Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nike Coach of the Year Clinic: Day 3

Paul Johnson is kind of ornery.

Saturday morning there were a couple presentations about youth football to start the day.  I've never coached youth football, so I went to get breakfast instead.

But later in the morning, we attended the talk from Paul Johnson.  As you might expect, Johnson talked about the Run-n-shoot.

Not really.

Johnson was very forthcoming about his triple option offense.  In fact, one of his first slides was a breakdown of the blocking rules and footwork for all eleven offensive players.  I may or may not have copied it down, since Georgia Tech is pretty good at running the ball.

And that was essentially the gist of his presentation.  He would go position-by-position and explain what each player's duty was on each play.  He stressed that his rules do not change, no matter what defense a team runs.  The quarterback has three reads on the triple option - the dive read, the option read, and the run support read.  His assumption is that one of those defenders will make a mistake and, therefore, his team will be coached well enough to make the right play.

I thoroughly enjoyed Johnson's presentation, largely because he doesn't have time for idiots.  There was one coach in particular who asked several questions, most of which were useless.  Johnson was a little bit curt with the coach a couple times.  I didn't laugh out loud, but I was giggling on the inside.  The guy asked him, "In an ideal world, would you rather run to the 1-tech side or the 3-tech side?"  Johnson responded with snide intonation: "It doesn't really matter.  We can beat them either way."  The main point of his talk was, "I don't give a f*** what the defense does.  I'm going to run the same play over and over again and beat you with it," and people just didn't get it.  He's not going to give you tips on how to beat the option.  He's not going to admit weakness.  He just.  Doesn't.  Care.

The same guy asked him about the pitch relationship between the quarterback and the A-back (a.k.a. the wing player who goes in motion behind the fullback) asking, "How far do you want the A-back to be from the quarterback for the pitch?"

Johnson just said, "Stuff like that sounds good.  If I could say four yards, it would sound really scientific.  But I don't know.  We tell our A-backs, 'When the quarterback turns upfield, you turn upfield.'"  When you're going full speed, it's impossible to tell four yards from three yards or five yards.  It's just a natural instinct that players feel once they've had enough repetitions.  I think it's lunacy when coaches try to turn football into a science, because athletes are moving too quickly to judge distances accurately.  You give them some basic principles, rep them over and over again, and then send them out and hope they do what they practiced.  Mike Leach and Paul Johnson have very uncomplicated offenses.  Iowa and Penn State have very uncomplicated defenses.  They get good at the few things they run, and then they just let their kids go out and play.

Even though Doug Marrone, Syracuse's head coach, was scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon, we booked it after Johnson finished.  Marrone was going to talk about offensive line stuff, which both Danny Hope and Kirk Ferentz had discussed.  So we didn't really see the point.

It was a good weekend.


  1. The execution/be-really-good-at-a-few plays philosophy was Bo's as well. Rich Rodriguez, for all his reported offensive sophistication was the same way (especially at West Virginia).

    While many people complain about this sort of philosophy (it's not entertaining) there are many instances where it's effective. And with college and high school kids it probably makes even more sense than with pros.

    I wonder if the Borges offense will have a core group of effective plays like this.


  2. @ Lankownia 11:17 a.m.

    I just wish Rodriguez had the same defensive philosophy - run a couple schemes with small variations, rep them, and run them well.

    One play I hope returns to Michigan is the old Counter Trey that Biakabutuka ran so well. It can't exactly be a base play, but run it a couple times a game, and it works wonders.

  3. Magnus,

    Counter Trey and the naked bootleg would both be nice to see. Without running power off tackle a thousand times every game.

  4. Good write up on Johnson. I have always liked him and enjoy watching his team play. Kind of like RR's offense, if you give him a good QB and RB, he can do a lot of damage even if the rest of the team is mediocre. Also like the fact that he is not out to impress people by acting smart.

    I just wish Rodriguez was UM's OC the last few years and not HC. Outside of being a top spread O coach and (maybe) helping develop a good conditioning program, he was useless. Simple or not, I would have loved to watch his offense with an upperclass Denard and some of these OL maturing.

    Borges has no choice but to keep things simple this year. In addition to installing a new style and playbook, he will have to review basic QB fundamentals with Denard. If UM looks good on offense in 2011, Borges will deserve a lot of credit.

  5. "If UM looks good on offense in 2011, Borges will deserve a lot of credit."

    I would probably give him no more credit than Calvin McGee. Probably less. Borges will be dealing with a much older, more experienced troupe than McGee ever had, regardless of scheme...including a possible second-year starter.

    Denard did a healthy amount of drop-back-and-pass last year, so I don't really understand why QB fundamentals will be such a heavy issue. Every QB can have better fundamentals, but I don't foresee that being a primary focus. I would argue that running back fundamentals will be an area of greater focus, given their underachievement last year and the ease of their role in the old offense, according to reports.