Based on your feedback from our last Glossary post, I thought we could discuss more football terms and situations…
Defensive Line Twists
Defensive twists are preplanned, schematic maneuvers of two or more defensive players (mainly defensive linemen and linebackers) in which they exchange roles, positions on-the-field, and or responsibilities after the football is snapped with intention to confuse offensive blockers. In other words, defensive lines have the same deception capability as their offensive foes. This is just another accurate example of how football can be compared to chess.
*Please note that depicted in football X and O diagrams: X’s represent defensive players, O’s the offense.
How offensive personnel can predict twists?
Experience is an overused and underestimated term which doesn’t merely refer to the number of game snaps a player has under his belt. Operational experience is the functional description that describes the ability to accurately foresee the opponent’s actions prior to the football’s snap. Using the above example in practical terms, predicting defensive line twists can be predicated by down and distance (1st and 10 for example) as well as the defensive line’s stance variation. I’ll try to explain; when a defensive lineman’s hand is barely touching the turf, most likely the defender’s path will require lateral, directional movement. With knuckles or fingers firmly planted in the ground, a bull-rush or straight forward path is likely.
How to counter twists
If the called play is a run, even the most experienced quarterback usually just has to roll with it and hope for the best. In a game of odds; at times straight forward rushes can gash defensives that are twisting and turning all over the place. After being burned a couple times, twisting defenses usually cool their heels. The offensive line coach is critical in scouting report preparation as well as fundamental instruction in order for the OL (Offensive Line) to adjust for twists. Communication is the key.
-This term describes a defensive pass coverage during which two traditional cornerbacks are responsible for the deep third of the football field. The free safety is tasked with the middle of the field and acts in similar fashion as a baseball center fielder. His role is to stay deeper than the deepest receiver threat. Additionally, a strong safety controls the flats or the outside passing lanes of the football field. His role is similar to a weak-side linebacker and is heavily counted on for run support. Historically, strong safeties were called “Monster” or “Rover” backs. The side of the field in which the strong safety is aligned is labeled the “strong-side”.
How to identify the Cover 3
Cornerbacks are aligned outside the widest receiver normally 7-10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Free safety is lined up in the middle of the field, or moves to that area post-snap.
Best Way to Attack
Short or intermediate passes toward the sidelines are mostly automatic completions. Again by referencing today’s spread offenses, it’s simple to counter. Put more eligible receivers on the field than a typical Cover 3 personnel set can manage.
What do QBs and coordinators talk about on their headsets?
I often get this question. Got to remember, the game has drastically changed since I played in the late 80’s and early 90’s. However, I’d assume that that in general, the quarterback to coordinator communication has remained fairly constant.
Offense is forced to punt, the QB exits the field and is first received by the head coach. Depending on the situation, this interaction includes words of encouragement or a good ole fashion butt chewing. Then if the coordinator is stationed in the booth, the QB puts on the headset and an onslaught of verbal interaction ensues. This process can be one of dread or triumph.
The OC (Offensive Coordinator) starts the communication by calming the nerves of a jumpy QB or motivating the other that may be lacking passion. Call it the pep talk or motivation portion of the discussion. Then the inevitable question from the OC, “What are you seeing?” By asking this, the coordinator is assessing his offensive leader’s mental state of mind. The QB normally replies with a series of X’s and O’s stuff which can either reassure or concern the coach.
However, there are aspects of the game that only the on-field QB can sense. For example, observations on defensive voice calls or audibles, eye direction or other blitz indicators, and secondary verbal and non-verbal communication. This information greatly assists the OC in play calling.
If things are going really well, the two may talk freely or better yet, no communication may occur at all. When things are bad, oh boy.
Quarterbacks during a timeout
Another frequently asked question. I normally don’t like to tell old football stories, but I couldn’t pass on this one. In the final seconds of a rain-soaked, sloppy and boring game against North Carolina, UNC Coach Mack Brown called his last timeout. With only one more snap to move to 2-0 on the season, I dreadfully trotted to the sideline with full mullet blowing in the CWS wind expecting a colossal butt chewing. You see on the previous Victory Formation play, like an idiot I fumbled the snap, we recovered. On the sideline, Claiborne was animated to say the least. He yelled for a football and demonstrated the proper manner in which to take a snap and then get on one knee. So in a 20-year-old sarcastic tone I asked, “so you want me to take the snap and then jump on the ground”? He didn’t think that was funny. He went on to again coach me up on the proper mechanics of a Victory Formation play. With muddied pants, nostrils flaring, and 12 “good gollies”, Coach Claiborne had made his point abundantly clear. I slapped him on the rear end and laughed my tail off all the way back to the huddle. I didn’t screw it up for a second time as we won the track-meet 13-6. I loved my coach.
Back to on subject, water is distributed as a plethora of towels are thrown in the quarterback’s direction. Managers and athletic trainers are the unsung heroes of every football team. If time permits, headsets are dawned and a coordinator conversation is included. During timeouts are when scouting reports morph from paper (now virtual) to practicality. For example, if the upcoming play is 3rd and 2 in the middle of the field with the football inside the opponent’s 20-yard line; scouting report data suggests that the opponent favors man-to-man blitzes. This helps in proper plays being called to counter. Situational awareness, gut feeling, and hours of film study pays off. During timeouts, head coaches are primarily motivators, coordinators are subject-matter-experts.
Keep your questions coming. Hope this helps.