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!