FNF Coaches Talk

FNF Coaches — Defenses Trade Size for Speed, VR Hits Texas, NFL QB and High School Coach Josh McCown

Good afternoon, Coaches. We’ve got some good stories for you.

1. As high school football offenses evolve, defenses trade size for speed to catch up (The Washington Post)

With many modern high school offenses operating out of the spread and often calling run-pass options, defenses are starting to catch up. To Lake Braddock (Md.) coach Mike Dougherty, the antidote is using lighter athletes with increased speed and versatility on defense. He’s not alone.

To counteract the speedy, up-tempo offenses, many defenses have de-emphasized the need for hulking run-stoppers who clog up lanes and make plays with brute force. In their place are quicker, interchangeable athletes who can maneuver in space.

“Our guys are flying all over the field,” Dougherty said during the team’s first week of practice earlier this month. “It’s scary and fun at the same time. I don’t want guys getting their heads torn off [this early in training camp], but it’s fun to watch.”

At Lake Braddock, a public school in Northern Virginia, Dougherty has noticed players becoming leaner and more toned because of a greater focus on training and conditioning. In addition, Lake Braddock is in a cycle in which the players have smaller frames rather than stocky builds.

So teams such as the Bruins are relying on players who can cut quickly and snatch the ball out of the air thanks to their length and agility — not only at defensive back, where those attributes have long been desired, but also at linebacker and defensive end.

How has your philosophy on the ideal size for each position changed due to the rise of up-tempo offenses?

2. Virtual reality technology making its way into Texas high school football (GoSanAngelo)

A few years ago A.J. Smith, then offensive coordinator of a small college in Louisiana, was struggling to teach a receiver to read a defense while running his pass routes. Frustrated, Smith pulled out an old video game from the late 1980s — something called Tecmo Bowl. He inserted his receiver’s No. 47 jersey on a receiver in the video and directed the receiver on what route to run against a two-deep and a three-deep secondary.

That exchange between coach and player planted the seeds for what today is a Texas-based company called VAR Football.

“We’re utilizing today’s technology to teach and train football players the way young people learn today. It’s a tool to teach them in their language,” said John Paul Young Jr., chief operating officer of VAR Football.

The VAR system starts by videoing practice from the quarterback’s perspective with 360-degree capability. After practice in the film room or coaches’ office, the quarterback puts on the VAR goggles and sees the practice from his viewpoint. By turning his head while wearing the goggles, the quarterback can see from sideline to sideline. He can see the correct decisions he made. He also can see where the ball should have gone when he made wrong decisions.

By wearing the goggles that include earphones, distractions are eliminated. Quarterbacks are forced to focus. This singular focus allows young quarterbacks more reps. Even with UIL rules limiting football players to eight hours of on-field practice per week outside the normal school day, quarterbacks can get dozens of extra daily reps with VAR.

In what ways do you cater to the modern student-athlete’s learning style by using video?

3. Why Josh McCown signed with the Eagles and how he’s still coaching high school football (NJ.com)

Here’s an interesting one. Josh McCown was coaching at Myers Park High School in Charlotte earlier this month when the Eagles approached him about coming out of retirement to replace their injured backup quarterback, Nate Sudfeld. McCown officially retired in June, fresh off two productive years with the Jets and 17 years overall as a professional quarterback.

McCown was willing to come out of retirement for the right situation, which included a team that let him continue coaching.

So he and the Eagles came to an agreement — McCown would be allowed to fly to Charlotte on Friday afternoon after practice, time permitting, and make it back in time to continue contributing as a coach for Myers Park on Friday nights. He’ll return promptly.

Myers Park coach Scott Chadwick said McCown does all of the behind-the-scenes grunt work that entry-level high school coaches do — including painting the field lines on every practice field before the team can workout.

More than two hours before a recent practice, before anyone else had arrived, McCown was out there, painting every line.
This is nothing new. McCown attends every meeting, game-planning session and practice. He works with the quarterbacks — two of them are his sons — on the field and off, and coaches up the receivers and rest of the offense, too.

Why is it important to have coaches on your staff with experience playing high-level football?