Defensive Game Planning – The Ready List

The Ready List is the list of fronts and stunts that we believe will be the most successful against our opponent’s top run and pass plays.  We have already determined what those plays were, and all the tendencies associated with them based on our film breakdown and formation analysis work (see yesterday’s post – Defensive Game Planning- Film Breakdown and Offensive Analysis).  We also have a good idea what blocking schemes they would employ to attack our front.  Now it is a matter of trying to put our personnel in the best position possible position through front alignment or stunt movement to be successful against those plays.

The process of putting together the Ready List is the most important part of the game planning process.  It takes the most meeting time, and is critical in developing a good Call Sheet.  The entire Call Sheet that will be used on game day is based on the Ready List, so taking all the time necessary to get this piece right was imperative.  This included all the meeting time putting together the Ready List, as well as all the work previous to provide us with accurate data.

While at the University of Central Missouri, the defensive staff meetings developing our weekly Ready List were some of the most “spirited” meetings we had… in fact the more “spirited” the better. They were completely “open”, meaning all discussion/ ideas were discussed.  A valuable lesson that I learned from the Defensive Coordinator that preceded me (Mike Foster) was that it did not matter whose ideas that we ultimately used on the Ready List, as long as they were the best ideas.

To develop the Ready List we go through each of their Top 5 Run plays, one at a time.  We draw the play on the whiteboard, out of the formation(s) they like to run it out of, keeping in mind tendencies (Strong/Weak, etc) that are associated with it.

Ready List4

We then draw up each of our defensive Fronts against the play, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each Front.  This is where the process became “spirited”, with each coach discussing what Front would put their players (knowing their strengths and weaknesses) in the best position to defend the play.  We are fairly multiple, so this takes some time.  Ultimately, we want to end up with a consensus on what our best 3 Defensive Fronts would be against that play.  We then repeat this process with the rest of their Top 5 Run plays.

Ready List3

 I want to emphasize a key word from the previous paragraph – Consensus.  While at UCM, although there was often much discussion, at times fairly heated, when we left the room we were always in agreement that these Fronts (and the next stage Stunts) were the ones that put our players in the best position to be successful.  We could argue all we wanted (and was actually an important part of the process) behind closed doors, but once we went out to our players, we ALWAYS were on the same page… we had each others backs… ALWAYS.

After we have gone through each play and decided on our best Defensive Fronts against them, we then go through the same process with our First (DL and DE) and Second (LB and DB) Level Stunts against those same plays.  We draw up the play on the whiteboard, just as before, out of the formation(s) they liked to run it out of, keeping in mind tendencies (Strong/Weak, etc) that were associated with it.  We draw up the play against the first of the 3 Defensive Fronts we have decided on, then discuss and diagramed what First Level Stunts (out of that Front) would be good to employ.

Ready List2

We then go through the same process with Second Level Stunts (out of that Front).  We go through the same procedure (adding Stunts) with each of the other Defensive Fronts for that play.  We then go to the next of their Top 5 Plays and added the second level stunts to each of the Defensive Fronts we had assigned to them.

Ready List1

By the end of this process (normally several hours meeting time) we have a list of possible fronts and stunts that we have confidence will be successful against their Top 5 Run plays.  This list was based on hard data (see Post – Defensive Game Planning – Film Breakdown and Formation Analysis) and the culmination of many good defensive minds (who have a good handle on their respective position groups strengths and weaknesses) sharing their thoughts.

Although we always included the entire staff in this process at the collegiate level, often times in high school, because of added duties (having a full teaching load with various schedules) the same procedure could be done with just the defensive coordinator (or any other available staff) completing the Ready List.  I firmly believe, though, that the more people you can involve in the meeting… the more Storming-Norming-Performing that takes place, the better the Ready List that is produced.

We also include any notes, adjustments, and special situations that came to light during analysis and discussion on the Ready List.  The DB coach and I (LB coach) go through a similar process looking at coverage for each run play, and the best coverages to use against their pass schemes.  The DL coaches add what the best pass rush Front/Stunt combination is against the pass protection schemes we were anticipating.   All of this is part of this important step in the Defensive Game Plan process – preparing the Ready List.

You can download a Word document of a sample ready list by clicking on this link:  Sample Ready List, or just clicking on the image below.

Sample Ready List

The following is a brief video that further explains the process of using the Formation Analysis to develop the Ready List.

Previous Posts in the Defensive Game Planning Series:

Tomorrow – The Opponent’s Play Grid 

Jeff Floyd –

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