FNF Coaches Talk for Oct. 18

The hay is in the barn, and it’s time to take a minute to relax before Friday’s games. We’ve got you covered. Here are some stories we’re talking about on Thursday.

1. The High School Coach Who Never Punts Has Another Radical Idea (The Washington Post)

By now, we’ve all heard of Pulaski Academy (Ark.) coach Kevin Kelley, who earned national recognition for deploying a strategy in which his team never punts and always onside kicks. He has another seemingly crazy idea, but — again — it seems just crazy enough that it might work.

Here was the basis for this new idea.

“Kelley used an ESPN database to study college football history. He found that historically, there was no bigger indicator of victory than winning the turnover margin – teams that forced more turnovers than they committed won 80 percent of the time. But last season, Kelley said, a new trend emerged for the first time: Teams that recorded more plays of at least 20 yards won about 81 percent of the time.”

Well, that makes sense, but certainly any coach will agree that’s easier said than done. No playbook offers a broad section of plays labeled, ‘Guaranteed 20-yard plays.’ But Kelley dug deeper and came up with a reasonable philosophy.

“He found that on plays when two players touched the ball – a typical handoff or pass – teams gained 20 yards about 10 percent of the time. But when at least three players touched the ball – a trick play with a lateral involved – the percentage for gaining 20 yards rose to around 20 percent.

“And so Kelley instituted a new system. When he calls out “Rugby!” before an offensive series, his wide receivers change their assignment. Rather than blocking downfield, they rush toward the receiver who catches the ball. If they’re open, they yell the receiver’s name and which side they’re on.”

It seems like the risk of turnover would be high with this type of offense, but we’re not going to question Kelley, who has a career record of 77-17 as head coach.

Why wouldn’t you try this? How do you think it would play out?

2. FAU football coach Lane Kiffin offered Matt Leinart’s 11-year-old son a scholarship (Sports Illustrated)

Here’s one that’s bound to make a high school coach shake his head. FAU coach Lane Kiffin (maybe jokingly?) claimed on Twitter that he’s offered Matt Leinart’s 11-year-old quarterback son, Cole, a scholarship. Seems a little early, no?

Lane Kiffin’s reputation for recruiting 13- and 14-year-olds has been well-established, so this does not seem totally unbelievable. We haven’t found many high school coaches that are fans of seeing an eighth-grader or freshman get recruited before he has even made a play in a high school varsity game. However, no need to get upset about this story because it appears that Coach Kiffin was joking.

Coaches — What would you think about an NCAA rule restricting coaches from offering scholarships to a prospect until the student-athlete reaches a minimum age?

3. Nine Of 10 Largest U.S. School Districts Enrolled In USA Football’s Heads Up Football Program For 2018 (PR Newswire)

We’ve seen the positive impact the increased focus on player safety has had on the game, so we’re certainly happy to see this story. It seems that enrolling coaches in the Heads Up Football program has become the norm for districts across the country.

“For the second consecutive year, more than 3,000 high schools are enrolled in Heads Up Football, which has earned the support of three of the largest U.S.-based sports medicine organizations: the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the National Athletics’ Trainers Association. Combined, these three organizations comprise more than 50,000 members across 90 countries spanning 70 occupations within sports medicine.”

Coaches who wish to enroll in the USA Football Heads Up program can do so here. We’ve done quite a bit on concussion prevention in the last few years, and we’ve yet to find a coach who regrets learning more about the issue.

“Heads Up Football instructs coaches on the following player health protocols and skill-based fundamentals:

  • Proper equipment fitting
  • CDC concussion recognition and response
  • Sudden cardiac arrest protocols
  • Heat preparedness and hydration protocols from the Korey Stringer Institute
  • Shoulder tackling and blocking”

Kudos to coaches for putting in the extra time to educate yourselves on concussion safety and prevention.

Have you enrolled in the USA Football Heads Up Football program? How did it help?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!