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5 Ways to Make Your Defense Better

High school football doesn't have to be complicated, but as coaches we sometimes confuse our players with too many details. Here are five simple suggestions to help improve your defense this fall.

1) Teach and Emphasize the Three Most Basic Parts of Defensive Football - Get off Blocks, Pursue the Ball, and Tackle. You can't do too many drills that teach these three things. Offensive football has exploded not because of the knowledge of offensive coaches, but because the blocking rules changed to allow offensive blockers to use their hands in the early 90s. As defenders, time must be spent teaching the players to disengage from blockers. Pursuit is about angles and desire. If you do both of those but are a poor tackler, you can't make the play. It is important to drill tackling, coach it in scrimmage and study video to understand why we miss tackles. Make sure your players know this- sooner or later if we are going to be a good defense, we must get off the block, pursue the ball and make the tackle.

2) Increase the Number of Walkthroughs You Do with Your Defenders. Walk throughs give teams a chance to align correctly against formations and for position coaches to increase the knowledge of their players. These are relaxed teaching situations where coaches can remind players of a lot of little things and the players can ask questions. Having an offense align across from the defense makes the teaching visual during the walkthrough. If the offense is running a play that needs extra work, walk throughs are a great way to get extra reps. They are great before practice, after practice, during athletic period, or on Thursdays. Walk throughs might be best on game day. On those pre season practices with high humidity, walk throughs can give players a much needed rest between drills. Do more walkthroughs and look for ways to makde them better for the players.

3) Get Creative at Practice. There is value in the practice drills and procedures that have proven to be successful in the past. But players get bored, offensive strategies change and sometimes there are just better ways to do things. Talk to other coaches, explore Youtube and talk to your players. Get the entire staff involved. The purpose is for your defense to get more out of practice. It may require the staff to put in a little more prep time for practice, but the dividends could be huge.

4) Video, Video, Video. There is no substitute for your team watching a player execute a drill, a technique, a tackle or fundamentals correctly. Create video playlists by positions and add to them with practice and game footage. Video position and team drills and watch your group after practice each day. This allows you to see your players weaknesses and come up with drills to help them. It also allows you to evaluate your players for starting positions and playing time. Send clips to the players through Hudl. and give them some coaching points. When possible, catch them doing something great and send them the clip. More video requires some pre practice organization and recruiting student videographers. Video is a great teaching tool and even the smallest high schools have access to the greatest football technology in the history of the game. Use it to make your defense better this fall.

5) Get a 3rd Down and Goal Line Philosophy and Teach Your Players to Believe in it. The most important plays of competitive games happen on 3rd downs and near the goal line. Don't treat it like the other plays. How are you going to stop their 3rd and short, 3rd and medium and 3rd and long plays? What is the best philosophy for the talent that you have? How can you work this into your practice? Again, walk throughs can be a great way to teach some of this to your players during game week. Make sure your players know what plays to expect in those situations. There was as old coach whose philosophy for goal line defense was this- "we haven't stopped them all the way down the field so I don't expect us to stop them on the goal line". He therefore taught his players that they must give the offense a negative play, and if they did, the offense would not score. He installed 6 or 7 different stunts and ran one on each play. The coach taught goal line technique to his linemen, taught defensive ends, linebackers and defensive backs alignment rules for each stunt. They attacked on every play and convinced the players it would work. The players loved it and had great success executing it. The philosophy was different, but it worked.

Take these five suggestions, get some enthusiasm and make your defense better this fall.


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