Fresno City College Program Philosophy and Defensive Principles

Tony Caviglia Head Coach Fresno City College Fresno, Calif.

t is an honor to speak at the 2001 AFCA Convention, but it is also hard to talk to a group of your peers for there are a lot of great coaches in the audience and who will read the Proceedings Manual. My only hope is to give some coach something they can use in their program that will help them in any way. I once heard a great coach at a clinic say that if you copy from one person it is plagiarism, but if you copy from a group of people it is research. The coaches on the staffs I have been on have taught me most of what I do at Fresno City College. I would like to credit Larry Smith, John Cooper, Bill Young, Bobby April, and Moe Ankney as some of the coaches who have helped me develop “The Fresno City College Program Philosophy and Defensive Principles” The junior college level is the most unique level to coach. There isn’t any carryover from year to year because half your team moves on every year. So when you put your program together you must have a sound philosophy that can be understood clearly by all your players and coaches. For example our program philosophy is to get all our players to go on to a four-year institution. Everything we do is directed to that goal, such as the offensive and defensive systems we use, our academic programs we set up, and our strength/conditioning program. We usually get two different types of students-athletes. One student might be qualified to attend a four-year university but may not be ready physically. For example: We had a defensive lineman from a local high school who was 6-4 215. He was a 4.0 student and scored 1350 on the SAT. He wasn’t getting recruited because he wasn’t big enough but had good football instincts. Well he grew to 265 pounds through hard work in the weight room and on the field, continued getting A’s, and just recently committed to Purdue. Another type of player we get might be highly recruited out of high school, but an underachiever in the classroom. We must assess his academic ability and get him into the proper programs so he can grow academically. For example: We had a highly talented and highly recruited running back who couldn’t pass the SAT. He came to Fresno City College and was immediately put into our IDILE program that matched his needs. He had regular one-on-one meetings where his progress was assessed, and was programmed into classes were could achieve success. He


received his AA Degree on time. On the field he broke six national junior college rushing records and is playing at the University of Oregon. Both of these students were successful at Fresno City College because their needs were met, and they were willing to put in the hard work to build up their weaknesses and move on in school and in football. What we teach in our football program at Fresno City is very sound. We want our players ready when they transfer to a fouryear college so the transition is easier. Our offense, defense, and kicking game all have principles built in to the teaching, and we never stray from those principles. For example on defense, principles are: 1. Attack with gap control. 2. Sprint to the ball. 3. Tackle. 4. Force turnovers. In practice every day we emphasize one or two of our defensive principles through a series of drills. I want to show you some of the team and group drills we use to emphasize our principles. Attack with Gap Control The best drill to teach defensive lineman gap control is the box drill. This drill is designed to teach linemen how to attack their gap of control, keep their gap arm and leg free, and squeeze the adjacent gap. We teach the defensive lineman to drive through outside half of the offensive lineman. If the offensive line is in a reach course the momentum will take both players back at a 45 degree angle. (Diagram 1) If he is on a cut-off course the defensive line works to a squeeze mode. The cones are four yards apart, and the ball carrier is five yards back (many times we use a kicker for we do not want to emphasize the tackling portion of this drill). The coach signals reach or cutoff and snap count to offensive line and the drill begins. The ball carrier can run in a direct line or preferably try to cut opposite. (Diagram 2) This drill can be done good on good or within the defensive line position group. Sprint to the Ball We do many types of run to the ball drills, as many of you do, but we never do these drills as conditioning. Some players may hate conditioning so we don’t want to put them in a situation where the will resist sprinting to the ball. Pursuit drills are a part of practice and will be done at the begin-

• Proceedings • 78th AFCA Convention • 2001 •

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

ning, middle or at the end of practice. The first drill we do is a called the effort and speed drill. We put six players on their stomachs facing away from the offense. Two coaches are placed on the sidelines 25 yards away. Another coach blows the whistle, the players jump up, and the coach points to the direction of a coach and the players sprint full speed past the coach. The coach may blow the whistle again and the players must reverse their field and sprint to the other coach across the field. If any coach sees any player loaf, we will bring the whole group back to get it right. Tackle Teaching tackling, as well as blocking, are the most fundamental and important areas we teach as football coaches. Woody Hayes has said that you cannot win football games unless you can block and tackle. We must also understand that we live in a litigious society and the techniques, teaching progressions, and amount of practice time given to tackling must be correct, and documented so that you and your players are free from any possible risk. Also, correctly teaching tackling will make your defense a more efficient unit. One stat I like to study after a poor defensive performance is missed tackles and yards after missed tackles. This will speak volumes about the outcome. We do a team tackling drill every day in practice. We teach the drill in no pads at slow-motion tempo. When we put on the pads we continue to go walk speed until we feel every player totally understands the

proper technique of the tackling drill. This drill is always done right after stretch and will take four minutes (All defensive coaches will do another position specific tackling drill during their individual periods). Four sets of cones are set up along a sideline. Each set must be 15 yards apart. Players are grouped into wide receivers vs. defensive backs, linebackers vs. fullbacks and tight ends, strong safeties and outside linebackers vs. runningbacks, and the defensive line works against each other (offensive line starts into their blocking progressions). The defensive player stands on the line between the cone, and the offensive player stands three yards away (Diagram 3). The ball carrier is coached to carry the ball correctly with three-point control and to run a straight line to either cone. The tackler is coached to make an angle tackle with his knees bent and eyes up. He should club up with his arms and fists, grab cloth drive his hips and run through the ball carrier. Two steps after contact he will let up and return to the end of line. Remember we walk this drill first before we go full speed.

rakes or punches the ball out after first securing the tackle. The other defensive player scoops the loose ball and sprints toward the end zone. If he cannot scoop it cleanly, he will just fall on the ball and cradle it safely. The last turnover drill we use within our circuit is the dig it out drill. We pile a bunch of blocking bags in a pile and hide a ball in the pile somewhere. Two players will crawl to the pile and dig through the bags and try to find the ball and recover it. The players have a lot of fun with this drill. Each segment of the circuit should take four minutes, so the coaches and the players must hustle to get enough reps. I am fortunate to have the best coaching staff in the state. Our offensive coaches Scott Stark, Fred Biletnikoff Jr., Steve Loop, Mike McClurg, and Aaron Ingram, and our defensive staff of Rick Scheidt, Curtis Allen, Niko Liulamaga, and Bob DeMichellie are totally committed to the success of our student-athletes. On behalf of my coaches, and Fresno City College, I thank-you for the opportunity to address the AFCA at the 2001 convention.

Diagram 3

Double-Dipping Affects July to July Contract Recommendation
Coaches who are fortunate enough to have July to July contracts, or the equivalent, as recommended by the A F C A , should not abuse the privilege when moving from one job to another by accepting salaries from two institutions during the transition.

Force Turnovers The No. 1 goal of our defense is to score. There are more ways to score on defense and in the kicking game than on offense. So we practice forcing turnovers and scoring. The best way we have found to teach forcing turnovers is through a circuit. There three drills within the circuit. The first one is the tip and interception drill. I like the defensive line coach to run this for it gives him a chance to handle the ball. There is a stationary tipper and a line of players behind him. The coach throws the ball above the head of the tipper and he tips it up. The player behind intercepts the ball at its highest point tucks it away and sprints to score. This is a rapid fire drill that is a lot of fun. The next drill is the strip and recover drill. A ball carrier jogs toward a defensive player who is about 10 yards away. Another defensive player comes from behind and

Be ethically responsible to your profession by notifying your former institution’s athletic director immediately when you are hired by another institution. Don’t jeopardize the contracts of many of your fellow coaches by being selfish.

• Proceedings • 78th AFCA Convention • 2001 •

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