Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Change in the Air

There is no doubt that this is one of the toughest blogs I’ve ever written. Last night I told my Surge OL that I wouldn’t be back with them this year. Previously, I’d told Coach Suggett. It’s been awhile since I’ve left a team that I had a great relationship with – probably 1993 when I left Westminster La Quinta for Fountain Valley. I loved the kids at La Quinta, it was just that Fountain Valley was such a great opportunity for me that I couldn’t “not” do it. The situation I’m in this year is similar….I can’t announce the new team yet (that will come out tomorrow or Friday), but it is a men’s team here in San Diego that is doing everything the right way. But more so than that, it has a culture already somewhat ingrained of a blue collar work ethic. These guys will put in the work to become great.

The best part of coaching is the relationships you forge, not only with your other coaches, but also with your players. I’m still friends with a couple of players from that 1993 La Quinta team. There are Surge players I’ve had the unique opportunity to coach a couple of for 5-10 years. I’ve watched them go from raw rookies to, in some cases, All American players. I’ve won multiple national championships with a couple. They mostly know what I’m going to say before I say it. Those are the types of relationships that you don’t leave without a lot of regret.

Plus, there are three second-year players that I’m really going to miss in their development. We had a great time last season bringing them along and I feel certain that a couple of them will end up being really good players. I’ll be watching from the stands, at the very least.

The Surge coaches and the good natured ribbing we indulged in will definitely be missed. When you’ve coached with someone as long as I have with Mike Suggett, Mike Vargas and Rashoud McCoy (on and off, mostly on, since 2003 for all of them) then you’re gonna miss them a bunch. Carrie Suggett, Andrea & Bill Grant and Will Harris are others that make the long days of practice bearable with their wit and humor.

This will in no way curtail my support for women’s football in general, or the Surge in particular. Nor do I see it as interfering with the RS Football Camp in November. I’ll be keeping an eye on what is happening around the league, and call it as I see it.

So, what exactly is the attraction of this new gig? Well, I wanted to see what would happen if I was “all in” with a men’s team from the very start.  The last time that happened was 2010, and we had a pretty decent season. We were definitely outmanned at a few spots on both sides of the ball, but overall it was a fun season. Once I saw the Surge come into existence (rising out of the old SoCal Scorpions who I was with from 2003-07), I knew that playing for national championships again was something I wanted to do. That opportunity is still there with the Surge, but the desire to better myself as an all-around coach was too much this time.

In this case we’ve got very solid ownership, a good coaching staff and a great group of players to choose from (yes, we will probably be cutting some people that would otherwise like to play). That’s a rare combination. So in order to give us the best chance of success with everything that is in place, I felt I needed to concentrate on only the guys as the OC. I’ve got some new assistant coaches to get up to speed on my offense, and I’m still in a post-mortem analysis of things in last year’s offense that can be changed to make things more streamlined. I alluded to the high I get when creating and nurturing an offense here, so those that know me shouldn’t be too shocked about this move.

We’re going to start coaches’ meetings in January, then start off season weekly OTA’s in March. Twice a week practices start in May, then first games in early July. Last year we only had 8 practices before our first game, this year I want to have 16 in addition to the OTA’s. I took last season’s opening loss very personally, and that kind of thing isn’t going to happen again. Plus, we’re playing in a much more competitive league….we’re going to have to be hitting on all cylinders to win the league, and if we do, it’ll mean something. Whether we’ll play for a national championship or not, I don’t know. Considering that there are over 600 men’s teams across the country, I’ll settle for recognition in the Top Twenty. Then we’ll win it all in 2017.

That’s what is new with me!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Identity Crisis

One of my very first posts was sort of a background piece on what my favorite offense is. You can read that here. What I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks is that some teams have lost their way, strayed away from what got them good. In particular, my favorite college team, Texas A&M, has really strayed….they’re almost unrecognizable from when Johnny Manziel was lighting up the scoreboards.

Certainly, differences in personnel have something to do with that. The Aggie’s QB’s are inexperienced (although so was Manziel) and both sometimes seem a bit lost. Also, it doesn’t appear that A&M’s list of NFL-ready OL is going to continue this year. Both the run blocking and absolutely the pass pro have taken steps backwards this year. But to go from a team who rivaled Baylor and Oregon in how fast they got plays off to one who almost seems like they want to milk the clock, and who went from a pure version of the Air Raid offense to some sort of “almost Auburn, but sort of something else” offense created nothing more than some mush. Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital is taking a lot of the heat (and rightly so – it’s his name on the offense), but I’m wondering if the off-season hire of Dave Christensen doesn’t have more to do with it. Coach Christensen was hired as the OL coach and run game coordinator, and it appears that the move away from Air Raid style play calling may be related to his influence. That’s not necessarily a knock on Coach Christensen either – he was hired to bring his experience in.

That extra influence gets to my point about an Identity Crisis… can’t have too many cooks in your offense. When I was at Fountain Valley High, there were some things we just weren’t going to do – it wasn’t in our DNA (or that of our OC). Right now, there are some things I would only do in an extreme situation – like line up under center in an I formation. That’s just not what I want to do.

My base offense these days is shotgun spread. We feature a zone and gap-based run game, some fly sweep, various screens and a complete drop back package, mostly out of one back sets. Now, within that base offense, I can tweak the playcalls to fit my personnel.  In 2012 with my men’s team, we had two absolute studs at RB, so I ran more two back sets than normal. But it was still out of the ‘gun, and we still had 3 WR (didn’t have much in the way of a TE). If my QB is a runner, then I add in more options for him to do so. But it doesn’t change the base offense!

If my OL is huge, then the zone game becomes more prevalent, while if they’re more mobile (read: smaller), then I use more of the gap schemes and perimeter game. Again, it doesn’t change who we are. If a player comes to me and says, “Hey Coach – why don’t we run this XYZ play?”, I’ll consider it, if there is a good way to work it into what we do already. I don’t want to stray too much from our identity, at least during the season.

The time to look outside for ideas is now. There’s stuff that I see from time to time that I really like. The first thing I do when I see something is write it down, in play diagram form. Then, I look at it to see if what is being done fits into existing terminology. If it does, then great – it goes into the playbook. If not, then I see if I can either a) tweak a piece of the play to fit into existing terms without losing what I liked about the play in the first place, or b) see if I can add a piece of terminology that can be used in future situations as well. If I can’t do either, then chances are I won’t keep the play. I really don’t want to add terminology if it is just going to be used in one play. (The exception is for trick plays – those can be one-offs.)

The coaching point to all this, is stay true to yourself. If you’re the coordinator, it’s your name out there. In Coach Spavital’s case, he’s probably going to get himself fired after this season. It’s OK to consider outside ideas, but you’ve ultimately got to do what you think is best for the team. Getting too far away from that slows down your thinking during a game, and probably (my guess only, as an entirely unqualified psychiatrist) means you don’t exude as much confidence in your game plan to your players as you normally would. That can start a death spiral that overcomes your offense.

Know yourself and be true to yourself.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Silly Season

One week after everyone sharing what they’re thankful for, many coaches have a little less to be thankful for – such as a job. Others have more to be thankful for – usually a better job. But we all tend to lose sight of the fact that coaching changes are hard on an awful lot of people. Rex Ryan had an interesting piece on that here – it’s worth a look.

And to think that it is only December 02, here’s a list already of all the head coaching jobs that have come open – jobs list. Crazy, huh? I mean, you’ve got a guy down in Georgia, Mark Richt, who all he does is go 9-3 pretty much every year, and he gets fired.

Now, I know that some people say, “Well, that’s what happens when you make a boatload of money – your job security is nil.” That’s true, and I know that everyone signs up for the gig. But still….just the thought of having your livelihood depend on a bunch of 18-21 year olds would keep me awake at night. Sure, I’d love a shot at it sometime. I always figured that if I won the lottery, I’d head up to San Diego State and volunteer my time. I’d make them hold me accountable to whatever they assigned me, even if it was Assistant Tight Ends Coach, or maybe I’d go over to University of San Diego (FCS) and be a position coach (yeah, I think I’d do a good job) on a volunteer basis. But having to do it for a living?

Some have asked me why I don’t give it a shot. The answer is simple: I believe that coaching collegiate football is a young, single man’s game at the entry level. You’ve generally got to put in your time as a GA or coaching intern. The competition for those spots is insane and the reward is making about $12,000 a year to start and doubling as a RA in a dorm somewhere in Kansas or South Dakota. I’m 54 and a home owner, with multiple kids. I’m not interested in moving every 2-3-4 years and taking an initial wage cut. But would I like to compete at that level? Hell yeah.

Really, the high school ranks are extremely competitive. You look around at the top programs in Southern California, and you won’t find better coaching anywhere. As far back as in the 90’s when I was coaching in Orange County (as I mentioned last week), and going up against some of the coaches I did, heck – even back then I saw more stunts, twists, varied fronts, blitzes and disguised coverages than I see in the semi-pro level now.

Here’s the thing about top-level high school coaching: If you’re not somewhat of a “grinder” (at least by today’s standards) chances are you’re going to get exposed. Back then, I put in 44-48 hours a week during the season – on top of my “real” 40 hour a week job. Monday through Thursday I was at the school from 3:00 until  about 7:00. Friday it was 3:00 until about 11:00. Saturday morning we were in at 7:00AM and out at about 6:00PM. Sunday it was 9:00AM until 7:00PM (or when we were done). Granted, that 1990’s technology didn’t include great timesavers such as Hudl. But I hear now of a lot of staffs doing their film review on their own, and I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing quite like reviewing your position’s film with your head coach (and/or OC) also there, asking questions.

I can tell you this, I can think of only one time (thanks, La Puente Bishop Amat) that I was truly surprised by something an opponent did. (They broke out a zone blitz in the ’96 playoffs. Caught us off guard.) Other than that, we were *prepared*….

Getting back to the jobs situation, I’ve also heard people ask why more high school coaches don’t go to the collegiate ranks in California. In some states, like Texas, you see it all the time. The coaching there isn’t any better, but the high school job security is non-existent. In Texas, if you’re a high school coach, that’s pretty much what you do. You may have one other class, but if you’re a Head Coach, you’re paid to do just that. If you get fired, you’re out of the school (and many times, so are your assistants). It’s a very collegiate-like experience, so they have absolutely no hesitation in jumping to a higher level. They don’t have job security now, so what difference does it make?

In California on the other hand, coaches (at public schools anyway – private may be different), only receive a stipend for coaching, maybe $5,000 a year on top of their teaching salary. If they get fired from their coaching job, they’re still teachers and still get their teaching salary. They just lose their stipend. They may or may not look for other jobs in their district. If they’re a long-tenured teacher, their opportunities outside their district may be limited – maybe the new district won’t accept all their years of service, for example. So what eventually happens is that you have schools who have a surplus of teachers and a shortage of coaches. That’s where guys like me come in – “walk ons”, or staff members but not faculty members. I would get the same stipend (although as an assistant, mine was generally in the $2,500 range for the season). At Fountain Valley, besides me, there were three other former varsity offensive line coaches at the school. One was the AD, one was the JV OL coach, and one was the frosh OL coach. Me, as the walk on, was the varsity guy. Sort of a weird situation.

But that is why you don’t see a lot of people jumping to the collegiate ranks out of California – they have job security now, and are hesitant to give it up. Makes perfect sense to me.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Last year at this time, I gave thanks for all the coaches and players I’ve worked with. You can see that post here. It’s easy to be thankful for those who have played for you, coached with you and taught you. Mentors are never forgotten. Loyal players are never forgotten. But this year, I wanted to thank those coaches who have given me the painful lessons that nevertheless provide growth.

I was inspired to talk about this topic this past week because I saw that two long-time Orange County/Southern Section coaches are retiring. Both of them I coached against when I was at Fountain Valley, in the years that forged me as a coach. John Barnes, of Los Alamitos High is stepping down after about 35 years at Los Al. Back in the day, Los Al was about the only spread team in town, and they lit it up on the scoreboard. He was truly ahead of his time. I never would have thought I’d become a devotee of his style of offense. I think we ended up 2-3 against them in the time I was at FV.

Dave White from Huntington Beach Edison is also stepping down. The rivalry between Fountain Valley and Edison is very similar to Army-Navy, except without the healthy respect for each other. Edison has since become a statewide power, while FV has unfortunately not reached the same heights. But when I was there, we were 4-1 against them. Coach White’s “Wide 9” defense was always one that I had to prepare extra hard for….not only because of its’ unique nature, but also because of what the game itself meant. It was one of those things where if we went 1-9, it was OK if the “1” was against Edison.

Hearing about those two outstanding coaches caused me to look up one other former adversary – Bill Pendleton of Anaheim Esperanza High. He was the DC for the Aztecs, under Gary Meek, who was a great coach in his own right. I knew very few DC’s, but Bill I knew. Always felt like it was a personal battle when I coached against Coach Pendleton. His position was the DL, so that made it a little more up close and personal for me. The Aztecs ran a 46 style defense, and stunted and twisted their DL/LB almost every play.

His DL taught me one of my most valuable lessons: In 1994, it was my first year as the OL coach at Fountain Valley. In the first half, we’d given up about 6 sacks and were losing badly in Week 10. We were headed for a 4-6 season, and I seriously thought I was in over my head (another example of that will be told below). I started in on my guys at halftime, in the locker room – ranting and raving. After I was done, my senior center, Bryan Erickson, calmly looked up at me and said, “OK coach – you’ve told us what is wrong. Now tell us how to fix it.” Heck, if I had an answer, I wouldn’t have been yelling.

In my time at Fountain Valley, I think we were only 1-4 against the Aztecs, in 1996 when we won the league title was our only victory. Those lessons from Esperanza were sometimes painful ones, but oh so valuable. As a side note, when I looked up Coach Pendleton and Coach Meek, I found they were both still coaching at Esperanza – Pendleton as the DL coach, and Meek as the RB coach – just enjoying life as position coaches doing the thing they love. I’m happy for them.

Finally, Coach Larry Toner from Anaheim Servite….one of the most unique high school coaches I’ve ever run in to. One time when I had to go over to their campus to exchange film, I walked into Coach’s classroom. He was teaching Latin, which in itself was unusual. He also taught European History. Anyway, the Friars ran a flex defense. The first time (in ’94) that I coached against it, they held us to -22 yards rushing….yeah, minus 22 yards. The thing is, they were in our league and division (D-1, Sunset, the top league in Southern Section) the year before, and in ’94 they got dropped down to D-5 and the Empire League. We were the first former Sunset team they faced and they kicked our butts. The quote in the paper the next day was from Coach Toner who said, “I guess we *don’t* belong in the Sunset League after all.” Believe me, that stung….we managed to go 3-1 against them while I was there though, so at least the pain for that ’94 loss didn’t last long.

Finally, more recently there is a coach named Ed Rycroft. I’m not sure where he coached at the high school or collegiate level, but he’s the one DC in semi-pro (other than my own head coach, Winston Martin) that I definitely have to have my A game for. I’ve run up against him 5-6 times since 2009, and I’m either 3-2 or 3-3 against him. I’m thankful for coaches like him at this level, who continue to inspire me to be better.

And this year, to close out, I did want to mention a couple of the “skinny guys” that I’m really thankful for. I’ve mentioned a few times that I totally deconstructed my playbook this offseason and built it back up. Some of the things in the system were , um, different than what has been traditionally done at this level. So I want to tell Mike Clark and Cam Cameron how much I appreciate them, their efforts in not only learning the offense but in helping out their teammates who struggled with it, and for having my back in general. You’re good guys – thank you.

When this is finally posted, Thanksgiving will be winding down for many, but I wanted to let you all know that you can find things to be thankful for all year, and in many different ways. Sometimes they just don’t initially look like positives. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I'm Back - with a Camp Recap!

I tell you – being out of your house for a month and a half (with another month to go) because of a “plumbing malfunction” (to put it lightly and cleanly) can really mess with the efficiency of your day. I’m one of those people who enjoy routine in my daily life simply because it frees up space in my head to think about other things (like this blog, or my call sheet, or my playbook, etc.) that need to be done. So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been out of my element a little and devoting all my “free brain space” to putting on the 2nd Annual RS Football Camp.

We had the camp this past Saturday and Sunday. About 35 campers from various teams were there, of all different abilities and experience levels. I know I had a plan in place for the sessions that I taught, but that it quickly changed when I saw the relative lack of experience of the non-Surge OL I had. Being able to break things down in an almost semi-private atmosphere was really good for them I think. They were able to ask all the questions they wanted, and I had one of my second year players there as a demonstrator. It really opened the rookies’ eyes to see someone who was in their exact shoes just the year before at our first camp now being a leader of sorts and holding her own very well in the competitive portion of the drills.

The guest coaches who came down were excellent as always. Nate Benjamin from the Phoenix Phantomz, Scott McCarron from the Seattle Majestics and Angel Rivera from the Dallas Elite all were at the heart of what the camp is all about – getting players better. In Nate’s case, we’ve coached with him more than we’ve coached against him, but we have faced him in the regular season. Both Scott and Angel have been on the other sideline when the stakes were higher – in the playoffs. But the fact that we might meet again this year didn’t stop them for a minute from giving 100% to our players.

Coaching players you don’t know is fun. They aren’t bored with your jokes! Many of my players know what I’m going to say before I say it. Getting in front of a new audience is invigorating, and it really lets you know whether or not you’ve simplified things down enough to get them to understand what you’re saying. When you coach someone for an entire year, there is ample opportunity to re-explain, try different ways of communicating a concept, etc. But here, in order to be considered a success, the players have to be able to “get it” quickly.
This year as a whole, we taught very little, if any, scheme. We just taught technique, and then related how that particular technique would fit into whatever their team was doing.

Speaking of technique, I thought I’d list out some of the resources I’ve been using to make tweaks to my drills and overall thought. I mentioned these to the players at the camp, so wanted to put them here at least as a reminder to them:

I’ve long expounded on the benefits of X and O Labs’ site. You can go there here. In particular, the OL at the camp will find much of this article familiar. They have quality articles every week, and it is still only $35 (or so – my membership is up in May) a year. Highly worth it. They’re also on Facebook and on Twitter at @XandOLabs.

If you’re involved at all with OL play you need to follow LeCharles Bentley. His Twitter feed is at @OLineWorld65 and his website is at He’s got the only facility in the world dedicated to the building of offensive linemen. He really digs into detail about how the body works, and the little details of stance, steps, etc. that make a huge difference. Even if you don’t agree with something he says (as I have a couple of times), he’s got science and experience behind him and I promise that you’ll at least revisit why you do the things you do. And that is a huge part of growth……

Finally, you should follow Coach Matt Jones, the Asst OL coach from Tulane University. You can best find him under “LinemanLunch” on either Facebook or Twitter @LinemanLunch. Coach posts almost daily a short clip of OL doing the things they do. They serve as GREAT examples of how you want your players to do the same things. Let’s face it – the high level techniques are pretty much universal. Everybody wants a good base, good drive, aggressive nature, etc. These clips provide visual reinforcement of the concepts you’ve taught at practice.

That's it for now. It's good to be back!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

2015 RS Camp Update

Hi all – sorry about this week’s post being late. Between living in a hotel due to some house plumbing issues and being absolutely slammed at work, it’s just not as easy to write right now!

So, OK…this post is all about our camp, coming up on November 14-15, at Santana High School in Santee, CA. Saturday morning, registration starts at 8:00, and we’ll be on the field at 9:00. We’ll break for lunch from 11:50 until 1:00, then be back on the field until 5:20. Sunday morning, we’re on the field at 8:30, with lunch from 12:10 to 1:20. Sunday afternoon will be our competition period, with the OL and DL getting after it (everyone else is encouraged to watch, as it will be the only thing going on) and then the “skinny people” will have a competitive 7-on-7 session after that, that the OL/DL is encouraged to watch and cheer on their teammates. We’re scheduled to be off the field at 3:30.

The cost of the camp is $40, and pre-pay is available through PayPal, to Prepayment is the only way to guarantee yourself a camp T-shirt. The prepayment deadline is November 07, and that is also the last day we can issue refunds.

Here’s a brief look at the coaches we have lined up, and there still may be minor changes:

Mike Suggett, San Diego Surge Head Coach – Coach Suggett has been involved with women’s football in San Diego since 2001, making him one of the longest-tenured coaches of the women’s game in the country. He is truly one of those coaches who can do a good job at any position and in addition to being a head coach, he’s also been a coordinator in all three phases of the game. His role at the camp will largely be with the Running Backs.

Mark Ring, San Diego Surge Offensive Line Coach – I’ve been an offensive line coach for 25 years. Unlike Coach Suggett, I’m pretty much “just” an OL coach, along with being an Offensive Coordinator. I’ve also coached defensive line, running backs, and been a Special Teams coordinator & Head Coach, but the offensive line is my passion and what I’ll be doing at the camp.

Carrie Suggett, San Diego Surge QB Coach/Offensive Coordinator – our “other” Coach Suggett has been the Surge QB coach for four years now and the OC for the last two. Being a teacher for her livelihood, she does a great job coaching QB’s of any experience level and getting advanced techniques explained in a simple manner. She’ll be with the QB’s in the camp.

Nate Benjamin, Phoenix Phantomz Defensive Coordinator – Coach Benjamin is an almost 30-year veteran of coaching. He’s been the Defensive Coordinator of both San Diego’s national championships in 2007 and 2012. He is also the former head coach of the West Coast Lightning. I’m almost as excited to coach “against” him at the camp as I am to coach with him again. We’re both competitors, so I’m sure our OL/DL sessions will be fun ones! In addition to doing the DL at camp, he also has a couple of LB sessions.

Scott McCarron, Seattle Majestics Head Coach – I don’t know Coach McCarron well. I only met him in 2013 at the championship game, and then again in 2014 at our playoff game. What I *do* know is that he coaches the heck out of his defenses! In 2014 he gave us fits with his pass defense schemes. He’ll be doing a little bit of everything at the camp – some DL sessions, a couple of LB sessions and a couple of DB topics. We’re excited to have him!

Angel Rivera III, Dallas Elite Defensive Backs Coach – Coach Rivera is outstanding….that’s all you really need to know. One of the very best DB coaches I’ve ever seen. In addition to his DB work, he’s also going to have an exclusive time to do some speed and agility training that will be beneficial for all. He’s been both a friend and a competitor since 2012, and we’re very glad he came back this year.

Bobby Hosea Jr., Carson Bobcats Head Coach – Coach Hosea was the Head Coach responsible for the Pacific Warriors turnaround last year, pushing them up the ladder from also-ran to playoff contender in just one year. We’ve given him an exclusive time frame to teach/coach/install his own heads up tackling system that promises to raise the safety level of the game without sacrificing effectiveness. We’re looking forward to seeing what he has to offer, and are grateful for his presence.

Wesley Williams, former San Diego State Wide Receiver – Wes is one of my players who will do a great job with the WR at camp. Wide Receivers that have “been there and done that” at a high level know all the tricks of the trade in terms of getting initial separation, setting up their routes, and being a physical receiver. I think the players will enjoy their time with Wes.

Will Harris, San Diego Surge Linebackers Coach – Coach Harris has also been the Surge Head Coach (2013) and the Defensive Coordinator. He’s been instrumental in our aggressive defenses over the years and has often become the “heartbeat” of the team. His sessions with the linebackers promise to be intense, high-energy and fun!

That’s our staff for this year – we’re very pleased with this group of teachers we’ve assembled and thankful that those who are out of town are volunteering their time to travel down to us. In the coming days/weeks once the topics are finalized for everyone I’ll send out the schedule (I actually have to finalize the titles for mine!) and people can try and plan for what they want to attend. Schedules will also be available at the camp in hard copy.

It’s getting close – don’t miss out on the fun!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Unbelievable (and a Camp Update!)

So….just when I thought I’ve seen it all, I get news on Friday that my men’s team folded. I’ve seen plenty of teams that struggle go down in the middle of the year, but this is the first time I’ve seen a 10-2 (9-1 in league) team fold on the brink of the playoffs. The stated reason is financial difficulties….guess they didn’t budget very well. (NOTE: Now the word is that we haven’t folded, but have given up our practice field and home field. We’ll also have to drive ourselves to games {instead of having a bus] and may have to pay referee fees…oh, and apparently my QB has been kicked off the team… in effect, our owners are no better than Rachel Phelps, the team owner in the movie Major League.)

I really don’t care about the owners – I’d been very leery of them ever since my second year with the team, in 2012, and in 2013 when I was the head coach, I saw how they really operated. But I came back this year because of the head coach, Winston Martin, and a core group of offensive players who believed in me as much as I believed in them.

Our early struggles offensively were well documented, but as I’ve also said, over the past four games we’ve averaged 33 points per game as we’ve gotten more comfortable with the system. So I was really looking forward to seeing what we could do in Year 2. I feel like we’re running about 75% of an offense right now – maybe even a little less.

I’m not done with this level of play, just done with shady owners…..hopefully we’ll all be able to find someone who knows what they’re doing next season and will be able to keep the core of the offense together.

The good news is that now I’ll be able to attend the Surge end of season banquet. I was going to miss it in favor of our last regular season game up in the “wonderful” High Desert area of Southern California. 3 ½ hours to play against a team that may or may not be able to fully field a team, but I wanted to try and ensure that we had home field advantage, so you do what you gotta do.

Also, now I can finally focus more on our camp in November. We had some sad news – Coach Billy Hughes from the Dallas Elite had to pull out of coming. I’m always sad to not be able to see a friend. Our other visiting coaches, Angel Rivera, Scott McCarron and Nate Benjamin are still on board and we’ve got a full schedule planned out.

What these new offensive line sessions I’ve been added to will allow me to explore, is some of the more technical details that normally I may not get to. Last year Coach Hughes and I each did sort of our own versions of “Offensive Line 101” with him focusing on the run game and me on the pass game. We both really focused on the basics. I’ll certainly do that…probably do a “Run Game 101” and a “Pass Game 101” in two sessions, but then I think we’re going to get to the 200, 300 and 400 level courses over the rest of the camp. I’m excited, and I think it’ll give a bit of a spark to even veteran OL.

We still may add another guest coach, so stay tuned!

With the camp fast approaching, we’d like to let you know of a pre-payment deadline of November 7, so that we can print all of the t-shirts we’ll need in time for the camp. Please remember that only those who are pre-paid can be guaranteed a camp shirt. Payment can be made through PayPal, using as the payee. Cost is still only $40!

If anyone is coming in Friday evening, and either needs a ride out to the hotel from the airport or wants to hang out for dinner and great football talk, just let me know!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

By Any Means Possible

This past week, my men’s team, the Bears, took on another 8-1 team in the Inland Empire Meerkats (yeah, I get that a meerkat is part of the mongoose family, but it’s gotta be like the red-headed stepchild. Not very intimidating of a name). Anyway, they were 8-1 for a reason – they had a couple of very electric playmakers on offense. One we knew about, and pretty well shut down, and one we didn’t, but found out about in a hurry – he ran back the opening kickoff for a TD and then scored on a quick pass of about 80 yards.

Anyway, we won 30-12 (extra points seem to be an extreme luxury in this league, as none were scored). The way we did it is what is noteworthy. I can’t remember running this much by choice in a long, long time. I’m a big proponent of making the defense “play with doubt” and really prefer to be balanced in my play calls. But although we completed a few key passes, our efficiency wasn’t where it needed to be. So we ran the ball…..and ran…and ran. 
We might have thrown 2 passes in the 2nd half. But we controlled the clock, and after only a 12-6 halftime lead, we opened up the game. A defensive scoop ‘n score gave us breathing room at 18-6, and then we took it from there.

As usual, there was something I wish I hadn’t done, and that was at the end of the first half. We were pretty much backed up around our 15, but I thought we could go down and score. We had one time out, and so did they. Well, two incomplete passes left us looking at 3rd and 10 with about 50 seconds left. My HC was looking at me like he didn’t like me very much at that moment. So we ran the ball on 3rd, got about 5 yards and I was thinking, “What an idiot….they’re going to call time out, and we’re going to have to punt from not only backed up, but to #15.” Except they didn’t call time out….and we watched the clock wind down, and we got out of there. I post stuff like this to help others avoid the same mistakes I make….and they’re subtle (usually), but still – if I want to be a great play caller, those are areas in which I need to improve.

Now….for the “meat” of this week’s post, I want to go back to one of my early posts, which fits in with this week’s theme of “doing what needed to be done” to win. This was titled “My Favorite Offense” from December 2013:

Every once in awhile I’m asked what my favorite offense is. My license plates read “WC OFNSE”, so that could be a clue but in reality, the answer is simple: the one that works for that team, that season.

I’ve worked for 11 different offensive coordinators, and have been one myself five (note: now 6) different seasons. In that time, as a coordinator I’ve employed the following offenses: Wishbone, Power I, West Coast, Shotgun Spread and Fly.

I’ve got to say that right now, if the personnel is right, I really like the possibilities with the shotgun spread. You can do almost any variant you want out of it – you can have a varied passing game, you can run option, you can run any type of perimeter run game and you can have a power-based run game.

The key is recognizing and adjusting to what your players can do. Let me invoke one of Homer Smith’s quotes, which has stuck with me for years: “It’s not what you know, it’s what your players know.”

My first venture into the world of coordinating was with a men’s semi-pro team. I’d just finished a five-year stint at Fountain Valley High, under the watchful eyes of Hank Cochrane, who continues to be one of my heroes, although he would slap me silly for saying that. I figured that these players were grown-ass men and could handle a “high school” offense. Boy was I wrong…. At FVHS, we used four different pass protection concepts, with two variants in two of them, for a total of six protections. I simplified that down to one for these guys, and they still couldn’t comprehend it (a half slide protection). In Week One, we gave up eight sacks. I’d gone entire seasons at FV without giving up eight sacks! In Week Two, we beat up on a horribly overmatched team. Then we had a bye week, and our QB disappeared – just left. No one knew where he was. Anyway, the combination of an offensive line that apparently had very little experience in pass pro and having to break in a new QB pretty much eliminated a standard drop-back passing game.

So – what to do in a bye week? I had a speedy receiver that had played QB in Jenks, Oklahoma. He’d had experience in running the Wishbone. So I talked with him, found out what he was comfortable with, then set about figuring out ways to get the OL on the same page. Long story short, out of an eight team league, we ended up being the #2 scoring offense.

The following year, same team, completely different personnel.  That was the Power I team. I had a tailback that played at Alabama, and a huge offensive line. My QB had a little mobility and a strong arm for play action passes. At the end of the year, we were again the #2 scoring team, and beat the #1 team 35-14.

Each year of my coaching career, my outlook and preferences have changed. I’d evolved into a shotgun spread guy ever since about 2010. Last year, I went into the (2013) season thinking that was what we were going to run. However, when a combination of inexperienced receivers and quarterbacks raised its head, we were forced to adjust once again. This time, looking at our OL (extremely mobile, but a bit undersized) and our running backs (nice blend of speed and power) and what the receivers could do (they could block their asses off!) we settled on running the Fly offense, out of shotgun. I visited with Mark McElroy from Saddleback College (and who coincidentally followed me at my first coaching gig, at San Clemente High) and got his concepts down for the run game. We kept as much of our current terminology as possible, including the entire passing game, to keep the transition down. So then, all it became was a different play call mix, not a whole new offense.

The results were mixed – we averaged right around 40 points a game on offense, but we went 9-2, which was our worst finish in a couple of years. My feeling is that we were too dependent on the outside run game, and when we weren’t physically able to block defenders at the point of attack, we suffered. So if it was scheme or ability, either way we didn’t get the results we wanted.

This season (2014), we have an experienced QB coming back. My vision would be to keep what we ran last year, but instead of running the Fly motion 80% of the time, run it about 25% of the time, and then re-incorporate the rest of the shotgun spread run and pass game we had before. But again, as a coaching staff we have to look at what we can and can’t do, and be willing to adjust from there.

In closing, as a coordinator you can’t be so tied to your preferred plays or system that you lose sight of the fact that it is still about the team’s success. Remember, it’s not what you know, but what your players know.


See you next week!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Born Every Minute

Those readers of a certain age may well remember the old saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In today’s post, those suckers are football coaches who don’t know the rules, and who don’t at least sometimes prepare their teams for those weird moments that come up every so often, usually to their detriment.

Obviously, the latest example is from Monday night. The Lions’ Calvin Johnson was about ready to score a go-ahead TD in the last seconds of the game when Seattle’s Kam Chancellor punched the ball out before the goal line. The ball was headed towards the back line, when a Seattle LB helped it go out of the end zone by batting it. The ruling on the field was that it was a touchback, and Seattle got the ball on their own 20. As it turns out, this was “illegal batting” just like you would see maybe a punter do when he drops a snap in his own end zone. He doesn’t want to give up a touchdown, so he bats it out of the end zone and accepts the safety. In this case, because Detroit had possession of the ball, the penalty for illegal batting should correctly have been giving the Lions the ball at Seattle’s 1 yard line, first and goal. Might have made a big difference in the outcome.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say I know all the rules. I’ve screwed up plenty of times, as have coaches I’ve worked with and coached against. But I do make an effort to at least go over in my head situational items such as the above and how to prepare the team for them. Almost immediately after Monday night’s call, one of the New England Patroits tweeted that Bill Belichek knows the rule, because they’ve practiced that exact situation before.

Had an interesting occurrence in the Bears’ game Saturday night (we won, 25-0, to get our league record to 8-1, 9-2 overall). The Ravens were punting, and they shanked the punt horribly… for negative yards. But one of their players very alertly picked it up since it hadn’t crossed the line of scrimmage and took off. Fortunately for us, we tackled him short of the first down, and took over. That was the second time that has happened in my career – the other was either in 2005 or 2006 against the Houston Energy, and that time the Energy player DID gain a first. Believe me, I’ve known that rule from that point on!

Usually all it takes is one time for something to happen to you, and that rule will be imprinted in your brain forever. One of the things I run in to all the time are the differences between NCAA and NFL rules. The Surge plays by NCAA, the Bears by NFL. So sometimes I have to think really hard about the situation before I go to a ref. (Funny side note… very first high school game as a coach, in 1991, I was down on the sidelines near the end of the first half and watched the clock go right past the 2:00 mark. I started hollering about the 2 minute warning…..yeah, the other coaches no doubt thought I was an idiot.)

Part of the preparation you can do as a coach is make sure you speak with the officials before the game. You can bring up things like how they will interpret certain rules (doing that saved us from running an illegal play in Dallas), or maybe what you’ve seen the other team do on film that perhaps breaks some rules. We noticed once that on screen passes, our opponent’s RB was consistently in front of the LOS when she caught the ball, with OL downfield. You better believe we brought that up in pregame talks, and we did get a call that way.

We’re just over a month out for the RS Football Camp – time to book your flights if you need to, and reserve the hotel rooms if you need one! The Facebook Event page is here, and it has all the info you need! The coach-to-player ratio is really high, so no matter what level of player you are, from raw rookie to Team USA member, there will be instruction available!

The visiting coach list is pretty much set. In addition to members of the Surge staff, we’ll have the Head Coach of the Seattle Majestics, Scott McCarron; the Offensive Line Coach of the Dallas Elite, Billy Hughes Jr.; the Defensive Backs and Speed Coach of the Elite, Angel Rivera III, and the former DC of the Surge, former HC of the West Coast Lighting, and current defensive coach of the Phoenix Phantomz, Nate Benjamin. We may be announcing one other coach soon as well.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Century Mark

This will be my 100th post…..not sure what I expected when I started, but this has been fun, as well as being a mental challenge. Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be much to write about and sometimes it seems to be a bit of a grind. I definitely feel for those who write professionally and on deadline! Even though I do this for fun, I still feel a responsibility to do one each week, and get it out on time. So far, I haven’t experienced a group of angry villagers with pitchforks (as Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa would say) knocking down the door in protest. I actually don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Now that I seem to have picked up a few more readers (based on the little lines on the viewing chart), I may go back and re-post some of the early posts, where I was really heavy into X’s and O’s. That’s still my favorite subject, so if anyone wants more of that, just let me know!

The Saga of the Bears continued last week, when we faced a very formidable Riverside Redskins team. I knew their reputation of winning on defense, with a basic, grind-it-out offense, so I was thinking it would be one of those 14-7 games. Especially when all I had at practice last Thursday was 2 OL, 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 TE and 1 WR (who wasn’t even going to be at the game). Anyway, the Redskins came in tied with us at 6-1. They left 6-2, as we rolled to a 36-0 win. Although all of the points were put up by the offense, our defense put us in a lot of great spots as they forced 5 turnovers.

We actually used the 2nd half as a practice, when I installed some pistol-concept plays. I’d resisted doing it a little, as I didn’t want to really change the scheme up front, so instead I decided to keep the blocking the same as on our backside read stuff, and just use the B (fullback) as either a lead block on our inside zone, or as a fill blocker when we ran counter. Also tried to get him out on a playaction. It’s a work in progress, but when you’re installing stuff during a game, you sort of take what you can get…..and yes, that’s something I’ve never done before, installing whole new concepts in the middle of a game. Only in semi-pro!

This week, I know my QB isn’t going to be at practice, so it’ll give us a chance to work on my “Plan B” stuff with my #2 and #3 guys (who are starting WR).

For a long time, I’ve used the mantra of “football is football” no matter what the level, no matter if it is men’s or women’s. I have found one instance where that isn’t true, and it has to do with the raw speed guys have. With the women, we’ve developed a “blitz beater” package that is automatically tagged on the backside of our pass routes. It is very simple – the QB receives the (shotgun) snap, and looks for a blitz on the first two steps of her drop. If she gets it, she hits one of the blitz beater routes. If she doesn’t, then she’s hitting her third step while her eyes shift to the playside route combination and she hits that. With a little practice and reps, it becomes a very smooth process.

It doesn’t work with the guys… the time the QB makes his read on the backside, determines there’s no blitz (or what it is disguised as), and comes back to the playside, the playside route windows have come and gone. And my QB is a smart guy, who played four years collegiately. It seems the reason that our Surge QB can process that read and still have time to come back to the playside while the routes develop is a case of the relative speed – their eyes/brains function at the same rate, but the foot speed of the men gets them into the routes so much faster than the women.

So I’ve adjusted. I slide our protection away from the call, and generally keep in a RB to block/release on the playside. When I do free release the RB, at least now the QB’s backside is covered and he can see pressure coming at him, AND has the RB as a quick checkdown. I’d always wondered why a simple solution like we use on the Surge (and it really is brilliant – I didn’t come up with it, our HC Mike Suggett did back in 2010) wasn’t being used collegiately or in the NFL. Now I know!

Doing it that way, with the RB checking, it also sets up our screens and draws a bit better. 

All in all, I think this is a better solution, and most importantly, it makes my QB more comfortable. In the end, when it comes down to your comfort versus your QB's comfort, I think you really ought to look at "is this a battle I want to fight?" Sometimes, yes, it is. Other times, not so much. This ended up being one of those times. Our points have skyrocketed since I made the adjustment a couple of weeks ago, during our bye. So has our completion percentage.

Keep your eye on the Big Picture and divest your ego.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


My men’s team (the SoCal Bears) was back in action this week, travelling up to Moreno Valley to play a team that was just behind us in the standings. When we pulled up to the complex two hours before the game, there was *no one* there. Like, one kid sitting outside the locked gate, and that was it. He was clearly the last kid getting picked up from a Pop Warner game. We saw a beautiful field turf soccer field, with nice lights and everything. Unfortunately, the adjacent football field looked like a malnourished pasture. Dirt field, lines only every 10 yards, and virtually no room on the sidelines, the edges of the end zones (lined with concrete) and fences right behind the goal posts, so that recovering kicked balls was an adventure. The lights were, um….basic. Fortunately, with a 4:00 kickoff, we weren’t too worried about the lights, although the game behind us was really, really dark.

Anyway, the Good Guys came out with a 41-0 win. All the scoring was done in the first half. We started with a running clock in the 3rd, we got one possession, in which we started experimenting with things and ended up in a 4th and 25 or so, and then the game was called early. No idea why, but it was fine with me. Our first drive of the game was 4 or 5 plays, and resulted in a TD. On the ensuing kickoff, their returner took the ball out of the endzone briefly, then went back in and took a knee, resulting in a safety. That’s a great example of making sure your players at all levels understand the rules! We then took that kickoff and scored in another 3 plays, and that was that. I think we had a blocked kick for a TD, and an INT for a TD as well. But the offense was clicking, and had our best production of the season.

The result wasn’t as heartening to me as the process – the guys that were there (we had 30 by game time, from a roster of 48), came together like I hadn’t seen before and simply did what needed to be done. There was no complaining about calls, or touches, or playing time. The run game ground out yards, along with some key plays, and the pass game was both efficient and explosive. Just a very solid win and a great example of what can happen when players put the team first.

I went out and scouted a player Friday night. He goes to the local high school, and he and his parents have high hopes for his college potential. They’ve expressed interest in having me work with him during the offseason, so I wanted to get a feel for how he played. I haven’t done a lot of individual scouting, so it was fun to put together a detailed report on just one kid, and focus on him during the game. He does have some potential, and is only a sophomore. It’ll be fun to see him develop.

Interest in the RS Football Camp continues to build. It is getting to be that time when airline tickets are in a good place at a little less than two months out, so it’s probably time to book! Please remember that only those who pre-pay will be guaranteed a camp t-shirt, so feel free to do so via PayPal to The cost is only $40….I confidently defy you to find better value for your money anywhere, considering the level of coaches who will be there – coaches that are very successful in the women’s game, experienced in coaching women to a high level of play.

I saw where Alabama has recruited 5 QB’s in the last four years – one 5 star, two 4 stars and two 3 stars. They’re starting a transfer player. You can tout recruiting all you want, but there still has to be player development. We see that at all levels. I’ve seen teams full of all-star talent go by the wayside in both the men’s and women’s game.

It’s a TEAM game….I know that great players have made me look a lot smarter than I am over the years, and I’ve also seen teams with great players (as I mentioned above) fall short in the coaching department. And sometimes, at our levels, it is ownership that is lacking. There’s levels to this stuff if you want to be successful!

Until next week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Continuing a Theme

After watching more football this weekend (I had plenty of time, as my men’s team picked up a forfeit), I wanted to revisit one of the things I talked about last week, the set of the offensive line in pass pro (and some in the run game also). This is a re-post of my “It’s All in the Feet” blog from November 27, 2013:

“Among the offensive line at the men’s and women’s semi-pro level, there is a perception of an almost universal weakness – they can’t move. A lot of times, that is true – they can’t. Perhaps you may remember one of my earlier posts where I talked about assumptions, and that one of them was that the OL were the worst athletes on the field. That will largely remain true, but too often I see OL that “could” move if they were taught “how” to move.
Now, we’re not talking about “dancing bears” here. We’re talking about efficiency in footwork. Making sure that each step gets a result. When an OL coach watches his players do a rep or run a play, s/he should be watching from the feet up. After all, the feet will move before the hands ever make contact, so why wouldn’t you watch the feet first, then move your vision up the hands?

Probably the single phrase that my guys and gals get tired of hearing from me is, “Gain ground with your first step!” Even if that step is supposed to be lateral, they’d better be doing more with it than stepping in place or stepping under themselves.

How often have you heard a coach say, “Oh, we can’t run that counter play – the OL will never get there.” Before you throw all those pulling schemes into the trash, make sure you find out *why* the OL isn’t getting there. I can promise you that more likely than not, when they’re pulling, they’re stepping under themselves.

Same thing on pass pro – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tackles get beat quickly because they’re not gaining any depth on their kick slide (and really, *if* they kick slide is an issue too). But since they don’t get any depth, they have to turn out quickly against the defender, and that in turn gives them a soft shoulder to attack. It all snowballs into a sack, and it all starts from not getting depth on the first step.

When we practice pass pro, we do an awful lot of it without our hands – just getting our feet into position. Bobby Knight stresses the same thing in basketball, by playing with “your hands in your belt” – he says that “defense is in the feet” and really, pass pro isn’t too much different than defense in basketball. I find that the focus of simply “hitting someone” is overemphasized, and the skill set it takes to be a truly great pass protector is rarely practiced.

I believe that by spending more time looking at your OL’s feet and continually correcting inefficient steps, not only will you be able to run more varied blocking schemes that keep the defense playing with doubt, but that your pass pro will improve as well. And when that improves, your QB’s confidence will soar and your passing game will become much more dangerous.”

Most of those things haven’t changed….and one thing I want to add, is the awareness by an OL of what position a DL is in. Here’s an example: I was watching my Chargers play, and their OL did a great job on slide protection to the left. Everyone, including the DL, was going to the left, and the entire right side was collapsed down, giving QB Philip Rivers a nice clean window. However, the RT got a little aggressive (or greedy as I call it) and gave his DE a way out to the right, spinning off the RT and getting to Rivers for a sack.

You see this happening a couple of different times – the above was one, and then you see it on upfield speed rushes….the tackle will get great position on the DE, force him upfield and then “get greedy” and try to drive the DE instead of simply shielding him off. When invariably happens in that case is that the DE uses the tackle’s momentum against him and spins back inside for a sack or pressure. The OT *has* to know where he’s at on the field in relation to the QB and understand that the DE isn’t a bad player and won’t settle for just being driven upfield without countering.

In addition to awareness, I think an OL also needs to pay attention to his center of gravity. In the martial arts, there is talk of how a non-Asian person walks with a center of gravity somewhere up around their chest – if not in actuality, then in their own mindset. Asians, however, tend to walk with their center lower, where it physically is – just a couple of inches beneath their belly button. Translating that to OL play, my players have heard me say many times, “lead with your hip!” when moving laterally. If your hip is the leading part of your body (maybe not literally, but again, in your mind) you’ll find you have much better balance and change of direction. If not, if your center is up high in your mind, then you’ll tend to be top-heavy when attempting to redirect, and you’ll find that DL will be more able to get you out of balance when clubbing your shoulder. Leading with your hip also helps guard against getting “greedy” as mentioned above. Try it!

Interest in the November camp continues to build! We’ve got a much better variety of teams being represented this year.

I see that the Portland teams have merged….I think that is great. I hope there will be room for all coaches from both teams, although sometimes that can be a challenge, merging staffs. Hopefully they’ll make it down to San Diego in November as well, to work with and against some of their Seattle sisters.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

This and That

Or, to borrow from my friend Mikal Black, “scattershooting” after this first week of collegiate football……

First of all, I’d like to announce three coaching confirmations for the RS Football Camp….one is a popular returnee, OL coach Billy Hughes Jr. of the Dallas Elite. Coach Hughes does a great job with his OL and has a real knack for communications and getting his players to remember what he’s trying to get across. I’ve very excited that he’ll be joining us again this year!

Our next confirmation is a “rookie” to us, but he should be well-known among those in the know of the women’s game, and that is the Head Coach of the Seattle Majestics, Scott McCarron. In our quest to bring the best available coaches in, Coach McCarron enthusiastically accepted our invitation. Anyone who has played the Majestics know that they are a classy organization from top to bottom, and that their defense in particular is a tough, physical bunch. We are very much looking forward to sharing the field with Coach McCarron.

Finally (for this week anyway), Coach Nate Benjamin will join us from the Phoenix Phantomz. Coach Benjamin is very well known to us on the Surge staff, as he’s been coaching with us off and on since 2003. He was our defensive coordinator both years that San Diego won national championships, in 2007 and 2012. In addition to his long tenure in the women’s game, he’s also coached for almost 20 years at the high school level, including San Diego powers Lincoln, Vista and Point Loma. Most recently, he was the head coach of the West Coast Lightning before moving to Arizona with the Phantomz. It’s always a good time when Coach Benjamin joins us on the field, and I think that the OL/DL competitions will definitely be ramped up now!

Those three coaches join the already announced Angel Rivera III, the defensive back coach of the Dallas Elite. Coach Rivera is hands down one of the best I’ve seen at his position. He was with us at last year’s camp, and I know the players I spoke to can’t wait for him to be back. In addition to his DB coaching, he is also an expert on speed and agility training.
We plan to have more coaches announced soon, so stay tuned!

Was watching my favorite college team Saturday night, Texas A&M. They have a phenomenal young defensive end, Myles Garrett. He’s fast and strong….but mostly really, really fast off the ball. However, as so often happens, when the announcers were describing his play and the problems he caused for the left tackle across from him, they ignored the problem the LT created for himself. Some OL coaches disagree with me on this, and that’s OK, but the easiest adjustment to me would have been to put the LT in a two-point stance. Now, I get that that may not be your preference from a philosophical standpoint – you may want to continue to emphasize the advantage and power you get in your run game from a three point stance. I get that, I really do. But when you’re in the middle of the game, and your kid is just getting abused (not to mention the abuse your QB is taking), why not try something different? Put him in a two-point every play….it isn’t like he was exactly driving Garrett off the ball in the run game either. But especially once you compare the amount of times that you ran at Garrett to the number of times you dropped back to pass, I think you can see where the main point of emphasis should have been.

The other thing the LT did, was flat set (as Coach Jim McNally would call it, an “Angle A” set). He set out on Garrett at about 15-20 degrees, more than once. There’s a time and place for that, and I teach it as well, but when you’re getting beat by speed isn’t the right time. You normally use a flat (or short or jump) set when you need to get on a stronger player quickly, before he can get enough momentum to bull rush you. Or, maybe he has a signature move he wants to make on his third step and you want to short circuit that. OK, great – those are all appropriate uses for a short set. But when the DE is just running past you….man, you gotta gain some separation and buy yourself some space to give yourself a chance.

Finally, in the “been there, done that” category…..I saw where Penn State gave up 10 sacks to Temple. One of them against a TWO man rush. Penn State’s OL coach is very highly respected – Herb Hand is a good coach. I have no idea what the main breakdown was, but it is a good thing for all of us to remember that sometimes, “those days” happen to even the very best coaches.


All right…NFL opens up next week, and my men’s team has a game as well……let’s see what this week brings! As always, thanks for reading – I appreciate it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Big Time

One of the very best words of wisdom I’ve ever received in my coaching career came from the late, great Bob Cope. Coach Cope was a long time DC in the SEC and Big 12, along with being a HC at Portland State. At a coaches’ clinic in, oh, I don’t know….the late 90’s sometime, myself and three other high school coaches sat down to talk to Coach. At the time, I only thought about how these words applied to coaches, but have also come to understand that they apply to players as well. Here they are:

“The Big Time is wherever you’re at right now.”

Let that sink in for a minute……Coach went on to elaborate that no matter if you were on your way up, on your way down or perfectly content where you’re at, the Big Time is there too. He said that too many coaches “save” their efforts for when they are back in the Big Time, noting that sometimes they feel lower levels of play are beneath them, and more importantly, beneath their best efforts.

I don’t know if I ever felt that way before I heard that phrase, but I can guarantee you that I’ve never felt that way since. I’ve tried to approach every team I’ve coaches with the same enthusiasm, energy and attention to detail. I once coached my 9-year old son’s winter ball baseball team – purely a developmental thing. I brought sort of a football staff mindset to it though, in that the coaches I had, I assigned to specific areas of the game, infield, outfield, pitching, hitting, etc., and then asked them to concentrate on those areas during the game. Also, I handed out practice plans before each practice so that we were all on the same page. One of the parents said, “Isn’t this a little much for a 9 year old team?” (Please note that my “football approach” only extended to organization, not to intensity or competitive fire.) My response sort of stunned her, “Do they deserve any less than my best only because they’re 9?” She said, “I’ve never thought about it that way. Thank you!”

Since hearing those words of wisdom from Coach, I’ve coached in maybe the most competitive high school division in California (Southern Section, Division I), won two national championships with women, won a league championship with grown men and given youth clinics to as young as 8 year olds. In each case, my focus was the same: do the job to the absolute best of my abilities, no matter the level of play.

As a coach, I think you owe your best to your players, and more importantly, to yourself. You never know who is going to be impressed by your work. As Coach Bill Muir said, “You add to your résumé every day you go to work.” In addition, I don’t think you’d ever want to look back at a season or career and think, “Man, I could’ve done a better job if only I did my best.”

For players it is much the same way. I’ve heard players say over and over again, “Oh, it’s only semi-pro” when it comes to showing up for practice or studying their playbook. But then the team loses a close game and they say, “Man, we’re too talented to lose like that.” Well, no – you’re not. You may be physically gifted, but that doesn’t mean you’re a talented team. Football is much too complex and team-dependent for that. This isn’t basketball where one player can take over a game, or baseball where the pitcher can be dominant all by himself. In football you’re only as good as your least-talented player. And if your physically gifted players are making mistakes because they haven’t put in the effort to learn their assignments, then you as a team are going to suck. Period.

If you want to be part of a Big Time team, then you have to be all-in for that. If you’re on your way down the ladder of playing levels, then show the guys who are on the way up how it is done. If you’re on the way up, then take in all you can to make yourself better. If you’re content where you’re at, then you still know damn well that winning is a lot more fun than losing, so do your part to make some great memories in the time you have left.

The Big Time is a great place, no matter where you find it.

The 2nd Annual RS Football Camp has had a great response in the last week. I’m looking forward to seeing the new faces who’ve said they’re coming out. We’ve got more people from the Central Cal area, from LA, Arizona and from Vegas than we had last year, and I’m excited about that.

Please remember to note on the Facebook Event page your name, team, position and t-shirt size. That’ll put you into our “confirmed” status, but also remember that only those who pre-pay are guaranteed t-shirts. You can do so via PayPal to