COACH SPEAK : WEEK 9
By Leo Haggerty
This week’s question of our collegiate head coaches will definitely be effected by their longevity in the sport. If you’re confused by this, go down to Clemson HC Dabo Swinney’s response and compare it to California HC Justin Wilcox’s answer as well as Illinois HC Lovie Smith. That’s the kind of wide range of answers that you are going to see from the cross section of coaches I talked to throughout the country.
Since you started coaching, what on-the-field facet of the game has changed the most?
Also included is my weekly conversation with Tampa Bay HC Dirk Koetter. Enjoy.
Tanpa Bay HC Dirk Koetter
LH : In the Falcons game last week, did Coach Quinn’s decision to kick the field goal late have any influence on your decision to kick the field goal in overtime
DK : No. Good try though.
LH : With both Alexander and Cichy going down, did that affect Coach Duffner’s using certain schemes against the Browns?
DK : No, because for the first time this year, we had six linebackers up. So, if we would’ve had our normal five linebackers up, that might’ve been a little dicier. Because we’ve had the good fortune to have six linebackers and we made that decision last week based again on special teams. You never want to see guys get hurt, but we did have six linebackers up last week.
LH : With the limited number of practices and time, is it hard to get a third-string player repetitions at practice?
DK : Yes it is because you can’t take unlimited reps. You can’t punish the rest of the team to get a guy up. We start every Wednesday in the meetings saying every guy in the room has to be ready to go. You’ve got your 53 plus your 10 and that’s just being a pro football player. You’ve got to get your reps in the classroom and you’ve got to get your reps in mental reps. That’s just how it has to be.
LH : So, for those guys, mental reps are more important?
DK : They’re not more important. That’s just all we’ve got. That’s just all those guys have.
LH : Did having to play overtime affect the next day of practice?
DK : I think the offensive guys. Our offensive guys played 95 plays. The O-line played 95. So did Jameis and some of the receivers. A normal game is at 64. Defensively, I think they played 68, 69 plays. That was about normal. I think our guys were a little bit tired. We backed off a little bit in practice today. We went in shells instead of full pads. They’ll get back. They’ll be ready.
USF HC Charlie Strong : It has to be the up-tempo of the offense and the aggressiveness of the defense. When I first started coaching, it was three yards and a cloud of dust. That was the mentality. Get me three yards on first down. Get me two yards on first down. Want to get so third down is manageable. Now, you’re dealing with offenses that can score quickly. They put so much pressure on the defense because they can move the ball. On defense, when I started coaching, there wasn’t any such player a a nickle backer or corner. You would never put that kind of player on the field. You would have a big old outside linebacker. Then, you would make sure you were playing three-deep or two-deep in the secondary. Then you would load the box to make sure they couldn’t run the ball. Makes you really think about what football was then. Sometimes, I wish we could go back to that.
Temple HC Geoff Collins : Just the change in the players. What I’ve learned over the last five years is that, with young men today, you have to have constant communication with them. They want to know the why and you have to tell them. Whether it’s the schedule, why we’re practicing this way, why we’re running this type of scheme. We spend an awful lot of time explaining to our players the why. Every single aspect of this program. Whether it’s the run game, kick coverage, treatment schedule. We spend a lot of time explaining the why. The days of saying because I told you to are long gone. These guys are exposed to a lot of social media now. They see a lot more things so we spend a lot of time communicating with them because we want them to perform at a high level.
Kansas HC David Beaty : The biggest thing is in the spread offense and the passing game. You take advantage of the entire width of the field. When I started coaching 25 years ago, it was all option stuff and wing T stuff. It was power football and everyone ran the bone. Now, it’s all spread out. Anywhere you go in the country, there’s dynamic guys. That’s the new age.
Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley : Probably tempo. RPOs. Certainly, those things have changed the game a lot. Also, the constant back-and-forth you have in college football.
Illinois HC Lovie Smith : The biggest change since I first started coaching? Well, first thing, football is still football. You still have to block and tackle. That hasn’t changed. When you look at football, in it’s purest form, not much has changed. Great athletes back then. Great athletes now. More things are dissected now. But when you look at just what’s happening on the football field, I don’t know if a whole lot has actually changed.
Purdue HC Jeff Brohm : The biggest change, to me, on the football field is how you treat the players. It’s how you deal with them. Everyone has played football before. It’s a tough game. It’s physical. You have to motivate your guys. You have to help them and you have to motivate them. You have to understand that some things will happen. You have to communicate with them. Today’s generation, I think, is different. They have to know that you have their best interest in mind. On the field and off the field and in the classroom. If you do that, this generation will play for you. Coaching, sometimes, is a bit overrated. You draw up plays but it’s really about getting you players to play hard. To want to compete. You want them to work hard on their own and you want to help them along the way. Now. you may have to stick a foot in their rear but they also want to be patted on the back. You have to communicate with them a lot more. You have to talk to them. You have to explain things to them. If you do that, I think this generation of kids are going to respond.
California HC Justin Wilcox : That’s a wide-ranging question. There’s a lot of things that have changed. The way the game is played. The style has changed. The rules have changed. The fundamentals, though, are as important as they ever were. In that way it hasn’t changed. What has was the pace of the game and the tempo. Another area is the quarterback run game. People have been doing that for a long, long time. It’s still an option offense but the way people get to it is a little bit different. The plays on the field have changed especially the spacing. How they get to those plays have changed. The speed of the players and the one-on-one match-ups it creates. There’s some things that you didn’t have fifteen or twenty years ago.
Arizona HC Kevin Sumlin : You just caught me off-guard with that one. That’s because there’s been a lot of changes. The rules and the clock. The variation from the clock stopping when you go out of bounds until the ball is spotted unless it’s the last two minutes of the game. That’s like the pro game. That has been able to shorten the game because the clock keeps moving. That has had a big impact on the game as well as the rules to protect players. That has had a huge impact because it deals with player safety. Also, the way you tackle and how you teach tackling.
North Carolina State HC Dave Doreen : That’s a good question. I think social media is the biggest thing that has changed our world, not just coaching, but just all of it. How it’s impacted everybody every day, how it’s used from a communication standpoint in recruiting and branding, where people look for information. I think that, to me, it has changed a lot about how we go about our business day in, day out. How our young people are communicating, unfortunately how they’re reading about people’s opinions at times that take their focus away from what they need to be looking at.
Clemson HC Dabo Swinney : Since I started coaching in 19393? Oh, man. Well, the biggest thing that has changed is the style of play offensively. I mean, back when I got into coaching, everybody was under center. Most everybody was some type of I-Formation. You know, 21 personnel or two tight ends all the time, run the football, not a lot of passing. So that’s kind of where it was when I got into coaching. It’s changed tremendously from an offensive standpoint because all of a sudden, shotgun became a factor. The spread offenses starting getting into play. You know, the zone read, the high school offenses started to change and that trickled up to college and now it’s trickling up to the pro ranks, as well. I think that’s the biggest change is just the styles, the style of offense, throwing the ball a lot more, to run the ball. It’s become more of a space game. And then defenses have had to respond to that. So, defenses have had to change some things, and then same thing on the defensive side. The schemes have gotten so much more complex. Back when I first got into coaching, there wasn’t as much movement on defense. You didn’t have as much complexity in the coverages. Now, you’ve got multiple fronts, multiple personnel groupings, zone pressures, those type of things. I think a lot of it, too, is the technology has changed. Where coaches used to, back when I got into coaching, I mean, to get the practice tape, I mean, it was like the next day. To get film, somebody still had to get in a car and drive and meet somebody and exchange film to get tape to study, and now everything is digital and so much faster. So there’s so much more information that you have available as a coach. Quicker, more detailed, and that’s allowed the game to evolve, as well. So lots of changes, that’s for sure, but been fun.