The top ways to “hard core” get better as a football coaching staff
I started off this piece with a quote I blurted out in 2007 to a head high school coach while I observed his team’s practice. I distinctly remember everything about our exchange that day because it was the first time I had been exposed to a staff employing an offensive football system that they annually paid for. It was distinct and memorable because I was shocked. The coach was a student of the game, and an up and coming star in the business. He later went on to win a state championship (still using the system) at the highest level in his football crazed southern state.
The things he impressed upon me that day as a rebuttal to my knee jerk statement, in part, lead to these reasons for investing in a Football System for a coaching staff. Our conversation also impressed upon me, the things that did not work for the coach in terms of employing and teaching a staff a sound offensive system
I was shocked anyone would pay for an offense
the top 5 ways to NOT get better as a coaching staff this off-season
WHAT WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR STAFF
(when deciding on a system)
1. Do you really want to improve, or do you just want your “ear tickled”?
“Mega clinics” are good if you already have a masters degree in the subject/topic being taught by the clinician. However, if you and your staff are looking to install a new scheme, you’ll learn just enough to get your butt beat in the fall by listening to an expert in a 2-3 hour clinic format. Quite simply, there’s not enough time for even the best teacher to provide you enough content to install a new scheme.
2. In this case, stories do not sale
There is an old saying in sales, “Facts tell, and stories sale”. That saying does not apply when wanting to become an expert in football in your chosen scheme. Podcasts, for example, are a new phenomenon in long form interviews. They are beginning to capture the free time of many football coaches. However, most coaches learn visually. A story can entertain, but seeing the film and the schematic diagrams create the best in football learning. If you’re “old school” this applies to 99% of coaching books too. These mediums (podcasts and books) should be used as a supplement to your scheme, not as a means to become an expert in your scheme.
3. It’s not, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, AKA: “Beware of Clinic-talk guy”.
Here’s another an old adage that you can stand on (Old adages are old because they’ve stood the test of time).
-- “Don’t tell me show me”.
Do not trust a coach, no matter how well meaning, that quotes what others do, and that only shows diagrams. The best coaching resume is in the film he shows. I don’t respect a coach that tells me all about a scheme and a technique that he can’t back up with his own team’s film.
4. It’s not Friend Business, it’s Show Business
An old coaching friend used to tell me “A hunter is judged by the pelts on his wall.” In football I’m not necessarily talking about rings and championships, our game has to be evaluated by all things contextual (examples: how good was the defense and how tough was the schedule). If you are going to learn from an offensive coach, ask yourself these questions before preceding:
5. Will they be there for you?
Let’s say you’ve spent three days with another staff, and you and your staff have immersed yourselves in their scheme. Now you go home, and the inevitable comes up, “Now what?”. Questions should and will arise.
A coaching staff that is truly trying to get better and implement a new scheme is going to have more questions than answers. If you and your staff invest in a way to learn a system, then there better be a way to get answers, and get them fast. If that’s not the case, then you probably are spending your time in the wrong place.
the top 5 ways to get better as a coaching staff this off-season
WHAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR STAFF
(when deciding on a system)
1. Are we apples to apples here?
The superior approach is to learn and study from your team’s peer group of coaches. Specifically from coaches that are facing the same problems you are. 99% of the coaches reading this can far better appreciate the problems a high school coach goes through than what Nick Saban and Alabama goes through. I argue that in football more true learning and implementation is flowing up from high school to college, rather than from a D1 program down to a high school or small college program.
2. How long does this last?
The items on the following list are considered one time resources, as opposed to a living long term resource:
If your source for staff betterment consists of one-time resources then you’re not getting the most for your staff.
Going back to the point above that asks, “Will they be there for you?” The answer in terms of the one time resource is NO. The counter to this lies in a one year subscription. Why? It forces the provider to improve, and constantly add. Bottom line, the subscription provider is going to answer when you need the question answered.
3. Value as opposed to cost
Definitively cost vs. value can be defined as: Cost is the amount incurred in the production of goods, i.e., it is the money value of the resources involved in producing something. Conversely, value implies the utility of worth of the commodity of service for an individual.
When determining the question, “Why in the hell would I pay for that?”, ask yourself and the staff:
“Does this system provide us, as a staff, the resources to better ourselves and provide us the value to help our team win more games?”
And, it’s well to remember, free does not equate to better. “Free” usually ends up one of two ways:
4. I’ve only got one assistant in the building
The coach I spoke with in 2007 utilized this point as his main emphasis in investing in a system. He argued, “If the majority of my staff members work outside the school building (they have professions other than coaching and teaching), then how am I to assume they are partaking in professional development to better themselves when it comes to an offensive or defensive scheme?”
Clinics, books, courses, and webinars will barely scratch the surface. Invest in something that is on-going and deep when determining how a staff will improve itself.
5. Check the boxes
If a staff truly wants to immerse themselves in a new/better system, then make sure you are receiving the best by checking all the boxes:
Is your staff interested in a system?
[Full disclosure: As the author of this post I must also confess I am co-founder of The Surface to Air System, an offensive consulting service] But what I have laid out is the truth when a staff truly decides it wants to take the next step in immersing themselves in a learning system.
Interested? Want more? Is there a trial period?
not sure? Here are some myths/Facts about joining our system
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The Game Practice System (GPS) has sparked a lot of questions. From time to time we will share our answers to better help coaches implement segments of this new way to practice.
From a Defensive Coordinator in Tennessee:
I don't see how the defense prepares for a split back veer team one week, a flex bone the next, and a wing t team the next. Do you have a separate practice plan for defense?
Currently, we do not have defensive schedules made for sharing. We created the book and its main tenants for our team(s) and primarily for our offensive system (S2A). If you employ a 2 platoon personnel team it's simple because the defense is doing their own thing while the Offense is doing theirs. If you are 1 platoon (majority of your squad going both ways) then it's tougher because in our view (and stated in the book) you must practice all 3 phases of the game everyday.
We feel the role of a HS defensive coordinator is the toughest job in all of football because of what you've brought up with preparation against Wing-T, split back veer, and flex bone, etc. No one at any level, other than HS, faces that variety - Belichick would struggle in HS.
With all that being said, lets be specific in terms of how a DC in HS would implement GPS (assuming you're a 1 platoon team)
First, and please note from the book, we utilize all 4 days (Monday-Thursday) in terms of full GPS practices. That means Team (11-11 Situations) is practiced for 12 five minute periods throughout the 4 day week (6 for Offense and 6 for Defense). So, if a 4 day week is utilized, you are stealing time for every facet of your prep. We feel many coaches make Thursdays an off day (walk-through). Science is proving that athletes need neuromuscular stimulation closer to game time, not the opposite.
Look at a Monday schedule (offensive emphasis - GPS) for a 1 platoon team.
Notice the O or D in front of Shells, Inside, S27, and 11-11 (O = offensive emphasis and D = defensive emphasis). As the DC you may structure your periods (D) how you like in order to see what you need. However, we argue that scout cards shouldn't be utilized until 11-11 (team). We feel players get better by competing and reacting to good competition, not necessarily to a poor scout team trying to simulate an offense they can't duplicate.
Walks (walkthroughs before practice): We feel we didn't make ample room in the book for emphasizing Defensive Walks. Walks is the time BEFORE practice that allows for teaching a concept in a slower paced environment. Because GPS is a shorter and more intense style of practice (12 five min. periods), time can be stolen (added) in walks - 10/15 min offense, and 10/15 min. defense. During this time a lot of Defensive concepts can be taught vs. a scout offense that won't look like a rugby scrum (as does happen a lot in scout team for defensive emphasis).
Now let's look at Day 2 for 1 platoon with D emphasis - NOTE typo (1) is supposed to be (2)
As you can see, the D and O flops to create more time for the Defense.
Again, it's our philosophy in S2A GPS that players get better by simulating things and competing at game speed. We feel a defensive player will get better if he's coached hard in Shells, Inside, and S27 REGARDLESS of the scheme he's defending. Stance, Alignment, General assignment responsibility (deep 1/3, C gap, force/contain), Read keys, and 1st steps transcend the offensive scheme being defensed.
It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, these periods for defensive players (regardless of O or D emphasis) should always be coached with a keen eye for pursuit, effort, proper block destruction, and overall defensive pride. If a coach and a player enters Shells, Inside, S27, and 11-11 with these thoughts then they will improve on a daily basis regardless of what scheme they have to face.
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“I never devise a drill to suit every skill in my position group. That drill doesn't exist. The best player doesn't need what the worst player can't do, and the worst player can't do what comes naturally to the best player” —Unknown Coach*
*The Unknown Coach quotes come from an amalgamation of coaching statements collected by the authors over several years about drills in the game of football.
Shifting the Paradigm Away from Traditional Drills
Drills, Drills, Drills. At Surface to Air System we felt we might stand alone, in our view of drills, from that of the popular crowd. A question as old as time in coaching has always been: "You got a drill for that?" Our answer, "not really", so instead of going to find one, or making one up, we decided to write a book about it.
Go to our website page S27 to learn more on GPS
We don't agree with everything LeCharles Bentley espouses about coaching, but we do know he's an authority within his craft. His takes are intelligent and thought out, so we felt we would share his provocative thoughts on drills.
Below is an excellent article by LeCharles Bentley of Offensive Line Performance (OLP)
- @OLPerformance on twitter - on drills in the game of football, particularly for the position of offensive line.
Link HERE to OLP Article
Video clip from the OLP Lounge:
...aND SOMETIMES WE DON'T EVEN DO IT
A GLIMPSE INSIDE GAME PRACTICE SYSTEM (GPS)
AN INNOVATIVE RESTRUCTURING OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL PRACTICES
CHAPTER FOUR: INDY/OPPS
“Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject.”
The term Indy/Ops, its concept, and where it occurs in the practice model (much like the rest of GPS) is unique.
To clarify, Indy is short for individual period, and Ops is short for opportunity.
In GPS an individual period for 1 on 1’s, or the small group teaching of fundamentals and skills is placed at the end of practice . We feel, and the data supports it, that an isolated teaching of a skill better fits when it is taught from a whole game-like scenario - as in Shells. However, there will be times where a player is not “mastering” the needed skill to operate within a full team concept. This is where Indy/Opps comes into the S2A GPS. Traditionally, football practices have placed concentrated individual time at the front of a full practice, The GPS method places it at the end of a practice.
The rationale behind an end of practice Indy/Opps
Part of the GPS method of practice comes from an educational theory, called Mastery. In part, “Mastery” contends that a student is given a concept to understand and apply, then the student is tested and evaluated for mastery of that concept. The law of averages says that a large segment of the students will indeed master the age/level appropriate concept and graduate to the next level and/or task. However, a certain portion of the group of students will not achieve mastery and thus are placed behind the others. This is where reteaching and reassessing of the concept takes place. In the GPS method of football practice, the same premise of mastery occurs.
The phases of a full GPS practice progress from the introduction to a concept, the mastery of a concept, to a possible reteaching, or Indy/Opps, of the concept.
Indy/Opps is the equivalent to re-teaching a concept in the educational classroom. From what we have already covered in our philosophy and beliefs about drills, it is our strongly held belief that not all athletes are created equal, and thus they should not be coached/taught that way either. Therefore we contend that young players, back ups, and main substitutes can more acutely be brought up to higher playing standards in this style of practice procedure.
The GPS system contends that:
G.P.S. on sale now at Amazon - BUY NOW
Let’s say that the X receiver (the lone isolated receiver to the left of the formation in diagram 4.1) is struggling picking up his quarterback’s signaled audibles to change the initial route. The X continues to run the called slant even after the quarterback has called for a front door change to a quick out. Throughout the rest of the practice, extending into S27, and 11-11 situations, this X receiver continues to bust assignments. Subsequently, the other receivers are picking it all up and succeeding in their called for executions. This will be the perfect situation for Indy/Ops for this particular X receiver.
The residual positives of Indy/Opps
“Opps” is short for opportunity. This period should always be deemed as a positive that will help an athlete to get better and improve his chances for success and playing time. This is an excellent time for younger and less experienced players to get more attention and feel “coached-up.”
Indy/Opps should be no longer than fifteen minutes. Again, players should never perceive this time as a punishment. It should be noted that coaches do have the option of ending practice and sending to the locker room those players that have achieved mastery during periods 1-12.
Advice on Indy/Opps
Encourage older and more experienced players to stay out on their own to either assist the players that are struggling (“old teaching the young”), or to work on things they individually feel they need to work on. An example would be a quarterback throwing a fade to his other wide receivers. This time will foster leadership and ownership into the older players.
It is important to never convey a connotation of negativity when a player is asked to stay out for Indy/Ops. The coach should always refrain from making threats that if a player doesn’t pick it up he will be staying for Indy/Ops instead of going in with the rest of the team. Ensure you have established a culture where players staying behind for Indy/Opps never feel singled out or embarrassed, by any other players, or by anyone on the coaching staff. There is a difference between effort, attitude, and skill/concept mastery. Punish a player for lack of effort or a poor attitude, but teach a struggling player mastery through providing him an opportunity.
Celebrate when a player that has struggled, and has diligently stayed out for Indy/Ops, makes a great contribution in a game. Stress to the rest of the team that through extra hard work in Indy/Ops that player has helped himself and his team become successful.
As with the athlete, the coach too must master the proper use of Indy/Ops in S2A GPS.
Indy/Ops takeaways from Coach Hargitt:
Indy/Ops is the last 15 minutes of practice. It is entirely worth noting that this individual time is situated at the end of practice and not at the beginning as is the case in many programs’ traditional practice models. Standard operating procedure has always been to have the position coaches go out and work individual fundamentals before the start of practice. In GPS, we choose to reserve this time for the end of practice. The reason for this is quite simple: we want the Indy Op to “stick” with the player. Let's say that an offensive lineman has a poor day of kick sliding in pass protection and it was something he struggled with all practice long. If that was not the offensive line coaches emphasis at the start of practice then that player struggled with a technique all practice long and then gets sent home without having that issue reviewed before he leaves. In our Indy Ops period, the offensive line coach will have identified this problem with his players throughout the practice and then will take the last 15 minutes of practice to give that player the individual opportunity to work on his kick slides and get better. The great part of Indy Ops is that it allows the players and coaches to “fix” problems and reinforce good habits before the player leaves for the day instead of waiting until the start of the next practice a full 24 hours later.
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Whole person development
The football coaching edition by sam graham
from surface to air system books and media
The publishing arm of S2A is proud to announce the release of a book sure to be on the shelves of every football coach looking to pour into the lives of their players on a deeper level. Sam Graham has taken both, the lessons he's learned from his playing days in the state of Alabama, and combined them with the lessons he's taught from coaching at the high school and collegiate levels.
Making a lasting impact
The players we coach are going to grow into fathers, husband, and hopefully community leaders. There is no more important time in a young man's life for molding character than when he is in his teens and early twenties. Grown men that played the great game of football look back and remember the positive and negative things garnered from their coaches. Whole Person Development can be a coach's guidebook to follow so that his current players will look back with gratitude, and be thankful for the character lessons his coach instilled.
Whole person development is on sale now at amazon
About WPD From Todd Bates, Defensive Line Coach at Clemson
Sam Graham is a man of God who loves his family. He has spent his life mentoring and coaching young people...which is his mission field. As a young coach, I was blessed to learn under him as he served as my Defensive Coordinator at Oxford High School from 2008-2011. I learned so much about life and what coaching is all about. In his words, not mine, ―It‘s not about how high you jump, and it‘s not how loud you yell, but how straight you walk when you hit the ground. His book Whole Person Development and the Football Coaches Charge is full of principles, morals, codes, and stories to help the next generation coach, or any coach, no matter where they are in their journey. ―It‘s not about the wins, or the friends, but He who lives within that will see us through any situation or circumstance. Watching him (Sam) battle day in and day out with MS has reminded me how to fight and control what I can and trust God to do the rest. Have a blessed day and remember, ―The rest of your life will be the best of your life, but you have to believe it.
Excerpt from Whole person Development
Whole Person Development is broken into the same segments we prepare for as we approach game time. Warmups, Coin Toss, 1st Quarter, 2nd Quarter, Halftime, 3rd Quarter, 4th quarter, and the post-game analysis. As the old coaching cliché goes, ―We‘ve got to play a full four quarter game to be successful. An organized coach provides a game day itinerary. Approach these pages in the same way. Start fast, be consistent, and close at the end. Sustain the Pace (STP) to ultimately win the game. Just like Coach Hyde taught me and our team, Visualize. Utilize these words, analyze these lessons, and Visualize the power we as coaches have to Develop the Whole Person. Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Proverbs 18:21)
Football Coaches Charge
We would like to send you a free downloadable version of this poem for coaches written by Coach Sam Graham. If you leave us your name and email, we will immediately send you your free copy of Football Coaches Charge. See the Charge below.
About Coach Sam Graham
Coach Sam Graham‘s coaching career began at the University of North Alabama in Florence in 1996, where he served as a graduate student assistant under legendary Head Coach Bobby Wallace. From 1997 – 98, he served as the Head Coach at his alma mater, Sylvania High School. In 1999, Graham returned to North Alabama where he coached the defensive line and then secondary coach, under Bill Hyde.
In 2002, Graham moved to Albertville High School where he was the defensive coordinator under Head Coach John Grass. Sam then became the Head Coach (2003-04). From there Graham became the Spiritual/Defensive Coordinator at the University of West Alabama and helped lead team to their first Winning season in 14 years (2005-2007). In the spring of 2008 Graham became the Assistant Head Coach in Charge of Defense at Oxford High School (2008- 2014). There he helped lead team to the 2011 state semi-finals. SAMUEL GRAHAM 82 Sam became the defensive coordinator at Scottsboro High School (2014-2015) and then Head Football coach at Valley Head High (2015-2016). In 2016 he became Athens High‘s strength and conditioning coordinator/linebackers‘ coach until 2017.
Graham played Linebacker at North Alabama under Head Coach Bobby Wallace from 1991-95. While there, he helped the Lions achieve three straight G.S.C. titles and three Division II National Championships. He is married to the former Amy Tucker of Henagar, Alabama. They have four daughters: Meghan Leigh, Abigail Lauren, Grace Elisabeth, and Sarah Katherine. Life is never dull in the Graham house.
Previewing the National championship game's offenses
Listen in as Coach Hargitt gives some general insight into what the Alabama and Clemson offenses do well in the RPO attack
Our interview was recorded on the night of 1/6/2019 on the eve of the National Championship Game
The Bubble screen has been around since Drew Brees was in college setting records at Purdue in the 1990's. The concept then morphed into combining the Bubble with the Slant for a Slant/Bubble progression (see diagram below). Then the Bubble became a common tag as the advent of RPO's began to take hold of the game of football.
Diagram below: This shows a 1/2 field shot of a typical Slant/Bubble concept
This is not blazer - plain old slant bubble. More below
Through trial and error, in the Surface to Air System, we have found a wrinkle in the Bubble that we need to take advantage of far more often than we have utilized it. We call it Blazer. This concept takes advantage of how a defense structures its coverage and force to defend the Slant/Bubble.
S2A takes further advantage of how a defense deploys against any behind the line throw (Bubble, Now Screen, etc) by utilizing our Trigger concept.
This is blazer
In the still shot below the offense aligns in a Trips set to the field. The #1 WR will run a go, the #2 WR will execute Blazer, and #3 will execute the Bubble.
Below, the #2 WR works to the outside shoulder of the L2 (S2A defensive ID System) in an upfield circular arc. His eyes are trained to ID the Trigger player. In this case that is L1 that has "triggered" as the force player with the assignment of containing (setting the edge).
Members note: when going to this System Documents page:
In the still shot down below, the picture shows both where the #2 WR has leveraged the L2 defender as well as determining who the trigger is (denoted by red dotted line).
key coaching point
It should be noted that the key to the concept is in who #2 is assigned to for blocking purposes if the play were a traditional bubble with stalk blocks. In S2A we strive for Stalks to be Key Read blocks, meaning the onus is on the WR stalking to block the man responsible for force (the Trigger player in zone coverage) and let the deep pass defender go. In this picture the defensive structure is man, thus making L1 (man to man on #3) trigger to the bubble.
In keeping with this key coaching point (in this case the WR's recognize man to man coverage), the #2 WR leverages (widens) L2 and becomes a "salesman" for the execution of a fake block. This "suckers" L2 into both widening his alignment (opening the grass void area), and taking his eyes back inside to the bubble and off his man. The #2 remains patient, allowing the L1 to Trigger and to pass by him before the receiver advances into the void for a wide open throw.
Below is the video footage of the play both from the sideline and end-zone angles.
s2a teams executing blazer
In no particular order, the five following video clips showcase various iterations of Blazer.
In full transparency, none of the clips meet our satisfaction of how we will execute the concept in 2019. At the advent of "tinkering" with Blazer we had nothing to compare it to, thus we've learned.
In introducing each clip we will provide a commentary on what we feel we should and will improve on while running it in the 2019 season.
Clip 1, below: This is executed with a "locked backdoor RPO", using S2A parlance. The #2 should eye the R2 defender as the Trigger (that's who he would block if it were just a traditional bubble only concept). In the execution of #2's route, patience and "gamesmenship" should be employed on the player he would normally be asked to block (R2). The patience employed will make for a much larger grass void for the ball to be thrown in because R2 will increase his force pursuit to the Bubble route.
Note: in 2019 we will ask #1 to run a Go route.
Clip 2, below: Like the clip detailed above, the #2 WR exercises no constraint and patience in allowing his most important portion of the concept to develop. He recognizes who he would block, but shows no "gamesmenship" in feigning it. Then his speed and tempo runs his route into harms way and into the LB hook area. Had he shown patience and then worked to settle in the void grass area, he would have been wide open.
Note: Again, we will ask the #1 WR to run a Go route in 2019.
Clip 3, below: Again, the play is executed as a backdoor RPO with the concept tag of Blazer. As you study the execution in the clip note two important things.
Clip 4 below: The defense is almost identical in its assignments and structure to that of the pictures and clip at the top of this post. Again, our #2 WR is neither patient nor a salesman. If he had been, we feel this would have been a much easier opening for the throw.
Clip 5, below: We through this clip in to show the power of what a RPO concept to the backdoor side can do to effect the defensive structure. Blazer can be executed to the backdoor side, but the defense has assigned 4 defenders to not only be over the trips side, but also to react to the pattern of those 3 receivers, thus ignoring the run.
Look for Blazer and more cutting edge concepts at our Clinic
The National RPO Clinic by Surface to air system
We invite you to attend the 2nd annual S2A National RPO Clinic.
WHEN: February 15/16, 2019
WHERE: Indianapolis, IN - at Decatur Central High School near the airport
WHAT: 11 hours of intense learning on the Spread, RPO's, defending the Spread, and stopping RPO's. Click the link below for Registration and details:
Game Planning & Play Calling in the Age of the RPO
Chapter 5: openers
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Openers are the way in which a play caller chooses to start a football game. The openers are meant to send a message to the defensive coordinator in how the play-caller is going to try to run this football game. In the surface-to-air system it is my preference to always use openers to send the message that this will be a very difficult game from an intellectual standpoint for the defense to attempt to play.
I want to convey two major messages with my openers; the first message I want to convey is that I will be very aggressive trying to score touchdowns, the second message I want to convey is that I will be using a great deal of formations, motions, and other types of changes in order to confuse the defense. The opener that I choose to utilize can change from week-to-week and often does. I do not think that the opener needs to be nor, should it be the same against every opponent every week. The openers are really the way in which the offensive play-caller should attempt to put his stamp on the game.
There are many times where my openers actually have very little to do with how I intend to call the game. Sometimes I will want to call a very aggressive game, so I will call very aggressive openers but at other times I will want to have a more conservative game plan where I rely on my defense in my kicking game and call a very aggressive set of openers. Sometimes I'm going to play reckless go-for-broke style of offensive football and I may start out with very conservative openers. Each week’s openers should be tailored to send the message non-verbally across the sideline that the offensive play-caller wants to convey to the defensive coordinator, his staff, and his players. I feel that openers are really the way to start out a conversation. I want to start out in a variety of different sets.
So often, my openers are a manifestation of my desire to move the defense around and dictate the style of play that I wish to play. Therefore, most of the time my openers will include formations that may not be traditional, motions that may not be normal, and generally plays that are designed to send some sort of specific message.
Examples of Game Openers
As was stated above, openers will often change from week to week. These plays should be designed to send a message to the defense each week. Also, as was stated previously, these examples that follow are all examples of openers that we have utilized in our record-breaking offensive years of 2016 and 2017.
The first such opener that I want to explain is the Unbalanced Jet Play (Diagram 5-1).
In this play we are bringing our X and Z receivers over into an unbalanced look and adding a sniffer set to the equation. These three athletes allow us to outnumber the defense with the exception of the hash safety or the R1 defender in our Surface to Air System nomenclature. This athlete is accounted for by allowing the tailback to be set to the unbalanced side and sending him to attack the R1. The H receiver will be brought in Jet Motion and shoveled the ball to execute the end around action against the defense. The offensive lineman will simply execute aggressive outside zone footwork.
The reason this play is a great play to use as an opener is because it involves several components that defenses will not like. This play involves using an unbalanced formation, a sniffer Titan set, a running back to the 3- receiver side, and Jet motion from the h receiver. All these components combined make it very difficult for the defense to process what is being done to them and it gives the offensive coordinator a great opportunity to look at the defense and see how they handle a variety of situations. These situations include: how does the defense processes unbalanced sets, how does the defense process a sniffer tight end set, and how does the defense handle motion. The offensive coordinator is then able to see how the defense will handle this variety of situations while also getting himself a big opening play and getting the ball into one of his playmaker’s hands at the very beginning of the contest.
The next type of opener that has shown itself to be successful the last few years is a play that we in the Surface to Air System call Crazy (Diagram 5-2).
The crazy play has the advantage that the offensive tackles are split out wide and are with two receivers on the numbers to each side of the field. The center and guards remain in their normal alignment and therefore the quarterback is still able to run zone-read style football in the box.
A simple check by the quarterback is to look to the outside pods and determine whether he has a 3 on 2 advantage and can throw the ball to either pod located out on the numbers. If the quarterback is not able to execute the throw to one of those pods, then he can very simply read the remaining defenders in the box and play zone-read football. This is an excellent way to spread the defense out from sideline to sideline and determine how well the defense can run to the football.
One of the major components of our system is analyzing whether the defense can identify formational variations and finding out whether they are able to run to the football and make tackles in wide open space. This is a sort of formation and play that allows us to analyze both of those components simultaneously and make a couple great determinations about whether the defense is prepared to play our style of football effectively. This is also a great way to get the ball to playmakers in space and hopefully get a cheap 1st down to start the football game. Defenses will oftentimes realize that we wish to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands early in the contest and get quick 1st downs. When the defense realizes this, they will oftentimes attempt to jump these quick passes and see if they can get an early turnover. It is therefore useful to utilize a Joker Play early in the contest to keep the defense on their toes (Diagram 5-3).
So, let's assume that the defense is going to be playing some sort of 1 high structure right here. the offense will come out in a standard 2x2 set and utilize motion into a 3 x 1 set. this serves to allow the offensive coordinator to determine how the defense intends to handle motion from a balanced to an unbalanced set. The offensive coordinator can elect to go ahead and throw now screens to the perimeter and take advantage of any numerical superiority that may be achieved in the flat.
However, a great way to start the football game is to go ahead and throw in a now Joker play and take advantage of the defense’s tendency to jump routes early in the game. If the play is successful, then it's very likely the offense will be up a touchdown after their first possession. If, however the defense sniffs out the Joker play, attacks it, and prevents it from being a score the offensive coordinator has still accomplished his main goal which is to send a message to the defense they should not jump quick routes in the flat. This sort of play serves as a constraint against the defense and the defensive coordinator from jumping quick breaking routes. This sort of play included in your openers list will allow you to throw more high percentage quick throws that enable your quarterback to have success throughout the game because you have backed the defense off and warned them early in the contest.
Sometimes it is necessary for the offensive coordinator to get into a heavy set and simply play some smash-mouth football with the defense at the start of the football game. It is a great idea, if the offensive coordinator feels like he has the Personnel to do so, to get into a heavy formation and hit the defense and be physical with them early in the contest to see what sort of defensive fronts and character that will create. A great way to do that is by bringing in two sniffers and running inside zone with a double split kick out by those two sniffers from a pistol set (Diagram 5-4).
This formation and its personnel grouping might be hard to utilize later in the game as some of the personnel might be borrowed from the defense. It is best to use these heavy sets early in the game before those linebacker type of players off your defense have become fatigued from playing multiple quarters of defense. This is another way to send a message to the defensive coordinator that you intend to be physical and attempt to run the football as a standard part of the game plan.
It is an important part of calling plays to understand what openers are and why they are being utilized. Openers should be a way for the offensive coordinator to send a message not only to the defensive staff but also to his own sideline.
These plays are a way to demonstrate how and where and with what sort of physicality the offense of coordinator intends to call the game. It should also be said that openers should draw the eye of the defensive coordinator to what the offensive coordinator wants him to see. These plays for me are essentially a way for me to mess with the head of the defensive coordinator and show him things and established precedents for later in the game. I want to make the defensive coordinator worry about formations and motions and other sorts of twists and variations that may or may not be a part of the overall game plan.
I am also looking to establish tempo with many of these openers being one-word calls that we created for that week. Lastly, I am attempting to get cheap first downs and big chunks of offense yardage where I know I can flip the field at a bare minimum make sure that I can punt the football onto my opponent's end of the field or even get a cheap touchdown or field goal to start the contest. I have long felt that openers are a critical part of being an effective play-caller in a system like ours but unfortunately, they are one of the more underutilized and undervalued aspects of play-calling in the modern game of football. I feel that these plays should be emphasized and discussed and be a useful part of every offensive coordinator’s repertoire when he goes into a game. These are also a fun and exciting “Strike Up the Band” sort of plays and send a message to both sidelines that you intend to come out and play fast and to play physical in each contest
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