedure is all part of organization, so
we can be more efficient with our practice
time. With the restrictions the NCAA
places on colleges, it is imperative that we
do these things. We have to utilize every
second we have with our individual groups.
do not turn their hips in that direction.
They keep their shoulders square to the line
and weave from side to side.We do the weave
drill to control leverage on a receiver. If we
have outside leverage and the receiver stems
outside, we want to weave outside and keep
the leverage position, without turning the
shoulder to do it.
We do the same drills daily. With regard
to defensive back drills, the first drill we do
is a down-the-line drill, which is a simple
backpedal drill. We work from the sideline
to the hash marks. In this drill, we are looking
for proper technique. In the stance, we want
the feet close together. We want the feet
somewhere between four to six inches
apart. We want the feet no wider than a
toe-to-instep stagger.
The next drill we incorporate with the
weave drill is a flip turn. We start out in the
weave. On the coach’s signal, the defensive
back executes a flip turn and runs. We add a
turn to one side and the run. After that, we
add a turn going both ways. We use these
drills with our corners and safeties.
We want the feet barely clipping the
grass as the defensive ends backpedal. We
watch the posture and footwork of the
defensive backs. We do not want any false
steps as they push off. We push with the
back foot, and then we push with the front
foot. When we coach in an individual
period, we do not want to stop the drill to
correct what someone is doing. You do not
want people standing and watching while
you are talking to one player. We run the
drill and make the corrections on the fly.
The next drill is a plant-and-burst drill.
When we break back on the ball, we want
to have the foot on the ground. Freshmen
come in as toe planters. They want to plant
with the toe and not the entire foot. The
toe planters may only have two cleats in the
ground when they attempt to break.We want
the sole of the foot on the ground, with the
foot to the breakside turned at a 45-degree
angle to the direction of the break. When we
drive on a pattern, we feel we have more
ground traction if we have all the cleats of
the shoe in the ground, as the defender
bursts to the ball.
We do not waste time doing different
drills or creating new drills. We want the
maximum number of repetitions for the
individuals, and we want to make the most
of the time we have.
When you perform these drills, you must
work off both feet. We break them to the
right and then to the left. In these drills, it is
easy to get false steps in the backpedal and
burst drills. Every false step the defensive back
takes is lost time, which means a completion.
The second drill we work on is the weave
drill. When we teach this drill, we want the
defenders to stay square. When they do the
weave drill, we are working on a backpedal.
The coach stands in front of the players and
starts them on a backpedal. He then gives
them directions—left and right, to weave
off and on the lines. When they weave, they
The next drill is the two-line drill. We
never do all these drills on the same day. We
may use a two-line drill on Monday and a
one-line drill on Tuesday. However, the
defensive backs know the drills, and we do
not spend time teaching the drills. We go
into the drills and work on the techniques.
We do not have to teach the actual
Football Coach e-Magazine |
mechanics of the drill to get started.
In the two-line drill, we want the
defensive back to shuffle.We are incorporating
our cover-2 scheme in the drill. We teach the
corner on a cover-2 technique that when the
receiver breaks off the line of scrimmage, the
corner does not sink or drop off the receiver;
he jams the receiver and shuffles for two
steps. After the corner does his shuffle steps,
the coach gives him a direction. He rolls the
ball out as a fumble or throws the ball up in
the air for the back to react to the ball and
high point it for an interception.
If the coach rolls the ball, the defensive
back reacts and works on his scoop-andscore drill. If the coach throws the ball, he
reacts to it and works on his ball skills. The
defensive back has to catch the ball.
We incorporate the drive on the out cut
in the drill (Diagram KS-1). The defensive
back does the same thing he did in the shuffle
drill, except we are going to defend a receiver.
We teach two different techniques—the
burst drop as a man-coverage technique and
a 45-degree angle drop as a zone technique.
In the latter technique, he opens his hips
and drives to a spot.
Diagram KS-1. Out burst
Diagram KS-1. Out burst
When you do these drills, you should be
able to find live-action shots of them in game
films. Everything we teach in the drills, we
should see in the games. If you can show
the players the drill in a game film, they will
Football Coach e-Magazine |
work harder to perfect the skill you are
trying to teach. If they know they are
getting better by using the drill work, they
will work harder in the drill. You have to let
them know why you are teaching the drill.
The next drill is a speed turn on the out
pattern. We teach a zone turn on the out
first drill. In the zone turn, the defensive
back opens his hips to the quarterback. He
reacts back to the receiver at a 45-degree
angle. On the speed turn, the defender runs
the pattern with the receiver. He does not
open his hips to the quarterback. He flips
his head and shoulder to the outside, away
from the quarterback. We use this drill as an
out-and-up drill to work on the deep ball.
I have been with Coach Saban since 2006,
when I coached with him at the Miami
Dolphins. I have learned a lot from him. We
came to Alabama in 2007. I think Coach
Saban is the best defensive backs coach I have
ever heard speak or watched coach. He does
a great job of teaching the players. He does
not go into the film room and criticize the
players. He tells them what they did wrong,
but he reinforces that with positive comments,
which is the best thing I have learned from
him. I learned to teach and not to criticize.
When we recruit a player, we want to
know if he can play man-to-man defense. You
cannot play college football at our level if
you never play man-to-man defense.
The second thing we want to know
about a recruit is if he can tackle. You cannot
play defense unless you can tackle. In a
defensive back, it is harder because he has to
tackle in space most of the time. A missed
tackle in the secondary is double trouble. A
five-yard hitch pattern and a missed tackle
can amount to a 60-yard touchdown.
The third thing we want to know is if he
can play the ball in the deep parts of the field.
Defensive corners end up in bad situations
too many times. They are isolated and have
to make plays on deep balls. If they cannot
do that, they cannot play in our scheme.
We do the out-and-up drill to improve our
ability to play the ball in the deep part of
the field. Two factors are at work in the
deep field. The back has to be able to adjust
to the deep ball, and he has to catch it.
When we do a speed cut, we do not want
to stop and start again. When we stop, we
have to start from zero. We want to roll off
the inside foot and keep our momentum
going. We want to keep our speed when
we play any kind of double move. If the
defender loses his momentum when the
receiver turns the move deep, it is difficult
to recover and catch up.
We perform all kinds of ball drills. For
example, we have a high-ball drill and a lowball drill to teach catching and concentration
on the ball.
The next part of our drill work is the B,
which is block protection. The corner has to
play the blocks of the wide receivers
primarily. One of my favorite drills to do is
a middle-butt drill. We even do this drill in
our off-season program because we feel it is
that important. It is a simple punch drill.
The defensive backs punch with their hands
into the breastplate of a defender. We want
the hands inside and the thumbs up on the
chest. Putting the thumbs in that position
will bring the elbows in tight to the body.
do an explosion drill. We want to sit back
and use our hands. When the receiver
approaches, the defensive back can use his
hands and knock the crap out of him. If the
defensive back keeps his elbow in tight, he
has an extra foot or more to lock out on
the defender.
In the drill, we want to work outside,
side-to-side. We do not want the receiver to
turn the defensive back one way or the
other. We always make sure the heels of the
receiver are apart. We do not want the feet
together. We want to use a step movement
with his feet, as if he were an offensive
tackle. We never want him hopping. We
always want one foot on the ground.
The next drill is an extension of the butt
drill. We call it shuffle-run-cut (Diagram KS-2).
We start out the drill the same way.We punch
and lock out the blocker. The blocker
moves to the outside. The defensive back
shuffles, separates from the blocker, and runs
to the outside.The second blocker comes out
of the backfield and tries to cut him. The
defensive back has to play the cut with his
hands and feet. The key thing to playing the
cut block is to keep the outside leg free and
to the outside. The defensive back has to get
his outside leg past the hat of the blocker.
The defender gets cut if the blocker gets to
his outside leg.
Diagram KS-2. Shuffle-run-cut
We want them to pretend they are sitting
on a barstool. We want their weight back and
their head up. We want to punch and lock
out the arms. Playing corner as a defensive
back is similar to playing tackle against a
rushing defensive end. We use the kick-slide
technique when we play corner. The
difference is we are not trying to lunge and
Diagram KS-2. Shuffle-run-cut
We are going to do some form of
tackling every day, for example, the block
Football Coach e-Magazine |
protection drill, with a tackle on the end.
We also do the shuffle-run-cut drill with a
tackle on the end. In this drill, we stack two
blockers and a ballcarrier in a line five yards
apart. The defensive back punches and locks
out on the first blocker. The last six inches
of a bench press is what we teach in the
lock-out movement, which is where the
explosion comes from and what we are
teaching in this movement. He shuffles and
runs to the second blocker. The second
blocker tries to cut him. He plays the cut
and comes off the block.
When we teach tackling, we teach near
leg and near shoulder. I see players squat all
the time when they tackle. We do not teach
that way at all. In basketball, with a jumpball situation, the players jump for the tip
with their inside leg and their inside hand,
which is how we teach tackling. The tackler
hits with his nearest leg to the ballcarrier and
rolls his hips up and through the ballcarrier.
We do the same thing on an angle tackle. If
we hit with the near shoulder, the next step
is through the ballcarrier not to the ballcarrier.
We also teach a stick tackling drill
(Diagram KS-3). In this drill, the defensive
back gets into a backpedal. He sticks his
foot in the ground and drives up for the
tackle. When he gets to the tackle position,
he executes the near shoulder/near leg
technique and makes the tackle.
Diagram KS-3. Stick tackle
Football Coach e-Magazine |
The next drill is a simple angle tackle drill.
The coaching point in this drill is to make
sure they use the near leg and same shoulder.
Coming on an angle, they can get the opposite
leg forward and the near shoulder. Make
sure their feet are in proper position as they
run through the ballcarrier. You have more
power with the near leg and shoulder as
long as the feet are pointed north and south.
In the open field tackling drill, we put the
ballcarrier and the defender 15 yards apart.
The defensive back wants to close the distance
as quickly as he can. When he makes a
tackle in the open field, he has to open his
hips to the ballcarrier. If the defensive back
cannot open his hips, he will struggle in the
open field. When we open the hips, we have
to flat step to the ballcarrier.
If it comes to an angle tackle, he has to
open his hips and flat step to the ballcarrier.
We want him coming downhill on his flat
step. He does not want to turn his shoulder
and run on an angle. Some defensive backs
cannot run straight ahead and flat step,
because they are too tight in the hips. In
the open field, we do not want to turn the
shoulders.We want to close the distance, open
the hips, flat step with the shoulders square,
and strike with the near leg and shoulder.
On a sideline tackle, we do not want to
give the ballcarrier a two-way go. We do
not want him to cut back with the ball or
get down the sideline. We want to attack
straight ahead and close the running lane.
The next drill teaches pursuit tackling
(Diagram KS-4). It works with our cover-2
roll. The corner and safety work in the drill
together. In the drill, we set a dummy holder
in the area of a toss sweep. The corner has
to play off a receiver and force the ball from
an outside-in position. The safety fills inside
the corner. In this drill, we are trying to
simulate a missed tackle. We teach swarming
defense. The SEC has good running backs.
You do not knock them down on the first
contact. We have one of those good running
Diagram KS-4. Pursuit tackle
to keep the batters off balance.
We have to do the same thing at defensive
back. We cannot defend the receiver with
the same coverage scheme or technique
every time. We have to change up what we
do. We can play cover 2, or we can play
what we call a tough jam, which is a hard
jam with the inside hand. When we do this
play, we do not lunge at the receiver or
jump across the line of scrimmage to get to
the receiver. The problem with the tough
jam is too much risk exists if the defensive
back misses the jam. If that situation happens,
it is probably a touchdown. It is a risky play.
Diagram KS-4. Pursuit Tackle
The dummy holder has to be firm with
the dummy. The cornerback closes on the
dummy and delivers a hit on the dummy.
After the hit, the dummy holder moves the
bag to another position. The safety is flying
to the ball inside the corner. When the
dummy moves, he has to adjust his angle
and hit the dummy.
We run drills with the receiver and the
corner, working on out-and-in breaks by
the receivers. We also have to work on the
breaks of the safeties in a cover-2 shell. They
have to break downhill on a secondary break
and back for the deep break. On one day,
we work breaking down, and the next day,
we work breaking deep.
The next thing we do with the defensive
back is to work on releases. When our
defensive backs press, we want to play quick
with our hands and feet. The worse thing
that can happen to a defensive back is to
lunge at a receiver. When the defensive back
steps forward, he spreads his feet. After he
spreads his feet, he cannot move his feet,
unless he steps back inside himself. He has
taken three steps, and he did not move from
his original position.
On cover 2, the corner is the primary
run support. On a cover-2 concept, we
make the safety drive out for the first three
steps, because he is the half defender. We
make him read the receivers. They want to
know if the receiver blocked the corner or
released. We do not read run or pass with a
half-field safety on a lineman. We check the
receivers. It could be a toss-sweep pass or a
flea-flicker. If he reads run from the receiver,
he flat steps and comes out of the half-field
back into run support.
We want his weight on the big toe of his
up foot. From that position, he cannot
spread his feet. When they snap the ball, we
want to stay square and force the receivers
to release around us. We use our step-step
footwork to channel their paths. We say that
playing corner is like being a pitcher in
baseball. You cannot throw the fastball all
the time. Eventually, the hitter will catch up
to the fastball. He has to have a change-up
We play our corners a little different on
cover 2. We coach the corner on his support
path. If he sees air inside the receiver and
can beat him in there, he takes it. Instead of
taking on the receiver, he beats him inside
and boxes the run. However, the safety has
to make him right by getting over the top
and playing secondary contain.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
We do not play much off coverage on
the wide receiver. However, the first day of
fall camp, we play good-on-good in a pass
drill. We play off coverage because most
corners do not understand leverage. The
secondary plays cover 3 (Diagram KS-5).
The quarterback has three options: He can
run a toss sweep, a three-step quick slant
pass, or a five-step comeback pattern. The
defenders do not have any linebackers in
underneath coverage, so all the cuts have to
be out patterns by the receivers.
running play when we are playing cover 2
(Diagram KS-6). The safety can make him
right, but we do not want it to happen. If
he decides to run through on the receiver,
he has to get there. We use this type of play
if we have a large tight end playing the split
receiver, which in a stalk situation, is a
mismatch for the corner. The corner can
read the tight end and align on the wide
receiver. When he sees the tight end release
inside, he is a rolled-up cover-2 corner.
Diagram KS-5. Leverage and fit
Diagram KS-6. Cover-2 drill
Diagram KS-5. Leverage and fit
We have to read run or pass and play run
or pass.We do not expect the corner to make
the play on the running play. However, we
are asking him to play block-protection
techniques on the receiver and get up to
force the play inside. The worst thing the
corner can do is to run outside the block
of the wide receiver. We tell the corner to
two-gap the receiver and play two-thirds
outside and one-third inside on the receiver.
The safety is coming inside the corner
for run support. If the corner picks a side of
the receiver, he has made the receiver’s job
easy. We are teaching the corner and safety
their fits on a running play, which makes
the safety and corner tougher players. If we
read pass, it is going to be some kind of
outside breaking pattern.
Some days, we play cover 3 in the drill,
and on other days, we play cover 2. We do
not want the corner penned inside on a
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Diagram KS-6. Cover-2 drill
We play the slot receiver differently than
most people. Most people press the wide
receiver and play off the slot receiver. We
play that way because we need run support
from the man over the slot. If the slot blocks,
we have run support from the strong safety.
If the slot releases, we are man-to-man with
the strong safety. We leverage the slotback
based on where the help is. If we do have help
inside, the defender leverages him outside.
In college football today, the huddle occurs
at the line of scrimmage. The offense aligns
on the ball, and the coaches call the plays
from the sideline, according to how the
defense aligns. If you change your defense,
they call automatics from the sideline. You
can do two things in that situation. You can
set in the defense you are in or change the
defense.We are not going to allow the offense
to do that to us. We do not show our
defense when the quarterback gets under
center or uses the hard count to get us to
move. We do not show what we are in
when the quarterback drops his hand in the
shotgun to get the snap.
We are not any
smarter than the
other coaches are.
However, we are not
going to sit back
and let them pick
up with the play
they want to run.
We are going to put a kill call into our
defensive calls. When we use a kill call, it is
the same as a defensive automatic. We kill
pressure-to-pressure, pressure-to-coverage,
and coverage-to-pressure. If the offense reads
cover 2 and decides to check to a draw, we
kill our call from coverage-to-pressure. The
offense checks to a play to run against cover
2. We kill the cover-2 coverage scheme and
go to a blitz scheme. We tie our blitz to
another coverage scheme. We go from a
cover-2 call to a zone blitz and a quarters or
man scheme in the secondary.
We can also go from pressure-to-pressure.
If the offense thinks they read an inside blitz
scheme and automatic to an option play, we
can change from an inside blitz to an outside
blitz. They think they have an advantage
and can block down on all inside gaps. We
bring the blitz off the perimeter.
The last kill we use goes from pressureto-coverage. The offense reads the pre-snap
as a blitz scheme. When they automatic to
change the protection scheme, we kill the
blitz and go to some kind of max-coverage
scheme. We can play a match-man concept
or go to some other coverage scheme. We
want to make sure we stop any type of now
pass. The offense ties it into a blitzprevention plan.
We are not going to sit back and let the
offense do what they want. We do not have
to use a kill call. We can use bluff tactics to
make them think we are coming when we
are not. The kill call we use most is the
coverage to pressure call. We package these
calls as part of the game plan. We will match
a fire zone blitz with the country cover 2.
At times, we get hurt with the kill calls,
but we are not going to let the offense
match their play to our defense without
giving them some problems. When the
offense does not get the coverage or blitz
scheme they thought they saw, it builds
doubt into their heads.
The key to what we do is the game plan.
In our film study, we match our coverages
to their formations and tendencies. It is not
like we are grab bagging coverages. The
offense is going to game plan to what they
see also. We are not any smarter than the
other coaches are. However, we are not
going to sit back and let them pick up with
the play they want to run.
Offensive coaches use dummy calls to make
the defense think they are changing the
play when actually they are not. It becomes
Football Coach e-Magazine |
a big crapshoot sometimes. However, we
think we are better off using that system.
The obvious problem when you start to
check from one blitz to another or change from
coverage-to-coverage is the communication
of that call. You must have people on your
defense who will take charge of those things
and make sure the defense is on the same page.
The automatic calls have to be simple so
that you do not end up with two different
coverages in the secondary. If we make a
mistake in a blitz call, it will not hurt us as
much as a blow in the secondary. That kind
of mistake can lead to a big play. When we
check our coverage, we want to go from
zone coverage to some sort of man scheme.
We can play pattern-match coverage or a
man-free scheme. When we check from a
particular coverage to another, we do not
want the automatic every time we think the
quarterback is changing the play. If you do
that, the offense will figure out what you are
doing and take advantage of it. You cannot
always do anything about it. If you always
check cover 2 to a particular coverage, the
offense will figure that out. We want the
offense to guess when we are checking off.
It all comes back to disguise. If we can mask
what we are doing, we will win most of
those situations. R
Kirby Smart is the defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama, a position he
has held for the past three seasons under Nick Saban. During his tenure at Alabama,
the Tide have been one of the best defensive teams in the country. In December
2009, he received the Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
From Defensive
Back Drills and
Fundamentals by
Greg Vandagriff
From Defensive
Back Play: Tackling
That Wins
by Rob Keys
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a
lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will”
~ Vince Lombardi
Take your team to the next level.
With more than 2,000 titles, Coaches Choice is one of the world’s largest publishers
of instructional books and DVDs for coaches. Coaches Choice offers cutting - edge
resources that feature some of the most respected coaches in their sport.
Learning has no off-season
Youth Football Play:
Blue Right 29 Belly
vs. 4-3
By Chris Booth
Right Tackle: Blocks the Sam linebacker.
Puts his helmet on the left side of the Sam’s
body and drives him to the right.
Tight End: Blocks the left defensive end.
Puts his helmet on the right side of the
defensive end’s body and drives him to the
Diagram CB-1. Blue Right 29 Belly vs. 4-3
Center: Blocks the Mike linebacker. Puts
his helmet on the left side of the Mike’s
body and drives him to the right.
Left Tackle: Blocks the Will linebacker.
Puts his helmet on the right side of the
Will’s body and drives him to the left.
Left Guard: Blocks the left defensive tackle.
Puts his helmet on the right side of the
defensive tackle’s body and drives him to
the left.
Right Guard: Blocks the right defensive
tackle. Puts his helmet on the left side of
the defensive tackle’s body and drives him
to the right.
This play was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 101 Youth Football
Plays, by Chris Booth.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Split End: Lines up 12 yards outside of the
right tackle and blocks the strong safety.
Slot: Lines up seven yards outside of the
right tackle and blocks the free safety.
Quarterback: Drops his left foot, hands
the ball to the tailback in the 9 hole, takes
one lateral step to the left, and fakes a
handoff to the fullback in the 7 hole.
Fullback: Takes two lateral steps left and
fakes taking a handoff in the 7 hole.
Tailback: Takes a handoff from the
quarterback, hits the 9 hole, and runs to
daylight. R
Chris Booth is the head football coach at Peterstown Middle School in Peterstown,
West Virginia. He is the author of four instructional books on youth football, which
can be purchased here.
Effective Football Practice Concept:
You Play as You Practice!
By Steve Axman
From A NonTraditional Approach
to Practice
Organization by
Herb Meyer
From 2009 Texas
High School Coaches
Coaching School —
Football Sessions
by Mack Brown
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 101 Concepts for
Effective Football Practice,
by Steve Axman
n old, and yet often very correct,
coaching adage exists that states “. . . you play
as you practice!” This thought may or may
not be totally correct. Some teams simply
are not great practice teams, no matter how
hard they work on the practice field. And yet,
that same team may play at a championship
caliber week in and week out come game
time. However, a heavy, direct correlation
seems to exist between teams that practice
hard, intensely, efficiently, and effectively and
teams that play hard, intensely, efficiently,
and effectively on the game field each and
every Friday night or Saturday afternoon.
Teams that practice hard and intensely
almost always take such efforts and habits to
the game field come game day. Practicing hard
and intensely develops playing habits that
translate to winning playing habits on the
field of competition. The equation is quite
simple. Does your team practice with great
intensity? Are “hard work, a blue-collar work
ethic, toughness, grit, hustle, and pride” words
that would be used to describe your practices
day in and day out? If they are, the chances
are that those words are the words that will
be used to describe the way your team plays
come game day. On the other hand, are
your practices lack-luster, lacking hustle, drive,
and excitement? Is there lots of talking by
coaches and few repetitions? Is there a lack
Diagram SA-1.
of a physical attitude in your practices? Do
your players seem to act like they are just
trying to get through your practices, rather
than earnestly trying to improve and get
better? Unfortunately, there’s a tremendous
chance that such negative practice
descriptions will spill over to that same field
of competition come game day. There’s
almost always a definite correlation to your
team’s performance in practice and your
team’s game-day performance. As the saying
goes, “. . . you play as you practice! R
Steve Axman is the offensive
coordinator, assistant head
coach, and tight ends coach
at the University of Idaho.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Counter-Pulling Drill
By Steve Loney
From Complete
Offensive Line
Drill Package
by John Rice
From Coaching
Linemen by
Dave Christensen
From Offensive
Line Run Blocking
by Art Kehoe
Objective: To teach a lineman the technique of trapping and pulling to
block a linebacker, while giving a second lineman who is pulling a better
understanding of the proper spatial relationship between him and the trapper.
Equipment Needed:
Four shields
The offensive linemen form four lines.
Holding shields, two defenders position
themselves in front of the four lines, while
two other defenders—one acting as a
linebacker and another as a defensive end—
line up as illustrated in Diagram SL-1. On
command, the linemen who are first in
lines #1 and #3 pull to block their assigned
linebacker and defensive end respectively,
while the first man in lines #2 and #4
executes a down block. Initially, the
linebacker should line up over line #1. On
the snap, he will scrape over the top. The
coach can tell the defenders how to react,
whether flat or attacking downhill. The
defensive end should give different reactions
as well. The down linemen should fight the
pressure of the down block.
Coaching Points:
• If the trapper and the puller are side-byside in a team’s scheme, the drill should
reflect that factor as well.
• The lineman pulling for the linebacker
should be on the trapper’s upfield hip.
• The trapper should work inside-out to
kick-out, while the puller should keep his
eyes on his linebacker. R
Diagram SL-1. Counter-Pulling Drill
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, 101 Offensive Line
Drills, by Steve Loney
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Steve Loney is the offensive line coach for the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, a position he
assumed in 2008. Loney’s impressive coaching resume spans 35 years and
includes stints at the interscholastic, collegiate, and NFL levels.
Noseguard Explosion
By Jerry H. Moore
To teach and practice the proper fundamentals and techniques of defeating
various center blocks
Equipment Needed:
Four large blocking dummies; several
• Align a quarterback and a center over the
football on a selected line of scrimmage.
• Position a noseguard in his normal
alignment over the center.
• Lay dummies in the neutral zone at the
guard and tackle positions.
• Have the coach stand adjacent to the
• Have other drill participants stand
adjacent to the drill area.
• On the quarterback’s cadence and ball
snap, have the noseguard react to and
defeat selected blocks of the center and
pursue playside over and through the
• The drill continues until all participants
have had a sufficient number of
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, The Complete Book of
Defensive Football Drills,
by Jerry Tolley
Coaching Points:
• Always check to see that the noseguards
are aligned correctly and are in their
proper stances (i.e., eye level of the
noseguards should be the same as that of
the centers).
• Make sure that the noseguards use the
proper fundamentals and techniques
involved in defeating the various blocks
employed by the center.
• Instruct the noseguards to keep their
shoulders squared to the line of
scrimmage as they pursue over and
through the dummies.
• In the early stages of the drill, alert the
noseguards as to what type of block the
center will execute.
Safety Considerations:
• A proper warm-up should precede the
• The drill area should be clear of all
foreign articles.
• The coach should watch for and
eliminate all unacceptable match-ups of
size and athletic ability.
• The drill should progress from form work
to live work.
• The coach should closely monitor the
intensity level of the drill.
• The centers should be instructed to not
make contact with the noseguards after
Football Coach e-Magazine |
the noseguards initiate their pursuit over
and through the dummies.
• Can be used as a form or live-block,
shedding drill.
• Can be used with a ballcarrier, with the
noseguards executing either a form or live
tackle after pursuing over and through the
• Can be used as a center-quarterback, ballexchange drill. R
From Defensive
Line Play
by John Levra
Diagram JM-1. Noseguard Explosion drill
Jerry Moore is the head football coach at Appalachian State University, a position
that he has held for 21 seasons. In the process, he has become the winningest
coach in Southern Conference history.
Football Coach e-Magazine |
Find-the-WindowUnder-Pressure Drill
By Larry Wilcox
To develop agility, speed, and the ability to move in the pocket and pass
the football.
Equipment Needed: Several footballs
Larry Wilcox is the head
football coach at St.
College, a position he has
held since 1979. During
his tenure at the helm of
the Ravens, his teams
have compiled a 207-114
record, won five Heart of
America Athletic Conference
titles, and qualified for the
NAIA playoffs 11 times. In
the process, he has been
named HAAC Coach of the
Year four times.
This article was excerpted
from the Coaches Choice
book, The Complete Book of
Speed and Agility Football
Drills by Jerry Tolley
• Align a quarterback, holding a football,
on a selected line of scrimmage. Other
quarterbacks stand adjacent to the drill area.
• Position three receivers at different passending route alignments downfield. Give
each of the receivers a number (1, 2, 3).
• Position the coach 10 yards downfield and
10 yards in front of the quarterback. The
coach keeps one hand behind his back.
• On the quarterback’s cadence and snap
count, have the quarterback take either a
five- or seven-step pass drop.
• When the quarterback completes his pass
drop, have the coach signal him with his
front hand to shuffle both left and right
and to slide both front to back.
• From behind his back, have the coach
show (at his discretion) one, two, or three
fingers. The designated receiver will flash
his hand, and the quarterback will pass
that receiver the football.
• Continue the drill until all quarterbacks
have had a sufficient number of repetitions
from midfield and both hash marks.
Coaching Points:
• Always check to see that all quarterbacks
are in their proper stances before starting
the drill.
• Insist that the drill be conducted at full
• Instruct the quarterbacks to hold the football
in the pass-ready position throughout the
• Make sure the quarterbacks keep their
heads up and their eyes focused downfield
at all times.
• Make sure all quarterbacks practice the
proper mechanics when throwing passes.
Safety Considerations:
• A proper warm-up should precede the drill.
• The drill area should be clear of all
foreign articles.
• Vary the position of the three downfield
• Incorporate pass rushers for the
quarterbacks to avoid. R
Diagram LW-1. Find-the-window-under-pressure drill
Football Coach e-Magazine |

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