FNF Coaches Talk for Wednesday, Dec. 19

Good afternoon, Coaches. Here are some of the stories we’re discussing today.

1. That’s one way to start the !! Johnston III ➡️ Ubosi (UAB Football)

If you were looking for a football game on TV last night, you probably stumbled upon the Boca Bowl on ESPN. We hope you found the game in time to catch this opening play.

What a way to start a game for UAB. Obviously, the coaching staff spotted something on film and attacked it right away. The Northern Illinois coaching staff could do nothing other than tip their collective hat at the end of this one.

“It really comes down to three things. We gave up three touchdowns on three deep balls,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “Old-fashioned go routes. Give those guys credit. They ran by us. They threw it, caught it. That’s the difference. If not, it’s 16-13. In the fourth quarter, I like our chances.

Coaches — What would you need to see on film to throw a go route on the first play from scrimmage?

2. Football’s Analytics Revolution Has Arrived (The Ringer)

This is a long read, and worth your time when you have 15 or 20 minutes. For now, we’ll filter out the parts that might interest you if you only have a couple of minutes. We know very few high school teams will have the budgets to keep up with NFL analytics departments. But we’ll share some of their findings that might help you as you game-plan next season.

The first: NFL teams are running more plays to the side of the field farthest from its opponent’s bench. Why?

It has figured out, using player-tracking data, that a defensive lineman will sometimes run more throughout the course of a game by shuffling from the bench to the field during a substitution than he will during actual gameplay. Thus, running plays to the far side of the field can help tire out rotating defensive linemen.

Second: coaches often err on the side of being too conservative on fourth down.

The new information can also help teams simplify play-calling, like going for it on fourth down more often. The Eagles won the Super Bowl in part because of their aggressiveness in such situations—and in part because they went for two-point conversions when it was mathematically smart to do so.

The third point: Too many coaches get caught up in third-down efficiency without paying enough attention to what’s happening on first and second downs. Analytics expert Andrew Sharp advises teams to throw more on first and second down to put themselves in manageable third down situations.

The first is that an offensive emphasis on passing correlated to wins. The second is more complicated than it sounds. Sharp found that third-down efficiency, long the obsession of announcers and old-school coaches, was not the key to an effective offense. He found that it was better for teams to scrap third downs entirely and move the chains by gaining the necessary yardage on first and second down.

How much do you consider analytics as you call plays on game day?

3. Install an Empty Backfield Base RPO (FNF Coaches)

Chris Parker is the head coach at Pickens High School in Jasper, Ga., and he runs an Empty Backfield Base RPO. The formation gives opposing defenses headaches, as they have to account for five receivers.

Empty formations can create great matchups for your players and give them a chance for success regardless of how the defense aligns. The defense must remove defenders from the box in order to cover all receivers, or they must keep the box sound and leave a receiver uncovered.

The best part of the formation is it achieves every offensive coach’s goal of getting his skill position players in space. The most common play run out of this formation is a wide receiver screen to the three-receiver side because one of the fastest players on the team will have the ball with two blockers in front of him — and likely just one man to beat.

On our basic empty RPO, the trips side of the formation runs a fast screen to No. 1. The weak side runs hitches. The offensive linemen block zone with the backside tackle locking onto the defensive end.

What are your favorite play calls for getting skill position players in space?

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!