High school playoffs, Conference races and NFL football are all in full swing right now. Several things on my mind to talk about in the world of football, so let's get to it in Volume Seven of the Triple Option segment here on The 12th Man!
I've got to say there have been some teams that have impressed me thus far in the college football season. By impressing, I mean, I didn't think they were going to do much, and they have really turned things on. here lately. Texas A&M is one of those teams. What I think is funny is that both A&M and Missouri have similar styles of offense, and one has done well, while the other...eh...not so much. Which of course goes back to Jimmie's and Joe's and not X's and O's. Ol' Johnnie Football is a good looking QB too, and quite the competitor. I am really intrigued at this week's matchup between Alabama and A&M. Sure, I think Bama' takes them, but I don't believe it will be a runaway.
Who's not impressed with Penn State either? To lose those first two like they did and they go on to win six of their last seven, has been pretty impressive with what that football program and school have been through. Now I know the quality of their opponents has not been the best, but look at Arkansas on the other hand. They too had adversity, and in my opinion did not handle it as well as PSU. I know Coaches By the Numbers did not have Coach O'Brien as a good hire, but he must be a decent motivator to have kept things together with all the pitfalls that he could have gotten caught up in with Jerry Sandusky scandal. My hat's off to Coach O'Brien and his staff.
Louisiana Tech has also been a school that has been shocking to say the least. I mean really, where the hell did they come from? Brophy has written a bunch about their prolific offense and their on-the-fly defense, but to be honest I haven't paid them much attention. I mean, it's Louisiana Tech? Sure they lost to their toughest competition Texas A&M (see above), but it was a damn good game. I think when this season is over, we will look back at what Sonny Dykes has done there and be amazed. Speaking of which, Dykes is a hot candidate for coaching vacancies, wonder how that Kentucky job looks to him?
Speaking of Kentucky, there was an article out about Petrino being interested in the job, and now I've just mentioned Dykes. However, if I were their agent, I would advise them to RUN, NOT WALK away from any job offers from the Wildcats. Listen, I lived in Kentucky for four years, and it is an absolutely wonderful place to live, however, football is NOT king there. Basketball and horse racing are the rage in the bluegrass state. The facilities in Kentucky are no better than some major Georgia or Texas high school programs, so drawing players into Lexington takes a special "appeal". Kentucky is also not known for producing many blue chip athletes either, and if it does, most are snagged by the Alabama's, Tennessee's and South Carolina's. Now I'm not saying it wouldn't be fun to try to win there, hell Rich Brooks and Hal Mumme were very successful there. I would think you'd have to ask yourself what your definition of success was going to be. Hear me out. I mean, if you go to UK and think you are going to build a national championship team, I think you will be looking for work by year three. If you go in, and think that the SEC championship is a possibility, I think they should check you into a padded room. Now, do I think Kentucky could rival Vandy as the SEC's version of the Naval Academy, your damn right. I think your could build a competitive, scrappy team that knocks off a big dawg every year, and is always bowl eligible, however championships will NOT be in your vocabulary. You have to take UK for what it's worth, and that is poor facilities, poor talent, and a fan base that waits for November instead of August to roll around. I lived there for four years remember, and as a Gator fan, everytime Spurrier spanked their ass, I would hear "Wait til' basketball season" (in my deepest southern drawl). I used to think, "really, that's your best come back." However, that is how our UK fans think, and rightfully so, Kentucky basketball is not good, they are not great, they are LEGEND. What I always wonder is, if football usually pays for so much in an athletic program, how then does UK's athletic program find the money for basketball, when they have so little love for football? Interesting...
High School playoffs are upon us, and if you have been fortunate enough to make it, then I want to give you some pieces of advice. I know, I don't have any championship rings, and I've never won a state championship, however I've been to the playoffs a few times, and won some other championships, and this is what I'd share with those that are going into the post season.
- Don't reinvent the wheel. Do what you do, and do what got you where you are.
- Find ways to keep practice upbeat and interesting, this time of year is where you find out just how much your team really loves the game.
- Don't be afraid to break away from the norm. when it comes to practice. Find anyway to keep those young men motivated.
- Don't look ahead. Take the playoffs one week at a time, one series at a time and one down at a time. Looking ahead is the ultimate pitfall this time of year.
- Avoid complacency at all costs, especially if facing a team you beat earlier in the year. I experienced this first hand this season, and losing to an opponent you already beat sucks, plain and simple. We lost our league championship to a team we beat by two touchdowns previously. We lost to them in the second game by four and lost by two in the tiebreaker game.
- Don't be afraid to polish up on fundamentals. The highest I ever got as a coach was region champion, and the Wednesday before the regional championship game we were doing live tackling drills to start practice. We lost our very good free safety in that drill to a broken collar bone. It happens, but we went on to win the game that week because we out tackled our opponent and had 11 hats to the ball on every snap. They had a backfield that is now playing on Saturdays in various places around the country and we held them to 189 yards rushing that day and two touchdowns (they averaged 303 rushing and were scoring 37.5 points per ball game that season). When watching film, we had a total of 9 missed tackles to their 22. In the weeks leading up to that game we had stopped live tackling in practice and saw our missed tackles more than double going into that championship game. From now on, I live tackle at least once a week until the season is over. Have I lost players, yes, but the reward far outweighs the risk.
- Don't be afraid to let the kids enjoy themselves, but keep things in perspective. This is a fine line you have to walk, and it's one that trips up a lot of coaches. The first year I was a head coach and we made the playoffs I was so uptight you could have shoved a lump of coal up my ass and in two days you'd have had a diamond. My emotions spilled over to the team and we lost 54-14 to a team we had only lost to 14-7 in week one. The players were tense and afraid to make a mistake and instead of playing to win, they tried to play not to lose. Lesson learned. Now two years later, I went into the second round and we were more "loosey-goosey" with things, and got our butts beat by a team that was just 5-5 in the regular season (we had finished 8-2). We had no business losing to that team, but were not focused and were down 28-3 at halftime. We came back and made it a ball game, losing in overtime 34-31, but we shouldn't have let it get that far out of hand. Keeping them too tight makes them not free to play and make plays, and keeping them too loose, makes the players lose focus on what they are trying to do. I always kept the mood in huddles and meetings a bit loose, but when we did situational drills in practice it was on, I was in full-on dick mode. That helped me a lot in the latter years. This season was the first time in about eight years I felt I wasn't hard enough on my guys, and it cost us a league championship in the end.
- Savor the moment. I remember being the DC on a staff that was playing in the state championship game, and I was walking down the track getting ready for pregame to start when a coaching buddy called me over to the fence. He had recently been fired, but had two state titles under his belt in our division, and was a good friend of mine. As we talked, I could tell he'd been following us, and since he'd had a team in the state championship game about five years earlier, I knew he could tell me what to expect. As our conversation wore on he told me what he thought our opponent would do, how good their QB was etc., and then came the best piece of advice I think I've ever gotten. He said, "Savor the moment coach". To which I said, "What do you mean?". He said, you need to savor the moment, because right now you are on top of the world, and you feel as this will be an every year thing, and I'm telling you it's not. Now this is from a guy who had two state titles, had played for the state championship five times, and had numerous district and region championships. I told the coach I would and as I walked down to our end zone, I couldn't wrap my head around what he was saying. Well, a poor showing, and we got our butts handed to us pretty good, but we all felt good about going to the state championship game. The following season we were 3-7 and didn't make the playoffs. After going 3-7 again and falling to 2-8 the third year, the entire staff was let go, and the words my friend had said echoed in my head. None of the coaches on that staff have EVER been back to a state championship game. What my friend meant was, live in the moment, and enjoy this moment, as it may NEVER happen again. I wished I had heeded his advice because that was a fun season I missed out on being so overwhelmed with getting to the mountain top. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees...
I saw this video Yahoo the other day, and thought it was pretty interesting. I must say the lil' gal' can run. I have never been a fan of girls playing football with boys. However I do like the idea of women's leagues. Now I'm not talking Lingerie Football, I'm talking real football, but for women. I have always wondered how that would go, and have even looked into some of the women's leagues around the country. I have never coached girls, and I'm sure it would be a challenge, and yet I think it would be fun at the same time. I know the physicality would not be the same, and I wonder how the women would handle things emotionally, but I think coaching the ladies would be quite interesting. I know, I'm probably out in left field here, and maybe I need to coach girl's basketball for a season to get it out of my system (my wife coaches girls and helps out with football as a manager/team mom and she would much rather have boys than girls). Anyhow, a cool little video of a very talented young lady!