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8020485 Winning With the Am 34 Defense

8020485 Winning With the Am 34 Defense

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01/05/2010

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I
t is a real honor for me to have thisopportunity to speak to you this morn-ing. The first time I had the opportunity tospeak at our national convention was fol-lowing the 1975 season, almost 24 yearsago. We had finished No. 1 in the countryon defense and Iwas asked to speak at theconvention that was held that year inWashington D.C. I was so excited to getthe chance, as part of our staff, to speak atthe AFCAConvention. I have to tell youthat today, after all those years, I'm still justas excited and honored to be allowed totalk to you.I'm proud of our association and theprogress that we have made over the yearsin promoting the coaching profession.Grant Teaff has done an excellent job inleading our Association. He was a greatcoach, he understands our problems andthe issues surrounding our game. Wecould have no one who would be better inarticulating these issues in leading ourAssociation. I think it is meaningful that thetheme of this year's convention is "Victorywith Honor." We should all take personalresponsibility in promoting in our profes-sion and our game.Each of you have a tremendous publicposture at your respective schools andcommunities. Many people look at you andform opinions about coaches and thecoaching profession.I hope that each of you will keep that inmind in everything that you do and say andthat you will always reflect the highest idealsof what coaching is all about. I think this isespecially important with the young menwho are entrusted to us to develop. I'veoften said that the truest measure ofwhether a coach has been successful forthat matter, is what his players have becomefive or ten years down the road, and howthey have benefited from being in a particu-lar program.I hope that the young men who haveplayed in our program at Texas A&M willlook back on the experience and feel that itwas one that was beneficial and helpedthem to become better people, better citi-zens, better husbands and better fathers. Ifso, then my work will not have been in vain.As you all know, football coaching is a verytime consuming occupation. We literally givea big part of our lives to our professions. Ifthe only reward is saying that we won "X"number of games each season, then that isa very shallow, empty reward for the amountof time that we spend. I think that if we sin-cerely spend our careers dedicated to thedevelopment of the young people and thebetterment of the young people, who areunder our leadership, the wins will come asa by-product, but more importantly, we willhave a very rewarding experience and canreflect back on our careers with great prideand feelings of satisfaction.I mentioned earlier that it has beenapproximately 25 years since I first spokehere. As I look back over those years, ourgame has changed in many ways, but in alot of ways, it remains the same. Offensesrun more formations today than they oncedid. I can recall about 1973 we were gettingready to play Clemson in our openinggame. We were concerned about what for-mation they were going to run. They hadshown the year before to run either a proset or twins. In two-a-days, we workedagainst both of those, but in the openinggame against us, they ran the pro set theentire ball game. Now, I can tell you,matching up blitzes and defenses to oneformation was a lot simpler than it is today.As a result of the multiple offensive forma-tions, defenses have also become a lotmore multiple.Many offenses utilize multiple personnelgroupings to get into their various forma-tions and defenses, again, have had to dothe same thing in reacting to the offenses.From a defensive perspective, other thanthe formation adjustments, I still see thesame defenses I saw 25 years ago. Mostteams fall into a 3-4 weak eagle configura-tion, a 4-3 over/under, or a true 4-4 eightman front.Regardless of the scheme of defense,there are some fundamentals that haveremained the same for all these years andthey are what really makes a differencebetween the good defenses and the bad.Some of these coaching points are so sim-ple, yet we see them violated every day.For the next few minutes, I would like todiscuss some philosophy of defensivetechniques with you. While I cannot say toyou that a 3-4, 4-3 or 4-4 will make you agood defense, I can say without a doubt,that if you coach and have your playersmaster the following concepts, you will bevery good regardless of your scheme.First, in coaching style, I think you mustbe a perfectionist. You must have a clearpicture or model in your mind what you aretrying to get done. Every stance, techniqueand movement must be thought through.The challenge then is to find the best way
R.C. SlocumHead CoachTexas A&M UniversityCollege Station, Tex.
 
Winning With theA&M 3-4 Defense
 
to teach so as to achieve the desired result.Ob vi o usly, this will not always happen quickly, however, there must be steadyprogress toward the desired outcome. Thecoach must have a clear picture of what heis trying to accomplish with a player andmust be persistent in moving the player inthe desired direction. Every play on thefield or video, the coach must be correctingor reinforcing the actions and techniques ofhis players. The coach must be relentlessin this part of his job. The object is to per-form a desired behavior or action until itbecomes a habit.From an overall defensive team stand-point, I would like to point out some basicsI think are important.First, I think a starting point is the hud-dle. Setting the huddle in an orderly, disci-plined manner.This sets the tone for a dis-ciplined play. Doing the little things rightsets the stage for doing the big things right.I played for a coach in high school bythe name of Ted Jeffries, who is in theTexas High School Coaches Hall of Honor,and I can still remember that CoachJeffries, every Thursday afternoon afterpractice, had us take our shoes into thefieldhouse and polish our shoes on thebuffer, take our shoestrings out and put innew shoestrings and then present them tothe coach. The interesting thing about theshoe strings was that we had to put theshoe strings in with both ends coming overthe top through the first eyelet.After we had laced the shoes up, beforeyou could leave on Thursday afternoon,ever player had to present his shoes to thecoach, polished with new strings and thestrings had to be put in exactly right. At thattime, to a high school youngster, it washard to understand why it was so importantto put your shoe strings in a particular way.Coach Jeffries told us on many occa-sions that the shoestrings themselves don'tmake a lot of difference, but learning to dothe little things and being disciplined to dothose things exactly right is vitally importantto winning.If you learn to put your shoestrings in just right every time, then there is a goodchance that you can learn to run a passpattern to exactly 14, back to 12, or to lineup in a shade alignment exactly like yourcoaches ask every time.Setting the huddle at the start of eachplay and making each player hustle backinto the huddle, I think, is a good way tostart off with some discipline. We begin ourdefensive practice each day by having theplayers jump into the huddle, get the call,break the huddle, get out and get set.I think a point of emphasis is getting outof the huddle with intensity and gettinglined up. I like to see defensive linemen getdown on a knee and be waiting when theoffensive man comes out and gets down,he's ready to go. I like for defensive backsto hustle out to their respective alignmentsand line up with intensity. If there is a shiftor change in formation, I hate to see guyswalking through those adjustments. Youlike for your defensive back and lineback-ers to hustle and show some excitementand getting lined up on their respectiveguys. In other words, don't be too cool inyour adjustments.The next point of emphasis is gettingyour players to play hard and give effort.That is the one thing that every team iscapable of doing and a lot of teams don'tdo. I hear coaches talk about trying to getbetter, but when you look at their teamsand see how they play, I would say to them,it doesn't matter how good your playersare, your team won't be very good until youget your team playing hard. If your playersdon't play hard, that is coaching and that ison you. Regardless of ability level, you candemand that your players play hard andgive you effort.Great defenses chase the run and greatsecondaries and linebackers break on thepass. I think in watching tapes and video,you should, on every single pass play, slowmotion reverse it and look to see if youhave every single player on zone coveragebreaking on the quarterback's action, chas-ing the football on the passes.Another point of emphasis is getting onand off the field. I think the way you go onand come off the field, particularly with asmany substitutions we now have to make,is extremely important. We like to talk aboutcoming straight off to your sideline. Don'tcome at the angle because it takes longer,but sprint, get off the field and then you canwalk down the sideline to the bench. Don'tcome jogging off that field in that slow trotand have me over there pulling my hairworrying about whether the ball has beensnapped.The organization of your sideline isanother area that is very important. Weoften talk about our game plan and, in real-ity, what is normally called a game plan isreally a preliminary game plan. You studyyour opponent’s tapes during the week andsee them play against other teams with dif-ferent personnel from yours, and you for-mulate a game plan based on what they doin these games and in anticipation of whatthey will likely do against you.The reality is, on game day, you seefirst hand what their real plan is againstyour personnel and your schemes.Coaches really earn their money on gameday in adjusting to what their opponent isdoing that day, at that time against yourteam. To effectively carry out these adjust-ments, you must do a great job with yoursideline organization.On our defensive bench, we have thedefensive linemen all together, next to thelinebackers, then the secondary. When ourteam is not on the field, I want each ofthose groups of players, sitting together,paying attention to their coaches who areon the sideline in front of them, making theadjustments and keeping their focus onplaying defense. I don't want to allow theirminds to wander or become distracted bythings that are on the field or in the stands.These things that I have talked aboutare simple ideas but they must be continu-ously reinforced in coaching, or you losethem. I think they are vitally important toplaying good defense.I would now like to cover some coachingpoints and defensive fundamentals that Ithink are very important to various positionson defense. I will list them and will elabo-rate briefly on each. First of all, before Imention techniques or drills, I would like tocomment on my philosophy about drills.The only reason to use any drill is if it is thebest way to teach a particular skill that yourplayers need.Each year before the season, youshould go through the various positionsand write down every specific techniquethat a player needs to know to be able toplay and execute to play that position.Once you have your list of techniques, youshould create a drill that helps you effec-tively teach that technique.I have often seen coaches do drills thatI had a very hard time correlating to any-thing that the player he was coachingwould need to do. Don't do drills just to bedoing them or because they look pretty.The time that you spend on the practicefield is extremely important. You have limit-ed time to get done all the things that youneed to get done, so it is critical that youhave your drills well-organized and use themost effective drills.
 
At this time, I would like to talk aboutsome fundamentals that I think are impor-tant to playing the game of defense.
Defensive Line1.Stance:
Toe heel stagger, down andready, eyes up.Teach your players to get good stancesand to have exact alignments. If you aretalking about a crotch alignment, a widefive, loose five, tight shade, those align-ments, have a specific way a young mancan tell if he is aligned. It may be to put hisfoot down the middle of the offensive man'scrotch, or to put his foot on the outside fromthe lineman. Whatever alignment you aretrying to reach, make it specific in natureand check him every time that he lines upto see that he is doing it exactly right.
2. Hands:
Placement, grab cloth.So many times we, in passing, talk to aplayer about where to place his hands, butplay after play we watch him and he does-n't put his hands in the right place. I thinkevery single down, you should coach yourplayers on hand placement. Each play youwatch on video, you should check the play-ers you are coaching to see that they haveproper hand placement because it is vitallyimportant. Not only is placement important,but using your fingers, which you areallowed to do on defense, in grabbing holdof the offensive linemen is extremely impor-tant in trying to escape blocks.
3.Movement Key:
Man, ball.You should start every play with a visualmovement key. Whether you are keying onthe man or keying on the ball, every drillshould start with using a visual key, not anaudible key. So many times in the off sea-son program or pre-practice routines,defensive coaches start the drills with set,hike, or other audible sounds instead of avisual key.All you are doing is training yourguys to jump off sides on an audible cue.
4.Separate:
Object of defense is not toplay blocks.I don't like to see a lot of one-on-onedrills unless the ballcarrier is used becauseI think the players develop bad habits andget an unrealistic look. You should practiceone-on-one with the object of separating offthe block and getting to the ballcarrier.
5.Penetrate
- React down the line.How many times have you seen thedefensive lineman get penetration in thebackfield and then round off his turn wherehe puts himself in a chase position againsta 4.4 tailback that he never catches. Thesame guy, if he flattens his path down theline and uses angles, can get back into aposition to make the play.This must bedrilled. An effective drill that I've used overthe years is to lay three bags down aboutthree yards deep in the backfield. Standbehind the defensive lineman with a backlined up opposite you behind the threebags. Have a manager give the defensiveline a visual cue with the football. As theycome off the line and get penetrationacross the line, you give the back a direc-tion where he goes right or left, laterallyand around the end of the bags. The line-man then must turn flat when they crossthe line and go flat down the line and try tocut off the back before he can cross the lineof scrimmage.
Linebacker1.Strip Drill:
One-on-one, two-on-one.The drill we work on every day with all ofour defensive players that has paid greatdividends for us is the strip drill. We do itone-on-one where the defender runsbehind the offensive player who has theball tucked away. The defender frombehind puts his off arm over the shoulder ofthe offensive player and takes his own sidearm and either punches from behind orclubs from over the top to try to knock theball out while insuring the tackle with the offarm.The next drill we do is a two-on-one stripdrill where two defensive players are facingan offensive player.The offensive ballcarri-er comes straight ahead, the first defenderfronts him up with a form tackle straightahead while the second defender comes inand goes directly to the ball and tries to pullthe ball loose. This not only helps ourdefense create turnovers but we do it allthe time in practice and I think it has madeour offensive players much more aware ofball security and thus, has helped reduceturnovers from our offensive side.
2 .S t a n c e :
No hands on knees, nob o b b i n g .One of the things I really hate to see alinebacker do is squat with his hands on hisknees. I don't think you can move from thatposition. Invariably, when a guy gets tired,he tends to rest by putting his hands on hisknees and applying his weight downward.From this position, the only way one canmove is to raise up, lift the weight and thenmove. This allows for wasted time.Linebackers on every play should get in agood stance with their weight over the ballsof their feet and in a position where theycan move without altering their verticalposition. I don't know where some guys gettheir stances, but I see them and they areall hunkered down in an abnormally lowstance from which they have to pop straightup as soon as the ball is snapped beforethey can go anywhere. At other times, yousee guys who are so high, they have todrop down before they can move. Whatyou want is the guy to be in a stance where,when the ball is snapped, he is ready tomove without any vertical movement of hispad level.
3.Shuffle:
Don't cross over.Unless a play is an absolute straightahead play coming at a linebacker, everystep should start with a lateral shuffle. Ihate to see a linebacker start forward, getcaught up in all the traffic and then try towork outside on an outside running play.Our base alignment is four-and-a-halfyards deep. I would like for that linebackerto shuffle laterally at that depth until he isready to come downhill and take on ablocker or tackle the ballcarrier.
4.Communicate
.On every play, I think the linebackershould mentally focus on identification ofthe strength and the back set. Is it I-backs,weak back, empty, etc?
5.Key Progression:
Back, linemen,flow, run or pass.I think linebackers should have a pro-gression on every single play that they use
Former Texas A&MAll-American DatNguyen is one of several Aggie defend-ers now playing in the NFL.

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