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– Alex Kirby


VIDEO: Gus Malzahn Run Game Film

In the lead up to the BCS National Championship Game theme tonight, and following the review of Jimbo Fisher’s excellent presentation at last year’s AFCA Convention, here are some of Gus Malzahn’s favorite run schemes.

Chris Brown has a great piece up on Grantland right now about Malzahn and the evolution of his offense since his days as a high school coach.131203130635-gus-malzahn-top2-single-image-cut Continue reading

AFCA 2013 Notes: Jimbo Fisher on Creating a Positive Atmosphere and Player Accountability

Jimbo Fisher has had the weight of the world on his shoulders the past few months. Besides the obvious stress of following in the footsteps of a legend (which Bill O’Brien can tell you is never easy), the longtime Saban and Bowden assistant had to deal with a firestorm of legal trouble surrounding his true-freshman, Heisman winning quarterback. Through it all, he hasn’t allowed his players to become distracted and take their eyes off of their ultimate goal. Or, if you ask him, and read some of the things he had to say last year in Nashville, it was the leaders on the team who didn’t allow their team mates to become distracted.

Tonight is Florida State’s first BCS Championship appearance since Fisher took the reigns from one of the all-time greats in Bobby Bowden. To hear him tell the story of his program’s success this season, you’d think his team is the underdog, as he’s tried everything he can to keep his team from falling victim to apathy during practice the past week.

Fisher is a Saban disciple, so it’s no surprise that he believes in a lot of the same principles as the man leading the Crimson Tide. However, as all great coaches do, he puts his own personality on things, and allows his players a great deal of freedom- provided of course, that they produce on Saturdays. Read on to learn what kinds of things Jimbo Fisher does to make his teams believe in themselves, especially when dealing with kids who’ve never had a great deal of confidence in anyone, least of all themselves. Continue reading

AFCA 2013 Notes: Gary Barnett on Managing your Players and Protecting your Program

Gary Barnett’s name hasn’t been used a lot on ESPN of late, but the veteran college coach has been around a long time, and had some useful advice for coaches at the Nashville AFCA Convention last year, especially when it came to making sure you’re protecting yourself (legally) as a coach. This is a subject that is not given enough attention in my opinion, since in today’s legalistic environment, a coach that has not adequately protected himself can easily find himself in the middle of a legal battle that basically comes down to hearsay.

Don’t make that mistake. Take Barnett’s advice, create a player handbook and require every kid on the team to sign it, showing that they understand the expectations you have set for them, and that you have taught them the proper way to handle themselves on and off the football field.


Gary Barnett

Former HC Colorado, Northwestern


A. Find out problems before you have the answers

– Don’t go into a new situation with problems from your last job. This will be a new situation with new kids. The only way you can know is by working in the day-to-day operations and by observation.

– “I realized I didn’t know the players at Northwestern. I just knew their names. I made sure by the time spring ball started at Colorado, I knew the kids, their parents, their expectations, by meeting with them and their families one on one.” Continue reading

AFCA 2013 Notes: Bill O’Brien on “The Blueprint” and his Keys to Success

As of New Year’s Day, Bill O’Brien is the new head coach of the Houston Texans. There were probably several reasons for this, but it’s clear that a big motivation to leave Happy Valley was all of the political games that O’Brien was tired of playing.

Apparently fed up with all the “Paterno people,” O’Brien returns to the NFL, and takes over a Houston team that most assumed would be hosting a playoff game this weekend, and not hiring a new head coach.

Given all of the unprecedented drama of the past couple of years at Penn State, it’s probably fair to say that O’Brien did about as well as could be expected, since he had to field a Big Ten team with about half the scholarships of the rest of his opponents. Still, no matter what your feelings are about him taking another job before the Nittany Lion football team emerged from sanctions, there’s no doubt that at least in some small way, he has helped clean up the image of Penn State Football.

Read on to learn what he had to say at last year’s AFCA Convention in Nashville, fresh off an impressive season, and after winning Coach of the Year.

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AFCA 2013 Notes: David Shaw on Chemistry, Leadership, and Hiring new Coaches

With the Rose Bowl game today, and all the rumors surrounding the coaching carousel, David Shaw’s name inevitably came up. Shaw has stated over and over again that he’s happy at Stanford, but schools would be crazy not to at least give his agent a call. Shaw has not only sustained the success started by his predecessor Jim Harbaugh, but he has elevated the program to new heights with his second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance.

If you want an idea of how he operates, take a look at my notes from last January’s AFCA Convention in Nashville. I was, quite literally, front and center for his presentation, and I came away very impressed with who he is and the way he does things at Stanford.

General Session

David Shaw – HC Stanford


– That’s what you’re in charge of, the environment, the mood,  feel, etc, as a HC.


– “Hire good people and delegate.” If you have to micromanage everything, you probably hired the wrong guy.

1. Take your time.

– Was struck by what the Colts said about Chuck Pagano when they hired him. Said if the Ravens had gone to the Super Bowl, they probably would’ve hired someone else. If that’s the right guy for your organization, you can’t wait 14 days? The difference between hiring the right guy and the wrong guy is the difference between winning and losing. Coach Shaw is willing to wait a very long time, sometimes until after spring football, until he feels like he found the right guy. Continue reading

Six Questions to ask when analyzing opponent empty Formations

Spread formations are all the rage these days, especially in the NFL and college football, and of course, the ultimate spread formation is still lining up with a QB in the gun and five eligible receivers split out wide.

If you’re in charge of breaking down the offense of your next opponent, it can be tough enough to get all of their different plays and formations and different wrinkles tagged in a way that lets you create an effective tendency report. What happens when you face a team that runs empty formations, or even several different types of empty formations?


Hopefully the questions below will help you with some of these issues, and will get you thinking about ways to break down and analyze opponents in the future. Continue reading

Bill Parcells on the 11 Quarterback Commandments

Bill Parcells has long been recognized as a football rehabilitation expert of sorts, bringing the Giants, Patriots, Jets, and then Cowboys back to playoff respectability, including winning two Super Bowls during his time as the Giants head coach. It’s not surprising then, that he picked up a few grains of knowledge along the way.


After leaving the Cowboys, Parcells did what every coach with an adversarial relationship with the media does upon retirement: he got a plush job as an analyst for ESPN. In one of his more memorable segments, Parcells outlined 11 things he told his quarterbacks to focus on, or what he calls his “Quarterback Commandments.”

Check out the list with a paraphrased list of what he has to say.

(You can see the video after the jump).

  • Ignore outside opinions on football matters – Ignore other opinions. Press or TV, agents or advisors, family or wives, friends or relatives, fans or hangers on – ignore them on matters of football, they don’t know what’s happening here.
  • Have fun, but don’t be the clown – Clowns and leaders don’t mix. Clowns can’t run a huddle. Continue reading

Wrecking Ball: Breaking down Eric Decker’s Four TD Performance against the Chiefs

This just in: The Denver Broncos are pretty good.

On the first chilly December afternoon of 2013, millions of television viewers saw Eric Decker score 4 touchdowns against a Kansas City defense that early in the year had been one of the league’s best. With the future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning under center, this has become normal to see on the Denver stat sheet.

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Once again, just as in Indianapolis, Manning has three excellent receivers to choose from. With Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker playing outside, and Wes Welker lining up in the slot, it’s not hard to see why this Bronco offense has already broken several long-standing franchise records. Any of the skill position players on this offense are good enough to have the kind of day that Decker had against the Chiefs, today just happened to be his day.

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Sunday NFL Scouting Report: Bill Belichick and a Copycat League

For all the hype about about coaches being “cutting-edge” and “innovative”, the reality is that most coaches in the NFL are remarkably results-oriented, simply finding what has work recently and emulating it as best they can. Conversely, if a strategy or game-management decision doesn’t pan out on Sunday in front of 50 million television viewers, a head coach or coordinator may be less inclined to go against the grain.

It’s no surprise then, that one of the few head coaches who regularly makes controversial decisions, from game management to player personnel, decided to do something that made football fans everywhere scratch their heads. With his unusual choice to kick the ball away in overtime and take the wind, Bill Belichick may have started a new NFL trend.*

You're welcome, internet.

You’re welcome, internet.

The NFL, it has been widely noted, is a copycat league, and football coaches in general are notorious for drawing up what they saw on TV the week before and trying to use it in their own gameplan. That said, every once in a while there seems to be a trend in play calling or game strategy. Take for example:
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