Play Fast Football is intended to be an informational resource for High School, Junior High, and Pop Warner coaches.  It will discuss various topics that affect our level of football through the use of  video highlights, video chalk talks, and white board discussions.

I played 4 years of receiver at St Johns University in New York. After that I was a graduate assistant for 2 years at St Johns.  I have been a Head High School Coach for the last 13 years.  We are a no huddle spread offense with 3 back and option football incorporated.  On defense we are a 425 team with split field coverage principles.

Teaching High School Wide Receivers

Definition of Wide Receiver:See Jerry Rice


I wanted to take some time to talk about receiver play because that is where I made my mark as a football player in college.  As a Head Coach I was forced to learn about every position on the field which was great for my growth and development in the coaching profession.  With that being said, every coach has a go to position of comfort.  Jim Harbaugh talks QB's, Nick Saban talks DB's, Jim Mcnally talks Oline, everyone has their "baby" or comfort zone.  The talk today will be about stance, stemming defenders, defeating press coverage, and stalk blocking.

Stance is About Comfort
For me the Stance was always about comfort.  It was the one thing I knew I was going to do on every play regardless of assignment.  You need to be able to execute your assignment so you have to start right to end right.  I try to get myself as close to the stance of a sprinter in the starters block as possible.  My stance was lower than normal with great bend in the front leg allowing for proper flex of the ankle, knee, and hip also known as triple joint extension.  About 75% of my weight was on the front leg with the chest over the knee.  The back foot was a little bigger than a step behind and a little wider than shoulder width, which was comfortable for me.  The back foot had air under the heel allowing me to be on the balls of my feet.  I liked being lower to the ground and making myself a smaller target for press coverage.  My arms always hung comfortably at my side even when being pressed.  I felt like I had plenty of time to get my hands in position vs. press coverage and to be honest I never played defenders that pressed me with their hands up high.  I always focused on being as relaxed as possible.

Leverage is the term used to define where the DB is aligned on you.  We generally talk about inside or outside leverage.  The important thing to understand about leverage is that is the place on the field the DB does not want you to be.  Since the DB is concerned with that place on the field, it is the first place we attack.  By playing you with leverage the DB is essentially taking away half of your routes.  As a receiver your goal is to get the DB head up which gives you a two way go on your routes.  You must try and make a defender honor your inside and outside breaking routes.  The easiest way to achieve that is to get him head up or square. Although all routes are generally drawn in straight lines, in reality most of the routes you run will never be straight lines.

Press coverage is when a DB is very tight to the line of scrimmage and will physically try to get you off your routes by contacting you at the line of scrimmage.  He will try and get his hands on you and "reroute" or get you off your intended to path to negatively impact the timing of your routes or to "reroute" you closer to his help on defense.  You beat press coverage with your feet first by getting the defender to open his hips opposite the direction you would like to release.  You will use your hands to combat his hands when he tries to physically make contact with you.  Getting the defender to open his hips is the main goal so the feet will always start the process.  The only way his hips will turn is if you make your moves outside the framework of his body or outside his hips.  You generally want to make moves opposite the direction you want to release.

Stalk blocking is the term used to define how a receiver blocks a defensive back.  This involves trying to stay in between the defender and the ball carrier as long as possible.  The defender usually initiates the contact by aggressively moving towards the ball carrier.  This is a very reactionary technique in general because you have your back to the ball and never see the ball carrier.  You must react to the movements of the defensive back.  Generally you are trying to mirror or stay in front of the DB as long as possible.

Your Feel Safe Zone
It was nice to shoot a video on wide receiver play.  Every coach feels safe talking about their most knowledgeable subject and for me it is the Wide Receiver position.  I hope some of the things I talk about in the video help you and your program.


Using Speed Trac for Efficient Workouts

It is now officially the Off Season for 95% of football programs in the country which means it is time to start training for next year.  If you have never heard of speed tracs, or have never seen a speed station you should definitely check out their web site I have recently started using the portable speed station with smaller groups of players and it is a tremendous tool for speed and agility training.

The speed station uses bungee cords, pulleys, and tension devices to provide assistance and resistance training.  Now this in itself is not a new or revolutionary idea, but its the efficient manner of training and tracking progress of athletes that makes the speed trac program an extremely viable option for lower level programs.  As a high school program we have to consider certain constraints when thinking about our off season strength and conditioning program.  Here are a couple that I run into every year.  How many kids do we have?  Do we have the space to accommodate the number of players? How many coaches do we have?  Are all the coaches proficient in speed and agility training?  Are we going to be inside or outside?  What is the weather like? The portable speed station can be used inside or outside on any surface making it ideal to use as another tool in your speed and conditioning training.

The speed trac program comes with software that provides instructional videos for exercises, a training curriculum for multiple sports, and the ability to track and monitor the progress of your athletes.  How many of you on testing days have charted all the results for every player on every test, and then logged them into an excel document to keep track of them?  You have to write down all the results and then transfer them onto your computer.  With the speed trac program you can have your team entered into the database and then bring your laptop or tablet into the testing area to record your test scores.

There are 2 different stations that players will work at.  The field station has speed ladder drills, short hurdle drills, and medicine ball drills.  The speed station has the change of direction, hip power and mobility, upper body, and vertical jump drills.  Players will start in one group or the other and will eventually switch to get through both stations.  The speed trac software called sports tracs also provides a detailed warmup and cool down routine.  I have included a few videos of our young 9th grade players going through some exercises.

If you would like any other info on the speed station you can email me at anytime They have given me a promo code to help get word out about their product.  If you enter the promo code I believe you can save $50.00 and I might actually make a few dollars for my program.  I am not a salesman by any means but Speed Tracs wants to get their product out to as many coaches as possible.


What Is Best or What Is Best For You

Things To Think About

 As we progress into the off season, now is the time coaching staff's will begin to evaluate their current schemes and decide what changes they need to make for the upcoming season.  Clinic time is one of my favorite times of the year.  It gives you and your staff a chance to listen to a lot of great ideas on schematics, fundamentals, and practice organization.  The greatest part of it all is that you, as a Head Coach or Coordinator, get to decide what you think is best for your program.  You will never get hurt listening to people talk about what they do with their program.  If you gain one simple thought that will help your program then you are better for it.  Even if you listen to things you do not agree with or cannot accomplish at your school, the accumulation of knowledge will never be a bad thing.  You owe it to yourself, your community, and your players to broaden your horizons every off season and talk to as many successful coaches as possible.  The most important thing to remember in my opinion is what is best for your program.

There is absolutely no arguing that the NFL is the premier professional sports league in the United States and it's global presence may be second only to the worldwide game of soccer.  There is only one slight problem with that as a lower level coach, their game and style of play is not as conducive to ours.  As entertaining as the NFL is, it is really not the greatest platform for learning for a lower level coach.  The reason for that is we need to do what is best for us, not necessarily what is best in general.  The neatest thing about lower level football is the wide variety of schematics and systems that you see.  At our level of football everyone is trying to maximize the potential and skill set of their players.  All the while knowing that you really have no control over who those players are.  Its hard to build a west coast offense when you may not have QBS or Receivers or Lineman to do so.  In college and the NFL when coaches come in they get a chance to recruit, draft, and sign players to fit their systems.  At our level we have to fit our system to our players.  That is why you still see Wing T, Flexbone, Air Raid, Pro I, Power I, Spread, 3-3 Stack, 425, and a wide variety of schematics at our level.

I am going to use a few examples of what I think are scenarios that I see that make me think about what is best? Or what is best for us?  The first example will be our punt formation.  The last 2 years we have used the shield or wedge punt look as opposed to the spread NFL look with gunners.  In those 2 years we have only had 1 punt partially blocked that still went 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.  But we have also had 3 punts returned for TDS. The protection side of it is real solid, and it is definitely easier to coach and takes less time to be good at it. But is it safe to say that our coverage is lacking in this look?  Would athletic gunners on the outside give us a better chance to cover?  Would we be risking protection in a scheme that might not fit our personnel to gain coverage?

Spot Drop or Pattern Read?

The next example is spot dropping vs pattern reading.  We have always been a pattern read split field coverage team.  I think it is safe to say that most football pundits agree that pattern reading is the only true way to try and defend all the spacing routes that offenses run today.  Most defensive coaches agree that offenses, offensive coordinators, and QBS are too good to just "cover grass" and spot drop.  But pattern reading takes a lot of time to master and play effectively.  I have always felt like in my 15 years of coaching high school football that kids have a hard time differentiating between coverage concepts.  At the same time I  am also from the school of accepting all blame and thought it was because I was not teaching it to the best of my ability.  But year after year I wonder if we would get better results just dropping to the spots on the field where the majority of passes are thrown and then breaking on the release of the QB, which becomes easier with more eyes focused on the QB and not the routes in your area.  With that being said I always revert back to pattern reading because 90-95% of major college and NFL teams are doing it. But does that make it best for me?

The last example i will look at is the difference in No Huddle approaches.  The first approach is the check with me style that Peyton Manning is so famous for executing.  Now this style of play has been around way longer than Peyton, but it is safe to say that he has mastered it.  With this approach you are on the ball without huddling but you are using a lot of play clock in an attempt to run the best possible play vs. the look the defense presents to you.  Seemingly a good QB and Offensive Coordinator should be able to stay out of a lot of "BAD" play calls.  On the other hand you have the lightning fast no huddle or up tempo approach.  With this theory you are trying to eliminate substitutions and multiple looks from the defense.  Most offenses have gone to "packaged" plays within this theory to try and avoid bad plays. These are plays that give the QB 2-3 or 4 reads based on what the defense gives him since he will not use audibles or change plays.  When Chip Kelly was with Oregon they would have a number of negative plays in a game, but the pace and explosiveness of the offense took its toll on the defense and they could recover from the negative plays.  I have found myself leaning towards the up tempo approach because I felt like it gave players that were not as talented in any given week a better chance at success.

At the end of the day the choices you make for your football program are ultimately yours.  You have complete control over the things you want to do from schemes, to fundamentals, to practice plans, to off season workouts.  Remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  If you do not like the direction of your program or the results then make some changes.  Sit and talk with other successful programs at your level.  Never be afraid to talk to the people that are beating you.  Get as much information on a topic as possible and research it to the best of your ability before determining if it is right for you.  What might be best might not be best for you.


Coverage Adjustments to Quads/Empty Looks



I got a request on my you tube site to talk about defending quads sets, and sets where the offense can flood a side with 4 receivers.  It was actually a request from an offensive coordinator who runs a lot of these things and wanted to know how I would defend them with quarters concepts and adaptations.  

I will try and break them down into three different sets:
1)3x1 Sets with Running Back Releasing Strong
2)True Quads 4x1 Alignment
3)Empty 3x2 Motion to Quads

For me I always want to have a way to play every formation with my base rules before the offense forces me to check to an automatic look.  I think anytime the offense can get you in an automatic by formation they have the advantage.  The first question you need to ask yourself is, Why is the offense running this set?  Do they want to throw quick screens? Do they want to force the defense to widen and spread out so they can use QB run game?  Are they trying to get 1 on 1 match ups to the single receiver?  First you determine what they want to do, then you determine how to defend it.

I will look at my main trips check which I call "MIX" and show you how we can adjust to Quads or Empty formations within that coverage so we do not have to create a new defense to defend these sets.  Remember new defenses make your kids hesitate and play slow so the offense wins just by alignment if they can get you to play slow.  Our Mix coverage is an X out concept which means we play man on one of the trips receivers in essence making it a 2x1 set.  We will play our corner man to man on the #1 receiver.  Our down safety and free safety will play palms coverage or 2 Read rules on #2 and #3 with both of them reading the release of the #3 receiver.  Our Mike LB will play Palms coverage similar to the way the Will LB has to play Palms coverage VS. #2 removed weak.  The Mike will widen and hip the DE on his side.  His rule is #3 does not cross my face and #4 does not out leverage me.  He is what is also known as the "Swing Deep of 4" player.  On the backside we will be playing some sort of Cover 2 or Bracket coverage on the single receiver since we do not use the backside safety on #3 vertical in our Mix coverage.  **WHEN THEY GO TO QUADS WITH #4 IN A POSITION TO GO VERTICAL IMMEDIATELY WE USE THE BACKSIDE SAFETY** Our Will LB will push his drop strong when he gets #4 releasing strong and he will look up the new #4.

I will go through this coverage and the adjustments we make in a chalk talk video.  If you have anything you would like me to Blog Or Chalk Talk about just let me know and if I do it or know about it I will cover it. Please check out my you tube channel by searching Thomas MacPherson for a look at all of my chalk talk videos.

Analyzing Your Statistics


 I am going to change gears a little bit from talking about football schematics, and I am going to talk a little bit about evaluating and analyzing your statistics.  At the end of every season as a football coach you will have a win/loss record, and a collection of stats from each game that can help you evaluate the state of your program and the effectiveness of your offensive and defensive schemes.  At the highest level of our sport statistics and data are scrutinized to the highest degree possible.  Let's think about the NFL draft for a moment here.  The NFL runs a scouting combine every year to further evaluate what is thought to be the top talent in the upcoming draft.  Some of these kids have been playing football for 8-12 years and have anywhere from 10-40 college games on film to be evaluated, yet the NFL and its teams still bring the top talent in for further physical and mental evaluation.  Around combine time there will always be players whose stock rises or falls based on the results of their combine performance.  The NFL is a multimillion dollar business and the study/ breakdown and evaluation of statistics plays a huge roll in that.  It is not enough to just study game film anymore when investing a lot of money and your future in players.  They want to know a players body fat, arm length, vertical jump, 40 yard speed, 10 yard speed, change of direction and agility, strength and power, explosiveness, and mental prowess before investing a lot of money into that player. The point i am trying to make here is how important analyzing data has become in athletics and the game of football in general.  Today I am going to take a look at analyzing some offensive statistics from your season and trying to see if there is a correlation to your success and failures on the football field.
 I want to look at 3 stat lines I use as an offensive coach to evaluate our success on offense, and then determine the direct correlation those numbers have to winning or losing. The 3 categories I will look at today are rushing yards per game, average yards on 1st down and the effect on 3rd down conversions, and yards per completion.  As I look at these stats I will always separate them by the games we won and the games we lost.  What I am trying to figure out is the statistics that have the greatest impact on our team winning or losing, and when we struggle is it a schematic issue or a fundamentals and execution issue.  For any offense i think it is important to understand that your schemes must fit your players.  If your asking your players to execute a scheme that does not fit their skill set then you may need to look no further and make a schematic change.  If you feel comfortable about your scheme in relation to your talent, then you have to analyze the statistics to see where the technical and fundamental breakdowns are occurring that are causing you to lose games and perform poorly on offense.

I always look at rushing yards per game and how that correlates to winning and losing games.  The ability to run the ball keeps the chains moving, the clock moving, your defense off the field and provides a great mental edge in football games.  Your ability to run the ball forces the defense to account for the run game which in turn gives you numbers and match ups in the passing game.  This season we were 4-1 when running the ball for more than 200 yards a game and 0-4 when running for less than 200 yards.So statistically we had an 80% chance of winning when we rushed for 200 yards but a 0% chance of winning when we did not rush for 200 yards.  For me that is a real straight forward statistic that has a huge impact on our success.  So in determining that we want to make sure we are solid each week in our run game schemes and fundamentals.  We want to spend a lot of time game planning our run game because it has a huge impact on our chances for success.  In the 5 games we lost we averaged 163 yards rushing per game, but in the 4 wins we averaged 270 yards rushing per game.  That is over 100 yard differential and should not be overlooked.

The next statistic i look at is our success on first down and its relationship to our 3rd down conversions.  You often here offensive and defensive coaches talking about 3rd down success.  The easiest way to ensure a high percentage of 3rd down conversions is to be really good on first down.  Here is a breakdown of our first down averages and 3rd down conversions in our wins and losses.
LOSSES                                                        WINS
2.1/33%                                                         3.4/40%
3.8/64%                                                         8.4/60%
2.5/25%                                                         6.7/45%
4.3/40%                                                         6.0/50%

So when i look at that I can see that i am 1-3 when averaging less than 4 yards on 1st down, and i am 3-2 when averaging more than 4 yards on 1st down.  We were 3-0 when averaging 6 or more yards on 1st down.  Also you can look at the percentages and how they drastically increase on 3rd down conversions with your first down success.  Anytime we averaged over 5 yards on first down we had a better than 50% chance of converting on 3rd down.   We did not win any of the games that we were under 40% on 3rd down conversions.

The last stat i took a look at was our yards per completion.  Depending on your type of offense, or the skill set of your players you may throw the ball less than 10 times a game in high school.  I would venture to say that on average, pop warner, junior high, and high school teams throw the ball less than 15 times a game.  With that being said it is very difficult to have a ton of passing yards if you are not throwing the ball a lot.  So for me I tend to focus on what we were able to do with the passes we completed.  In the 5 games we lost we averaged 9 yards per completion.  That tells me we couldn't get the ball down field, did not have a lot of yards after catch, and did not block the perimeter very well in our screen game.  Conversely in the 4 games we won we averaged 15 yards per completion.  So in the games we won we were more effective throwing the ball down the field, did a better job after the catch, and blocked the perimeter better.
Those are only 3 of the statistics that i looked at, and there are several more you should consider when evaluating your season.  Turnover ratio will always be very important, along with average starting field position.  As a Head Coach or a Coordinator, I think you owe it to yourself and your program to do a thorough evaluation of your season statistically so you can properly address the areas of need for team improvement.  I think you should also take a look at your own tendencies based on things like formations, down and distance, and field position.  It makes it a heck of a lot easier to win games when you know yourself, and focus on you more than you focus on your opponent.  I hope some of these things help you evaluate your program and lead to future success.


3 Man Scat Combinations

3 Man Scat Games

The 3 Man Scat concept is one of our base drop back passing concepts and I really love it because of it's flexibility.  It is a very easy concept for Quarterbacks and Receivers to grasp, especially at the lower levels.  The ability to tag the routes off of it and also build routes into it makes it a very effective concept that is not to time consuming or labor intensive.  The concept is solid vs. a lot of different coverages so you can carry it in your game plan every week. We run it using half slide protection with built in hot throws and the ability to use play action as well.

Bunch It If You Like
The routes are very simple.  The play side #1 will run a 6 yard snag route off the OLB trying to find the void in the coverage.  The play side #2 will run a 10 yard corner route.  The play side #3 will run a shoot route to the flat or a bubble route to the flat.  You can build in anything you want on the backside depending on the formation.  If we use the running back as the play side #3 to the flat we like to motion him out early to gain immediate leverage.  The QB will always check the coverage to see if he thinks the corner will be available.  That is his first priority, but he must understand the coverages that make the corner viable.  If the corner is taken away then we leverage the OLB with the snag and flat route making it an easy east/west or in/out read for the QB.  All of these throws are ones that can be made by QBS at the Junior High or High School level so long as you are not trying to throw the flat route from a hash mark all the way to the numbers to the field side.  The great thing about this combination is the fact that it can be tagged with a few different routes to change the concept a little and further stress the coverages you are seeing.  You can also tag the backside of the routes if you are seeing ILBS flying out with the motion of your back to help on the snag.

You See It At Every Level
To me, the mark of a great and sound concept is one that you will see on Saturday's and Sunday's at the highest level of our sport.  If you watch any college or pro games I guarantee you that you will see this concept or a version of it.  As with everything else I talk about the ability to keep it simple for your players is the most important thing.  Start with the base concept first and then see how many tags you can add to it.  I hope you can add the 3 Man Scat concept to your passing game and help you move the chains and score some points.




I have to apologize, but due to the nature of being a Head Coach in season is an extremely difficult time to do any blogs.  This week we have caught some bad weather so I have been able to find some time to do a blog on changing defensive looks.  In an earlier post I talked about moving from the 425 to a 3-3 stack look with the same personnel on the field.  What we are trying to do is confuse the offensive lineman to affect the blocking schemes and create some negative plays. I am a firm believer in teaching your kids how to react to blocks and defeat blocks from a base defensive structure.  I do not feel like it is a good idea to use movement as your base defense for defending the run game.  Here is my mindset on defense.  I would like to see how we can handle an offense playing base defense first.  Then I would like to build in movements to help protect the base techniques of my players and disrupt the blocking schemes of the offense we are facing.  When looking at movements in high school or junior high or pop warner, I think it would be extremely wise to make sure your movements are geared towards disrupting the run game first and worrying about the passing game second.  The reason I say that is two fold. Number 1 high school football is generally 85% run. And number 2 when the ball is thrown it is usually out pretty quick or max protected.  There are not a ton of opportunities to crank up some great pass rush movements and they become way to cost effective unless your conference has 3 or 4 teams that throw it 35 times a game.

With technology the way it is today you can rest assured knowing your opponent has seen you on film in every game you have played.  While this can sometimes serve as a detriment, I look it at it in a positive light.  If I know the other team is going to see all of my games then I try like heck to give them a whole lot of things to look at.  Football is a game of preparation.  But it is also a game of time management and the more looks you can give another team the better.  There is only so much time in a practice week.  I want the opposing offensive coordinator and offensive line coach to have to show all the looks they might see from us up front and in coverage so that they can not zero in on what is actually our base structures.  Let's face it, offenses are so good today that if they know where you are they will beat you every time.  The key element to changing looks is how effective you can be playing those looks. You can't just draw up wholesale changes on defense but you can do things that are similar in nature to your base structure.  When we move from the 425 to the 33 stack we make the exact same stunt, blitz, and coverage calls.  The offense has to prepare for the different look but we practice the same techniques.  When we use our defensive line movements we are giving the offense another thing to prepare for.  As a defensive coach you have to understand that moving up front is nowhere near the same as playing base defense but you are still incorporating similar fundamentals.  You have to teach players to read and defeat blocks, you are just changing the player they may be keying to identify the block to defeat.  It is is still a goal in the run game to gap out your defense, but how you gap it out by exchanging those gaps can make you extremely effective.


 The last thing I will talk about is changing coverages to present the offense with different looks.  Your coverage must tie into how you want to stop the run, not just cover the passing game. We are a split field 2 high safety team.  That gives us the ability to play coverages that are separate from one another on each side of the field.  By doing this we can determine how we want to fit the run to the multiple receiver side as well as the single receiver side.  It also gives us the ability to dictate how we will handle certain route combinations.  This is a huge part of determining your game plan and what things you want to take away and what things you want to force the offense to do.  Every offense knows how to stress defensive coverages in both the run and passing game.  The thing they don't know is when you are going to play those coverages. Just like the front, if the offense knows where you are and what you are playing they will carve you up all night.  The ability to close the middle of the field, change coverages to trips, and change your coverages behind your pressures will go a long way in helping you play good defense.  


As always the biggest key to all of these things is your ability to teach your kids and their ability to grasp it.  A confused player is a slow player and slow players will not help you win football games.  If changing looks is more confusing for your players than it is for the other team then maybe it is not a great idea.


Conflicting Defenders

We are starting to see more and more packaged plays on all levels of football including the NFL.  These are plays that are 2 or 3 plays built into 1, with the potential of the ball going to 3 or 4 different players on the same play.  They usually involve some sort of run combined with a shorter pass or screen.  Sometimes they can be 2 running theories combined into 1 play like a jet sweep with a power play.  The theory is very simple,  let the offense get the ball into the right players hands based on how the defense wants to defend you.  This type of play calling hopefully keeps the offense out of "bad" plays while limiting the number of checks or audibles the QB needs to make.

Usually during these types of plays there is a certain defender the offense wants to put into a "conflicted" position.  Based off of that defenders alignment or reaction, the QB will decide what to do with the ball.  This tied in with up tempo football has really started to give the offense a slight advantage while forcing defensive coaches to come up with a set of answers. This newer style of play calling has made its way to the NFL which really leads you to believe there must be some real strong validity to it.

Today I am going to focus on putting the conflict on the defensive end, and having ways to coordinate your attack based on his reaction to certain blocking schemes.  The first thing you want to look at is how the defensive end reacts to down blocks.  You can package an outside run with an inside run and take advantage of how the defensive coordinator teaches his defensive end to play these down blocks.  If the ends you are facing are squeeze or block down step down players then you can get the ball to the perimeter off of down blocks because that end will squeeze inside.  By combining an outside run with an inside run you can really put your QB in a great situation because he can let the end react however he wants and still put us in a good situation.  By using more "sweep" type runs you can effectively get the end sealed by giving him a down block to squeeze and then blocking him further inside with a fullback.

Conversely, if you are playing ends that are up the field players then you want to have runs that go underneath them and allow your players to kick them out instead of sealing them.  You are now effectively putting your offensive players in a position to be successful by giving them blocks you know are easier to make based on the reaction or educated response of the defense.  Another way to package plays that create conflict would be combining a quick pass with a draw play.  Now you can focus on a "conflicted" LB and see if he drops to play the pass or sits in the box for the running game.

All in all this newer type of offense with extremely fast tempo and packaged plays is creating a lot of points on the scoreboard.  It is very easy to do and can be done at any level.  Always remember to be multiple yet simplistic ensuring your kids can know their assignments and execute them at full speed.


Change of Direction-A Football Must



As every football team across the country gets ready for a new season, the one question burning in every coach's mind is How Good Was Our Off Season Program?  We are all so excited to see our returning players on the field anticipating the tremendous improvements in speed, strength, conditioning and agility.   The beginning of every new season is our first real chance to evaluate the effectiveness of our off season program and more importantly, figure out where we need to make improvements in our program to maximize our efforts and returns on investment.  A lot of coaches go into the off season with specific goals in mind.  Some teams need to focus on speed, some teams need to focus on strength, some may want to focus on conditioning and mental toughness. The obvious answer is the program that can achieve all these things is the one we want to use, but just like in football, there is no "magic bullet" in strength and conditioning.  To be honest I think the effort of the player is way more critical to the success of the program than the actual program itself.

The one thing I will say for sure though is we have to make sure all the gains we are making can be applied to the football field.  We have to make functional improvements.  One thing I always keep in mind is a piece of information I learned at a clinic 10 years ago.  THE AVERAGE FOOTBALL PLAYER CHANGES DIRECTION 3-5 TIMES ON ANY GIVEN PLAY.  Now, obviously that will change based on the nature of the position and the nature of the play but you can be sure your players are going to constantly be changing directions.  I have been a client of SPEED TRACS for 3 years now, and we incorporate their speed and agility equipment and ideas into our off season program.  Loren Seagrave is a consultant and advisor for Speed Tracs and he gained his national fame for the dynasty he built with the LSU LADY TIGERS track program. He has also worked with several NFL teams and is the Director of Speed and Movement at the IMG Performance Institute.  He believes that the strength and power developed in the weight room is useless unless it can be transferred onto the field of play. Through the speed trac system it is his goal to integrate plyometric regimens with resisted running drills and technical running drills that capture the power developed in the weight room and apply it to not only straight ahead speed but also multi-planar movements used in the game itself.

What Speed Tracs has done, is given the Head Football Coach at the Pop Warner, Junior High, and High School ranks the ability to train multiple athletes at the same time while also providing software that has a curriculum for your programs and the ability to track and monitor the progress of your athletes in your program.  One of the challenges I am faced with all the time is having 45-65 athletes and 2 or 3 coaches to train them.  We also have to figure out during different times of the year the availability of fields and gym or weight room space.  Speed Tracs has created some interesting solutions to those problems with portable stations that can be moved very easily.

I have video taped some of my defensive backs doing standard footwork and transition drills, and then also some of the speed trac drills we use with them to assist with the functional movements of a defensive back.  If you are interested in changing some of your agility drills, or adding to your agility drills I suggest you give speed tracs a look.  The end goal will always be the same, we want to PLAY FASTER so lets TRAIN FASTER.  As coaches we can accomplish these goals by coaching and training smarter.


Helping Your QB Process Coverages

The Eye in The Sky Does Not Lie

One of the best lessons I learned in college as a player was that the film never lies.  In high school in the late 80's the films and the angles of the films were so bad you could get away with some stuff the coaches never saw, unless they saw it live.  When I got to college i learned real quick that with multiple films and angles there was no way i could give an excuse to the coach about a route or my effort on a blocking assignment. Today, in 2013, almost every high school has quality film and with programs like Hudl the sharing and feedback on those films is almost immediate.  What that makes for is an extremely effective way to evaluate players, but an even more effective way to teach them.

I like to use film when I teach my Quarterbacks how to identify coverages pre snap, so they have a faster post snap processing method which will speed up their reads.  When you have two different angles to show a QB and you can pause and slow motion film, you can really start to emphasize things like depth and leverage that usually are a defenses "tells" in their coverage.  That is why a lot of your best defensive teams start in the same "2 Shell" structure and then spin to their assignments.  The game of football has turned into a 20 second poker game between the two coordinators.  The days of trying to fool the QB are over, now you are trying to fool the guy calling the plays.  If you are a no huddle coach you or you are a check with me coach, you are trying to get a picture of the defense so you can call the best possible play into that look.  The one thing that has not changed is the fact that you have to get your QB to see the game the way you are seeing it.  As soon as you figure out it's not what you know but what you can get your kids to know the better a coach you will become.

Using Pictures to Teach
 We need to be able to use as many visuals as possible when teaching the QB to understand coverages.  Now when looking at a still shot photo you can't truly understand what the defense is doing, but at least you can use some deductive reasoning to try and crack the code.  In the picture above it appears to be a defense playing with standard 4-3 personnel to a 2x1 slot set.  Now, let us look at a couple of things you can try to decipher from the picture.  First of all it is a 2 high middle of the field open concept.  The overhang or Apex backer is to the slot, and inside of him.  The top safety is 2-3 yards deeper than the bottom safety.  The bottom corner appears to be playing outside leverage.  The ILB to the bottom stays inside the box.  Those are all indications of what they may be trying to do schematically.  This is a start to teaching your QB how to identify certain coverages.  Again these are all pre snap, and the post snap defense could be 100% different. But it is a start for your QB to gain an understanding of what they like to do.  

Completely Different Picture
Now as we take a look at the picture above it gives us a completely different set of parameters.  It is a 1 High middle of the field closed concept.  There are overhang backers to each side of the formation.  The corners are much deeper and further outside of the #1 WR.  Again, not a true indication of what they will play post snap but it is definitely a way to speed the process up for your QB.

I am going to go through on the white board some simple things you can look at to help your QB identify things and in turn speed up his read process which hopefully gets the ball out of his hand on time and to the right spot.  Remember one important thing when throwing the ball, the defense determines where we want to throw the ball.  The QB will make the decision on where he throws the ball, but in actuality it was the defense that made the determination for him.


Planning For Effective Practices

Consider All Factors

If you want to run a successful football program, one of the most important aspects of your job will be practice planning.  Every school and program are different and each program has certain factors to consider when developing a practice plan.  What time does school let out?  Are your coaches on campus? Do your kids play both ways? Is there mandatory study hall? Those and several other factors will play a huge role in developing the appropriate practice plan.The only thing I will say that is a standard for me is never stay on the field longer than 2 hours and 15 minutes.  I have found through experience that the attention span of your players starts to deteriorate and things go downhill mentally and physically.  There are however some base things that need to be in every plan to give your team the best chance for success on game nights.

For the blog today I will focus on an offensive practice plan for an up tempo team that has players playing both ways.  We start every practice off with 50 minutes worth of meetings, with special teams meetings everyday.  I think special teams play a huge roll in high school football and needs to be given appropriate attention.  If I had to lean towards favoring any I would say Punt Team and Kickoff Team can get you hurt the quickest and change the momentum of a game quickly so pay a lot of attention to those two teams.  After our 25 minute special teams meeting we will have a 25 minute offensive meeting.  We will either be installing new concepts or cleaning up old concepts.  We may be watching practice or game film, or possibly opponents film.  I still believe that coaching is teaching so I want to make sure we are giving our kids every chance to succeed before just throwing them to the wolves.  Our practice will always start with 10 minutes of pre practice drills, which gives position coaches a little extra indy time.  We are a shotgun team so we like getting extra snaps during this time while also letting the QB'S warm their arms up and the receivers get extra reps catching passes.  The running backs are either catching passes or working on ball security.  The oline generally will be walking through blocking assignments, or doing extra indy work like stances and starts or footwork drills.

We open up every practice with 10 minutes of dynamic stretching and form running drills.  After that I generally like to do some form of live team 11 on 11 drill.  It might be goal line or short yardage, or it may be 5 plays to get 25 yards, anything that is competitive and live to get practice started right.  I found through experience that when I start the actual practice with indy drills the tempo never picks up.  That is one of the reasons we started doing some pre practice work to get extra reps and kids loosened up.  Now we can go straight from dynamic stretching to competitive live work to get the practice charged up.  We usually go back to Indy periods after that.  Depending on the time of year and day of the week, Indy will normally be 20 minutes.  After Indy we will go to Skeleton with the skills, while the Oline works pass protection and screen game.  Sometimes we will put some RB'S and QB'S with the Oline to work blitz pick up.  In skeleton we are throwing all of our routes against the coverages/blitzes we think we will see that week.

After Skeleton we will go to a team run period 11 on 11.  For what we do I like team run with receivers blocking the perimeter a little more than inside run.  We have a good amount of perimeter runs so I want my receivers involved in the run periods.  It also helps us with our no huddle up tempo communication.  With increased reps we should be able to play faster and communicate better.  If there is time in the plan we like doing screen/draw periods.  This allows us to get extra reps on our screens and draws without having to put as many in the team period.  Screens and draws scripted in the team period cuts down on the reps you get on base runs and passes.  Next we will go to a team period that is 11 on 11 with runs and passes mixed in.  Now we are working on the entire offense including schemes, tempo, and communication.

We almost always end our offensive segments with a 10 minute tempo drill on air.  We are focusing on the communication of our system, personnel changes, and tempo changes.  We spot the ball up and down the field while moving the ball hash, middle, hash so our players get used to the ball being spotted and getting lined up as quick as possible.  I like using a stop watch during this period to try and figure out how fast we are able to execute our offensive system.

Because our players play both ways we always end an offensive day with a defensive team period.  This way our defensive plan and scheme stays fresh in our players minds and we are touching upon it everyday.  Special Teams periods will be mixed in throughout the practice everyday regardless of what side of the ball we are focusing on.


Man Free VS. Zone Pressure


The word pressure as a verb means to persuade or coerce someone into doing something. It can also be seen as a state of physical or mental distress. When applying pressure as a defense, we are trying to do both.  We would like to persuade the offense into a state of mental or physical duress.  When I say that I don't just mean the QB, but the entire offensive system. The thing about applying pressure is it becomes a risk/reward type situation.  Sometimes depending on the coverage structure you play behind the pressure you may be putting pressure on YOUR players as well.

Most people understand that if you can harass the QB you can slow down an offense.  The problem is not how to harass the QB or the run game, the problem is how can you be solid and sound behind the harassment.  Blitzing just to blitz is a bad bad idea.  All blitzes should be thought out and calculated based on personnel, field position, tendencies, and flow of the game.  Blitzing in general should not be your first course of action because if it does not work, then what do you fall back on?

First I think we must define what a zone blitz is.  For today's blog we are talking about sending a 5th rusher and playing zone coverage behind it, with only 6 players in coverage.  That means we are short a player in our zone coverage so we must adapt the coverage a little bit to account for that.  The picture above is a simple version of a 3 under 3 deep zone blitz coverage.  The underneath coverage has 2 Seam Curl Flat defenders and a middle hole or hook 3 player.  The back end of the coverage is playing deep thirds.  This is a much better look vs. the run game because it is essentially an 8 man front with a force defender to each side and zone players are in better positions to support the run because of where their eyes can look.  The issue becomes the coverage aspect of the pressure and making sure you can match the coverage to the formation you are seeing.  In this diagram the Hook 3 defender is on the same side as the #3 receiver and that receiver is in the backfield.  If that #3 was a wide out and lined up opposite the Hook 3 defender you will now need to make some adjustments in the coverage.


In the diagram above you are now looking at a 5 man, man free blitz which means the coverage will be man to man with a Safety free in the deep middle of the field.  Now that the coverage has become man to man it makes defending the run a little more difficult.  In today's wide open spread style offense's you are going to see a lot of 2x2 and 3x1 sets which means those 4 wides can run guys off in man coverage very easily.  For us at my high school if we play man we look exclusively at our man because I don't want my guys "peeking" in the backfield and giving up an easy 6 points on play action passes.  That will slow down their run fits if those are wide receivers they are covering.  So now we have to make sure the outside edge rushers become the force players in the run game.  What we gain though is the ability to line up and play faster and more aggressive because we are not as concerned with getting out formationed or having to check our coverages to certain formations.

Each 5 man pressure comes with it's own set of strengths and weaknesses and you must decide which works best for you and your players.  The ideal scenario would be the ability to do both.  We have opted to not do both versions because our players play both sides of the ball and we felt like we did not have enough time to teach both. Remember when blitzing its not the actual blitzes you draw up that's important but making sure you are sound in coverage and run support behind it.  The amount of blitzes you could draw on paper is endless, but the structure you play behind it is the most important thing.  Keep in mind the goal is to make the opponent have to beat you, don't beat yourself and do it for them.  Whatever you can teach best and your kids can play best should be the determining factor in making your decision.