Tackling issues? Pitt defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has a drill for you

As a defensive coordinator, one of the most frustrating things to see is missed tackles, especially after spending countless time on it throughout the week.

After losing a nail biter to UConn (24-17), Pitt defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable decided that enough was enough. Their missed tackles was something that needed to be addressed during their bye week if they were going to finish the season strong.

According to TribLive reporter Jerry DiPaola, Huxtable dug deep into his desk for a drill to fix the issue and came up with something interesting. In the drill Huxtable and his staff have since implemented, players lock their arms behind their backs and knock over ball carriers using nothing but their pads.

The drill may initially sound puzzling to some coaches, but Huxtable explains the rationale, noting how the drill addresses the most common mistakes in a missed tackle.

“In our last football game, we didn’t tackle very well. The whole drill is teaching them to take that extra step to contact. One of the biggest mistakes in tackling is defenders stop their feet. They leap off the launching pad and the first thing they do is reach with their arms."

"We are doing a drill to take the arms out of it and step on the toes of the ball carrier."

In theory, the drill definitely makes sense. However, we'll let the Panthers defensive performance in their last two games against Rutgers and South Florida be the real barometer of the drill's success.

Al Borges: "The third play makes a great quarterback"

With the status of starting quarterback Denard Robinson's in limbo for the Wolverines match up with Ohio State this weekend, the media focus for Al Borges' weekly press conference turned to backup quarterback Devin Gardner, who has stepped in admirably in Robinson's absence.

One of the strengths for both of those Michigan quarterbacks is their ability to improvise when things break down, and still manage to come up with enough yards for a first down. Whether that means taking off and running, or getting the ball into the hands of another open playmaker, Borges explains that type of improvisation is a valuable skill set for offensive coordinators because it eases the pressure to call the perfect play every snap.

"The key is to keep the chains moving so that you can call more plays," Borges explains. "When people complain 'Well how come this guy isn't touching the ball more?' and 'How come this guy isn't touching the ball more?' it's generally because you're not getting first downs. You don't get the turns and you don't get the calls out."

"There's just no way that you can call everything perfect. You can't do it. So what's going to happen when you don't?"

"I know when I started studying what is commonly called the West Coast offense, you don't catch me using that term very often, I talked to Bill Walsh. I asked him 'What makes a good quarterback and what makes a great quarterback?'":

Walsh responded by telling Borges that it's the third play that makes a great quarterback. System quarterbacks can make the first and second play, but when things break down on the third play, that's when you know whether you have a good quarterback or a great one.

Hear more from Borges on his conversation with Bill Walsh below.

The Scoop on Stats - Week 13

Last night was the last week night of mid week MACtion, and with many teams wrapping up the college football season on Saturday, it's hard to believe the season has gone by so fast.

Here's a look at some of the interesting statistics we've come across through week 13 of the season. If you see anything else worth noting, please let us know.

- Minnesota is the only team in the country to yet to give up a 50+ yard play on defense.

- Baylor is the only team in the country who has had more than 20 passing plays of over 40 yards (21). Clemson is the only team with double digit passing plays of over 50 yards (10).

- Houston has three players (linebackers Phillip Steward and Derrick Mathews, and defensive back Trevon Stewart) who rank in the top 11 players in the country in tackles. No other team can say that.

- "Jack of all trades" player Tavon Austin broke the individual rushing record against the Sooners on Saturday by a impressive 109 yards, finishing with 344 yards on the ground. Austin was the 10th player to eclipse the 200 yard mark against OU, and four of those players went on to win the Heisman. Pretty elite company.

- Florida State is the only team in the nation to average 8 or more punt returns per game (8.2).

- Western Michigan has thrown 21 interceptions on the season, and are -14 in the turnover margin (last nationally). On the flip side, Kent State has intercepted 21 passes this season (1st nationally).

- Mississippi State is the only team in the country allowing negative punt return yardage. The Bulldogs have allowed 11 returns and have given up -1 yard.

- Army and New Mexico have yet to hit the 1,000 yard mark passing, and with one game remaining each, likely will not hit that milestone.

- Boise State has allowed just three passing touchdowns all season (first nationally). On the other end of the spectrum, Colorado has allowed 38 (124th nationally).

- Florida State is the only team in the country to allow less than 5 yards per pass attempt (4.9). West Virginia is giving up twice that yardage per attempt (10).

- The Notre Dame defense has allowed just 2 rushing touchdowns all season (1st nationally).

- The nations leading passer, Marshall's Rakeen Cato, has more passing yards (3,883) than the bottom four teams combined. New Mexico, Army, Navy and Air Force have combined for 3,867 yards passing. 

- Wake Forest's starting punter Alexander Kinal, has punted nearly 20 more times than the next closest player. Kinal has 90 punts on the year compared to Colorado's Darragh O'Neill who has 72.

-USC's Marqise Lee is the only player in the country with over 100 receptions (107).

- UAB and Army have attempted the most onside kicks this year (5). 45 teams have not attempted a single one.

- Kent State's Dri Archer is averaging 10.27 yards per carry, and is the only player in the country in double digits in the category.

- Ball State allows just under three tackles for a loss each game (first nationally).

- The nation's leader in rushing touchdowns, Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon (who is also a freshman), has more rushing touchdowns than 97 teams have been able to run for all season.

- Eight offenses have yet to reach the 1,000 yard rushing plateau as a team. 35 individuals have reached the 1,000 yard mark rushing this season. Army and Kent State each have two individuals who have reached that milestone.

- Three teams (Southern Miss, Kansas and Army) are completing less than 50% of their passes. Only three teams (San Jose State, Texas Tech, Louisville) have completed 70% or more of their passes.

How a NFL staff divides the game planning duties

John Keim of The Examiner did an interesting piece on the Washington Redskins offensive staff and particularly how offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has decided to split up the game planning duties on a week to week basis.

Shanahan admits that dividing up the responsibilities isn;t something that he did as a young coach, but has come to realize that there just aren't enough hours in a day to accomplish everything by himself, which is why it is important to surround yourself with quality, hard working  assistant coaches that you trust.

“When I was younger I tried to do everything. You’re so excited to have the opportunity to be a coordinator that you want to work at every single area as hard as you can. But you start to go crazy because there aren’t enough hours in the week. So I’ve gotten better at divvying up stuff and allowing others to help me. Just getting to know them, you start to trust them more and they start to know what I like. It becomes more efficient when you work with the same people.” he explained in the Examiner.

So now every Monday, each offensive coach has an area to break down. Receivers coach Ike Hilliard handles first and second down tendencies, three receiver formations and the two minute game plan, quarterbacks coach Matt LaFluer does third down and empty sets, tight ends coach Sean McVay plans the red zone and 22 personnel sets (two tight ends, two running backs) as welll as first and second down. Running backs coach Bobby Turner takes care of goal line and short yardage situations, assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan is in charge of pass protections and making sure they are sound against all of the opponents blitzes.

Mike McDaniel and Richmond Flowers, the quality control coaches, break down the overall defensive alignments and tendencies and enter it in the computer so that coaches get down and distance and situational stats and percentages. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster and Shanahan break down film on their own and help with the overall game plan.

This is really good stuff. Having a set system where your staff has a set of responsibilities for each week is a great idea. Clearly defined roles are a great way to keep things as efficient as possible and ensures that each assistant on staff is not only invested in the game plan, but also helps the team utilize each of your coaches strengths while also letting them grow within the profession.

If you're not breaking down the weekly responsibilities amongst your staff like Shanahan, you and your staff should definitely take a long look at it.


Inside Scoop: Interactions with Sports Information Directors

Earlier this evening we had something happen that we want to share with our audience. 

It started with a typical text, this one from a coach we weren't familiar with. "Coach ____ is going to be out at _____." This probably won't shock anyone reading this; but yes, we do get quite a lot of texts like this. Our standard protocol is to attempt to verify this information before publishing. At most programs we have a contact we can call to verify things fairly quickly. In this case, and this is fairly rare, no one on our staff had a contact at the program described. We sat tight.

About 15 minutes later we received a second text relaying very similar info as the first text. This time, the sender is a trusted source who frequently sends us information that is accurate. We text back asking if it was good to publish the info and he said it was. Think about how bad it would be if players, or even staff members, found out about a head coaching change from reading it on FootballScoop. 

See, the goal of this website isn't to "break news"; in fact it pains us to have to report that coaches are being let go. However, nearly every coach around the country utilizes FootballScoop these days to follow and understand (and even get out front of) the flow of coaching movement. Our goal is to help coaches through the delivery of timely and accurate coaching job information; and we've been doing that pretty well since 1999. 

OK, so back to the events of this evening. Upon receiving the second text (from a trusted source) we decided to publish the information; but at the same time I lobbed in a phone call (and subsequently an email) to the SID just to verify and to let them know we were publishing it. We never reveal sources and don't want to provide too much information to divulge the program and coach involved; but here's the issue. We were told that the coach has been notified that this upcoming game will be his last with the program; but that's tricky if the team hasn't been told. 

At some programs, the SID would not even return the call / email. At some programs he'd give the party line, "I can't discuss that" or "I have no knowledge..."  

Tonight was different and that's why we're writing this article. Tonight, the SID responded via email nearly immediately to say, "Please hold off publishing that. I'll be back in touch shortly." [Our short blurb on The Scoop had been published for a few minutes and at this time we decided to remove it as a courtesy.] About 5 minutes later the SID emailed again to say, "Let's just say that the agreement has not been completely signed off on and all parties have not been informed. We would appreciate it if you would hold off publishing that until everyone involved knows. When it happens you will be the first person I tell." 

Not every SID would respond like that; but we sure do appreciate it (and find it professional) when they do. In this case, it saved the program involved from having to deal with a very awkward situation. It would be nice if everyone in the business acted as responsibly as this SID did. For those that think we're doing the wrong thing by not publishing the information, think about how you would feel if your wife or son or your players read that you were being let go on the site before you told them yourself. This will play out within a few days. No need to rush the news of a firing. 

On a related note, this morning we saw this tweet from Vanderbilt offensive line coach Herb Hand:

The truth is, we at FootballScoop think rumors are horrible for the profession and we've worked extensively to help coaches deal in reality since I bought FootballScoop nearly five years ago. I personally make a number of calls daily to coaches and sometimes to Sports Information Directors / Media Relations staff to discuss the rumors and offer to set the record straight. If there is something that is not true that is floating around out there that is causing a problem for your staff or your program feel free to give me a call anytime and I'll help set the record straight. 

I'll offer up this final nugget and then I'm out... a wise man once advised me, "Do the right thing, and always tell the truth and you'll never get in trouble." 


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