Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Eating My Words...

One part of being a good coach is learning to eat your words.  I had put a post out a while back where I was discussing all the nuances of the position of the strong safety (SS) in the 46 defense.  Well, I have to say, I have significantly shifted my perspective from where is was just months ago.  Here is the original post for those that haven't read it.  I think it wise to do so before proceeding with this article.

The proving grounds, or the field as it's called in football, has a way of humbling even the smartest of coaches when it comes to implementing something...this is no different.  Last season at the varsity level, I ran the 46 Nickel with 4-2 personnel and had some success with it.  We got into the front as an adjustment with no personnel substitutions whatsoever.  It was simple, it worked and the kids liked it.  Enter this season now as a junior high defensive coordinator and I simply install things the way we did last year with the exception that we are 3-3 personnel now instead.  As I'm working this look in the first few weeks of practice, I'm noticing we are struggling with some of our adjustments and we never can seem to keep the tight end (TE) covered.  Well, when I sat down and looked at what I was doing, I had realized the error of my ways.  Let's go back now and look at the different philosophies of the position of the SS in the 46 defense.

Original Position of SS in 46 Bear Defense Under Buddy Ryan

SS is now in 7 technique.  This alignment was used by Boston College.

SS position outside the TE, this is how Rex Ryan currently runs the 46 defense.

As most know, the defense got its name from famous SS, Doug Plank who had jersey number 46 when playing for the Chicago Bears back in the mid-80's.  Coach Buddy Ryan played Plank over the weakside tackle against 2 back teams that employed a TE.  The SS was the adjuster in the defense from this position.  As time moved on, people began to move the SS around.  Even Buddy's son Rex, has changed the original position of the SS in the defense.  Rex puts the SS outside the TE when aligning.  He feels this keeps the SS's alignment consistent and allows the SS to see his adjustments quicker.  This is what I originally advocated, and I'm sure with the NFL talent that Ryan has, along with the large amount of time given to coaches to work with their players at the NFL level, Ryan has little to no trouble teaching his system.  However, at my level, where we get a grand total of six hours (if we're lucky) of practice per week before gameday, things need to be quite simpler.  So, I opted to move to the alignment I found in a Boston College defensive playbook.  The defense they ran was based out of the 3-4 and simply put the SS inside the TE as the seven technique.  I had my doubts about this alignment, but since then I've seen just how much teaching I've eliminated by doing so, and have quickly come to enjoy this new alignment (and subsequent corrections in my playbook). 

As you can see, remove the TE and the "box" players remain the same with the SS as the 7 technique.
One thing to point out though, NONE of our opponents have run with a TE so far this season.  We are in a "spread to run" league where everybody feels they are Appalachian State or Urban Meyer, so we see very little TE sets.  So this basically translates my defense into a double eagle nickel package, with two outside safeties (OSS's) taking the brunt of the adjustments in our man coverage scheme (ok, it's just cover 1).  Anyhow, the OLB's in my defense (shown as S and R in the diagrams) only have to learn a couple of techniques, where before, my OLB to the TE side had to learn how to cover a TE man to man from the seven technique position.  The SS had to learn the OLB's job was well as learning how to cover displaced receivers man to man.  This led to a lot of overlapping teaching, but too much of a job description for both positions.  So, by moving the SS inside to the seven technique, I effectively eliminated any teaching time teaching him how to force, play boot, reverse, cutback (BRC) on runs away and simply had to teach him to cover a TE man to man from the seven technique, as well as man coverage on displaced receivers.  The OLB's job was made simpler too by teaching him one consistent alignment.  I align my guys one yard outside the EMOL, and keep it at that.  Now they play quicker, faster and with less of a thought process, which is EXACTLY what I as a coach strive for.

Play Faster!!!!

So, as I'm writing you this, I'm eating my words on my original stance on the position of the SS in the 46.  I think all three philosophies have merit, however, when applied "to grass", I like Boston College's version for the simplicity it presents in teaching the concepts based on what player's jobs are.  Ok, so hopefully I didn't steer anybody in a direction they are cussing me for, but if I did, shoot me an email and we can talk.  Otherwise, enjoy and gloat in the joy of me eating my previous words.

Well the grind is on, as most of us are entering mid-season.  I need some help, especially from youth coaches.  We are struggling to keep our practices from being a grind to the kids, and we need something fun and "lifting" to do in practice.  If you have any ideas please shoot me an email at footballislifeblog@yahoo.com .  Any information would be greatly appreciated.  Keep working fellas, keep your eyes on that prize!