Friday, July 9, 2010

Motivating the 21st Century Athlete- Dr. Jeff Duke

For this post, I'm going to take a break from X's and O's and blog about something much more meaningful and important; something that can take your X's and O's and turn them into touchdowns. Yesterday I got a chance to attend a workshop sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and run by Dr. Jeff Duke. Dr. Duke is a professor at the University of Central Florida in their "Coaching" department. Yes, you can get a degree in coaching at UCF. If that would've been around when I was in school, it wouldn't have taken me 2 years do decide what I wanted to study. He was an assistant coach for Coach Bowden at Florida State University from "the late 70's to the early 90's" and currently serves as the QB and WR coach at a school near Orlando. We were very limited on time, so we didn't get to go through the entire workshop. However, he we covered two topics that can help get your football players and team to a new level individually and collectively; improving motivation and cohesion. Before getting into that, I'm going to give a couple notes Dr. Duke cited (and backed by research) regarding the importance of coaches.

1) 71% of kids do not have both of their biological parents living at home. You, a coach, are the father figure of a lot of these young men.
2) A coach will impact more young people in one year than the average person will in a lifetime.

The Coach's Dimensional Pyramid
In the presentation linked below, you will see the 3D coaching pyramid. In this pyramid, you will see three levels: fundamentals, psychology, and heart.

Level One- Fundamentals- Almost every coach out there is has level one taken care of. Most all of us are students of the game and can handle the tactical part coaching. We can all teach kids how to be faster, stronger, better conditioned, quicker, and more fundamentally sound in technique. 100% of the coaches in this world would be considered at least a level one coach.

Level Two- Psychology- This level focuses on things such as motivation, confidence, intensity, focus, emotions, mental imagery, goal setting and team cohesion. Only 15% of coaches in the world are considered to have mastered both the fundamentals and pyschology of coaching and are level two coaches.

Level Three-Heart- This level deals with the soul and the spirit of the athlete. Only 5% of coaches are estimated to be level three coaches.

If you can get yourself to be a level three coach, here some advantages listed by Dr. Duke:
1) athletes will learn the skills more quickly because they are more attentive
2) athletes will work harder
3) quicker injury recovery
4) more adaptable to new conditions (playing on the road will affect them less)
5) they have freedom to be creative because they don't fear failure
6) deeper relationships between coach and player

You can view the entire presentation on the 3D coaching model here.

Motivation: "pursue and persist"

95% of coaches in America have that athlete that shows up late, or doesn't show up at all. Things like this are obviously motivation issues. Getting to know the athlete and the family of the athlete will kill almost all motivation problems, according to Dr. Duke. Go visit the living rooms of every one of your athletes. Find out where they live, who they live with, their parents names, brothers and sisters names, etc. After this, you will have their parents in your corner and provide that home piece that is missing in the motivational puzzle. Obviously, this isn't a guarantee that the athlete will become very motivated. However, showing them you care about them enough to get to know them and having their parents on the side of the coach can provide huge dividends.

Peer Modeling:
When athletes are taught by their peers, retention goes up a significant amount. A higher level of cognitive learning takes place. The peer that is teaching also takes ownership and pride in the athlete he is teaching "getting it". Whenever you can incorporate peer modeling into workouts, practices, and team meetings the more fun your kids will have and the more they will retain and improve.

Cohesion: "A dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to come together in pursuit of it's goal."

Individual Social- the quality of the individual members relationship within the team

Group Social- the general quality of the relationship in the group

Ways to improve cohesion:
1) give out helmet stickers for "relationship" accomplishments such as: helping a teammate with homework, giving a teammate a ride home from practice, etc.
2) the put-up game- randomly have a team member say something positive about another team member's character or personality (not athleticism). "Justin, say something you like about Chris." Repeat for as many kids as you have time for.
3) "spotlight"- After every practice one person comes to the front and everyone on the team has to say something uplifting about that person. Again, the focus should be on that person's character and heart, not on how well they play a sport.

In closing, the central message of the day was that in order for us to go from being good coaches to great coaches is that we must capture the athletes heart. We must develop relationships that go deeper than the game of football. Only when the hearts of these athletes are captured and those meaningful relationships are developed, can your teams reach their maximum potential.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Using Sprintout to Pressure the Defense

The sprintout passing game helps protect your QB and helps to put maximum pressure on the perimeter of the defense. It helps protect your QB by varying the launch points, or where he releases the football. This makes it so defenses cannot just pin their ears back and rush a certain point in the pocket where the QB throws the football. They have to be aware of these changing launch points. For more information on moving the QB launch point and pocket, check out this video from Once the contain of the defense is broken, tremendous pressure is put on the playside defenders. It does this because the defenders need to be aware of the run threat the QB is posing. This wouldn't be the case if the QB was in a traditional pocket.

Other Advantages of Sprintout:
1) provides the QB with more of a chance to make something happen when receivers are covered
2) it provides the opportunity to neutralize excellent pass rushers by sprinting away from them
3) it shortens the throw for the QB, giving the defense less chance to make a play on the ball
4) it provides natural passing lanes and increased vision for the QB

Sprint out protection:
These basic protection rules, I got from this article an article on Sprintout and Half-Roll passing from

Backside Tackle: Turn and Hinge
Backside Guard: Turn and Hinge
Center: If covered or shade to callside, reach. If uncovered with no shade to callside, turn and hinge.
(Get depth as you turn and hinge)
Playside Guard: Reach, plug hole/backside
Playside Tackle: Reach (Note: On any reach block, if you are unable to reach, ride your man out to the sideline. Don't get beat outside trying to reach hopelessly. A man pushed out of bounds and kept on the LOS is just as effective.)

RB: Take two steps to callside, looking at outside rusher. Look for OLB or outside rusher to come shooting, block first color that shows. If none show, check middle and then backside. You are the QB's bodyguard. Step to rush, do not wait for him to get to the QB.


Sprinting right from under center:
The QB's first step should be at 6 o' clock to help him gain depth, he should then take 4-6 more steps (depending on how you protect, where you contain point is, how long the routes take to develop, etc) before sticking his right foot in the ground attacking the LOS. To clarify, the QB should stick his right foot in the ground on his 5th or 7th step. I recommend placing a cone where you want the QB to stick his foot in the ground and attack the LOS. Both a left handed and right handed QB should carry the ball on his right shoulder, which is away from the defense.

Sprinting right from the gun: Instead of 5 or 7 steps, the QB should stick his foot in the ground and attack downhill on his 3rd step. The first step should still be at 6 o'clock to provide depth and maintain consistency with the under center footwork.

Sprinting left from under center: Everything remains the same as sprinting right from under center for the first 5-7 steps, except the ball should now be held on the QB's left shoulder. Like I mentioned earlier, this carries the ball away from the defense. After sticking the left foot in the ground to attack the LOS, the QB should transfer the ball to his right shoulder to a good pre-pass position.

Sprinting left from the gun: same as sprinting right, only the QB transfers the ball from his left shoulder to his right after the 3rd step.

Other coaching points on the QB:

1) Because it is natural to have a forward lean when running, the QB should fight to stay vertical from the waist up in order to support his elbow to the get to right position on the throw.
2) When the QB cannot attack the LOS because he is threatened by defenders, sticking his right foot in the ground and extending on the throw is critical

Basic Sprint Out Concepts:

Curl-Flat- the right side of the picture below demonstrates a curl-flat concept

All Curl/All Hitch

Flood- the right side of the picture below demonstrates a traditional flood concept


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quarters Coverage- What is it and what gives it fits?

Unfortunately, for offensive coaches like myself, the days of the spot dropping cover 4 are pretty much over. In it's place has come a new quarters concept, which allows for the defensive to cover less grass and more receivers. The quarters concept is based upon the safeties reading the release of the #2 receiver to their side. I would consider quarters to be part of the robber family of coverages, as the safeties are "robbing" depending on the route combo. You can read one of my earlier posts on robber coverage here. First, let's look at why defensive coaches tend to be playing more and more of this coverage.

  • It provides a 4-deep look to take away four verticals from the offense

  • Safeties can be heavily involved in the run game, providing 9 run defenders

  • There is not much adjustment to different formations and motion

  • It prevents the secondary from covering grass instead of receivers by a defender doubling another defender when his "zone" isn't threatened

  • It provides the same look pre-snap

  • It forces the offense to throw short and outside

  • Easy to get into other coverages from a similar look

In quarters, the safeties are reading the #2 reciever and reacting according to what they do. The #2 receiver can only do one of four things: block in the run game, release vertical, release inside, and release outside. Here are the general rules and reactions according to what the #2 receivers does.

  • #2 blocks in the run game- the safety to that side will fill his run fit

  • #2 release vertical (10 yards)- the safety will cover him man

  • #2 release inside- he will make an "IN" call to the LB's and help with #1 to his side

  • #2 release outside- he will double #1 inside and the OLB will cover #2 man

For diagrams of playing different concepts in quarters, visit here. Also on Chief, Washington (IL) head coach Darrell Crouch explains their quarters coverage in this video.

How to beat quarters coverage:

Quarters coverage begs offensives to throw to the flat for 5-6 yards at a time. Many, will make a cover 2 adjustment after the snap if they are getting hurt continuously with the quick game to the flat. However, speed outs, hitches, and other quick game concepts are great answers to quarters. If you're in a 3rd and medium or long, or a situation where you have to get the ball down the field there are some options.

Double moves by the outside receivers:

Because the corners have limited help in the flats, they are reading the #1 receivers for short breaking routes. This leaves them vulnerable to hitch and go and other double moves.

The "fishing" concept:

A concept created by Steve Axman, the fishing concept attempts to "bait" the safety into taking the #2 receiver on an anchor/curl route leaving a large area of field behind him uncovered. #1 runs a post, with basically man coverage. The following video isn't great because you cannot see the route development and the reaction of the secondary, but after the pass is thrown you can see the post coming very open and the safety covering the #2 receiver on an anchor route at about 12 yards.

"In and up routes":

At the 2:25 mark the Colts use an "in and up" concept to get into the end zone versus the Jets in the AFC championship game. Austin Collie, lined up as the #2 receiver releases inside and makes the top side safety think he is running a crossing route. By rule if the #2 receiver goes inside he helps with #1. Collie then turns his route vertical where the safety has vacated for a TD.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Midline Option

Wichita State in the late 1970's, was looking for an "equalizer" to help them be competitive with schools that were bigger, faster, and stronger. The staff there sat down and came up with what we know as the midline option. Of course true triple option teams such as Georgia Tech and Navy run the midline option, but it is starting to be implemented by more teams in both high school and college that would not be considered true option teams.

Advantages of the midline:

1) The tight mesh of the QB/FB serves as a means to freeze the linebackers to give the offensive linemen a half step advantage
2) Forces DTs to close one of two gaps
3) Collapses the defensive front
4) Allows option football to be ran to the short side of the field
5) Allows a dominate DT to be "read" instead of having to be blocked
6) Hits quickly
7) Minimizes chance of lost yardage play
8) Easiest of all the veer reads

How to block midline:

The following two diagrams show how midline is blocked versus a 4-2/4-4 look. For information on blocking midline versus odd fronts, visit the different links in the resources section at the bottom.

As you see in the diagram above, the QB is reading the 3 technique DT for a give or keep read. If the DT gives him a keep read, the QB will then key the SAM linebacker. He will pitch the ball to the back if the SAM closes inside.

In this diagram, the QB's pitch key has changed from the SAM linebacker to the DE. As mentioned, this scheme takes advantage of an over aggressive OLB playing the QB. The pull and pitch on this play can be very "bang, bang", so repping the pull and pitch process with your QB is vital. At the 0:10 mark, you can see Navy running this exact scheme vs. Notre Dame.

Instead of using the remaining back as a pitch guy, some prefer to lead the back up on the outside linebacker/most dangerous defender instead of pitching off of him. This turns the play from a triple option to a double option. Here is a clip from The University of Charleston where instead of using the motion back as a pitch guy, he leads up for the QB carrying the ball.

The following two videos feature Muskegon (MI) High School and their midline game out of their spread pistol formations:

Midline resources:

Hinsdale (IL) coach Mike DiMatteo explains their midline option from the gun on

Quarterback Mechanics and Mesh for Midline Option by Jerry Campbell

Flexbone Option Website Midline Presentation

Saturday, May 22, 2010

R4- The New Age of Quarterback Reads and Recognition

How often as coaches have we said or thought, "how can this be that hard"? Or, "I don't understand why he can't see that"? I believe one common mistake we make as coaches is we always assume our kids understand what we're teaching, unless they express is some way that there is confusion. I assume most of you reading this blog coach football. We eat, sleep, and breath football. We often times forget that football probably isn't near as important to the kid you're coaching as it is to you. Things aren't as simple to the kids as they are to us. Also, we as coaches don't have to worry about the physical aspect of performance. It is a lot easier to see what is going on from the sidelines or the press box when you're not the one being rushed or blitzed.

I'm going to steal the example used by QB guru Darin Slack, that compares a typical quarterback's understanding to an iceberg. What the quarterback understands is symbolized by the part of the iceberg that is above the water. Now, let's look at what you, the coach, understands. That is symbolized by the entire iceberg, both what is above and below the water. How do we get our quarterbacks to understand the entire picture, see the entire iceberg?

There are a lot of things on the quarterback's plate: receiving the playcall from the sideline, relaying the playcall to the other 10 guys, checking to make sure everyone is aligned properly, checking the front, counting the safeties, checking the corners, looking for potential blitzers, mentally reviewing his technique and read on the forthcoming play, and all of this while keeping an eye on and beating the 25 second clock. That is a checklist of 10 things a QB is responsible for...PRE-SNAP. After the snap, the job is even more difficult as he's trying to drop, go through a progression, and make the proper throw while bullets are flying all around him. Without question, quarterback is the most challenging position on the field. In my opinion, it is the most demanding position in all of sports. All of these things are on our QBs' plate, and that doesn't take into account the physical performance aspect of the position.

Football is a gray game more often than it is a game of black and white. What do I mean by that? Well, let's say you are running a typical curl- flat concept to stretch an OLB. You tell the quarterback, "if the OLB drops throw the flat, if he runs to the flat throw the curl." Here's the problem with that logic; you are assuming there are only two things the OLB can do. What if the OLB hangs in the balance between the curl and the flat? Well coached defenders are very good at slow playing their responsibilities and making a "cloudy" read for the quarterback. Also, that school of thought doesn't consider if a robber technique safety or a deep dropping inside linebacker getting in the curl window. Let's say a robber technique safety jumps the curl and makes an interception. The kid comes over to the sideline and says, "coach, you told me if the OLB jumps the flat to throw the curl." He did what you as a coach told him to do. As coaches, we sometimes are guilty of making this game black and white when it is in fact a very gray game in the eyes of our quarterback.

Quarterbacking is indeed a different animal and a position unlike any other. It only makes sense for quarterbacks to be trained unlike any other position as well. Welcome, the R4 QB Expert System. The R4 system is a product of The Darin Slack Quarterback Academy and Jenks (OK) passing game coordinator Dub Maddox. Coach Maddox describes it as a "powerful system of QB reads, recognition and decision-management. A system that accelerates passing game progressions, defender keys, and disciplined footwork in any offensive scheme." Some people make the mistake of assuming this is an offensive system. That is definitely not the case, but it is a system that can take the offensive system you already have in place to a level you hadn't seen.

Here is a trailer video from Coach Slack's website that provides an overview of what R4 is and how it can help your program achieve the goals that are set:

Brian Blevins, the head coach at Kettering Fairmont High School in Ohio talks about how the R4 has taken his quarterback and passing offense to a whole new level.

Let me say, I am writing this endorsement for the R4 system not because I'm being asked to or because I'm trying to drive business to a friend. I wrote this because I believe in the system and believe it will help your quarterback reach a level of play he's never been to before. You can purchase the 3 DVD set R4 QB Expert System here and start training your quarterbacks on their reads and recognition in a new and effective way.

As always, check out Chief for lots of great videos and articles that will help improve your program.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dissecting the Inside Zone Read and Inside Veer

When some people hear the terms "zone read" the term "innovative" may come to mind. When some hear the terms "inside veer" they may think "archaic" or "outdated". However, when dissecting these two plays, they are very similar and even blocked exactly the same way in some instances.

Nevada, #1 rushing team in the FBS last year makes it's living off of the inside zone read. While Georgia Tech, the 2nd ranked rushing team in the FBS made a good chunk of its yardage off of inside veer. When breaking down these plays, they seem more like identical twin brothers than an than products of different generations. The inside veer has made a comeback in college football, as many spread teams are using variations of it to create a numbers and angles advantage for their offense. Both the inside zone read and inside veer feature one or two guys being "optioned", combo blocks, and both number and angle advantages at the point of attack.

The play in the following video shows Nevada's patented inside zone read out of the pistol. Missouri is playing what looks to be a shade nose or 1-tech and a 5-tech on the left side. The guard and center will combo the A-gap defender up to the backside linebacker and the tackle will release to the MIKE linebacker. Nevada gains an extra blocker on the perimeter by bringing the wing around to block the OLB in case of a pull read by the QB. You'll notice the DE closes on the dive like most coaches will teach in defending option football. The QB pulls the ball and is out on the perimeter, with a 1 to 1 blocker to defender ratio.

In this clip, you see the inside zone read ran to the side of the 3-tech and 5-tech. The guard and tackle work a combo block, to get the 3-tech sealed and the guard releases on an inside track to the MIKE linebacker. Again, the DE takes his dive responsibility and Nevada is out on the perimeter with good numbers.

Now, let's take a look at one of the staple plays in Paul Johnson's flexbone repertoire, the inside veer. On the left side, Georgia appears to be playing a 3-tech and a 7-tech. Much like the second clip of Nevada's inside zone, you'll see a combo working from the 3-tech up to the MIKE linebacker. The DE is of course the man being optioned, just like in the inside zone read.

In the following clip, Georgia lines up with what looks like a head up zero technique. The center scoops the nose and the guard and tackle release up the field to the play side linebacker.

In this last clip, inside veer is ran to the 1-tech and the 5-tech. Just like in the first clip of Nevada's inside zone read, the guard will combo with the center on the 1-tech and work to the backside linebacker. The playside tackle releases to the OLB.

As you can see, the plays are blocked nearly identical at the point of attack, but differ depending on where the combos are taking place.

For insightful video on inside zone schemes, check out this
video and others at

For more information on installing inside veer as a part of your offense, check out the following sites:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Getting The Ball To Your Playmakers On The Perimeter- Part 3- The Fly Sweep

In the last part of this series, we will look at the fly/jet sweep as a way of getting the ball in the hands of your playmakers. This concept uses the lateral motion rule to it's advantage in getting the ball to a player who already has momentum built up. The fly sweep is a concept that seems to be catching on at all levels, from youth football all the way up to the NFL. It's a simple means of getting the football to the perimeter of the defense to one of your best players. I could spend several posts talking about all the different way to run this play, but it is just my intent to provide you with a basic overview and provide some resources/video to learn more about the play.

When to run the fly sweep:

Like the bubble and tunnel screen, the fly sweep is a simple and sure fire way to get the football to a guy in space that can make something happen. Also, if you're hurting a team with your base run scheme between the tackles, most likely they will adjust to that by doing something such as pinching their DEs to take away the b-gap run game, etc. Running the fly sweep is a great way to take them out of that scenario and loosen up the core of the defense. Obviously, we want at least a stalemate or a man advantage when it comes to blockers vs. defenders on the perimeter.


When the fly sweep was first introduced, it seemed to be strictly an outside zone/reach scheme on the offensive line. However, since it's become popular, many have played with the blocking schemes to fit their offensive philosophy and scheme. For example, Bryon Hamilton at Foothill High School in California runs what he calls the "Shotgun Zone Fly Sweep"; which he created to fit how he wanted to block the fly sweep. It features a combination of both man and zone schemes. Coach Hamilton has based his entire offense around the fly sweep, and you can read more about it here. Below, I've provided some video to show you some different ways in which the fly sweep is blocked.

In the following two clips, Oregon is running what appears to be counter trey and inside zone away from the fly sweep and reading the DE on whether to give to the sweeper or have the QB keep the ball and run the counter or zone.

The University of Charleston, uses what appears to be a reach and overtake scheme towards the fly sweep. For a great drill to teach reach blocking, check out this video from

The following clip is a digital playbook from East Valley High School, created by coach Ayinde Bomani; which shows in detail how they block their fly sweep. They choose to block it using what appears to be outside zone rules.

Further reading/resources on the fly/jet sweep: Jets and Rockets Playbook