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College Football Schemes and Techniques

College Football Schemes and Techniques

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College Football Schemes and Techniques

4.5/5 (2 ratings)
127 pages
1 hour
May 19, 2014


Matt Zeigler's College Football Schemes and Techniques explores offensive, defensive and special teams methods utilized on the collegiate level. Coaches, players and fans can learn the schemes and techniques of some of the best programs in college football. Coaches with experience in every major conference are the primary sources for CFST, including the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East and PAC 12, plus the NFL and CFL.
•Defensively, CFST reveals how Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban wins championships by shutting down an offense with the unique schemes and techniques that comprise 'Buster Coverage. Al Groh and Bill Belichick's insight on the flexibility of the 3-4 Defense is also examined.
•The Front 7 philosophy of defensive guru Monte Kiffin inspired Alabama's Lance Thompson and is also included, along with defensive principals that Brent Pry learned under legendary Bud Foster at Virginia Tech. Florida State Assistant Sal Sunseri's pass rush system is also featured.
•A 'Game Week' practice system established by NFL Hall-of-Famer Bill Walsh is used by Auburn Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder to organize practices, while also developing a game plan.
•Offensively, CFST features North Carolina's Larry Fedora's no-huddle up-tempo spread attack; and Garrick McGee's multiple offense and UAB practice/QB development standards. As well as Joe Pendry's run blocking basics.
•Michigan Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier's quarterback development techniques and basic play-action passing scheme are included in the author's 'offensive package.' Another chapter breaks-down situational football preparation on offense/special teams that enabled Gene Chizik and Auburn to win the 2010 National Championship.
•Florida State QBs Coach Dameyune Craig's methods for reading defenses and finding 'dead spots' in Cover 2 Zone are also examined.
•For programs on any level that have suffered through years of underachievement, CFST provides the rebuilding methods of Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin. Franklin had previous experience in the ACC, Big 12 and NFL as an offensive assistant or coordinator. In just his first season at Vanderbilt in 2011, he built the Commodores into a bowl team for only the fifth time in 123 years!

May 19, 2014

About the author

Former Marine Matt Zeigler worked eight years as a writer and photojournalist in the newspaper industry before embarking on an author's path. During the 1990s he traveled extensively throughout the Southeast covering the greatest athletes of American sports. Zeigler, a 1993 graduate of Troy University, has also published College Football Schemes and Techniques; Wild Alabama; Wild Alabama: Winter Haven; Wild Alabama: The American Robin; Sports Shooter: A Photographer's Story; and 1990s NFL Flashback.

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Inside the book

Top quotes

  • The Buster side, which is usually on the strong side but can be weak side, is further defined as the 3-man side. In Alabama’s system, the 3-man side can either be a trips formation, or a two-receiver set with an offset running back in the back- field.

  • A positive attitude is a powerful motivator, but he also despises negative attitudes that ‘suck the life out’ of anything that is positive. Secondly, he teaches his players to have an unbelievable work ethic, which he exemplifies himself on a daily basis.

  • When the defense was in man-to-man coverage Pry had his linebackers check for the nearest outside threat as soon as they saw a high hat (helmet) of an offensive line- man, a ‘key’ that reveals pass blocking.

  • Quick feet are extremely important for a pass rusher. To develop quickness Sunseri’s conducts a ‘ladder drill’ with an agility ladder, blocking shield and a cone.

  • But it is absolutely critical, he believes, that when they grip the football that there is space between their hand and the ball.

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College Football Schemes and Techniques - Matt Zeigler


Chapter 1 Offensive Development

Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee is a believer in ‘big package’ offenses that attack with power running and explosive passing all over the field. McGee’s base offensive scheme is a pro set (two wide receivers, a tight end, fullback and running back) that features power running to set up play-action passing. Variations include a ‘quick’ passing package; empty backfield; plus the spread formation.

McGee’s offense has multiple checkdowns for both run and pass plays. However, running a big offensive package effectively takes more than a complex scheme and thick playbook. Players have to be developed on the practice field to make plays on Game Day. During his previous job as head coach at UAB, McGee instituted 10 practice rules that he believe are key to players achieving their full potential.

Player development is McGee’s motivation. As an assistant coach he’s developed talent such as Carl Ford, the first 1,000-yard receiver in Toledo history, and All-Big 10 receivers Mark Philmore and Shaun Herbert at Northwestern. As Arkansas’ quarterbacks coach/OC he directed an offense that produced D.J. Williams, an All-American and first-team All-SEC tight end; plus an All-SEC quarterback and running back in Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis respectively. Quarterback Ryan Mallett was a second-team All-SEC selection that’s currently an NFL-backup with New England.

McGee stresses that both players and coaches must have a great attitude for practice. He believes that attitude is the No. 1 determining factor for a successful practice. Attitude is a choice of having a great or a bad practice. Players must be willing to learn new techniques; coaches shouldn’t just yell, but continue to develop their players. McGee put such an emphasis on having a great attitude that he held weekly ‘attitude meetings’ from January to March 2012 after taking over at UAB. A team must earn the right to win, he believes, by having a great practice attitude.

Whether it’s full pads, ‘shells’ or t-shirts, shorts and helmets, all players must dress alike. Even accessories such as socks must match. All pads for hips, knees and thighs must also be worn, in addition to ankle/knee braces. Wide receivers and defensive backs, McGee pointed out, like to wear all of the bells and whistles, but he doesn’t tolerate it. (Bells and whistles can range anywhere from earrings to mismatched socks). Players must come to practice with a willingness to respond to what their coaches are teaching. Assistant coaches and the head coach as well must also be willing to learn a new technique or scheme. And coaches must make corrections ‘on the spot.’

A fast tempo must be maintained by players sprinting from drill-to-drill, and maintaining a ‘get up, get down and get off’ mentality between plays, as in get up to the line, get down in position and get off the play. Coaches must coach fast, with an attack-mode mentality. Instead of 20 players standing in one line, make five lines to get players moving. While performing a ladder drill, for example, when a player reaches the halfway point the next player in line begins.

Players must maintain good balance and stay off the ground to avoid getting hurt. They must also know the practice tempo, such as full tackling or ‘thud’ during scrimmages. Thud means a defender delivers a hit with moderate force, preferably to the shoulder pads, instead of a full tackle. A player should also never throw a teammate, such as to shed a block. A thrown player could collide into the legs of a teammate and cause injury.

During McGee’s playing days at Oklahoma in the mid-‘90s, the Sooners’ leading receiver caught a pass in practice on a crossing route and was expecting a ‘thud’ from the defender. Instead, he was hit full-force by a linebacker and injured, putting him out of action for the season. Memory of that incident is one reason McGee stresses that his players take care of each other during practice.

Players can build winning habits by giving extra effort during practice. Linemen sprint up to the line of scrimmage; wide receivers ‘express the ball’ by sprinting an extra 30 yards after a catch. Running backs express the ball by running an extra 25 yards, and all 11 defenders pursue a ball carrier. Instead of simply falling on a fumble, defenders ‘scoop and score,’ and running backs and receivers never step out of bounds. Instead of merely completing a drill, players must try to dominate in everything they do. Quarterbacks must try to hit every route on the spot; a linebacker must dominate a tackling drill and get stronger throughout. During conditioning drills players must run through the finish line, not to it.

McGee wants his starting quarterback to have certain intangibles beyond their physical ability on the field: competitive greatness and football intelligence. Competitive greatness is playing at your best, when your best is needed. McGee has witnessed some quarterbacks that are good in practice drills and summer workouts, while others perform poorly. However, the player who has great workouts may not play up to his expectations in games. The poor practice player may be a better game player, particularly if he makes his teammates perform better.

To run McGee’s big offensive package effectively a quarterback must be a fast learner. He must not only be willing to learn, but willing to work at learning more as defenses change from week-to-week. With a big offensive package comes multiple concepts that forces defensive coordinators to make adjustments.

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