As a Football Coach I have always loved the analytical side of coaching.  It is one of the few sports where a call has to be made every single play, and that call can get you into and out of a lot of trouble every single down.  Let's face it, football will always come down to blocking, tackling and the execution of fundamentals.  But there is also the idea of putting your kids in the best position to be successful.  That means getting your offense into good play calls based on defensive alignment and coverages.  On defense it means giving your players a chance to exploit offensive weaknesses while defending the offense's strengths.  Its about an offense trying to get grass, numbers and angles, while the defense tries to play with great leverage and keep the ball inside and in front.  The game is constantly evolving and we must adapt as coaches or get left behind.

As a Coach you really need to stay focused on what the current trends in the game are.  The reason I say that is even if you are still running the same system on offense, you have to know defensively what other offenses are doing.  Most of the current offensive trends have stemmed from the roots of option football.  Offenses are finding ways to stress and conflict defenders, which clouds or fogs up a players reads and reactions.  This forces the defensive player to play slower.  The offense will always have a slight advantage because they know the play and their assignment.  The defense is always reacting to what the offense is doing.  Most defensive players have a run and pass assignment on every play.  With that being said if the offense can play off the vulnerability of the defenders assignments they should be able to stay in good situations.  Most good defenses you hear about are fast and physical.  You will never hear a coach say the other team plays really good defense because they are slow and soft.  A lot of your really good defensive teams are simplistic in nature so their kids can understand assignments and execute them relatively easy.

 With all of that being said let us now take a look at how that daily battle has evolved today.  Run Pass Option plays are becoming the big trend in football today.  It all stems back to the roots of option football.  Offensively we want the QB to be able to put the ball in the right place by reading defenders.  We are trying to play off the aggressiveness and assignments of the defensive players.  Reading second level defenders is now what is en vogue in the football world.  What makes this so effective? Second level players usually have run and pass assignments that have a lot of space between them.  Because an offense can have offensive lineman roughly up to 3 yards downfield and still legally throw forward passes, they can combine plays that are runs or passes based on the reaction of the defense.  So in essence you are triggering a response from a defender and forcing him to play his run assignment.  You then strategically place receivers in the passing responsibility areas of that defender.  If he plays the run, the pass should be open.  If he hangs on his pass responsibility we should be able to gain 3-4 yards on a run play.

So all the Up Tempo football teams are really playing a best case scenario game with their players especially the QB.  Remember the days when the QB had to make a bunch of checks at the line?  Offensive coaches usually gave the QB the ability to get into and out of certain runs and passes based on the alignment and leverage of the defense.  As an offense you always want to avoid negative plays.  These usually happen when you have a play called into the strength of a defense. So if we just call a play from the huddle and the defense gives us a look that negates the chances of the play being successful we must have a way to get out of it and into something we like.  Enter up tempo football.  Now we are trying to stress the amount of things the defense can do in a short period of time.  Remember the offense knows the alignment and assignment and the defense must react to it.  But to simply think we can call a play fast and be successful is a recipe for disaster.  So what now?  Tempo football must have built in options that the QB can go to on any play call without changing the play.  Remember changing plays at the line can be effective but it is also time consuming.  If you want to stay Up Tempo you need options built into the play.

So now on the defensive side of the ball we have to have answers.  We can't sit in one coverage and get picked apart.  We need to challenge the run pass options by changing coverages.  You have to be able to play some type of man coverage.  This allows you to get another guy in the box who does not have the huge run/pass constraint.  You have to be able to change the leverage on receivers and change their zone responsibilities.  Running some line games and changing your gap responsibility while confusing the oline can help as well.  But the biggest concern is always going to be how much can my kids handle.  Can we do multiple things without them slowing down?  Will they be able to handle the coverage changes, or the run fit changes?

The Chess Game in football is to me what makes it the ultimate Coaching challenge.  It's what keeps the game fresh from season to season and gets me amped up for Friday Night Lights.  As a coach the physical aspect of competition is long gone so I have to compete in other ways.  I never lose my desire to compete, and since I cannot do it physically anymore I choose to do it strategically.


Half Line Drills to Teach Coverages

Quarter Quarter Half Coverage

The ideology of the whole part whole teaching method has always been a huge part of coaching football.  I like to introduce a scheme to a whole unit in meetings first.  Then on the field we will teach it and rep it in individuals or group sessions.  Finally we will get together as an entire unit and put all the parts together.  This method is really effective for us as a split field coverage team.  I really like teaching this way because our base coverages are meant to be played independently of each other, so working half line drills lets us focus and coach one half of the coverage at a time.

Today we are going to talk about the 3 base coverages we play and how we use half line drills to work run support and coverage responsibility.  Our base coverages are Quarters, 2 Read, and Cover 2.  We have to be able to play a combination of those at all times.  We really need to get good at these coverages and the nuances or slight change in assignments of each one.  What we will do is work half field or half line principles versus 2 removed receivers and a RB and QB.  We are going to emphasize the trouble spots or coverage beaters in each coverage.  I consider bubble screens and now screens as an extended part of the run game.  We will work run responsibilities versus speed option, bubble screen, and now screens.  In the passing game we will work curl/slide, hitch corner, and coverage beaters like post over dig, post and corner, post and deep out, and 2 verticals with a flat route.  I think it's important to stress the routes that can beat your coverages the most and let your kids react to and play other route combinations as they occur.

Keep in mind that this is just a segment of the practice where you are emphasizing certain scenarios with a small group of players.  You will still have inside or team run periods, 7 on 7 periods and full team sessions.  Ultimately the game is played 11 on 11 and you have to work as a unit to have success.  Breaking your work down into small groups helps you and your players work on specific techniques and fundamentals that will make the group stronger as a whole.  There are several other portions of your practice in all 3 phases of the game where half line teaching is very effective.

Always remember the key to good coaching is what you can get your players to know, not just what you know.  Hopefully this helps you organize your practices more efficiently and get your players to understand their responsibilities a little better.  PLAY FAST.