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Defensive Coaching Philosophy
A. Defense - the most important single phase of the game of football.
1. If the defense is strong enough:
a. The opponent will not score.
b. The opponent will not score enough to beat you or demoralize you.
2. The major objective of all defensive football is to keep the opponent scoreless.
a. Never must a defensive unit be sold on the idea that a sound defensive team must keep an opponent from gaining yardage or
making an occasional first down.
b. They must be sold on the idea that the opponent can't cross your goalline.
3. The second objective of the defensive unit is to gain possession of the ball.
a. The defense can be "offensive minded" and gain possession of the ball in 4 ways:
(1) Recover a fumble.
(2) Intercept a pass.
(3) Block a kick.
(4) Force the opponent to turn over the ball on downs.
4. The third objective of the defense is to score.
a. Pass interceptions returned for a TD.
b. Recovering and advancing a fumble for a TD.
c. Blocking a kick and recovering it for a TD.
d. Scoring a safety
e. Returning a punt for a TD.
5. The whole key is that if the defensive unit can become offensive minded to the degree that they can honestly expect to score while on defensive, they will execute every phase of defensive play better.
6. Each member of the defensive team must recognize, in the proper sequence, the objectives of the defense.
a. Prevent a score
b. Gain possession of the ball.
c. Score while on defense.
II. What the Defense Must Accomplish
A. The basic theory of defense.
1. Contain the offensive unit and prevent the killing play and the easy TD.
a. Accomplish these goals by always keeping the ball inside and in front of the defensive unit.
2. When the ball approaches the 10 yd. line, the necessity for defending in depth no longer exists.
a. At this point, the defensive unit changes from delaying theory to an attacking unit
B. Individual defensive fundamentals.
1. The 3 fundamentals that each player must have in order to play defense are:
a. The ability to move.
b. The ability to protect oneself.
c. The ability to tackle.
2. The most important fundamental is the ability to move.
a. The speed with which he moves and the accuracy of his movement will determine to a degree his ability to play defense.
b. Individual defensive fundamentals.
3. Essentially, the ability to protect oneself means the ability to retain freedom of movement by keeping the legs free.
a. Block protection is the ability to fight off an offensive player and retain freedom of movement.
4. The ability to tackle effectively is the culmination of sound defense; if the tackle is missed, all theoretical defense (the ability to move ward off blockers) has been in vain.
C. The seven cardinal principles of defense.
1. Position - all defenders must be in the proper alignment to carry out assignments correctly.
2. Defensive blow - the correct method of warding off the initial block of an offensive lineman must be taught correctly and executed before the defensive unit will hold up.
3. Recognize pass and react - never get beat deep.
4. Reading keys - defenders must immediately read and react to the established keys to tell if the play will be a run or a pass.
5. Protect your territory - each player has a certain territory that is his responsibility to protect; to be successful he must:
a. Know and understand fully what his territory is.
b. What techniques he must utilize to protect it.
c. The inclination to help his teammates protect their areas must be curtailed until he has done his primary job first.
6. Pursuit - once his initial territory has been secured, the defender becomes a pursuer.
a. He must know the proper and line of pursuit and then carry it out full speed.
7. Gang tackling - the final principle is to be sure that each time the ball carrier declares his path, that all able and available defensive personnel are prepared to share the meat.
a. Pile up - not on.
b. Prevent the break away run.
c. Demoralize the ball carriers.
d. Create turnovers.
D. The most important factor in the development of the defense is the coach.
1. He must understand the seven principles of defense.
2. He must be able to teach the seven principles of defense to his players.
3. The players will execute properly.
4. The players will believe in the defense.
III. Selling the Defense
A. The primary job of a successful defensive coach is to sell the defense.
1. This selling must include your staff as well as the team itself.
2. Selling is extremely important if you are going to be a sound defensive team.
B. The 3 groups that have to be sold - (yourself, your staff, and your squad).
a. Before you can sell the defense, you must believe in it yourself.
b. In order to believe in it, you must understand all phases of it completely.
c. A large part of the selling job will stem from your ability to get across to your staff and to your squad just how to carry out the various techniques required of the defense.
d. As the head coach or defensive coordinator, you are the expert and the one to whom they will turn when they need an answer.
e. Too many young coaches make the mistake of using someone-else's defense because it has worked for them, without
really understanding the mechanics of the system.
f. Unless you really know your defense, understand all about it and believe in it yourself, you will never sell it.
g. Remember the words of Ben Franklin: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
2. Your staff - the first group that you must sell is your staff because in many cases, they will be the ones who actually are going to teach the defensive techniques to the squad.
a. Each assistant coach must become an expert at least in the phase of defense for which he is responsible.
b. Each assistant must the overall defense in general - its strengths and its weaknesses.
c. The staff must "believe" in the defensive scheme.
d. They will have to coach with the contagious enthusiasm as the head coach.
3. The Squad - these are the people who will actually put all of your ideas and theories about defenses into action.
a. The players must know the general theory of the defense.
b. The players must know the absolute about their position.
c. The players must know their areas of responsibility.
IV. Categorizing Your Defense
A. The 5 segments of a defense that the coach must know and believe in.
1. Position - as a coach you must know the exact position in which a player must be aligned to get his job done first.
a. The biggest disadvantage that you can give a football player is to start him in the wrong alignment.
2. Stunts - If you are going to use stunts, you must ask yourself:
a. What are the stunts that will work best from our alignment?
b. How will we "cover" for our stunts?
3. Weaknesses - you, your staff, and your players must know the weaknesses of your defense.
4. Fundamentals - what are the extra techniques you must teach your defenders when in a different alignment or stunting?
5. Capabilities of personnel - your defense will only be as strong as your personnel playing it.
a. Determine what your personnel is capable of playing.
b. Compare your findings with the defense you will be asking them to play.
c Adapt your defense to your personnel adjustments.
V. General Defensive Planning -
"A Year Round Job"
1. Make a list of all returning personnel.
2. Make a list of all potential players from lower division rosters.
3. Attain an evaluation from lower division coaches.
B. Basic defense to be used next season.
1. In considering your defensive planning you must ask yourself:
a. Which defense(s) do I really know and am capable of teaching?
b. Which defense(s) am I an expert in the terms of:
4. Knowledge of strengths and weaknesses.
2. Teaching your staff.
a. Prepare the lesson plan.
1. Outline what is to be taught and then break it down into as many meetings as you feel are necessary to get the lessons across.
2. The number of meetings will be determined by:
(a) The football experience of the staff from a playing and coaching stand point.
(b) The number of years the staff has been together.
(c) Whether or not the defense is entirely new or is merely a review of one you have been using in the past, with some adjustments.
b. Once the outline has been formulated, it is time for staff meetings.
1. Staff meetings - are a teaching situation.
a. Must have a testing period of some type to be sure the lessons have been understood.
2. Establish guidelines.
a. Imperative that the defensive coordinator absolutely understand every phase of team defense.
b. Be sure each session is informative.
c. Be sure that each session will prepare your staff to get the job done.
VI. Other Keys to Defense
A. Get excited and show enthusiasm.
1. When big plays occur, jump up and down; slap each other on the back.
2. On turnovers, hold up the ball in the air.
3. Other gimmicks, help the ball carrier up after he has been tackled.
4. Use cross-bones and skulls on the helmet for recognition.