Defensive Game Planning – The Call Sheet

The final goal of the entire game planning process is to assemble the tool to be used on game day, the Call Sheet.  As I mentioned in my first post on this subject (Defensive Game Planning – Genealogy) the following concepts were the driving force behind the development of this tool:

  • I am not particularly good at doing things “off the cuff”…
  • I like to be organized
  • I like things based on data
  • I needed a tool that could be used effectively during the “heat of the battle” on game day.

The Call Sheet that we developed while at the University of Central Missouri checked all the above boxes.  This tool was adapted for our use by ideas we learned from long time Eastern Illinois Defensive Coordinator, John Smith (see post on Genealogy)

I normally began my work completing the Call Sheet on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning (Saturday game) and spent several hours of work trying to get it right.  This process involved using two documents we had already completed as a defensive staff.

The Ready List (see post on the Ready List)

Ready List1

The Play Grid (see post on the Play Grid).

Play Grid

When I begin work, I have a printed copy of those two documents in front of me, with a blank Call Sheet to write on.

I typically begin with the box 2A on the Call Sheet, which includes all the plays that our opponent’s offense has run on 1st and 10 from the 20-49 yard line.   This normally is the box that has the largest sampling of plays in it.

On each box of the call sheet (beginning with box 2A) I want to come up with 3 Defensive Calls;

  • A call that is fairly vanilla (which depends on the down and distance and field zone).
  • A 2nd call that is a little more aggressive – normally involving a First Level Stunt
  • A 3rd call that is a sic ‘em call – normally involving a Second Level Stunt or a combination of First and Second Level Stunts.

To arrive at the calls for each “Box” on the call sheet, I look at the Play Grid to see what plays the offense is running in those situations.  I then look at our Ready List to see what Front/ Stunt and Coverage we decided as a staff would put our personnel in the best position against these plays.

When looking at the 2A box in the sample Play Grid from my previous post, you can see the following.


  • 22 Run plays vs 2 Pass plays
  • Iso is the most frequent play at 10 times
  • 67% Run overall in this field zone (Row 2 – 20-50 yd line)

So when consulting the Ready List, I would want to see what Front/Stunt would be very good against the Iso, but also good against Toss and Trap.  On the Ready List as a staff we have already determined that the defensive Front 31Sh (31 Short) is good against both Iso and Trap, so it becomes the first call in the A2 Box.

Iso Trap

A slightly more aggressive call which we determined would be very good against the Iso is 40 Sh- Sp Pn (40 Short, Split Pinch), so it is the second call in the A2 Box.

40 sh sp pn

The third call, a very aggressive sic ‘em call, 31 Sh – Tg Pn Sp – Wk (31 Short, Tight Pinch Special, Whack) includes both a first and second level stunt and is one our defensive staff decided would be very good against both the Iso and Trap.

31 sh pn dp wak

The completed A2 Box on the Call Sheet would look like this

calls A2

From the box 2A, I typically move up and do 1A, then down and do 3A, then complete the rest of the A (1st and 10) boxes after that.  I work my way across the Call Sheet in the same manner.

sample call sheet

Some Call Sheet considerations:

  • If a box does not have a very large sampling of plays in it, I normally look at the box above or below to see what they are doing down and distance-wise, and assign calls based on that data.  I also will look at any overall tendencies they have shown, either Down and Distance or Field Zone, to help guide my call selection.
  • Some Down and Distance/ Field Zone situations (boxes) call for more aggressive calls, even the “vanilla” or first call in the box… often as the offense moves closer to your goal line.
  • You can see that on the sample Call Sheet, a bracketed number precedes some calls.  This number corresponds to the call that is on our wristband that week.  Instead of signaling in the call, we can simply signal the corresponding wristband number to our personnel on the field.  We eventually evolved (partly in response to quick tempo- no huddle offenses) to putting ALL the calls from the Call Sheet on the wristbands.
  • When determining the calls in each box, I try to select the BEST calls against the most frequent play in that situation, but also what would be GOOD against all, or most of, the plays, in that particular situation.
  • When completing the Call Sheet, I try to immerse myself in a “Game Day” attitude… I try to “play the game” in my head as I am putting the calls in each box.
  • At the bottom of the sheet adjustments to special situations are noted, and calls for special situations are copied so they can be easily located.

When the call sheet is finished, you have a tool that has roughly 132 calls on it…

  • In every Down and Distance/ Field Zone situation, you immediately have 3 calls at your disposal.
  • Every call can be made in confidence because it is based on hard data from your opponent’s tendencies.
  • Every call can be made in confidence because it is the result of hours of meeting time with your staff.

You can download a blank copy of the Excel Call Sheet by clicking on the following link: Blank Excel Call Sheet, or just clicking on the picture below.

Blank Call Sheet

The brief video that follows describes the Call Sheet.

The previous posts in the Defensive Game Planning series are:

Tomorrow – Using the Call Sheet  – Communication and Game Procedures.

Jeff Floyd –

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