Given some weekly downtime, I thought I’d address some of the more frequent questions I’ve received from readers. Before I do, though, I want to say thank you for a tremendous response over the first month we’ve been live. I knew Husker fans were passionate, but I didn’t expect the response to be this much, this quick. It’s nice to know that this stuff is helpful across a wide variety of readers, some with sophisticated football minds and other novice souls who never played more than a handful of downs in youth league.
I’ve tried to put the pitch of this blog somewhere slightly above Football 101, but not so complex that you have to be a football coach to understand it. Hopefully I’ve come somewhat close to that mark through the first quarter of the season. With that, let me answer a few of your questions, and of course, if you have more, fire them away in the comments section.
(1) “Do you use Nebraska’s terminology in naming the plays?” followed closely by “Aren’t you worried about exposing Nebraska’s secrets to other teams?”
I’ll answer the first question, which also answers the second question. Though by this point I do know Nebraska’s terminology for all of these offensive concepts, I do not use the specific terms or play calls that Nebraska uses. Each team uses its own unique terminology to describe the same set of plays, and frequently, it’s a mnemonic device designed to simplify things for players.
So, for example, when I refer to a certain concept in Nebraska’s inside zone series as “Slice,” what I’m really talking about is the basic split zone concept that almost every team uses at some point:
When setting up the blog, I needed to come up with a common terminology for various concepts without giving away any of the Huskers’ trade secrets. For inside zone plays, I’ve borrowed the University of Utah’s terminology (Read/Dive/Base/Bluff/Slice). So split zone for the Utes is “Slice,” while for other teams it may be “Steelers” “Cut” “Solo” and on and on. What I call Rip/Liz motion for the purposes of this blog, other teams might call Dart/Dash, Rod/Lou, Ricky/Lucy, Rocket/Laser, etc. Motion with the tight end that I typically refer to as Y Across (the tight end motions across the formation) or Y Return (the tight end motions across the formation and then returns to his original spot) may be called Yack/Yard (Y for tight end in both of them, “r” in Yard for return, “ac” in Yack for across), YoYo/Yank, etc.
In the end, though the mnemonic device is different, the concept remains the same between all of the teams. And because I haven’t used any of Nebraska’s specific terminology, there’s no risk that other teams are picking up something unique. And to be frank, if Big 10 defenses need a blogger to pick that stuff up, they’re in as much trouble as Bo Pelini was the first time he saw Melvin Gordon on a jet sweep.
(2) “You lost me talking about 3 technique” or “What is an ‘Under’ front?” or “What do you mean B gap run through”?
One of the toughest things about writing these pieces is trying to frame the discussion in accessible terms for a broad variety of readers. That’s generally why I try to link as much as I can in the posts. As a time saving measure, most users don’t click on the majority of links. Understandable. But if you see a confusing term hotlinked, click on the URL and it typically takes you to a more basic discussion of the concept. If it doesn’t, try to check out some of the earliest blog posts I made on this site, as they started at a much lower level.
I’ve also tried to plan for a two-year period of what I call “base building.” I understand that some of this may go way over the reader’s head right now, but I’m hoping to ramp reader knowledge up for the first two years so that everyone reaches a sort of collective baseline. Maybe we get there, maybe we don’t, but I think the gap will start to close over the years. I’m also hopeful Mike Riley is still around by then or we may be starting back at ground zero a bit.
As for the two questions above, when I refer to a(n) “[insert number]-technique,” I’m talking about where on the defensive line that particular defender is lined up relative to the offensive line. Here is a nifty chart showing both the offensive gaps (in letters) along with defensive alignments (in numbers; sometimes you’ll see them attached with an “i” to show an inside shade of that number, i.e. “4i” as inside shoulder of the OT):
So when I talk about a 3-technique alignment, I’m talking about a defensive lineman (almost always a defensive tackle) lined up on the guard’s outside shoulder (where the #3 is above). When I talk about B gap run through on a Power play, I’m talking about a defender, typically a LB, running through the B gap between the backside guard and the tackle where the guard has pulled.
Also, though I deviate at points from their terms, Inside The Pylon’s glossary is a great resource to start with if you don’t understand a particular term I use. Thus, if you click on the link in that last sentence, it’ll take you to the glossary, where you can find out that an “Under” front is when the defensive line sets the 3-technique away from the formation strength (generally the side the tight end lines up on) and pairs that guy with a 1-technique to the tight end side.
And if all that fails and you still don’t know, ask in the comments. I can tell you from fielding comments already that there are probably 100 other readers that don’t know too.
(3) “Do you coach high school football?”
No. My day job doesn’t allow me a predictable enough schedule to coach each fall. And so I coach youth league when I can, attend coaching clinics (including the Big Red Coaching Clinic), watch way too much film, troll around dedicated Xs and Os sites for real coaches and generally harass the people who earn a check doing it as much as possible by email, phone, etc. I’ve coached in the past, and it may be something I do down the line in retirement, but for right now, I’m doing my “coaching” on this blog.
(4) “Why didn’t you answer my comment/question/etc.?”
The response through the comments thus far has been amazing. And I’ve love to answer every question that gets posted. Unfortunately, this isn’t a full-time gig for me and because I have zero intention of ever turning this into a pay site, I don’t have a staff to assist me. I assure you I’m not ignoring you or think that your question is dumb. It’s merely the internal calculus of writing more/watching more film versus interacting with readers. I’d love to do both, but right now, I’m focusing more on getting articles and concepts up and less on user interaction. Hopefully that changes at some point as I become more efficient with the film cut ups and drafting. For now, though, it’s a one-man band and I’m learning the music on the fly.
(5) “The images in the articles stopped working. What gives?”
This has happened for a few readers. Though I’m not an IT wizard, all solved the issue by clearing out their browser cache/history and reloading the articles. If that doesn’t work for you, post a comment and I’ll see if I can’t find another solution.
(6) “Will you be doing defensive write ups anytime soon?”
Absolutely. The main issue is that defense is inherently more difficult to cover than offense for a few reasons. First, to really understand the structure of a defense, you need to be able to see the safeties on the screen before the snap. Many times, with at least one lining up 12+ yards from the line of scrimmage, you simply don’t get that view from the TV version of the game. And while the NFL provides “All 22” or “Coaches” film, where you get to see all of the players on the field, college telecasts may only show four or five All 22 shots all game. Unless you get lucky and get a video like this:
If I can get enough viable All 22 shots from a telecast to put together an entire write up, I’ll definitely get them up. I think next week’s write up may be one focused on defense, but it’ll include All 22 shots from both the Oregon and Northwestern games simply because of the dearth of All 22 film. Or if the Big 10 finally provides All 22 film of the BTN games, it’ll make my job a lot easier and you’ll see a lot more defensive posts.
Second, the other reason why defense is more difficult to cover is that it’s a reactive endeavor that adjusts, sometimes substantially, to what the offense does post snap. Offense, on the other hand, is proactive, and what you see on the offensive chalkboard is typically what you’re going to see on the field once the ball is snapped, less some option routes from receivers. By comparison, there are so many defensive deviations that occur based on what the offense does that unless you know the specific call and have a copy of the defensive playbook to know their checks, at times you’re left guessing what the coverage call was.
And even within those structures, you can change the role of any individual DB on a given play before the snap with a check call and suddenly you get an entirely different concept after the snap. You get a “cone” call from a safety and instead of zoning off in Cover 3 he’s got the #1 receiver breaking on a crossing route while the corner falls off into the zone the safety would have covered. Or you get a “MEG” call and lock the corner into man-to-man wherever that receiver goes while the rest of the defensive coverage remains almost the same. Thus, unless you’re on the field and can hear the checks that the secondary makes pre-snap, a lot of the time you’re guessing on the coverage.
Third, pattern matching defenses that morph based on the route concepts have become more common, and with that, as one example a defense that lines up in Cover 3 at the snap can quickly become pure Cover 1 depending on what the receivers do:
One of my goals on this blog is accuracy rather than being “first to market” if you will, so if I don’t know for sure what coverage Nebraska is in after the snap, I’m not going to write something on it and have Brian Stewart’s assistant calling me Biff the Blogger on Wednesday or Coach Banker himself collaring me at the Big Red Coaches Clinic. And what that means for you guys is most of my defensive posts will come after the season, after I’ve been able to verify particular plays and the coverages we were in, along with the secondary checks, with the folks who would know. Or if you want to send me the defensive playbook, I’ll take that as well and put more stuff up in real time.
(7) Is there any way to know when you have a new post up?
I’ve tried to avoid self-glossing as much as possible except for the dedicated Twitter account I set up for the blog, @HuskerChalkTalk. If you’re not a Twitter person, I’m working on a way you can subscribe via e-mail to the blog so that you get notifications when I post something. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, IT guy I am not, so that’s been a slow process. I may also set up a Facebook account in the near future, though because time is limited I’m trying to keep the “marketing” aspect of the blog to a single middle-of-the-road social media platform.
(8) Do you take guest posts from coaches?
Without a doubt. If you have something you want to write about, shoot me a message on Twitter or post something in the comments here, and we’ll get together on it. I reserve editing rights over the ultimate piece, but I’ll try to exercise them with a light hand.
And that goes for former and current Huskers as well. Doesn’t have to be about Xs and Os either. Could be about stuff that the common fan wouldn’t know (what’s the typical Wednesday for a Husker player? how much film do you watch during a week and how do you go about it?), could be certain things fans love to know about but haven’t heard yet (an annotated timeline of your recruitment, what life after Husker football is like, etc.).
Wrapping It Up
With that, I’ll shut it down for this time because I’ve already gone way too long. If you have any questions I missed, post them in the comments and I’ll try to get to them on the next FAQs post.