Calling Armchair coaches

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Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:18 pm

Ok armchair coaches ...

I have been "persuaded" to coach Junior Bantam community football this year. We are playing 9 man ball. The team we are up against on Wednesday night has one player who is quite speedy (fastest kid in the league) and very slippery. Apparently they also have a QB that can throw the ball with a little more accuracy than expected at this age group.

We've had 2 practices and 1 game so far this year. In the first game I ran a 4-4-1 defence with DT's lining up in the B gaps, which worked pretty well except on 3 plays where my OLB crashed inside too soon and the RB turned the corner and was gone, resulting in TD's each time and was the difference in the game. Otherwise we held the line pretty good. Inside runs were held to very little gains if any at all. Passing plays allowed my other OLB to blitz and resulted in a sack almost everytime.

This week I am really worried about the outside speed of the new team we are playing, in particular one player. We are a little undersized in comparison to the other team to make matters worse and I seem to have more 1st year JB's than the other team (hey you play the cards you are dealt).

I am contemplating moving to a 4-3-2 using a CB with a FS (as there is usually only one WR) to help spread the outside run out, especially with a healthy cushion from the CB. I have a really undersized FS but who really knows his football and can recognize plays by the opposition. He has a real head for football if not the body.

I'm also considering a 3-5-1 defense but a little concerned about the middle run with this one.

Keep in mind I don't have a lot of practice time as the game is Wednesday and we only have tomorrow (tuesday) to practice.

Any ideas?
Now that I don't live in Quesnel do I need to change my handle??
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby WestCoastJoe » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:56 pm

This will probably be of little or no use to you, but here was my experience with 8 man football for 12 and 13 year olds a few years back.

We went 4 2 2. Two receivers only so our DBs locked onto them.

Our 2 best athletes were our LBs.

We had the D Line penetrate hard every play. DEs contain vs sweep and reverse, and crash down.

First defensive play of the year I also had our LBs blitz. I rarely took the blitz off for the rest of the year. The LBs keyed on the RBs as they blitzed. Our LBs were just one step off the line. DBs 3 to 5 steps off.

We were usually in there about the time the QB was trying to hand off the ball.

The QBs did not have enough skill to throw that well, and our DBs were in coverage.

Our defence was devastating. We only got beat for two fairly long runs all season.

The key thing was we had an attack attitude. The players fed off it.

O did well too. Running game. Good QB who was also a LB. We really polished our snap counts, firing off the line. First run of the year was a sweep. As it started I'm thinking OK we can turn the corner for a few yards. Yikes we got around the corner and there was no one else there to stop us. LOL

Lost a tight one for championship at season end.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby Toppy Vann » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:52 pm

At that level I'd be taking a page from WCJoe's book and go 4 - 3 - 2 with his ATTACK philosophy.

It is clear that WCJ had a good basic philosophical underpinning to his defence - ATTACK - which is essential but can hardly be put in with 2 practices and 1 game. At that level ATTACK and cover the runs especially the sweeps, reverses and off G/T seems to be the keys. WCJ had a similar philosophy to my former coach in North Van - Larry Reda. Although he was more of an offensive guru that was his view on defence plus having some of the largest guys who could pass the weight test playing for us. We went 4 - 3 mostly but blitzed at times too.

I'd not go 3 - 5 - 1 as you want pressure at that level and kids don't see the game like the pros do so 3 -5 would give too much an edge and space and time to the offense. Time is the one thing you want to take from there QB.

One thing I noticed about 8 man Gordon Sturtridge where I played for all the years I could there including my grade 11 HS year was that we had superior fundamentals when we played exhibition games against Renfrew and they were 12 men.

9 man would be a similar great development number and then move. Better blocking, tackling, offensive play package variations. We hardly knew what to do with 4 extra guys on D but we beat them every like a rented mule both when we played on D and when they had 8 on def. vs our 8 man offense.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:01 pm

Thanks for the feedback guys. At practice tonight I really tried the 4-3-2 mentioned (a variation of WCJ's 4-2-2 as i have an extra player). I have some really undersized players. The Head Coach and I have a philosophy that everyone has a starting position (we only have 17 players on the roster). The head coach is running the O and I am looking after the D. I've gone with an idea that I'm letting the HC pick who he wants on O and I will take the rest. Which has left a lot of undersized players. I have 2 players in particular that are undersized, it's their first year playing, and they are easily intimidated and come to play with a "can't do" attitude unless the person is smaller than them (which isn't many). I've tried one of them at DE because he can do it (IMO) but he just isn't willing. The other player could probably pass as a peewee he is so small and gives excuse after excuse. Tonight I put him at CB to cover a pretty good player. He had 3 knock downs! But he was still all negative (I really think he is really worried about getting hit).

In your 4-2-2 WCJ you said you blitzed the LB's constantly. A few of questions. 1) were they lined up in the interior 2) which gaps did you have them blitz 3) how did you defend against the sweeps 4) in your league did you have the rule that tackles are always eligible? I'm worried that if my LB's are blitzing they will actually get caught up in the mix in the middle and the outside won't have any support. I have some really undersized players playing OLB, tenacious, but undersized.
Now that I don't live in Quesnel do I need to change my handle??
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby WestCoastJoe » Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:25 pm

LFITQ wrote:Thanks for the feedback guys. At practice tonight I really tried the 4-3-2 mentioned (a variation of WCJ's 4-2-2 as i have an extra player). I have some really undersized players. The Head Coach and I have a philosophy that everyone has a starting position (we only have 17 players on the roster). The head coach is running the O and I am looking after the D. I've gone with an idea that I'm letting the HC pick who he wants on O and I will take the rest. Which has left a lot of undersized players. I have 2 players in particular that are undersized, it's their first year playing, and they are easily intimidated and come to play with a "can't do" attitude unless the person is smaller than them (which isn't many). I've tried one of them at DE because he can do it (IMO) but he just isn't willing. The other player could probably pass as a peewee he is so small and gives excuse after excuse. Tonight I put him at CB to cover a pretty good player. He had 3 knock downs! But he was still all negative (I really think he is really worried about getting hit).

In your 4-2-2 WCJ you said you blitzed the LB's constantly. A few of questions. 1) were they lined up in the interior 2) which gaps did you have them blitz 3) how did you defend against the sweeps 4) in your league did you have the rule that tackles are always eligible? I'm worried that if my LB's are blitzing they will actually get caught up in the mix in the middle and the outside won't have any support. I have some really undersized players playing OLB, tenacious, but undersized.


I don't think you can be as attack oriented as we were, L. We were not undersized. Only two receivers eligible.

We moved our LBs around a bit. Outside the DE. Stacked. Inside the DE. They would key off the RB on their side. If there was no sweep coming to his side, he would look for his man to take a handoff. He would read the gap and blitz, or else just shadow his man, if he was going far side. We could do it aggressively because we found the O slowly developing, and not subtle.

It is higher risk to be attack oriented, but if you hang back, a good team will take you all the way down the field.

With smaller guys you would have to be selective, and know your men. Your guys should only blitz if you and they believe they can get there. Otherwise they will get caught in the mix.

Sweeps can be dangerous, of course. Your DEs Job 1 is to stop any sweeps. Train them to cross the LOS watching, two steps into the backfield. No sweep, then they crash down the LOS. Tackles hit the gaps, not tie up their men.

For me, I would never try to control the LOS with the D LIne by tieing up your men. It was always attack the gaps.

If your DEs can contain sweeps, then you can blitz the LBs more. If your LBs can read and hit gaps, and get to the RBs then you can play that aggressively sometimes.

If you are blitzing, your DBs have support run stopping, especially up the middle.

Work with what your guys can do. Passive guys in position, but standing still makes for soft defence.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:59 pm

Well not quite the result we wanted. 18-6 for the bad guys.

First play on D the speed guy I was worried about ran outside the tackle and our OLB, DE and MLB were all caught sleeping and he was gone to the endzone.
Second play on D and the same guys did the same thing, this time our FS was nowhere to be found.

After that, we gave up another TD when no one picked up the RB coming out of the backfield for the pass and we had no containment on the QB and no pressure on him either.

However, that was it. Our D stepped up for most of the game and we managed to shut them down quite effectively for most of the game. I told the guys at one point as they were all in awe of the opposition's speed guy that I bet he couldn't take a hit and if they could get a hat on him he would crumple like a house of cards. 2 plays later one of my DT's and a DE had a meeting with him in the backfield and sure enough he was down for the count. One other play he gained big yardage but got stopped by a group meeting and was held up. Before the whistle blew my big DT came rumbling by and had him dead to rights. However instead of landing a killing blow, he went for the strip. My guy doesn't really have a mean streak in him but it was a location where I probably would have gone for the kill shot rather than the strip. He didn't get the strip anyhow.

On the positive we moved the ball pretty good. We reduced the number of fumbles. Learned we have a snap issue with our centre/QB. And we scored a TD on D/ST. We backed the opposition up onto their 5 yrd line and when they went to punt I called a full on blitz and my entire DL seemed in on the blocked punt and recovered in the endzone. It was a big moment for the D (as our punt return is usually just our D with the FS moving back to recover the kick). Offense had a couple cracks to punch it in but a bad snap, a poor pitch and a few hits in the backfield and we didn't gain the endzone. We had the opposition backed up big time in their end for most of the second quarter. Then there was a big play by the D and the half ended just as we got the ball back.

Oh yeah I ran a 4-3-2 lining up in the A gaps most of the time with no blitzing. I think I will stick with that one for awhile and just work on tweaking it.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby Blitz » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:35 am

Hi LFTQ

Not sure if this will be helpful to you but wanted to give it a shot.

I'm of two thoughts with regard to defense for a 9 player defense.

My first instinct would be to go to a 5-3-1 (or 3-5-1) depending on the way you want to look at it.

Your defensive line would have a nose tackle, two interior tackles, and two defensive ends who would line up standup and lineup with their inside knee to the crotch of player who lines up widest on their offensive line. Behind this 5 man defensive line, I would have three more linebackers..a middle linebacker stacked behind the nose tackle and two outside linebackers lined up close to the offensive line and wide. The outside linebackers would cover passes as well as be able to bltz.

I would then have one safety.

Why I would play an odd man defensive line is due to the fact that centers are usually not that skilled at snapping the football at this level and also being quick enough to block. I also like having two defensive players lined up on the outside edge (defensive end, outside linebacker) is because you will see a lot of outside runs and quarterbacks scrambling to the outside. Your defensive ends cannot be caught inside.

A good variation would be to go with a 5-2-2. You would play the same alignment on the defensive line but go with two linebackers and two defensive backs. This alignment makes you more vulnerable to the outside run but gives you better pass protection.

What you could do is use a a 5-2-2 with a variation. You would use your two linebackers differently than just having them split evenly. Instead one would be a middle linebacker, stacked behind the center and the second linebacker (outside linebacker) would always line up outside to the wide side of the field or the side of the strength of the offensive formation.

If you are content with the 4-3-2, then I would try to blitz at times with your middle linebacker right past the center.

The key to defense at this level is for players to stay with their assignments and not follow flow from the backside and to contain on the ball side as sweeps, reverses, rollouts etc. can create problems.

Hope you are enjoying the experience.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:43 pm

Well here's an update on the season so far with only 1 game remaining (this Saturday).

I've gone quite abit this year with the 3-4-2 namely because my NT has been getting a lot of push off the centre and I have some speedy LB's. i have my OLB's lining up outside the DE's and two fairly strong ILB's to help with the inside run. It's been pretty effective, keeping in mind that I have 16 kids on the roster and the HC and I have the philosophy that all the kids get starting positions on either Offense or Defense. Sometimes I have had to put a kid that isn't very "competitive" shall we say in places instead of suiting up my best players and subbing in the others. For the most part the Defense has held pretty well. It has usually been 1 bad execution on a play that has allowed the opposition to break a big play and run it in for a touchdown. None of the other teams have really been able to sustain a drive against us.

That being said our record isn't very good. We have only won 2 games and lost 5. With the ugliest loss of the game coming last night in sub-zero temps. Last night was absolutely horrendous. None of the kids really seemed to have their heads in the game and it really showed on the field. Even our usual star players didn't seem able to focus and weren't able to make tackles or were caught badly out of position. My stalwarts weren't my stalwarts and the rest of the team went down hill from there.

This saturday is the final game for us for league play. Hopefully the guys will show up - we have a big practice tonight to get ready for it. Then there are the playoffs which we are in. 2 wins and we can still be league champs (joys of a small league).

I'm going to try the 5 man front tonight in practice and see how it works. Basically I will take one of my larger LB's and move him to the line.

As for the experience - it has been an "experience" for sure.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:32 am

time for another update as the season draws to a close.

We played our semi-final play off game on Wednesday. We took control early with some great plays by our offence and before we knew it we were up 24-6 at the half. However, just before halftime is when the opposition scored its touchdown on us. That was actually a good thing, because the boys were getting a little too confident up until that point. It allowed me as Defensive coach to help bring them back down to earth and focused. It doesn't take long at this age for a team to turn it around and pull out the victory in the second half.

However, in the second half we managed to keep some drives going and really dominated the play again finishing the game with a score of 39 - 12. The opposition scored a nice TD on a botched play by my CB who tried to play the ball rather than the man as last man back and got burned. Again, nice as it was a teaching lesson for practice on Thursday.

Now we play in the finals against the top team in the league (and our arch rivals) who went 8-1 all season. Their lone loss coming at our hands in a very close battle. Game day will be this Saturday on what looks like it will be a chilly morning.

This season has been a great experience and really re-ignited the fire i thought burned out a while ago for coaching minor football.

Thanks for your input guys, it has been greatly appreciated and well utilized!
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby WestCoastJoe » Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:38 am

LFITQ wrote:time for another update as the season draws to a close.

We played our semi-final play off game on Wednesday. We took control early with some great plays by our offence and before we knew it we were up 24-6 at the half. However, just before halftime is when the opposition scored its touchdown on us. That was actually a good thing, because the boys were getting a little too confident up until that point. It allowed me as Defensive coach to help bring them back down to earth and focused. It doesn't take long at this age for a team to turn it around and pull out the victory in the second half.

However, in the second half we managed to keep some drives going and really dominated the play again finishing the game with a score of 39 - 12. The opposition scored a nice TD on a botched play by my CB who tried to play the ball rather than the man as last man back and got burned. Again, nice as it was a teaching lesson for practice on Thursday.

Now we play in the finals against the top team in the league (and our arch rivals) who went 8-1 all season. Their lone loss coming at our hands in a very close battle. Game day will be this Saturday on what looks like it will be a chilly morning.

This season has been a great experience and really re-ignited the fire i thought burned out a while ago for coaching minor football.

Thanks for your input guys, it has been greatly appreciated and well utilized!


Congrats. Tell us some more about your schemes. Defence. Offence. It is interesting.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:17 am

I haven't actually had much of a hand in the offence as i have left that to the head coach. I have focused on Defence.

I have a real good Nose tackle. As such I have been basing my defence on a 3-4. I keep my DE's lined up outside of the tackles and force them to have containment at QB depth. My NT likes the freedom inside and has relished the responsibility. In my linebacking corps I have really mixed up keeping with 4 but in the playoff game I actually went with 5. When I was in a 4 I had a Free-safety. the Free safety position is one I have experimented with all season, without much success. Moving the 5 seemed to be much better. In years past apparently the FS position was a position where you "hid" a player, this year I was trying to make it more of a "rover" or a "spotter" but I think the players I put there were out of their element. In both the 5 and the 4 I had my OLB's line up two gaps outside the DE's and about 1.5 yrds off the LOS. My OLB's take a three step read into the backfield and are to assist the DE's with containment. As mentioned in the 4 I had a FS and that left me with 1 CB. If there were double receivers to one side, my OLB picks up the inside receiver and one of my ILB's then slides to OLB leaving me with a true MLB. In the 5 LB set I changed the FS to a MLB and in the case of the double receiver set, the MLB moved to ILB to replace the ILB moving to OLB and the OLB shifting to DHB.

Out of the 3-5(4) I have also moved occasionally to the 4-4 by simply moving up one of my LB's to the line. Generally speaking it will depend on the situation and the play calling int he game to that point if I put the DT's into the A or B gaps. Normally the B gaps work best for me as there is usually a lot of sweeps happening at that point and it allows me to string out the play towards the sidelines and push it really wide. With the 4-4 it still allows me to have 2 LB's in the middle to help with gap cancellation there.

I did try the 5 man front a few times in the last few games, with mixed results. The biggest issue is I have more tweeners on the team than anyone with real size to affect the middle, and some of my players were getting caught up in the "wash" and taken out of the play. I now use that exclusively as an all out blitz package the guys have dubbed "The Nuke" play.

Of course out of all of those I do put in various blitzes and mix it up a bit between faking a blitz and hiding the blitz. But sometimes I think it keeps my players on their toes more than it does the opposition.

As it is community football, I have a few players on Defence that I also have to "hide" because they are not exactly "top" players (some not even mid-line players) however I have to play everyone a minimum of 15 plays per game, but I like to say that every kid on our team has a starting position (only having 16 kids on the team makes it easier) and I am pleased to say that we have kept that up all season. But it has been difficult and to our detriment at times because it does mean some of our best players are not necessarily on the field for every play. And at this level all it takes is one broken play and the opposition is gone to the house. Which we have been victimized by more than a few times.

There you have it. Tried following the KISS method as much as possible and putting in some wrinkles from your inputs.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby WestCoastJoe » Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:24 am

Even at that level it gets complicated.

Your record is good. No doubt some of your opponents had their "hidden" players on the field for some of your big time plays. It tends to even out.

How do they regulate getting the weak players their number of plays? That is a bit of a headache to keep track of. My god I had my fill of that kind of stuff.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby LFITQ » Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:41 pm

In the end we finished second. We were in the game until one of our receivers didn't cover the ball properly and was stripped of the ball which the opposition ran back for a TD. We ended up losing 18-6.

the first half ended with us only down by 12. Which wasn't bad considering the early morning wake up call seemed to have affected the boys and they just weren't ready to play at that time. Half time came around and we dominated, just couldn't get the ball in the endzone. But we did stuff the opposition offence all second half as ours was coming on. If there was another quarter to play I think we would have won.

I was really proud of the way the boys turned it around in the second half. They started to play with grit, determination and pure heart. Coming up just a little short.

As for how they regulate the # of plays, I'm not sure how they do it. There is a commissioner who is supposed to watch, but i don't think they regulate it properly. In the end, it doesn't matter. I know all the kids on my team got to play and play regularly and could call a position their starting position.

Now it's time to sit back and relax a bit, and then see if I get the call to go out and do it again next summer.
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Re: Calling Armchair coaches

Postby Rammer » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:32 pm

Congratulations on a fine season Ken, not many coaches have the luxury of seeking outside coaching schemes like you do. :roar: :thup: :beer:
“It meant everything,” Mitchell said of last season. “It was the first time in my life I was a champion. It was the first time I understood football was a family. Right now I want to be the best defensive lineman I can be.” - Khaliff Mithcell, TC 2012

That is what pride is all about. Lions roar, let us prey!
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