Those things you spend time practicing, talking to your players about, and teaching, you will improve on. True story….
During the spring of 1992, our defensive coaching staff at the University of Central Missouri took a learning trip to several universities, including Oklahoma State University, to learn more about the 4-3 Defense they were running. Billy Miller was the defensive coordinator at the time, and OSU had a history with the 4-3 that could be traced back to Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt.
We were able to spend some great meeting time with their staff and then watched a couple of their spring practices. At their first practice they ran a crazy drill that Coach Miller had warned us about – they called it the fumble score drill, and is diagramed below.
It was a spirited, high-energy drill, and all the coaches and players were having fun with it. As a defensive staff we decided that we would implement the drill, but I knew as defensive coordinator that I would have to do some “selling” to get our head coach to agree that it would be productive practice time.
When we talked to our head coach, Terry Noland, about the drill, we told him all of the great fundamentals that we would be working on.; footwork and pad level while we were going over the bags, and the correct technique of recovering a fumble. We talked about how recovering the fumble was job #1 – everything else was secondary. We taught that if they were in any traffic at all, or had any difficulty recovering the ball, do not attempt to scoop and run, but curl and recover. We kind of glossed over the whole idea of defensive lineman and linebackers pitching the ball to a teammate part of the drill!
We implemented the drill during our pre-season camp, and ran it at least once a week. It became one of our weekly team defensive drills. Just as it was with OSU, it was a high energy drill that the athletes and coaches both had fun with. One day, as a big lumbering defensive lineman recovered a fumble and pitched it to another, big lumbering defensive lineman, our head coach came over and said something on the order of “this is all well and good, but the first time we lose the ball when a DL tries pitching it, you will have some explaining to do.”
Our first game that season, 1992, was against the University of North Alabama, who would go on the become National Champions that year. In the second quarter, on an option play, our corner made a jarring tackle on their RB out in the flat. Our safety scooped up the ball and raced down the field until the QB caught him. Right before going down, he pitched the ball to the corner who ended up taking it into the end zone for the TD and the go-ahead score. We ended up losing that game 16-17, but defensively gained great confidence.
Over the next 4 weeks our defense scored a TD in a 10-7 win vs Missouri Southern State University and another in a 24-10 win vs Southwest Baptist University. Against Northwest Missouri State University in our 5th game that season we set up a score in a 10-7 win.
By this point in the season, the fumble score drill became the high point of our practice. Even if we wanted to eliminate the drill, our players would have revolted. They believed! They believed that because we were doing this drill each week, we were scoring defensive touchdowns.
The bottom line – we talked about recovering fumbles and taught the correct way to do it. We talked about scoring on defense and taught the correct way to do it. After 5 games into the season, we had scored 3 TD’s and set up another score for our offense. The previous season we scored exactly zero touchdowns!
What seeds are you sowing with your players? What crop do you want to reap next fall?
Comments and Questions are always welcome
Remember – You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org