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Over my 14-year career as a collegiate head coach, I have been blessed with outstanding players, loyal assistants and a tremendous group of friends in this great profession. The coaches I have worked with have immensely impacted my career, as has my association with the ACFA. My coaching experience has included various challenges, from taking over struggling programs to following one of the real legends in college football here at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In each situation, we have worked hard to develop a program that has been able to compete at the national level. The following philosophical principles have been fundamental in our approach to the program building process. First You Must Believe It sounds simple, but in my opinion, the power of belief and positive attitude hold the key to a program’s success. As coaches, we must be the biggest believers in our own abilities and the ability of our football team to be successful. Positive attitude starts from the top and works down to our players and to all of those around our program. Eliminate or down-play the negatives of your situation while building a positive and supportive attitude within your program. Belief in success is contagious and will positively affect players, parents, administrators and fans. Surround Yourself With Winners Successful programs are people-centered and encourage individual and team development. Hold the highest expectations for the quality of people in your program. Build a staff that cares about student/athletes, is loyal and is strongly committed to success. Having the right people involved is, in my opinion, much more important than their knowledge of X’s and O’s. Develop Shared Ownership Communicate your plan of success to those around you, and allow them to be a part of the decisions that impact your program’s success. Everyone in your program must share the same goals, be held to the same expectations and accept the same level of responsibility. It’s “our” program not “mine” and it is that “our” mentality that empowers those in the program to achieve.
Teams that have ownership in what they do have pride, and teams with pride are difficult teams to beat. Create a Sense of Mystique About the Way You Play Emphasize specific things in your offensive, defensive and kicking game schemes that can make your program special. Identify certain elements of your play that you want to “hang your hat on” and that will make the team unique. This type of emphasis will create excitement and confidence within the football program and give the team a special identity. Offensively, we want our mystique to center around being an aggressive, balanced attack. We want to be able to run and pass the football with equal effectiveness. Our offensive goals are to rush for 200-plus yards per game and pass for 200-plus yards per game with a 55 percent completion rate. We have accomplished those three goals in five of the last 10 seasons and have averaged 201 yards per game rushing and 218 yards per game passing with a 54 percent completion percentage over the past decade. We feel our play-action passing game has been one of the important components in developing this level of balance in our attack and in our overall offensive effectiveness. Our play action passing schemes are all built with the following priorities: Protection First We want to keep our play action protection scheme simple and limit the number of adjustments that we have to make each week in facing specific defenses. For example, our draw pass protection scheme involves man protection on the play side (side of the play fake) and area protection on the weak side. We limit the number of receivers used, involving our backs and even the tight end in the protection scheme in order to keep our rules simple and consistent. We are also willing to sacrifice some of the play-action look with our linemen to insure sound protection and will rely on the backfield action to influence and hold the linebackers and secondary. Utilizing this simple protection scheme means our quarterback has only one blitz read that is his responsibility. This read is the same for all of our play-action pass series and allows our quarterback to use a common
Th e “B ig Play” Action Pass
check process for all of our play-action passes. Diagram 6 The tight end’s route here should threat- . Agood play fake should hold the inside linebackers enough to create a window making an easy throw to the tight end underneath. the quarterback will look for the tight end on a 10yard choice route. avoiding the backside safety who may be rolling into the middle third (Diagram 4). we fake the lead or single back draw (depending on our formation) and time this pass action with certain five-step route combinations. Diagram 4 Diagram 1 Diagram 2 to help on the post route by Z. Our second route combination is the post-dig concept and involves a high-low read on the back side safety. Diagram 5 Diagram 3 We run three basic route combinations with our draw pass action. All three of these route combinations involve reads that give our quarterback a primary option to throw the ball deep.” One of our responses to this type of defensive philosophy is to create a primary deep throw read in all of our play-action pass schemes. The center and backside lineman will block area and be responsible for the first three pass rush threats weak side. It is important that the Z receiver keeps his post route skinny. The threat of throwing deep off play action is one way to force defenses to play honestly and can help slow down secondary support to the running game. If the near safety retreats The third route combination that we run with the draw pass action is the divide concept. to the tight end versus any two-deep or four-deep coverage look (Diagram 6). In this series. Throwing on these types of downs also provides the ability to absorb incompletions and remain in down and distance situations that can be legitimately converted. In the divide concept. his read will tell him to throw the ball over the top on the post. This concern has been countered by the realization that throwing on traditional running downs provides our offense with the best opportunity to catch the defense with a big play. If this fourth rusher is a pre-snap blitz threat. we will try to get the ball deep. The thought here is to provide our quarterback with the opportunity to throw the ball “over the top” of an aggressive secondary off a run fake. If the safety rolls forward or does not retreat from a two-deep look. he will look to throw the ball in a window through the linebackers to Z on a dig route. Draw Pass Our draw pass is one of our favorite play-action pass series. In 2002. Throw Downfield (make a big play) Today’s defenses are built to stop the run by playing a safety low or attempting to outnumber the offense in the “box. We feel this check system complements our play-action pass thoughts regarding throwing on running downs and still gives us the ability to make a big play. 3). and in one-back sets we will make a “solid” call to keep the playside tight end in as part of the protection scheme (Diagrams 1. The tight end will run a shallow route in our normal scheme but we will often run this from a one-back set with a “solid” protection call (Diagram 5). down the seam. he will check the play to three-step protection and look to throw the ball to the X receiver either with a hitch route (if the corner gives cushion) or on a fade (if the corner is pressing). Our quarterback will set up slightly playside of the center but our protection scheme will protect him as if he his in a five-step drop set-up position. Throw on Running Downs Throwing on first down and second and medium situations is vital to a successful play-action passing game. Our draw pass protection scheme can protect four rushers play side utilizing man protection rules with the play side lineman and backs. The first route combination is the post-choice concept. 2. Our quarterback must be responsible for and read a possible fourth rusher on the weak side (away from the fake). I struggled with the idea of calling pass plays in situations where throwing an incompletion might get us off-schedule. In our two-back formations both backs will have protection assignments playside. we lose the tight end as the second option and this concept becomes a two-man pattern. In this concept the quarterback will read the near or playside safety. In this scheme the quarterback reads the far safety (away from the fake) for the skinny post. If the quarterback reads the safety retreating or rolling to the middle third. we had 23 play-action completions that resulted in gains of over 20 yards and eight of those plays resulted in touchdowns. In my early years as an offensive play caller. In a “solid” protection call.
Our quarterback can throw to the tight end on this inside route or choose to challenge a cornerback with a deep fade route outside (Diagram 7). Have a set plan for coaching safety. 15. Entire staff must be “tuned in” to safety program. Coaches can do their part to continue that trend by teaching correct techniques and emphasizing proper fundamentals at all times.en the safety vertically then work slightly inside. 12. Being aggressive with our play-action pass scheme has become a major part of our commitment to a balanced attack. Support officials who penalize for illegal helmet contact. 10. 20. Keep the head up. I also feel that our willingness to challenge defenses Diagram 7 deep through play action has helped our running game be more consistent and successful. Helmet must fit properly. It’s a game — not a job — for the players. 5. Keep the head out of contact. Discuss risk of injury. 4. Practice Safety-First Coaching Techniques Excerpted from an article by Dick Schindler for the National Federation News Coaches’ Checklist 1. If you have questions regarding any of the information in this article please feel free to contact me. . 8. 17. players can avoid catastrophic injury and coaches can avoid lawsuits. Be prepared for a catastrophic injury. 11. Provide best medical care possible. 25. 23. 7. 2. The game doesn’t need abusive contact. 9. Clearly explain and demonstrate safe techniques. That way. Involve parents in early season meeting. 21. Explain how serious injuries can occur. we will sit the tight end down at about 15 yards and curl him inside. Provide conditioning to strengthen neck muscles. Stress safety every day. Improper technique causes spinal cord injuries. Repeat drills which stress proper and safe techniques. Check helmet condition regularly. 6. This past season we even began using our draw pass scheme as a check-to-play against teams who would walk their safeties down against our running game. Our commitment to a strong running game has certainly provided us with opportunities to make big plays through our play action passing game. 18. 16. Against a three-deep coverage look. Monitor blocking and tackling techniques every day. Keep The Head Out Of Football Rules changes that eliminated the head as the initial contact point in blocking and tackling have significantly reduced head and neck injuries in the sport. Let me close by again thanking the AFCA for this opportunity to represent the University of Minnesota-Duluth and our football program. Don’t praise or condone illegal helmet contact. 22. 24. 3. Admonish and/or discipline users of unsafe techniques. 13. 19. Keep the head out of football. Player safety is your responsibility. Don’t glorify head hunters. 14. Receive clearance by doctor for athlete to play following head trauma.
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