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Saturday, July 22, 2017

What Defense Should We Run?

I find it interesting that defensive coaches say they are a 3-3, 4-2-5, 4-3, 46 "guys" and they do not run anything but their style of defense. I philosophically disagree with that outlook of coaching at the high school level. We must adapt our scheme to fit our personnel because we cannot recruit our players or sign them to a contract. In my opinion, we must remain flexible with our defensive scheme so we can fit the scheme to the talents of our players. I have changed defensive schemes in the middle of a season and we went to the state championship game! Do not be afraid to change your scheme if it is needed!

Do you have the personnel for an odd front?

I am not married to any defensive system, but I totally believe in playing man to man coverage regardless of the scheme. We will use a majority of cover 1 and cover 0 to take away the run / pass conflict for our players, which allows them to play FAST!! The fronts we use will change year to year based on the number of defensive linemen and linebackers. There are some great coaches that love zone coverage and they have won a lot of games with it. That works for them, and I love the fact that they have a philosophy and they stick to it. That being said, I am a man to man guy for a number of reasons:
1. No run / pass conflict
2. Simple teaching (You have that DUDE)
3. The offense cannot overload you
4. Sets the tone for your program
5. Takes away space

Do you have the personnel for and even front?

I have an upcoming podcast that will discuss this issue and it will be on and iTunes in 5 days! Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Podcast with Joey Fields



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Let's Talk About Summer....

Football coaches have different views about what a productive summer looks like for their football program. There are coaches that take their teams to a bunch of different team camps, and there are those that do a minimal amount of work during the summer to allow their players to be "kids." Most coaches in West Virginia fall between those two views of summer. I am not trying to say there is one way everyone should use summer. There are coaches who have won state championships with a variety of strategies during the summer. The purpose of this blog post is to detail how we use our summer and hopefully it will help your program in the future!

In West Virginia we have what is called the "three week period" where we can use a football and have actual practices. This starts the second week in June and you can put on shoulder pads for part of it, practice, go to 7 on 7 tournaments, etc. We will start our summer program the week before the three week period so the players can lift and run. We also used three of our flex days during this week to allow the players to become accustomed to how we practice. I found this to be very beneficial because it allowed us to hit the ground running when we started our three week period. 

We went to three college 7 on 7 tournaments and we threw 7 on 7 with three different high school programs during the three week period. Four days a week (Monday - Thursday) we would get in a lift and then we would practice for an hour and a half. We were in helmets the first week and then we put on shoulder pads for the second and third weeks. There was no live contact when we put on the shoulder pads. The reason we used shoulder pads was to help our players get in shape and to allow us to practice controlled tackling without the risk of breaking a collar bone.  Our players enjoyed being able to put on the shoulder pads and the coaches liked to be able to teach technique without fear of an upper body injury.

We will then give the coaches and players off the week of July 4th so everyone can take a break from football. I believe that it is important to allow your coaches and players to get away from football during the summer because we put in long hours during the season. Our bye week is not until week 11, so we need the time off to help us stay fresh during the season. We will resume workouts after the week off and the players will only lift and run for 2 weeks (Monday - Thursday). Then we will use our remaining three flex days the last week before the season starts. We will give the players off Thursday and Friday that week so they are fresh on the first day of practice on Monday.

I think we get all we can out of the summer, and it is a big reason why we have had more success than the previous years at Riverside. I believe you win games in the off - season and practice. I am not saying we work harder than any program, but no one will outwork us in the state of West Virginia. I hope this blog post starts a meaningful discussion about how we can best use our summer practice time. Thank you for reading!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Introduction to the 4-2-5 Defense

The modern 4-2-5 defense can trace its roots to the wide tackle 6 that has been used since the 1930's. The wide tackle 6 eventually became the 4-4 defense which then morphed into the 4-2-5 defense. The 4-2-5 has become very popular in today's game because of the use of 10,11 and 20 personnel.

10 / 11 / 20 Personnel

Because offenses are using 3,4, or 5 wide receiver sets on a regular basis, defenses are having to play with five defensive backs to combat the speed the offense is putting on the field. In order to get 5 defensive backs on the field a defense must choose between a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5. In high school, we cannot recruit out players, so we must develop our personnel. At my high school we have a lot of defensive linemen and defensive backs, so we use a 4-2-5 as our base defense. The 4-2-5 allows us to match personnel and keep the scheme simple so our players can play fast! We want our players to be able to line up, match numbers (eligible receivers), and be sound versus the variety of offenses we see during a football season. We never want a player to be indecisive, so we use a lot of man principles to eliminate run pass conflicts. Offenses are doing a great job of putting zone defenders in conflict with RPO's (Run Pass Options), so we do not use a lot of zone concepts. We do have them in the playbook, but they can be easily attacked by RPO's. Here is a great article about the evolution of the RPO:

Base 4-2-5 Structure

There are some 4-2-5 defenses that base out of split field concepts (TCU) or cover 3. I like to use cover 1 because I believe that it is the mother of all coverages because you can get max numbers in the run game, have a low hole and high hole player, and you force an offense to make throws into tight coverage. You can also use a multitude of fronts with cover 1: over, under, double 2's, double 3's, etc. 

Thank you for reading this article! 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What's New is Old

The summer is a great time to read a good book, listen to an interesting podcast, take long runs, play with my daughter, go hiking in Fayetteville, WV and watch documentaries on Netflix. Being able to slow down and invest in myself for the first time in months is a good feeling. As a coach, you are constantly pouring yourself out for other people, and I need time to recharge before the grind of the football season. One of the ways I am recharging is using my phone and computer less so I can read more books, listen to more podcasts and be more present with the people that surround me. Now, in this digital age, you cannot simply get rid of your phone, but it needs to be turned off or ignored for a person to keep their sanity. Phones have become an essential part of life and they have a necessary purpose, but sometimes it can rule my life with the constant demand to read Twitter posts, emails, text messages, etc. Phones are very useful, but I need to find a way to ignore it or use it for educational purposes.

One way I have used my phone in an educational way this summer is to listen to a number of different podcasts during my morning run before workouts. There are a number of great football podcasts, but I actually prefer to listen to ones that focus on philosophy, history and spirituality. The podcast that I listen to the most right now is called the RobCast by a guy named Rob Bell. Some people love Rob and some people really dislike him, but he is incredibly entertaining and thought provoking. Here is the link to his podcast: I do not personally believe in everything Rob does, but he does speak some profound truth that has given my soul rest over the last month.

There is a wisdom series he did (Episodes 116 - 125) that allowed me to think about wisdom in a totally different way. There are philosophies, feelings and situations that people have been trying to figure out for thousands of years, so it is ok to not always have the answers. These podcasts have also allowed me to realize that what we think is a new idea has been around for thousands of years. Millennials often think that we have new ideas that no one has ever thought of, but that is far from the truth. This is the same for football coaches that think that they have thought of something that has never been done before (I knew I would bring this back to football at some point!).

What's new in our lives or football is always old. Meaning that the struggles we have in life have been around for eons of time. Same goes for the struggles on the football field. As coaches, we are trying to reinvent the wheel and what we need to do is simply seek the wisdom of those who have been around longer than ourselves. There is great wisdom in talking to older coaches about philosophy, scheme, practice schedule, etc. There are absolute truths in life and football that have been passed down from generation to generation, and all we have to do is seek out those who have more life experience than ourselves. One of my favorite coaches to talk to is Bryce Casto, Head Football Coach at Nitro High School, WV, because he is full of life and football wisdom. He has been coaching football almost as long as I have been alive! He is a man that I deeply admire and I look forward to every time we text or talk. His ability to put into words what I feel as a young coach is astounding. May all of us find a mentor to help us navigate life with wisdom! Attaining wisdom does not mean that we need to find a mentor coach with an above average IQ. It means that we need to find someone that has carefully calculated how to live their life in a meaningful way and learn from their failures and success. Wisdom is always calling out to us, and it is our job to listen to her.

Lastly, I plan on writing a series of blog posts about how foundational football schemes are still widely used today. They may look a little different because of how the game has evolved, but they are still at the heart of high school, college and pro football. The two schemes I will write about are the wide tackle six defense and the veer offense. The wide tackle six is now the 4-2-5 and the veer is now the zone read with RPO's off of it. The game continues to evolve but always remember that what's new is old.