Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 in Review: Shield Punt

During last off-season I spent a lot of time studying different punt schemes. One which continued to catch my eye was the “Shield Punt”.  A ton of college programs were using it and I had previously read an article about it in one of the American Football Coaches Association publications. I also solicited input from the Coach Huey community and thought I had been convinced to move forward with my plans.
Still, I found myself doubting its effectiveness. We had been punting from a spread formation and were a half man, half zone protection unit. That punt scheme was something I felt extremely comfortable with and knew inside-out. But, we continued to have issues getting downfield and covering kicks and teaching the protection scheme was not economical. Our number one issue was that we had trouble getting downfield and covering kicks. We are not the type of team that is going to be successful in space against some of the athletic teams we face in our league.
Knowing this, I decided to make the leap and change our scheme last summer. I planned out the necessary details and drills and moved ahead with a plan to install our version of the Shield Punt.
Boy, were we happy we did!
Our big boys loved being the heart of the punt team!
We attempted 31 punts this season. Our punter averaged 31.4 yards per attempt and we downed six kicks inside the 20-yard line including one that died on the one-yard line. Out of those 31 punts, opponents didn’t even attempt to field the kick 20 times!
Think about that! Two-thirds of our punts were not even returnable. We didn’t have to attempt to make a tackle on 67% of our punts!
This is because the Shield Punt releases defenders into lanes right away and high school returners  (and some coaches for that matter) don’t want to touch a ball if they’re in a crowd for fear of muffing the kick.
Out of the other 11 punts, six were fair caught (including five alone in our playoff game). We only had to make a tackle in space five times throughout the season! That was my main goal with this unit.
Our opponents averaged only two return yards when we punted (giving us a net of 29.4 yards per punt), with most coming on a 50-yard return that we missed some easy tackles and probably out-kicked our coverage on.
Another reason I initially shied away from the Shield Punt was that I viewed its basic formation as difficult from which to run a fake from.
I love running fakes on special teams. I enjoy taking advantage of schematic disadvantages most special teams units put themselves in and love the momentum-grabbing effect that a converted fourth-down on special teams can have on an offense.
Our spread punt left the door open to run whatever type of fake we wanted to. This new Shield Punt seemed like it wouldn’t fit that mold. It was the last hurdle I had to clear mentally before diving in head first.
Last season, in our spread punt, we were 3-for-4 for 78 yards and three converted first downs when we faked a punt.
After some careful studying and a lot of doodling I found a handful of fakes I thought would work well with the Shield Punt. They turned out to be a success this year. We were 2-of-3 for 18 yards and two first downs on fakes. The one we didn’t convert was a bad, emotional call from me. We didn’t have the numbers advantage we normally look for. I just felt like we could catch them off guard and get it.
On top of all that we also forced opponents into four penalties for 50 yards, two of which were roughing the kicker calls, while only committing one penalty for five yards ourselves.
All in all, we only lost five yards throughout the entire season on punt when you tally punt return yardage, our fake yardage and penalty yardage on both sides. That's way better than where we had been in year's past.

Check out some clips below. The last two are fakes we ran successfully this  season.

Oh Snap!

You need to install Silverlight to watch Hudl presentations.

Download Silverlight

Need help installing Silverlight? Click here.

Most weeks we found that teams didn't know how to scheme their punt return or block. Most teams didn't rush or attempt to set up a return. If they did, it wasn't executed well. 

One issue we had throughout the season was our front line guys bowing back. Although we never got called for not having enough men on the line of scrimmage, we were warned twice by refs.

We need to get better at blocking at the guard and tackle positions. This season, I didn't coach them up well enough and as such there first steps were off and we lost ground sometimes.
I will continue to fine tune this unit in the off-season, but I am now completely sold on the Shield Punt.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking back...2012 in Review

"Reflection is the better part of a champion"
I took a major break from this blog as things got hectic with our spring and summer program and didn't even think about it during our actual football season.
It feels good to be back and have an outlet to reflect upon this year.
This season was a step in the right direction for our football program. We made the playoffs for the first time since 2009, beat our cross-town rivals for the first time in five years and won seven games, something that hasn’t happened at our school since 2002.
Unfortunately, we ran into a solid program in the first round of the playoffs and fell 49-19.
Last season we went 2-8 following a 4-6 showing in 2010. Those were both very long years. This season flew by. We had a lot of fun along the way and although I didn’t always take time to enjoy the voyage, I’ve been able to reflect upon the success we had now that the season is over.
It was truly a remarkable trip. This year’s seniors had won a combined five football games their first three years of high school football. Those who stuck it out showed tremendous resolve. And they were rewarded for their hard work.
This year was my fourth as Defensive Coordinator and fifth overall coaching high school football. Our defense had a remarkable turnaround from the previous season. Last year we had major issues tackling and giving up big plays. It showed as we allowed our opponent’s to score over 37 points per game.
This group of seniors was our first who learned our offensive and defensive schemes as freshman and ran it for four years in the program. I think that definitely attributed to our success this season. Although we lacked some size and speed defensively we made up for it by understanding our alignment and assignment and then executing our jobs at a high rate. Our players deserve a ton of credit for how football smart they are and for how well they retained what was taught to them throughout their career.
As some of you know, we run a 4-2-5 that blends itself between multiple styles. We base out of Cover 4, but we also run Cover 3, zone blitz and run Cover 0 blitzes. We use an Over front that can be set anywhere we want and get into an Under front against 21 personnel  teams.
We are multiple, but simple at the same time. Regardless of what exact call we are in, I want my players to know where to line up, who their key is and how they react to that key. I want them playing fast.
This season our defense made a tremendous turnaround from the previous one. In 2011, we couldn’t stop teams from running on us, gave up over 37 points per game and were the worst tackling team I had ever been around.
This year, we gave up 20.63 points per game and allowed 50 yards less per game (255) than we did last season.
I always look at 3rd-down conversion percentage as a tell-tale sign of whether or not a defense is any good. The ability to get off the field when given the chance is key to success. Our goal for every game is to hold our opponents to 30% or less on 3rd down conversions. This season we held our opponents to 28% on 3rd down, a 10% improvement!
We forced 25 takeaways (12 interceptions and 13 fumbles), six more than last year and increased our sack total by eight.
All this was accomplished with only one full-time returning starter in our front seven. The strength of our defense was definitely our safeties and corners, three of whom were starters last year. Two of them earned 1st-team All League status at defensive back and a third earned 1st-team honors offensively.
I didn’t do a whole lot differently than any previous season. But, I did make a switch and coach the defensive backs. The previous three seasons I had been the linebackers coach. I was lucky enough to have our previous JV Head Coach move up and assist with the LBs and our defensive line coach did a tremendous job as always.
We did use a different approach to introduce tackling fundamentals and I felt like we did a better job correcting fundamental tackling mistakes during practice.
This season and the talent we have coming up in our program has given us a very positive outlook on the next couple of years. This year’s team laid the foundation for this program to build for years to come.

*In future entries, I will continue to reflect on the 2012 season, but in more detail in regards to our schemes, other areas of our program, what went right, what went wrong, etc.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Creating a Pass Rush Mentality on the Defensive Line

I had the pleasure of listening to Tosh Lupoi, Defensive Line Coach at the University of Washington, speak at a Glazier Clinic earlier this year.
His presentaton was impressive. He really changed my mindset for how to mentally prepare defensive linemen on every snap.

He puts his guys into three different modes depending on what they are trying to accomplish. Stances, alignments and the thought process changes in each mode.

Base Mode

Whenever the defensive linemen aren't expecting to rush the passer and they are not stunting, they are in base mode. Their stance must be balanced and powerful in order to react to the different types of blocks they see.

They should have their eyes on the blocker they are reacting to and their hand off their leg. If they happen to  rush the passer out of base mode and they get engaged by an offensive lineman, they should attempt to use a push/pull move or long-arm (basically a violent punch that separates them from the offensive lineman) the blocker.

Stunt Mode

Lupoi didn't go much into what they do exactly in stunt mode due to time restrictions, but I would assume the stance would complement where they plan on moving towards without giving away where they are going. The stance doesn't need to be as balanced as in base mode and the defensive linemen should have a pre-determined plan for how they are going to attack the gap they are stunting to. Their eyes should be on the ball.
Jet Mode

This is the mode defensive linemen need to get into for a pass rush emphasis. They should transition from a balanced stance to a speed or sprinter's stance with narrow feet, butt up in the air, head down and looking inside towards the ball. I have seen guys (most recently the Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Babin and Trent Cole and their notorious Wide 9 alignment) use a four-point stance when they are in this mode, but I would suggest doing whatever is most comfortable for you as a coach. I don't know which one was is better for this mode, but I'd be willing to let my players decide what is most comfortable for them.

Lupoi wants his guys to have great takeoff, so he emphasizes rolling and leaning out of their stance. It's the exact reason, the NFL makes guys come to a pause in their stance for one second before taking off when they time 40s at the combine.
In order to accomplish this though, they must understand the opponent's cadence. The DL should use a credit card alignment (you shouldn't be able to slip anything more than a credit card between the DL's head/hand then a credit card), loosen their width on alignment and get into a gap alignment instead of on a shade. When they takeoff out of their stance, the DL should replace their hand with their foot on their first step.
Mentally, the DL needs to have a plan. Their goal in Lupoi's mind is to effect the passer. They should have a move they want to attack the OL with and a counter in case it doesn't work.

In the end, Lupoi wants to coach violent, aggressive pursuit over anything else. While he teaches his guys "rush lanes", he preached not to over coach it while emphasizing that most QB scrambles through the interior first, not on the edge.

Making it Happen

You can tell your players you are going to use different modes, but unless you have a way to communicate this to them during the heat of battle, it's not going to matter much.

First, these modes should be drilled in practice. This needs to happen in individual periods first and then can transition into team periods later.

We will always be in base mode unless the DL has a stunt on, in which, surprise, they will be in Stunt mode!

You can have your players get into Jet Mode in one of three ways.
1. Yell a call out to them from the sideline
2. Have a player identify down and distance every play (this means you must teach your players what D&D you want them to be in Jet mode in)
3. Send in a Jet package (my preferred method), where you will have your four best pass rushing defensive linemen in the game regardless of size. You will only use this in obvious passing situations though. So, it's critical you know your opponent's run/pass tendencies based on D&D.
Some of you may have a hard enough time getting your freshmen DL into a normal 3-point stance, so I wouldn't suggest using this at lower levels. More advanced Varsity DL will be able to handle this transition though. If nothing else, create a pass rushing mentality and let your DL loose on obvious passing situations.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: Complete Linebacking

Sometimes I forget just how much better (and cheaper!) books are than DVDs. Although it helps to see live video of drills, Complete Linebacking by Lou Tepper is the most in-depth look at a position I've ever seen compiled in one place.

Tepper, who was most recently the Head Coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was recently canned despite a 36-18 record was also the Head Coach previously at Illinois and the defensive coordinator during a disastrous time at LSU.

This proves again that there are more good coaches than good teams. Tepper knows what he is talking about and it shows in this book. He is general enough that coaches can apply what they learn to any defense, but he does dive into the specifics of linebacker technique in certain defenses.

The book begins with Tepper describing the physical and mental qualities he looks for in a linebacker. He goes a step further by comparing those with actual players he has coached.

Tepper does an excellent job breaking down the fundamentals for linebackers, starting with what he calls the "Hit and Shed" base. He follows his explanations up with numerous drills that reinforce each idea. The diagrams are well done and pretty easy to follow.

He also discusses what his linebackers do during the time between plays. This is something I would have skipped out on in a position manual.

The worst part about the book is when Tepper refers to Jerry Sandusky when discussing a drill he learned from him. Just hearing his name gives me the creeps.

This is a must read for any defensive coordinator or linebackers coach. It has helped me craft and organize my linebacker position manual a little better and opened my eyes to teaching some fundamentals in a new way.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breaking it Down: The 49ers Game-Winning TD Pass

When is it ok for a grown man to cry? When he is 6'3'', 250-pounds

While San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman received a lot of credit for calling the gutsy quarterback sweep that put the 49ers ahead with a little over two minutes remaining, it was Quarterbacks Coach Geep Chryst (the brother of recently hired Pittsburgh Head Coach Paul Chryst) who called all of San Francisco's two-minute plays against the Saints, including the game-winning touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis that clinched a 36-32 victory over New Orleans and a berth in the NFC Championship.

Chryst emphasized this specific play throughout the practice week to beat the Saints' tendency to run a form of Tampa 2 coverage in the red zone. He specifically knew the backside safety would play flat footed, two-yards deep in the end zone.

The design was pretty simplistic on the 49ers part. It was the execution on the end of Smith and Davis that was flawless. Couple this with the lack of execution from New Orleans' defense and San Francisco came up with a play for the ages.

On 3rd and 4 on the Saints' 14-yard line and with 14 seconds remaining and one timeout, San Francisco came out in a 2x2 shotgun formation with running back Frank Gore flanking Smith on the left side. Tight ends Vernon Davis (85) and Justin Peelle (81) lined up on the left. Davis had a tight split and was on the line of scrimmage, while Peelle was tight to Davis and off the ball. On the right side of the formation wide receivers Michael Crabtree (15) and Kyle Williams (10) were split wider. Crabtree is the #2 receiver on the ball and Williams is outside the numbers off the ball.

To the playside, Davis cleared and ran a post/dig while Peelle ran a curl route.
On the backside, San Francisco ran a typical smash route with Crabtree running the corner and Williams running the hitch.
New Orleans' defense came out just like Chryst thought.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Rocket Toss Series

It's a quick-hitter!
After reading Coach B Dud's post on a series based offense, I wanted to give some insight on how to use the Rocket Toss, a normal flexbone staple, as a complete series within that or any offense you employ it with.

Series based offenses work well because coaches can find the defenders who are cheating and take advantage of them with a different play that looks extremely similar. If a defense over commits to the motion man, they can be hit backside with play x. If the LBs fly out with motion, the offense can run play x back inside. All this occurs off the same look.

We get a lot of teams who start out in a quarters look against us and roll coverage towards our motion man by bringing a safety down into the box. Having complementary backside plays works well against teams who over adjust. All these plays are drawn up against a 4-4 look, or what we might see after a team rolls their coverage towards the motion.

1. The Rocket Toss

From a teaching standpoint, this should be the simplest play to run. All the OL follow normal zone rules. Give a quick slotback the ball in space and you have a very easy an effective play. This play has worked well on the goal line when teams are expecting to see inside veer and they get the same motion they see throughout the game. Defenses can easily be caught off guard with a quick hitting, outside play. If your PST has trouble reaching the PSDE, you can have the PSSB chip the outside shoulder before working up to the next level.

PST: Zone step and reach PSDE
PSG: Zone step to PSLB
C: Zone step to N
BSG: Backside cutoff to ILB
BST: Backside cutoff to next interior lineman
Q: Open up to the left and toss the ball to the Z over the tackle, boot out right
F: Block BSDE
H: Block PSOLB
Z: Normal motion to F's butt. Look to catch pitch over tackle.
X: Stalk block CB
Y: Cutoff block to nearest DB

2. The Boot Pass

After giving the illusion of Rocket toss with the motion and fake pitch, the QB boots to his right and has a myriad of options at his disposal. Our QB reads, flat, to drag, to post-corner and then to the dig. He rarely gets to the dig though unless a safety has been occupied by the drag route. The pulling guard attempts to kick out the PSDE and the QB will step up as necessary in this situation.

PST: Slide left
PSG: Slide left
C: Slide left
BSG: Pull right for boot, kick out or log PSDE depending on action
BST: Step inside to protect inside gap
Q: Open up to the left, fake toss and boot to right
F: Flat
H: Draf
Z: Normal motion to F's butt. Carry out motion into flat
X: Backside Dig
Y: Post Corner

Monday, January 9, 2012

Video Review: Defensive Back Play From A-Z

I've often wondered whether DVD's from companies like Coaches Choice or Championship Productions were worth the cost.

In the past, I have been disappointed with some of the videos I have purchased. They were either too simple, didn't fit what I was trying to do or the situation I was in or they were just an outright rip-off.

With that said, I will be reviewing any videos I buy in the future, both to rehash what I learned and to give everyone else some insight before they pony up their hard earned cash.

One of my main goals this off-season was to retool our defensive back play, including our fundamentals and drills. After soliciting the services of the CoachHuey message board, I was pointed towards the Coaches Choice videos authored by Nick Rapone.
When the DVD's were made, Rapone was a DBs coach at Temple. He is currently the Defensive Coordinator for the University of Delaware.

This video is actually a set of six different ones CoachRapone has made. I had a 50% off holiday coupon code and I used a digital download, so I actually paid about $38 for six DVDs! That is cheaper than you can normally buy one video for! Needless to say, I was pretty proud of myself when I purchased them.

The six videos last just over 3 hours and 30 minutes and cover The Art and Practice of Tackling, Off-Man and Catch-Pass Coverage Techniques, Individual Techniques for Defensive Back Play, Cover 2 Pass Defense, Championship Defensive Back Drills and Bracket and Vice Double Coverage Techniques . It took me a little while to watch all of them and I took meticulous notes while doing so (it's the only way I remember anything nowadays).

These were by far the best videos I have purchased to date. I would rate the series as a whole an 8/10. Coach Rapone does a great job breaking down the drills he uses and explains the purpose that they serve in his scheme. If there was one pitfall to the series, it was that many of the drills and fundamentals were repeated. The game film wasn't the best quality and it would have been beneficial to have them presented in a Hudl-like manner with arrows and circles so I could focus on what I needed to without having to rewind.

One thing that stuck out to me was how Coach Rapone taught how to break up a comeback route. If the DB is unable to "shoot the hip" and get in front of the wide receiver, he should not come over the top and create contact. Instead, he should go underneath the receiver's arms and separate them away from their body.

Coach Rapone talks in length about how to read a 3-step drop and how to react to different routes while breaking on the upfield shoulder. There are a ton of drills relating to man-to-man schemes, zone schemes and just simple fundamentals any DB would need.

There is a little bit of everything in this set, so if you're an aspiring DB coach, need to learn from the ground up or just want a refreshing look at how to coach DB play, these videos are more than worth the money.

*Note: I will continue to review some of the previous DVDs I have bought in further posts.