Lane Kiffin counting on the Bomb Squad, Sharks, U-Haul, and Regulators
USC special teams coordinator John Baxter isn't your traditional special team coach. Baxter recently sat down with Fox Sports to talk about his philosophy.
“First of all, football should be fun. It’s a game. That’s really the reason why I coach today because it’s most fun you can have going to work.”
“In the spring time, we had our survivor series. We divide the team into four tribes and they have a draft. They all name their tribes off of some figure in Greek mythology. Being in Troy, that should fit.”
“They compete at these drills. The lowest scoring team votes somebody out. So when they draft each other, you can see what they think of each their teammates and what their skill sets are. And when they vote them out, you can see what they think of their teammates. And at the end of the day, peer pressure is everything.”
“The bottom line is if it’s fun, it’s their idea. And if it’s their idea, it’s always the best idea.”
Team names according to Coach Baxter:
The punt team is the “Bomb Squad” because you’re dealing with explosive every single time. It’s the fastest way to lose a game.
The kick-off team is the “Strike Force.” We are the ball and they are the pins. They set ‘em up and we knock ‘em down.
The kick-off return is the “Convoy” because when we catch the ball, we’re rolling out. The kick-off returner is called the “U-Haul” because if you can haul it, you’re not back there. And C.J. and Robert Woods can haul it.
The field goal team is the “Score Team” because you can score 3, they can score 1, they can score 2, they can score 6.
The field goal block is called the “Regulators” because the ball passes between us before passing through the goal post.
The punt return is the “Sharks” because all sharks know how to do is attack.
The punt returner is called “The Bomb” because if you’re not a threat to go off, you’re not standing back there.
Bielema believes new cut block rule will significantly affect Wisconsin
It’s going to be interesting to see how the new cut block rule changes the landscape of the college football this season.
Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo explained, “We’ve basically gone to low blocks [cut blocks] are illegal now with these exceptions: Linemen on the line of scrimmage, they can cut block. Backs in the backfield who are stationary and between the tackles, they can cut low. Not only do we put the restriction on the low blocks on the offense, we’re now putting them on the defense.”
“Once the ball leaves the tackle box, that 6 [yards] by 10 area that’s defined, then the defense can’t cut block. So, it’s a huge learning curve for the coaches to teach the players and equally a huge learning curve for the officials.”
On Thursday, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said, “In all of my years as a head coach, we’ve had more meeting with officials than at any other point. I think the chop rules, offensively and defensively, will significantly affect the game.”
Bielema added, “A lot of it is determined where you are on the field, where you start. For instance, a lot of times we start with a tight end in a hip position to the right, we’ll move him over to the other side. He’s never had any restrictions on if he can go low, cut, or if he can go back across the formation. It’s totally changed. It’s really going to change the game, especially for a team like Wisconsin.”
Along with the new cut block rule, coaches are concerned with the new taunting rule and the 10 second run-off rule.
Bielema admitted, “I’ve been studying, my main summer project, was the 10-second run-off…when to use it.”
All-Access Video: Zook working the Illini off-campus
Illinois has created their version of Hard Knocks to give the Illini fans an inside look into training camp.
After three practices on campus in Champaign, Ron Zook has taken his team off campus to Rantoul, about 15 miles from the Illinois campus.
The Zooker apparently loves it.
Offensive lineman Jack Cornell said, “It’s kind of amazing how much energy he (Zook) can have at every point in the day. Doesn’t matter whether it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, 11 at night, or 3 in the afternoon. He’s always going 100 mph.”
Cornell added, “I think it’s good for everyone to see how hard he’s working is how hard we need to work.”
Illinois opens the season by hosting Arkansas State. It will be the Red Wolves first game under new head coach Hugh Freeze who tweeted this morning, “So glad I live and coach in a country where we can play music and worship the one true God during our Practice. #PraiseGod."
If it comes down to a Hail Mary, advantage Red Wolves.
Here’s your Hard Knocks, Illini style.
Coaches requiring their teams to know the fight song
Skip Holtz, Jerry Kill, and James Franklin all want to make sure their players know the words to the school fight song.
As he did a year ago, Holtz will once again ask his team to sing the USF fight song during an evening team meeting during training camp in Vero Beach.
It’s all about creating a sense of pride and paying respect to the tradition of the program.
Franklin recently brought in the Vanderbilt band director to a team meeting to teach the players the fight song.
Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill took it a step further. Kill brought his team to midfield with the band to practice signing the fight song. (Check out the 4:15 mark in the video)
Kill believes, “This is what college football is all about.”
Dooley turns to William Shakespeare to help Vols
Derek Dooley is looking for results, so he turned to old English poet William Shakespeare, who died in 1616.
Dooley told reporters today that he recently referenced Shakespeare’s “Richard III” in a team meeting.
He explained, “For want of a horseshoe nail: one little horseshoe nail can bring down a whole kingdom. That's what it did back in the 1400s. Just like stepping with your right foot six inches could cause a guy to get on the edge, which causes the quarterback to get a little flustered, the exchange goes bad, fumble, turnover, touchdown.”
"Every little detail of your technique and assignment can impact the game. We've got a long way to go."
Asked how the team responded to the verse, Dooley said, “They were very engaged.”
Boy, can’t you see it right now? Janzen Jackson engaged in verses from a play written in 1591.
Here’s the video of Dooley explaining what he’s looking for.
1 on 1 drills: Listening & learning vs. Hootin & hollering
Les Miles took the Tigers through “Big Cat Drill” this morning in Baton Rouge.
The one thing that stood out to us was those not involved in the drill were just watching and listening. There wasn’t much rah rah, hootin and hollering. It must be designed for that…more of a watch, listen, and learn.
57 miles west of Baton Rouge, UL-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth led the Ragin Cajuns through the same drill. Let’s just say the atmosphere was a little different.
There’s two ways to skin a cat. Which one do you like?
By the way, did you see where Les and the Tigers coaching staff hung out after practice? This is pretty awesome.
Radio guys embarrass themselves during interview with Kevin Wilson
Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson appeared this morning on 1260 AM in Indianapolis with Zakk & Jack.
“Jack” is Jack Trudeau, the former Illinois and Indianapolis Colts quarterback. Zakk is some guy who spells his name “Zakk.” Really?
Let’s just say the interview didn’t go too well and quite frankly, we understand why.
After being on hold for an usually extended roll-in to the segment that featured the Indiana fight song, Wilson went off on Zakk & Jack.
Just imagine a radio host keeping Nick Saban on hold 3 minutes, then running Alabama's fight song nearly in its entirety, then talking amongst themselves for a few minutes, then joking about Saban’s team? (Boy, I bet that would go over well. Can you say, "Pink Slips?")
As any head coach inheriting a struggling program like the one Wilson has taken over, there comes a point when you get tired of hearing about all the negatives, no tradition, small crowds, lack of players, and lack of winning.
If you didn’t think you could change that, then you wouldn’t accept the challenge.
After the roll-in featuring the Indiana fight song, Jack joked with Indiana opening up in Lucas Oil Stadium against Ball State, Wilson is getting his guys use to playing at Lucas Oil for when they play in the Big Ten Championship game.
Zakk & Jack: Coach, how you are?
Wilson: Not doing as good as you guys. You guys got a bunch of jokes this morning. What’s happening?
Zakk & Jack: You sound like you’ve been doing some screaming at practice, are we yelling at the players already?
Wilson: No, we’re yelling at media guys that don’t have a clue.
Zakk & Jack: You’re not referring to us, are you?
Wilson: No, I’m referring to that fight song. I remember putting 61 on the Illini a few years back too when I was at Northwestern and they (Northwestern) kinda stunk as the time, too. Anyway, I’ve got some things to do, what do you guys need?
Zakk & Jack: Oh, you’re already ready to get rid of us?
Wilson: Very much so. So what’s happening? I don’t have time to listen to guys to talk about fight songs and Indiana and no tradition.
Later on, after some hairy exchanges, Wilson made the point, “It’s not like climbing Mount Everest. I just don’t like guys cracking jokes about our program.”
The truth of the matter is that it’s a privilege for the two jackleg radio guys to get to interview a head coach like Wilson. Let’s be honest, Wilson didn’t have to take time out of one the busiest days of the year, during August camp, to do this interview. Then you ease into the interview with the fight song and an untimely joke.
Why would any coach in the country ever go on this radio show again?
Minnesota DC Tracy Claeys: It's all about accepting roles
In twenty-three days, Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will be calling plays against Lane Kiffin. The Gophers open the season in The Coliseum against USC.
Between now and then, Claeys knows there is a lot of work to be done.
Claeys told the Big Ten Network, “It’s all about accepting roles. It really is. Every time we have taken over, there has been a sense of entitlement by some better players and people don’t fit in the puzzle where they’re supposed to fit and try to make too many plays.”
“If you can convince those kids that they are important and if they do their roles then we’ll be successful then you got a chance.As a coaching staff, you have to be willing to not play them. If they don’t do their job, no matter how good they are. The greatest motivator in the season is playing time.”
Claeys admits he’d like to play well in the first four games, which are all non-conference games, but the focus is on being ready for Big Ten play.
“We want to be ready for the Big Ten season. As long as we’re defining roles in those first four games, that’s what you are playing for. If we can go into the Big Ten games with roles defined and our kids playing hard, we’ll be alright.”
Another challenge for the Gophers’ defensive staff will be adjusting to style of play in the Big Ten. Three of the coaches on the Minnesota staff were with Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois the past several years.
Claeys said, “We came from the MAC, where most people ran the spread. We’re (now) going to have to go five games with people slamming it right at us. That’s something we haven’t had to deal with lately. It’s physical downhill football.”
Before Big Ten play begins, something tells us the Gophers may see power, iso, and an abundance of inside run against the Trojans.These guys will need to be ready.