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Analyzing your opponent

Strong Football by Coach CP: Analyzing your opponent

This page has moved to a new address.

Analyzing your opponent

Strong Football by Coach CP: Analyzing your opponent

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Analyzing your opponent

I consider this a post for young coaches who are watching film for the first time in their young careers (I say that while I just completed my 5th season coaching at 22 years old, so I should say "younger" careers than myself).

I've been watching film for a while now. I've watched for both sides of the ball at the varsity level. One thing that would have helped considerably would be someone "teaching" me what to look for early. So, head coaches, it may be a good exercise to spend a day in the off-season reviewing the basics for your program. Coach your coaches, trust me, most of us want to learn!

This first post will come from the offensive coaches perspective. I will cover defense on a soon to come date ( I promise, the season's over, so it will be soon!).

As an offensive line coach, I first try to identify the defense's base fronts. Is it in the Under Family? Is it an Over family? Do they run multiple? Do they base out of 3 down linemen, 4, or 5?

The next thing I do is I speed through the tape to try to find the offense on film running one of our base formations OR a similar formation. You must identify the style of offense. Some teams, while they may run the same formations (let's say the I formation), they may run veer and midline option extensively while you run iso and power. This will change defensive responsibilities. So you need to know your opponent's defense, and a little about the offense they are playing to keep things relative.

Once I find a formation I like, I look at their front structure. I ask myself what it is, (under/over/30 stack, ect...) and where they play their kids in that front. I write down all their players in their relative position. I then identify the coverage. This is probably the trickiest for young OL coaches especially. Some will see a single high safety and assume Cover 3. You need to look at the corners. Where are their eyes on the snap of the football? Where are they playing? A lot of times, the film won't show you the full defensive coverage, so it's important to "build the puzzle" yourself. If that corner looks exclusively at the receiver after the snap, you've dropped the coverage possibilities to Cover 4 or some Man variant. If he's peeking inside, Cover 4 is a possibility, but it's safe to say it's a zone. If he funneling the receiver inside while looking inside? Then he's probably playing the flat. Don't assume that's cover 2 though. It could be Cover 3 cloud, Cover 4 still (especially if the #2 receiver went flat immediately) or some qtr qtr half coverage. Is he to the field, boundary, the middle of the field? After analyzing that corner, look at the other corner. Is he doing the same thing with the same technique? If it is, you can assume that it's not a split coverage like qtr/qtr/half or Cover 3 cloud. If it's different, then you likely have split coverage.

Why do you need to know the specific coverage though, besides for passing plays? The pass coverage often dictates the run support. If you have a flat playing corner to one side, you can assume the safety will be late in run support, meaning off tackle and outside runs can do well for 5 yards if you can account for the front 7. If the safety is showing up, then you have active safety support (cover 4, Cover 1 with a robber safety, Cover 3 Sky), you want to examine the other side. Cover 4 will show you active safety support to both sides. Cover 3 Sky will show you active safety support to only one side. Qtr/Qtr/Half will show you active safety support to one side as well. Man coverages really depend on the style of man and the defensive coordinator's coaches.

Understanding the defensive coverages out of your fronts will help you understand how to game plan your running game.

After I do this for our base formations (and trust me, you will get faster at this, it goes slow at first), I look at down and distance coverages. Does our formation set their front and coverage, or is it down and distance? I will write down all of this information on one sheet. I do it separate though because then I find it easier to notice discrepancies. Sometimes, you will realize late in the film process that the coverage is different then you really though. A common one occurs when you find out the defense is in cover 4 and not cover 2 because the corner jumps the flat only when #2 goes flat. This is common. But going through the film looking at down and distance only on the second time through will help you notice early mistakes your first time. Also, I find that I am more efficient this way. Jumping back and forth bogs me down. It takes forever to go through film once this way. I'd much rather do it quickly twice then take forever once.

Analyzing personnel is critically important as well. If I can't find like-formations but I do understand their base defense to setup for practice, I at least really focus on their players. Can this person take on a down block? Does the nose immediately fall to the ground and make a pile when he simply senses a double team? Does he spin off a down block out of his gap? How quick is he off the ball? Does he use his facemask or his hands? Does he stop his feet? Does he have a tell on stunts? Who's his backup and why is he the starter? Is he really his height and weight listed on the roster? Can he take on a lead blocker out of the backfield? Are the linebackers slow players but sure players or fast but overly aggressive? How did the DC role play his personnel? This is especially important on a year to year basis. Does he like pluggers at nose? Is his backside backer always a great tackler but poor at taking on blockers?

I make sure I look at personnel no matter what. It is always my 3rd time through on the film. That way I can think back on what other plays that kids stood out on. I will sometimes make notes on this in my other notes though if the kid makes a big play. That way, I can erase assumptions. If the kid blows up a fullback on one play, and it really stands out, but he sucks at other times, I can always erase it later.

After I've collected this data, I then watch it one time through at least for "kicks". I try to get a feel for the game. Without looking at my notes, I try to predict what the DC will call based on down and distance and the offensive formation. Does he bring pressure in the red zone, or does he backoff? Does he play deep in sudden change to prevent the big play (when his defense is brought on the field after a turnover) or does he bring the house because he's upset?

Now this is from an OL coach perspective, but skill position coaches could follow these same tactics and apply them to the passing game. Understanding how the defense plays the run is critical for the play action game. Young WR coaches often get defensive coverages mixed up because a HC assumes they will know just because their the coach and they should magically know. RB's coaches and QB' coaches can obviously learn from this as well for obvious reasons.

Perhaps the most important thing to do in film is not worry about getting things wrong. If you watch film 2 or 3 times, you won't be. You'll understand who they are. But keep your focus. Don't stop and come back to it unless its unavoidable. Watching it through gives you the feel for the game. It will make the process faster. Once I get rolling, it goes quick. Remember, you should hopefully have 3-4 staff members looking at film as well. As a HC or OC, if you want deeper analysis on one portion of the game, give it to coaches individually. Don't stick it on one coach alone or yourself. Maybe give the OL coach the specific job of understanding their run support and fronts, but give the WR coach the down and distance. Give the QB coach secondary personnel and give the RB coach front 7 personnel.

I like to watch it from all perspectives because that gives me the best feel for the game. However, for some, they may not need that. Do what works best for you, and move on.

Coaches, if you have any additional tips, feel free to leave them here. Have a good one!

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