Jeff Ferguson coached Totino-Grace (Minn.) to its eighth state championship in his 15 seasons as coach in 2016. He was inducted to the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.
With a career record of 173-21 (.892 winning percentage), Ferguson has proven he can make smart in-game adjustments. He offers 10 tips.
Don’t wait until halftime. If a coach notices a problem, he should look to correct it as quickly as possible.
Don’t change philosophy. Make small adjustments – like linemen formations or blocking scheme adjustments – rather than major philosophical scheme changes that the players have not had a chance to practice.
Watch the game. Some coaches can get lost in the playbook or script of plays rather than watching the action on the field. If the other coach is adjusting to the action, you need to as well.
Track personnel changes for both teams. Did the other team suffer an injury to a key player? How can your team exploit it? Did your left tackle get hurt? Perhaps you need to shift your run game to the right side.
Adjust personnel according to the opponent’s game plan. If the opposing team is forcing your slower linebackers to flank out wide to follow players in motion, you might consider substituting another defensive back for the slower linebacker.
Meet with players after each series. Sometimes a coaching staff identifies a problem quickly, but struggles to relay the solution to players in a timely fashion. If you don’t have the players organized, it’s difficult to communicate with them.
Take advantage of different vantage points. Have your best scout watch the game from the press box, and give him a line to the head coach so he can relay ideas.
Look for trends. Assign someone – maybe even a statistically included student – to track down-and-distance and play-calling trends. If a team is running on first down 90 percent of the time, the head coach needs to know.
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