Smart Notes – zone runs, slot coverage, goal-line defense – 8/8/2011

Zone runs, from Coach Roth:

The basic tenants of zone blocking are these: 1) Each offensive lineman is responsible for the playside zone 2) The defense moves, so how do counter act that? 3) We have five offensive lineman, it is therefore our job to block five defenders.

Each player will step to the left and block a player with in that zone. So what about rules? Most (if not all) O-line coaches will go on and on about rules. I, however, prefer to think of it as a framework, more like an “If, Than,” statement. I want my players to have freedom, with in that framework, to figure out how best to accomplish the result I desire.. For us, that process will start with a question: “Am I covered by a defender, or am I uncovered by a defender?”

Saban-speak on covering the slot, from Brophy:

With two receivers split from the formation (slot) you end up with a 3-on-2 advantage for the defense. As we covered before, there is a variety of ways to handle this. In attempt to tackle two things at once, we’ll cover these concepts using Saban-speak (out of Nick Saban’s playbooks). It should be noted that Saban’s “system” is extremely concise, flexible, and modular (in its application). What comes with those benefits is a dictionary full of terminology to communicate every conceivable action and response on the field. We’ll use his method as a way to keep a central thematic framework, but these concepts are relative to what everyone else does (so don’t get hung up on the verbiage).
FIST

The first is basic Cover 3 Sky (“Fist”) with what amounts to be the old “country cover 3”. Fist brings the overhang player down outside of #2 receiver serving as primary force. This defender will drop into the seam and not carry any route by #2 deeper than 12 yards and jump the first receiver to the flat. The corner would play all of #1 receiver vertical (or #2) out and up. The free safety would play middle of the field to the #2 receiver. Because these two receivers are handled by these three players, additional receivers (releasing back) would be immediately jumped by the next linebacker inside (Will) unless #1 or #2 released inside.

Examples of matching in Fist

      

The Peter Principle, from Coach Hoover:
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Smart Notes – Tressel, Triple Inside Fire Zones – 3/15/2011

I’m generally not a fan of sentencing guidelines, but the Jim Tressel, Cam Newton, and other stories indicate to me that some kind of guidelines would be helpful, even if they were entirely advisory. The upshot of what I mean is that it’d be nice if we, as the football populace, knew that if you violated rule or bylaw X or Y, your potential punishment range was between A and B, to be meted out by some NCAA enforcement body. Maybe there is more of this than I’ve noticed, but it all strikes me as so subjective. Pundits whinge and hand-wring, but their postulations are as arbitrary as the ones actually handed down. That said, I don’t want it to be completely rigid — that’s why I said there should be a range and the guidelines should be advisory, to be deviated from in appropriate cases. To do this properly would require the NCAA to research past sentences and to think hard about what punishments should be and to publish those findings. The incentive for such action has to be there now, however, with all these high profile enforcement cases.

Bracket coverage. Runcodhit on bracket coverage.

Understanding the vertical pass set. The most important pass protection technique in football right now (either to use or at least understand), this is a solid primer:

Vertical setting is essentially the OL equivalent of a backpedal.
We retreat backwards away from the LOS , looking for all 5 OL to remain on the same vertical plane. The OL steps should go:

Inside – Out – Inside – Out

basically we always step with the inside foot first, and then the outside foot. for all 90s protection we take 4 steps back before dropping we “Anchor”. Many teams only use this protection but I still use a separate 60s protection, that is the same thing but for 2 steps.

Triple inside fire zone. I have previously discussed Dom Capers’ and Dick LeBeau’s use of the triple inside fire zone, and Coach Hoover has expanded on the topic, and has included some nasty footage here:

The labor dispute: a legal roadmap. Good piece from Michael McCann on SI.com.

Administrative Note: I’ve upgraded the comment system using the Disqus system. Please let me know if there are any problems or issues. I’ve tried to port over all the old comments — it seems to have worked on some subset of old posts but not all of them. Hopefully this comment system will be a little more conducive to discussion. The strength of the readership (from coaches and players to intelligent fans who bring expertise from other backgrounds to football) is one of the best parts of this site, and I thought the old comment system wasn’t interactive or attractive enough. Hopefully I can do a good job providing thought provoking posts to spark discussion.

Smart Notes – Trick passes, Rich Rodriguez, Emory Bellard- 2/12/2011

This has already gone everywhere:

There are two lessons to this: (1) this kind of trickery doesn’t always translate well to actual playing time, and obviously playing quarterback requires a lot of skills beyond this sort of thing and (2) this is still great stuff, but, related to (1), the football being an extension of you is merely necessary rather than sufficient to be a great quarterback. You can see this latter point in basketball: if you ever visit an NBA or even college practice, you can see the players doing unreal things with the ball, but in a game, with the pressure on and defense, it’s much more difficult. That said, you can also take the lesson that it takes more than being able to throw a couple of nice passes in backyard football (or to hit a few shots at the local gym) to be great. The real thing is always harder than it looks.

Emory Bellard has passed away. Bellard, father of the wishbone (he wanted to call it the “Y” offense), was the original from-high-school-to-the-big-leagues-with-a-wacky-offense guy:

Bellard was on Darrell Royal’s staff at Texas in 1968 when the Longhorns developed a formation with three running backs that came to be known as the wishbone.

He coached at Texas high schools for more than two decades and won three state titles. His success landed him on the Texas staff, and while other assistants relaxed during the summer before the 1968 season, Bellard was busy trying to figure out a way to utilize a strong group of running backs after Texas endured three straight mediocre seasons. (more…)

Smart Notes – Learning defensive coverages, Bear Bryant’s 1958 D playbook – 8/8/2010

Via Ron Jenkins, learning defensive coverages:

Because I can. Check out Bear Bryant’s 1958 Alabama playbook. Note that playbook designing technology did not advance beyond this pen and typewriter method until apparently around 2006.

Good morning, Dave. Buckeye Football Analysis breaks down Tressel’s favorite play — the “Dave” play, which is what he calls his variation of the “Power O” which he has been running since at least his Youngstown State days. Well worth the read.

The most important thing a college football fan can read: This fall’s ESPN announcer pairings, complete with commentary from EDSBS.

Watch Mark Sanchez make figure eights. This kind of drill reinforces my advice to all young quarterbacks: jump rope.

Good article from Billy Witz of the Times about Dick Enberg. Enberg has gone back to doing play-by-play for the San Diego padres:

But the reason Enberg was here became apparent on a recent afternoon as he entered his small office at Petco Park, arriving four and a half hours before the first pitch with a news release in his hand describing the Padres’ trade-deadline deal for St. Louis outfielder Ryan Ludwick.

Picking out pertinent statistics, Enberg fretted that he did not know much about the prospects San Diego had dealt, but he said that he liked the gumption the Padres, the surprise leaders of the National League West, had to acquire Miguel Tejada the day before.

“We’re getting serious,” Enberg said seriously. It was clear, at that moment and for the rest of the night, that baseball stirred him.

- How badly do you love football? If you’d be happy playing through this, then you probably qualify.

Study on NFL field goal “choking.” From the Sabermetric Research Blog: Upshot is that a study found evidence of choking, but it’s also possible that there are other conclusions to draw regarding difficulty rather than pure mental breakdowns.

Football Outsiders on Rookie Cap Salary Considerations (say that three-times fast). Check it out here. Learn all about the 25-percent rule.

Bleg. In the comments, please feel free to request topics for future coverage on the blog. I’ve got some projects I’m working on but I am always looking for new ideas.

Smart Links – Nick Saban breaking down film – 8/4/2010

The modern maestro of defense, Nick Saban, lectures crane-necking coaches on how he prepared for the BCS Title game against Texas (h/t to reader Alex Bruchac):

Shocking commentary on how to be an offensive genius, by Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo:

A year of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno followed by a season without them will make you realize things. “I think I have learned, too, you have to have good players,” he said. “I think good players help you win football games.”

“But coach, I need a run up!” Article on dealing with players from the British American Football Coaching Association, i.e. the association for people who play real football in England. The site is worth a visit, as you don’t always see football coaches on this side of the Atlantic poppin’ their collars:

poppin

Eleven Warriors has a nice breakdown of some expansion answers from the Big Ten media days.

Expanded Season Revenue: The NFL’s real math problem, from Tom Gower. An excerpt:

[H]ow much more would the NFL make if the regular season was expanded to 18 games and the preseason was cut to 2 games? . . .

Why is Roger Goodell advocating for the players to play less and make less money per-game? Doesn’t he know that the NFL won’t really make that much extra money from moving to an 18-game season? The question to that is almost certainly yes, so why does he do this?

[T]here really is a level of popular discontent over the 4-game preseason, especially from media people and season ticket holders who feel like they’re getting screwed. These people, especially the latter, are probably wrong. . . . Proposing an expanded regular season allows Roger Rex to make nice with these people.

. . . . I don’t think the NFL is, or at least should be, particularly serious about the 18-game season. If my numbers are close to right, it doesn’t make anywhere near as much money as you’d expect from a basic 16 to 18 game comparison, and the players really don’t like it. It is, instead, primarily a negotiating tactic and media ploy, and should and will be dropped when the labor negotiations get serious.

If Sam Bradford is worth 50 million guaranteed, what is Tom Brady worth? From the Pro-Football Reference Blog.

I’m not a big Fantasy Football guy, but if you read one thing read “Fantasy Drafting: How to Maximize Value by Position and by Round,” by Chase Stuart.

The Itch of Curiosity, from Jonah Lehrer’s new digs at Wired:

Because curiosity is ultimately an emotion, an inexplicable itch telling us to keep on looking for the answer, it can take advantage of all the evolutionary engineering that went into our dopaminergic midbrain. (Natural selection had already invented an effective motivational system.) When Einstein was curious about the bending of space-time, he wasn’t relying on some newfangled circuitry. Instead, he was using the same basic neural system as a rat in a maze, looking for a pellet of food.

Defensive back fundamentals, from Brophy. One of my favorite things about Brophy is he is a big believer in “show, don’t tell.” Watch the clips already.

– Finally, below the jump a great catch by Arizona State’s Kerry Taylor. Make sure to watch the full video (h/t Offensive Musings blog). Also, it’s a great example of a “sluggo” route:

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Smart Links and Notes 5/24/2010

Apologies to all for not posting much recently — the usual confluence of other commitments intervened, as did several commitments to write for Maple Street Press publications. Those are (mostly) done, and I have a variety of ideas for the site, and I hope to write those up and get them on the site. But for now, linkage:

Two very important posts on fourth downs. First, the Mathlete’s breakdown (available at mgoblog) of fourth down decision making is worth it for the graphs alone (see below). Also Brian at Advanced NFL Stats reposts his powerpoints about when to go for it on fourth down.

Fourth down decisionmaking chart

NFL players channel MC Hammer. I may have previously linked to this, but I recently stumbled on it again. It remains shocking:

The 78 percent number (i.e., 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement) is buoyed by the fact that the average NFL career lasts just three years. So, figure a player gets drafted in 2009, signs for the minimum and lasts three years in the league: He will have earned about $1.2 million in salary. Factor in taxes, cost of living and the misguided belief that there will be more years and bigger paydays down the road, and it becomes a lot easier to see how so many players struggle with money after their careers end.

Runningback by committee? TheDoc notes the apparent end of Southern Cal’s “runningback by committee” system. He quotes Lane Kiffin saying:

“We would rather not be in a big committee thing,” Kiffin said. “As a running back, you get better throughout the game because you get used to what’s going on, how is the defense playing, are we able to get the backside cuts, how are the D-tackles playing the different blocks.

“You have to get a rhythm, and so I would rather find one or two guys. So that’s our job, to figure out this fall who are those guys going to be.”

I don’t really agree; I’ve always been fine with the runningback by committee (though, admittedly, I was never a runningback forced to play in such a committee). I think different backs have different talents; wear and tear on backs adds up; I don’t believe there’s much evidence proving that runningbacks actually “improve as the game goes on” (though I’d love to see contrary evidence); and you don’t hear much complaining about a “committee approach” to rotations at other positions, especially defensive line. Moreover, I think freshness is underrated, but, in the end, at long as the backs are close in talent I don’t think it makes much of a difference (except to the players, as in a single-starter system one will reap all the benefits while the others will be relegated to back-up status). Finally, as evidenced by this post from the Mathlete, not having a returning starter at runningback doesn’t seem to hurt your chances of success at all, thus one can fairly say that, holding talent equal, the difference between using one back or another is small (though that comparison is a bit of apples to oranges).

The Wolfpistols. Holly previews the Nevada Wolfpack over at Dr Saturday.

High school athletes and concussions. From the NY Times.

- Do you know who the all-time leaders in receiving yards per game are? From the Pro-Football reference blog.

Charles Goodell: Senator, opponent of Vietnam, father to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The worst run defenses in NFL history, by the numbers.

Why do colleges have football teams? This debate rages, but I’m still waiting for hard evidence of the good (or bad) reasons for it. One view: “The evidence is mixed, but some papers find a connection between athletic achievement and student quality, or athletic achievement and alumni donations. I suspect the donor connection is the key, but we also must ask what exactly colleges and universities seek to maximize.” I suppose, having already graduated, I shouldn’t really care anymore because, even if it is bad business or scholastics (not saying that is so), I enjoy football (obviously) and get to be a free rider on whomever is paying for the team, like fans, students (many universities now require students to automatically buy in to a ticket program), donors, etc.

On those awful advertisements for colleges played unnecessarily though out football broadcasts: “If you like our football team, you’ll love our chem labs full of Asian students.”

- Is watching football worthwhile? You know, metaphysically speaking: “Dissatisfied with the academy’s somewhat elitist dismissal of sport as just another capitalist banality, Gumbrecht wants to argue that there is more to the roar of the crowd than mere tribalism. To Gumbrecht, the current mass appeal of sports represents more than the manipulation of the masses by advertising corporates. There is something almost transcendental about sport; some aesthetic quality that unites us with the Greeks, the Romans, even with the gods themselves as we admire the movement of a body, or revel in the million to one victory.” Plus, you know, you get to watch people get hit.

How QB-like does Michigan’s Denard Robinson look to you? I, like many, think that for Michigan’s offense to score like Rodriguez wants it to against in-conference foes it will have to be Denard Robinson that becomes a real quarterback. So, behold, every snap of his from Michigan’s spring game. Is he there yet? I’m not sure, though I did like the pass off the bootleg action from the under-center I at around the .40 second mark — turned his shoulders nicely on that one. (H/t mgoblog.)

Football and religion: Is the hand of God evident in a well designed screen pass?

Smart Notes 3/9/2010

The Tao of Christian Okoye:

(H/t Clay Travis).

2. Talking 3-4. It seems the big trend this year is for teams to move to a 3-4 style defense, and Texas A&M is no different. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, most recently of Air Force, talked some shop:

Q: What’s going to be difficult about the transition from A&M’s defensive scheme last year to your 3-4?

TD: They did some of that stuff last year, they ran little bit of a 3-3 package, so the transition that way helps a little bit. Our [run] fits are going to be a little bit different, but the fact that they ran some four-man and some three-man fronts helps in the big picture. Our terminology is going to be different, so they’ve got to learn a new language. But the fact that they played some quarters last year is also going to help us. Those things, when you talk about the transition, we’re not starting from ground zero. It’s a chance to kind of build on what they did before, and it doesn’t have to be a wholesale change.

DU: Back to Von for a bit. What were your early impressions of him once you saw him up close?

Q: So how does [Von Miller] fit into your system?

TD: We’re going to use him in a couple of different ways. He’s going to play what we call a Joker position, which is an outside linebacker who does a couple different things. He’s going to be a guy who’s in the rush at times, and then drop [into coverage] at times. We’re going to put a lot on his plate and see if he can handle it, which I’m sure he’ll be able to. He’s a very sharp young man, and again, I think, hopefully he’ll give us a chance to play multiple fronts with some of the personnel that could give people problems.

If I had to pick one trend right now, it would be teams trying to find a player they can use in ways similar to the “Joker” position DeRuyter described above, as a guy who is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. The reason this is so useful is that you can basically play entirely different defenses — or at least give very different looks — using the same personnel. And when he discusses “fits” or “run fits,” he is referring to the gaps and responsibilities defensive players have on run plays.

3. Jim Tressel does interview with LGBT magazine. This is last week’s news, but is still worth mentioning. (H/t EDSBS.) People have emphasized several quotes (available here), but I thought this one in particularly was wise, as it obliquely hinted at the pressures on an athletes to understand themselves in a world where everyone defines them early based on their talents:

“What we have, quite often, with our athletes, and with a number of young people in any sport, is that from the time they were 6 or 7 years old, their identity has been through sports. You’re the tallest, you’re the fastest, you’re the best player. All their feedback has come in terms of their role as a player, and they are often hesitant to go beyond that narrow role. … The greatest achievement we can have as coaches is that a young man leaves us with a concept of who he is, what he wants from life, and what he can share with others — someone who is ‘comfortable in his own skin,’ and that identity can go in a number of directions.”

In typical Tressel style, he is speaking in somewhat fuzzy abstractions, but here that’s okay. Indeed, it reminds me of the Myron Rolle issue, where in many cases it is simply not okay to be both a football player and anything else.

4. Okay, Coach. Mike Leach is set to be deposed Friday. I haven’t said much on this, because (a) I don’t know anything non-public, and (b) I’m a little worried about the direction it will go. Leach is clearly upset, and I think it’s also clear that Texas Tech used the situation and the James family to give him the heave-ho. I don’t know whether that constitutes a violation of his contract or anything else, though the most likely result will be a settlement. But this kind of thing has to make you wonder (h/t Blutarsky):

Meanwhile, Leach’s attorneys have subpoenaed documents from Frenship Independent School District. They are seeking any correspondence between F.I.S.D. and Texas Tech University and/or Tech’s new head football coach, Tommy Tuberville. Court documents imply that Leach’s legal team is especially interested in any conversations about enrolling members of the Tuberville family in the school district.

Obviously they want to know if Tuberville’s family moved in before he was officially fired, as that could show all manner of bad faith on behalf of Texas Tech. But I’d be surprised if they did find anything. I think it was pretty clear that Texas Tech took the approach to Leach that Leach so often used on opposing defenses: shoot first (i.e. “fire” away), and ask questions later.

5. Goodbye, Donald; Hello, Oregon. Disney has relinquished its hold over Oregon’s mascot after sixty-years: (more…)

Smart Links 3/8/2010

Is home court advantage really about the ball? This article is about basketball, but I think it is an underrated element in football games, though many times the team on offense gets to use their own ball.

2. Brian Burke is not impressed by Bill Polian.

3. What components of a QB’s passer rating are most important for winning? Interceptions play an interesting role here, with there being evidence of it being possible to throw too many interceptions (obviously) and too few (by being too passive, and thus costing your team expected points and the game).

4. Bill Connelly on recruiting success breeding recruiting success.

5. The trouble with web traffic numbers. Also see the print WSJ, Slate, and Yahoo.

6.  What are NFL teams worth?

7.  Dynamic ticket pricing and sabermetrician salaries.

8. Should the Senate abolish the filibuster? Key quote: “There is no pressure in the Senate itself to abolish the filibuster. The reason is that it benefits all Senators, not just those who expect to be in a minority, because it arms every Senator to demand concessions in exchange for voting for cloture.”

9. Five tips for writing non-fiction. I tend to agree with — and simultaneously to be bad at — generally all of these.

10. Georgia’s new DC talks defense. (H/t Blutarsky.)

This irritates me

Most of you know of Myron Rolle, the former FSU safety turned Rhodes Scholar who is now waiting to see where he will be drafted. As I’ve discussed previously, I’m a big fan of Rolle’s and I think he’s an incredible model for younger players, and, while it’s difficult to judge someone’s athletic ability to play in the pros, I have no doubts that his character and background are assets. People in the NFL, however, seem to disagree:

Welcome to proof of the NFL adage: You want players to be smart, just not too smart. Rolle is an example of a gifted, driven, accomplished young man. He’s a guy who could survive and thrive without playing mankind’s version of demolition derby.

Rolle is a man with options and that makes NFL types, some of whom would be teaching P.E. in high school if not for the pro game, very uneasy.

“We’ll have to find out how committed he is,” an NFC assistant coach said, echoing the sentiment of five other NFL types leading up to this weekend’s scouting combine. “Committed” is a euphemism for desire, care, passion and whatever other combination of emotions goes into wanting to play football enough to make it a career.

Trainer Tom Shaw, who has worked with Rolle for the past year, understands the process very well. Having trained the likes of Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and Deion Sanders, a total of 118 former first-round picks and nine straight Super Bowl Most Valuable Players before this year, Shaw hears the criticism and shakes his head.

“I hear all the negative things that he has too many things going on in his life,” Shaw said. “But if [the NFL] is saying that Myron Rolle is a bad example, that’s a joke. … Myron is what you want all these kids to be. Every one of these kids should want to be Myron Rolle. . . .

. . . During a 45-minute interview before the Senior Bowl in January with seven members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff, including head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik, one member of the staff asked Rolle what it felt like to desert his team this season.

“I hadn’t heard that one before,” said Rolle, who pauses ever so slightly before answering to consider his thoughts. “My initial reaction was a bit of confusion. It never was anger, but I was more bothered by the question because if anyone knew my involvement with my teammates, how much they care about me and how much I care about them.”

My initial reaction to this — which might be unfair — is that asking Rolle about “deserting” his teammates is something only someone who could not comprehend the significance of a Rhodes Scholarship would do. Small minded, in other words. But maybe it’s a fair question: the NFL is not looking for men of character and robust interests to staff a consulting firm or business or whatever else, but is instead looking for man-machines who will obey orders and sacrifice their bodies for the paycheck and the glory; someone with other options might not think it was such a great bargain.

So what’s the answer? Is the NFL insular and closed minded, or are they just coldly looking out for their interests, or both?

Give that man a scholarship (just not a football one)

One of the top incoming recruits this fall for Nebraska:

And by “incoming recruit” I mean he’s the video coordinator.