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"We in here talkin' about practice. Not the game. We talkin' about practice." Allen Iverson

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Who doesn't remember this epic rant by AI back in the day? It was the absolute BEST!

As we get ready to kick off fall practices, not many of us have the same view as AI. We are planning installations, scripting different segments, reviewing best drills, etc. Knowing that everyone is working on practice preparation, I wanted to share a few ideas regarding what we see as the best way to teach, develop, and execute our Eat the Captain defense.

First, we want every practice to replicate game situations and structure as much as possible. Here are a few things we do to incorporate that philosophy:

  1. There are no do overs in a team segment. We do not get back on the ball and repeat plays during team to make a correction. You don't get to do it in the games so we don't do it in practice. If we do that then 9-10 kids are just standing around and not getting reps while we fix a player or 2. Reality is that somebody is probably a little bit wrong on every play. So we are not going to stop practice and miss reps because we caught the one mistake on a given play. Correcting mistakes is why we video practice and have meetings. You show me a team doing a lot of "back on the ball" and I bet I can show you a team that plays slow. We believe reps make you better and we want to get maximum reps.

  2. We practice sideline discipline every day. We set our sideline up for practice just like it will be set up on Friday night (except for SkyCoach). We have our sideline chairs on the 32 yard line on the left end as you face the our bench. The chairs are arranged in a horseshoe shape with 4 to the left of the coach, 4 facing the coach/field, and 4 on the right of the coach. The DB's always are to the right of the coach, LBers are in front of the coach, and DL is to the left of the coach. We have 12 chairs because we have 12 starters between our 2 main personnel groups. The players know that if they are not in team then they should be in their chair on the sideline. Our players know that we have to make adjustments, discuss situations, and correct mistakes in both games and practice and we want everybody together. We also leave the sideline as a group so there is total understanding of the situation, personnel group, and call when we take the field to start a series.

  3. We do not divide practice into unit work such as 7 on 7, Inside Run, 1/2 line, etc. The reason is simple and here is just one example. When we take LBers to inside run they are amazing downhill players vs. run. Then we take them to 7 on 7 and they are incredible pass defenders. Then we go to team and run outside zone the first play and LBers pass drop. Then we dropback on the second play and the LBers are all at the line of scrimmage. Bottom line is kids play the drill...just like we script the drill. We are all PERFECT when we know what the play has to be. We want our kids to learn to be great by knowing how to play in TEAM! Nobody puts an inside run score in the paper. So we have 4 segments of team with an "emphasis" in each segment. Players do not know the emphasis. Every play is scripted by hash, down and distance, different defensive personnel groups, field zone, and offensive personnel. We will change our defensive personnel from the sideline on almost every play just like we do in the games. There are not coaches behind the defense telling players what to do. The 4 segments are:

  • Inside run/Boots/Play Action Pass/RPO

  • Perimeter Run/RPO/Screens

  • Dropback/Sprint Out/Quick Game

  • Special Situations (Goal line, 2 pt. D, Opponent backed up to -2, Unbalanced, Hail Mary, 2 Minute, Tempo, etc.)

We will script calls for these team segments like we will call in the game. We will script 10 plays for a 10 minute segment. We will give all 10 plays to the 1's and then repeat 5 of the plays with the 2's. We expect to get 15 reps in a 10 minute segment. There is obviously no time for do overs.

Next, we organize practice activities by order of importance. Our schedule is the same every day. We do not want to waste any time explaining what is next or teaching a bunch of drills. TEMPO is our top objective! Here are the segments of our practice:

  • We start every day with a 10 minute blitz on barrels segment. We have 3 sets of barrels. Barrels are set up in formations on hashes and the last one is in the middle. We start near midfield with the first set of barrels, then move to the next set on the opposite hash from the first set, and finish with the third set on the goal line in the middle. We have 20 calls scripted for each set of barrels. We are going through alignment, calls, adjustments, pressures, and coverages with various personnel groups. We go fast and the players are getting aligned communicating calls, and pointing to assignments in the call. Our goal is to always get 60 reps in this segment. This is a FULL SPEED drill...mentally and should be approached as such! IT IS NOT A WALK THRU! We don't walk thru is "Blitz on Barrels (BOB)". Words matter and we want our players attacking this segment mentally. Here is a picture of a BOB field:

  • Next is TEAM PURSUIT. We do the same drill, the same way every day. Team Pursuit is an entire discussion but for the sake of keeping it short, I will just say that we leave the sideline as a group (in groups of 1's, 2's, 3's) just like in a game, get aligned on the last set of barrels, get eyes in the proper spot. We then throw a ball outside to a "rabbit" and pursue the hip of the ball carrier. This is a FULL SPEED drill...physically.

  • Then we go to our 4 station tackle circuit. This is a FULL SPEED drill. We are tackling bags, tackle rings, etc. Players are grouped by positions and every player goes to every station. Every coach coaches every player. We really tax our players physically here. We expect to get all 4 stations in 5 minutes. Everybody has to run from station to station. It is a 5 minute gut check.

  • Then we go to individual position work.

  • The team segments discussed above are the last 4 sessions of practice.

We emphasize to our players that if we can get lined up, know and execute our job, chase the ball with maniacal effort, and tackle...we will be a dominant defense. But if any one of those 3 things are missing then scheme won't ever be enough. That is why we start with these BOB, Team Pursuit, and Tackle Circuit EVERY day.

Last, individual time has to be working on what WE DO! Cool drills from clinics or YouTube don't matter at all. We work on what we do and build our drills to teach our fundamentals. For example, the DB's don't need a bunch of back pedal or man technique drills because we rarely do either of those things. Our DL drills have to be unique to our defense. We don't need players learning to 2 gap or split double teams. And LB's need to be working on blitz techniques...not run fits and pass drops.

Like everyone, we want our practice to prepare us for games. Our defense will always be predicated on maniacal effort, incredible discipline/organization, and precise execution. We have to build practices that create muscle memory and ingrain the right traits in our players. We are always looking to get faster and better at practice but our players know the importance and expectations when they hit the practice field.

And yes...We are talkin about practice. Not the game. Not the game. We are talkin about practice. I hope everybody has a great fall camp!

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