Spicing Up Your Practice


Today I want to talk about developing a practice plan and adapting that plan to the needs of your team.  I changed jobs for the first time in 15 years and got off to a rough 1-4 start.  I immediately realized that the things I did at my previous school were not working at my new school.  Sometimes losing creates the biggest learning opportunities.  You really focus more on the areas that need improvement in your program when you hit the wall.  Sometimes when you are winning you tend to overlook some things that are done poorly because the result of winning hides some of the inadequacies in your system.  I am going to go through some of the changes we made in the middle of the year that have helped us a bunch.

The first thing we had to do was identify what we thought were the problem areas in our practices. We were starting a lot of really young kids and we were having a hard time finishing games.  We lost one game 28-27 and missed 2 extra points, we had two other games where we were tied at the half in one, and behind by a point at the half in the other.  Here are the three things we came up with:
1)We were not executing technically or fundamentally
2)We did not compete for 4 quarters
3)We did not fully understand football situations and scenarios

So what we decided to do was increase our reps vs. scout teams by using 2 different scout teams in every group period.  Having 2 scout teams allowed us to get more reps in because you always had a scout team ready to play.  Normally when dealing with scout stuff your practices slow down tremendously because of the time it takes to get the scout team coached up on the plays they are running.  By using two scout teams you can have one running a play, while the other team is being coached up on the next play they will run. Now our offense or defense has to run back and forth between the two groups while getting a call and getting lined up.  The other scout group is ready to go already so there is an immediate focus on alignment and assignment with no down time.  We wanted to replicate the pace of the game and the ability to play under duress. The increased amount of reps allowed us to really focus on the technique and fundamentals of our players.

The next change we made allowed us to kill 2 birds with one stone.  We came up with a few competitive team setting drills that allowed us to focus on winning and losing every snap while also teaching situations to our kids.  The first drill was a team goal line drill with 5 goal to goal plays run from the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 yard lines.  After every snap the losing group did 10 up downs. It forced our kids to value competition.  It also gave us a chance to coach situations.  We could talk to the ball carriers about getting north and south on short yardage, or to the DBS about playing tight press coverage inside the 5 yard line.  There is nothing more frustrating than watching a DB play 5 yards deep in the endzone with the ball on the 2 yard line.  You start yelling at players in a game about stuff you may not have covered in practice.    The next drill we did was a 3rd Down drill we called "Best of 6".  We had 6 consecutive 3rd down plays starting with 3rd and 1 and ending with 3rd and 6.  The loser of the Best of 6 had to run 2 half gassers after the competition.  We were competing while also coaching our kids on 3rd down situations.  We were talking about tendencies and formations and personnel groupings.  We were teaching receivers to know where the sticks were.  Our kids started taking a lot of pride in the competition aspect while not fully realizing they were learning to play based on situations and circumstances.  The last one we did was called the "40 Yard Dash".  The offense had one drive from the 40 yard line in 4 down territory to score a Touchdown.  It forced our kids to compete in a game setting with the ball being spotted and moved.  They had to know down and distance.  Our offensive players started to understand the mindset of 4 down territory.  Again the loser of this drill had a consequence whether it was up downs, gassers, or who got to eat pre game meal first.  What the loser had to do after the drill was not important, the main goal was getting our kids to value competition and understand there was a consequence for losing.

We are 3-1 since the making the changes to our practice structure.  The kids are having more fun, and we feel we are getting more game specific teaching done.  Another thing that helped us a bunch was keeping practices under 2 hours.  We determined that our kids had about an hour and 45 minute window that was productive for teaching and learning.  Anything more than that and we were wasting our time.  There is no right or wrong way to do things so keep tweaking your practice schedule until it fits your players.  This is not about my way or the highway, it's about understanding your kids and your program and doing things that give you the best chance to win.




In an earlier blog we talked about pass protections and building a passing game for lower level football programs.  Today we are going to look further into the concept of "Hot" throws.  I consider myself fortunate to have so many people viewing the blog and following me on you tube, so when one of those followers asks a question about a topic I will always try to respond.  One of the recent questions I received asked me to explain "HOT" throws so I will do my best to explain the concept.

A "Hot" throw is a throw made quickly by a QB because he is being pressured by a LB that we did not account for in our pass protection scheme.  The number of defenders you can account for is determined by the number of receivers you release into the passing concept.  If you release 5 players into a pattern, then you only have 5 players left that can block.  This means a 6th defender rushing the QB will come free.  Hot throws are quick inside or outside breaking throws that the QB makes before the unblocked blitzer can get to him.  You must have receivers that are in position to receive these hot throws if you want to complete passes.

There are two different approaches to receiver routes in the "HOT" concept.  You can choose to build routes into your concepts that can be thrown if you get hot blitzes or you can have receivers read the hot blitzers and alter or "sight adjust" their routes if they get a blitz.  I choose to build routes into my concepts that can be thrown hot so it involves less teaching with the receivers.  Now the issue that arises here is this may limit your drop back passing concepts.  That is why most higher level college and pro teams will sight adjust vs blitzes so they can run all of their concepts.  By keeping it simple I choose to teach the QB all the reads vs blitzes based on our protection and route concepts while allowing the backs and receivers to simply run their designed routes.  

One thing to keep in mind is having a plan vs. blitzing teams may reduce the number of times they blitz.  Unfortunately at the lower levels of football some teams and coaches only know how to blitz and will blitz regardless of the outcome.  Because of that mindset and ideology you must be prepared to handle blitzes if you want to throw the ball successfully.  Changing the number of players you use to account for blitzes, and changing your protection schemes will also help.  If you use a half slide protection scheme all the time then good defensive coaches are going to figure out which way the center turns, and constantly pressure away from that side.  Using full slide protections with running backs helping opposite the side the line turns will help increase your chances of keeping the QB in an upright throwing position.  Using 5,6, and 7 man protection schemes will also help vs heavy pressure teams.

I hope this explanation and video helps you better understand "HOT" throws and pass protection concepts in general.  Always remember to PLAY FAST.

Speedball Tempo Plays

Fast Faster Fastest

 It seems like almost any offense can operate out of no huddle in today's game.  I would venture to guess that more than 50% of high school and college teams are now no huddle offenses.  The fact that teams can operate without a huddle does not make them a tempo team.  In reality the huddle was used as a method of communication for the offense.  Coaches needed a way to get all the information into the players, so the QB acted as the interpreter gathering information from the Coach and then delivering all the information to the players in the huddle which was where all 11 players were.

Offense Is In Control

How many times have you seen an NFL team get shutout for 28 minutes, go to a 2 minute drive at the end of a half and go right down the field and score?  You ask yourself why they don't do that more often, and the answer is simple.  They can't communicate their entire playbook that way so they usually have 5 or 6 things they practice each week in a 2 minute drill.  What you find out is the defense has a hard time communicating with their players and you usually see more base defenses which makes it easier to execute on offense.  So offensive coaches figured out since they control the personnel changes and the pace of the game, why not do it all the time?  Being in or out of the huddle is not about schematics, it's more about how you choose to communicate with your team.  That is why any offensive system can operate as a no huddle team so long as they can streamline their communication.  The question that arises now is can you be a tempo team?  That is where schematics comes into play.  If you are a power I team that has all predetermined runs and passes it is very difficult to be a great tempo team because you do not possess built in answers to how the defense chooses to defend you.  You will have to teach your QB how to check out of bad plays which essentially is slowing down your pace of play.  That is why the true "UP TEMPO" teams are so good at what they do.  Their plays have built in answers to adjust to the different looks the defense presents.

Today I am going to talk about a philosophy called "Speedball" which is essentially the fastest you can play on offense.  When using a speedball approach you are essentially staying in the same formation and running the same play as fast as the refs will allow you to do so.  This really puts a strain on the defense because your players already know that but the defense does not.  When you use this philosophy coming from the sideline your offensive guys already know what they will be doing but the defense has to react to it.  You have now negatively impacted the defenses lines of communication because they are trying to get a call and you already have yours.  Now the issue that arises is you have to have a play that has different built in options for the QB to get you out of bad situations.  Usually the best case scenario for speed ball is any form of option football that has built in access throws for the QB based on coverages.  In this scenario you can get the football to 3 or 4 or 5 different players without ever changing the play.  Now you have to have a QB that can read and react on the fly as opposed to a QB that can stop and change the play.  So in general you still need a smart and savvy QB that has to be well trained to execute this type of offense.  

Keep in mind there are no magic bullets in football.  It will still always come down to blocking, throwing, catching, and securing the football on offense.  I took a new job in the off season and we got off to a slow start and lost a few games because we did not execute the fundamentals of football.  But our kids understand how to run the speedball tempo and the few times we have done it this season it has worked for us.  It actually eliminates a lot of the thinking on offense because you do not have to worry about formation, snap count, or assignment changes.  At times I think coaches including myself make it more difficult than it needs to be and in essence slow kids down when our whole intent is to PLAY FAST!!!!!

Sometimes I forget myself, but it is important to try and remember our goal is to PLAY FAST.