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