Sometimes it feels like there can never be enough time in the week to properly prepare your offense for the upcoming opponent. With game tape exchanges made easier through internet trading, our conference like many others has opted to exchange every game among the conference. When it’s time to scout a particular opponent, one can get lost wading through all of those clips. Luckily, one of the things I felt I was really prepared for when I became a coordinator was the art of “preparing”.
Weekly preparation doesn’t start the Sunday before your Saturday game. It shouldn’t even start the week before. If you want to properly prepare yourself for a given opponent, I recommend beginning over the summer when not much else is going on and you can give your undivided attention to studying and breaking down an opponent without the deadlines that you have when breaking games down during the season. I only focus on the conference opponents whose defensive coordinators haven’t changed; this way I know I can expect a similar defensive approach and am not completely wasting my time on new staffs that will have a new defensive philosophy.
Somewhere along the way, I was given a scouting report booklet and have stayed true to it over the years. The booklet contains pages on: Returning Depth Chart; Base Defensive alignments on Normal Downs (by Formation); Base Defensive Blitzes on Normal Downs; Hash Defensive alignments on Normal Downs; Hash Defensive Blitzes on Normal Downs; Short Yardage Defense; Short Yardage Blitz; Long (& XL) Yardage Defense; Long (& XL) Yardage Blitz; 3rd Down & Medium Defense; 2 Minute Defense; Coming Out Defense; Goal Line Defense; and Red Zone Defense.
I will try to spend a week on each opponent during the summer, four days breaking down the games and one day compiling the information. Once the information is gathered, the offensive staff and I will put together our wish list of how we feel we will be successful in attacking the defense if our entire playbook were available to us (a couple Runs and Passes for each situation). Once completed, I will place the booklet in the opponent’s file until the season.
For an opponent, I typically want to see the three most recent games from the year against similar offenses, plus last year’s game against us. If it is a new defensive system from years previous, we’ll breakdown maybe four or five games depending on how many we have. The inputting starts the week before. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some GA’s that have been good at getting the games in before the weekend. They are breaking down elementary data only (Down and Distance, Field Position, etc.). Each position coach is responsible for breaking down his assigned category for those games (most of the staff uses Friday mornings since their workload for the current week is basically complete). For the last six years, we’ve given the team Monday off, so Sunday’s team focus is still on Saturday’s game and the staff has grading responsibilities and meetings to prepare for, so I only require them to finish breaking down the newest exchange so I can run all of the cutups first thing Monday morning. I will spend the rest of Sunday night watching a game or two straight through.
The greatest thing about giving the players Monday off is that I can focus all of my attention to that week’s opponent and not have to worry about preparing for practice or meetings. The first thing we look at as an offensive staff is Goal Line. We start with this because we typically have an offensive staff meeting at 10:00 am and I hate getting into something and have to come back to it. With Goal Line, usually a defense does one thing and you have your philosophy on what you want to do so your plan can be devised pretty quickly.
Once we get back at it, we will watch First Down and P-Down by Formation Family. We do this as a staff and it usually takes us a few hours to get through it all. We are not game planning yet, but taking notes on what they are doing (Are they running one particular defense to trips? Are they bringing pressure on P-Down?). Once through, we break for lunch and watch our assigned cut-ups. I’ve divided the responsibilities as such: OL – Fronts (by Formation Family, D/D) and Stunts (by Front, D/D); RB – Blitz (by Front, D/D, Field Zone); WR – Coverage (by Safety, D/D); and OC – Coverage (by Formation Family), Blitz (by Formation Family), and 2nd Down (by Formation Family).
Around 3:30 we’ll get back together as an offensive staff and begin constructing our Game Plan Board. Figure 1 shows the lay out. I created this on an Excel sheet and saved it to a Power Point where I can shine it directly to the White Board and fill it in as we go. Once done, I will have the GA take a picture of it or type it in. On Monday, we are only concerning ourselves with the first three columns. We also bring out the binder we made and compare it to our thoughts over the Summer to see if we are on the same page or if there is something that we might have forgotten. The main points we want to figure out is: 1) Run Game – how can we execute it and what can’t we run?; 2) Protection – is drop-back sound or do we need to add anyone?; 3) Pass Game – How can we run our best, are they taking anything away, and how can we get our mismatches?; 4) Specials – what Screens and Gadgets will we carry this week?
Once these questions are answered and we feel we’ve got a good grasp on how we want to attack, we’ll break up and start putting the Scouting Report together. For the most part, each coach is responsible for putting together drawings based on the cut-ups they were assigned. Coaches will have until about 9:00 Tuesday morning to get these to me (we’ve been lucky enough to have a consistent Scouting Report meeting every Tuesday at Noon). At 10:00, we will get together again for about an hour to watch 3rd Down and Red Zone and then update the Game Plan Board. We don’t need to finalize this yet, since Tuesday’s practice focus is solely on Normal Down offense. I will watch more 3rd Down tape Tuesday night to get a better feel.
Wednesday morning we’ll meet to watch Tuesday practice film and review our GL/SY package. I will then let the staff know of any changes (if any) to the 3rd Down plan. Thursday morning is our last day to get together on the opponent. We’ll watch Wednesday practice film and then decide what needs to be scrapped. We will also put together our 10 play script to be run at practice. Thursday evening, I take the completed Game Plan Board and begin filling in the tables on my Game Call Sheet and by Friday we’re ready to go (I hope).