Part II of our end-of-year defensive scheme evaluation system takes a look at both the tactical and technical aspects of our team. Scheme is only one aspect of a defensive unit. The best defensive schemes will suffer if a team cannot tackle. A good defense can become legendary if it has an ability to take the ball away and force turnovers. At St. Charles North we focus on the controllables of our defense. We feel strongly that both tackling and takeaways are variables that we can teach, quantify and evaluate. They are teachable skills that can be broken down, installed and practiced exactly like a game plan or specific scheme. In my opinion, tackling and takeaways are the on-field culture of your team. You either can or you can’t, you either do or you don’t. Additionally, we will look at our tackles for loss (TFL) and pressures/hurries/knockdowns (PHK). Analytics show that the ability to get a team to play behind the sticks greatly reduces their chances of success and conversely makes a defense exponentially more dangerous. Finally, we will discuss the tracking and analyzing of what we call, “busts.” Busts refer to any play that our defense failed to execute the scheme, which led to a noticeable breakdown in defensive integrity. Over the next few paragraphs we will take a deeper look into this final aspect of the defensive evaluation.
St. Charles North uses a rugby-style tackling philosophy. Our techniques were originally derived from the Seattle Seahawks and Rocky Seto. Hawk, hawk roll and drive for 5 are common vernacular in our program. This past year, we expanded our tackling technique with the addition of the USA Football Advanced Tackling System, which is derived from Richie Gray’s 5 Fights teaching progression. The 5 Fights have allowed us to not only take a deeper, more detailed approach into our teaching and learning, but it has also changed the way we evaluate our tackling during the offseason. A skill that was once hard to gain quantifiable data on has now been broken down into 5 Fights (techniques) that we will evaluate, create cut ups and grade out. The detail the Advanced Tackling System and the 5 Fights affords us is the ability to pinpoint our tackling deficits both as a team and as individuals. We will use the data to create individualized goals for our players for winter mat training, spring non-padded tackling drills and summer tackling circuits.
The more I research turnovers and takeaways, the more I realized that they truly are a random act with little-to-no data that supports the ability to predict frequency or specific situations when a fumble is more likely to happen other than weather. However, I do know that a team that creates +2 turnovers has over an 80 percent chance of winning that game. With that said, we are going to teach the hell out of it and at the end of the season evaluate our technical and tactical effectiveness. While I could not find any one system that I liked, we created our own system to teach and criteria that would allow us to evaluate like the Advanced Tackling System.
As I stated earlier, we will chart and evaluate all pressure/hurries/sacks/etc. The goal of this endeavor is to really see the effectiveness of the pressure on the play. The ability to look at the situations, personnel and scheme that was often used opens avenues on conversation that we can use to further develop the defensive scheme. Additionally, we will also critique and evaluate all key performance techniques for each position. At the beginning of the season, we will identify the techniques that our players will need to master based on their position. For example, defensive backs will need to be able to utilize our block defeat techniques, man coverage techniques and so on. Each position has a list of prerequisite techniques that must be taught at each level. An extensive audit will take place to see if the techniques that we need our players to exhibit are showing up consistently. Finally, it allows us to make great program teach tapes of our players performing at a high level. I am a firm believer in using our team to teach our kids. It is easy to go find a tape to use but more impactful when the player executing it is wearing our jersey.
One of my personal favorites is compiling our busts cutup. Busts can be defined as catastrophic failures in scheme. Not to sound dramatic, but these are plays that show the very worst of our defense. It can be as simple as a broken coverage that leaves a wide receiver open or a tempo offense that catches us out of position. While difficult to watch at times, it is these moments that can expose a crack in the armor. When approached correctly, these plays can open access points to conversation that will strengthen the defense for the year to come.