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A Quarterbacks Lifeline: Scheme over Fundamentals? (part 2)

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About the Author: This blog is a series of articles from John Tomlinson, Cedar Hill HS Assistant Football Coach, Cedar Hill, TX.  Coach Tomlinson can be reached at john.tomlinson09@gmail.com.

Principle 7: Seizing momentum and recovering it after losing it. (Scheme Specific)

I learned the value in responding to momentum shifts in a game. I learned the value in “coaching to WIN as opposed to coaching not to lose.” What does that mean? Sometimes we’re in a big-game situation where we either pull back or throttle it down their throats with our play calling because we feel that victory is in sight and we don’t want to make any mistakes. What we don’t realize is that we may have just choked the momentum out of our own players.

At some point momentum will swing back in your favor and that comes from developing a solid game plan, knowing your personnel, and identifying how your opponent responds to change in tempo, motion, and formations you haven’t shown on film.

Principle 8: Simplified Run Game. (Scheme & Fundamentals)

I transitioned from using only man schemes to more zone schemes and more formations in 2007 after spending time with Coach Charles Bankins back in 2006 (current Vanderbilt University RB Coach/SPT Coordinator). I began to use more 1 Back formation’s; finally the “10”, “11”, and “12” personnel sets had more meaning. We were very multiple in formations while staying simple in our run game. The theme for our RB’s was “Bang, Bend, or Bounce.” Our quarterback was always responsible for one defender and he blocked that defender with how he carried out his fake off the Zone and Zone Read. We ran fewer run concepts but did more with formations, shifts, and motions along with an up-tempo no huddle. A simplified running game allowed me to spend more time with the quarterback and his fundamentals.

Principle 9: Self Correcting and Teaching Upper Body Mechanics. (Fundamentals)

For years I coached quarterbacks but often struggled with helping my quarterbacks maintain consistency in their throwing mechanics. I didn’t understand how to correct or how to adjust a quarterback’s upper body mechanics when he was making mistakes. In 2006 all of that changed. I found some information on Darin Slack of the Darin Slack Quarterback Academy (QBA), and began to study the habits of good fundamentals and upper body mechanics from grip, wrist, elbow, tricep to getting the elbow to the “Zero” position. I adopted Coach Slack’s routines and I use them to this very day as I train my quarterbacks. Having the ability to identify problems early and giving your quarterbacks a routine to follow on a daily basis allows them to self-correct. A quarterback should understand the “why” and “how to” when throwing a consistent ball. There was a time in my early career where I only understood footwork, but this wasn’t enough to get my quarterbacks over the hump. Understanding the “why” has made me see things on film and in person that I couldn’t see before. It’s made me more efficient.

Principle 10: Pair Down Concepts. (Scheme & Fundamentals)

In 2007, I met Coach Jim Caldwell at Hampton University where he was putting on an offensive clinic. The major point of emphasis I came away with as he talked was to pare down your concepts. Less is more when you master it! The two great ways to attack a defense is to, 1) stress the tempo in which you run your concept and 2) show it in multiple formations. When you reduce the concepts you run and you become an expert at them, you’re guys will play faster. When you pare down your concepts you can spend time teaching your quarterback “why” which helps him become more efficient. This allowed my quarterback to focus on a smaller amount of plays. He thought less and I worked to teach him more with defensive identification.

Integrating Scheme and Fundamentals

When your scheme is reduced you can spend more time, 1) refining your quarterbacks fundamentals, 2) teaching defensive recognition, 3) understanding his internal clock with regards to when the ball should be out of his hands, and 4) mastering down and distance. Your quarterbacks evolution and growth is much like that of an infant. I don’t know a mother that’s taken the risk to feed her 6 month old child a 10 ounce Porterhouse steak. The reason for that is that his teeth haven’t cut through his gums yet. Much like a quarterback, you have to feed him the base scheme and see how he digests that first. You evaluate his ability to handle that. Once he’s digested that, you add a little more and as his teeth start to break through the gums, you give him a little more. Once he’s shown you he can do it, you build a little more to your scheme. Eventually, you ease him into that 10 ounce Porterhouse! You measure out what you give him and keep evaluating him.

Nothing has changed in this game with the regards to those teams that are the most successful. They know how to build quarterbacks and when they realize they have a guy they can build with, they don’t damage him by forcing a scheme on him, they elevate him based on his growth and how he digests information.

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