Every year the reports start to come out from spring and summer workouts of who runs 20 MPH plus or who has increased their bench press. But in the end, it all comes down to how well do you move on the football field, in actual game situations?
If you can only run fast in a straight line while in shorts, that’s only going to get you so far. If you’re really great at being flat on your back and pushing weight off you, you’re probably a bad football player.
300’s and 110’s for Mental Toughness (MT) not only do not improve your MT, they also train the wrong energy system for football. I’ve been over that on SOTU a few times recently, you can search around for energy systems and football. But, doing these alleged MT drills also take away time from improving as football players.
Keir Wenham-Flatt (aka @RUGBY_STR_COACH on Twitter) presented for the 2020 Track-Football Consortium a presentation on “reverse engineering” your training to fit the sport. Closed-ended drills like stepping over bags, running 110’s, or shuffling around bags aren’t making players any better at football. It’s time to start splitting training into a few categories:
Above- In Keir’s seminar, he discussed that the items above the yellow line are the strength coach’s job. Rudimentary, whole-closed, non-specific reactive, and single/small group integrated drills are the basis of what S&C coaches must do with their athletes. Below that yellow line, that’s the role of the position coach.
If your end goal is to score more points than your opponent, how is that most often done? Through force, speed, and misdirection as he shows in the tweet above. Force can be created by speed, speed is created by speed, and misdirection is speed mixed with visual-cognitive-motor skills and the ability to re-accelerate (speed) after said change in direction.
Above- Look at this image from Keir’s presentation re Cam Newton. On one single play (JUST ONE PLAY) Newton uses a: linear decel, drop step, tight turn, accel, lateral decel, crossover step, jump cut, Vmax, and curved run. Will every player move like prime Cam Newton? Probably not, but do you want to try to get them close? Of course.
We can start off with the offensive line. Not only do the Miami offensive linemen tip plays (leaning toward the side they’re going to run block or pass set to), but DJ Scaife is unable to get his heel down in his three point stance. That shows a lack of flexibility in the ankle, a flaw a Nick Saban would pass on right away, as would Art Kehoe, and many others. Now I’m not sure if this is something he did on high school tape or not- but it has to be fixed immediately.
Above- Look at the difference between Ray Lewis and the guys who play his position in orange and green circa 2020. McCloud is standing far too wide to be able to move properly out of his stance, and Corey Flagg Jr. is almost in a lateral lunge at this point. I don’t expect everyone to be an NFL Hall of Fame’r, but the easiest thing to do in football is line up right.
Read and React
The ability to “read” or identify visually what is going on during a football play, process (decode) said information, and then “react” or employ the proper motor skill is the game of football. Unlike a bag drill or other closed drills (even ones I love, like the curve, or roll and accel, or just working on scrape steps as a LB), football might have a set starting point but all of the action until the whistle is different on every single rep.
Thus, it’s important to not only practice “non-specific reactive” drills but also to be able to coach and correct movement patterns inside of those drills. If all you’re looking at is effort (think about Coach Richt’s old mat drills), well, you don’t have an eye for mechanics.
Above- You can see Bradley Jennings Jr scrape to the football. He’s tall in one, and bent at the waist in the other. In both his arms are sloppy, and his feet are clicking together as his body is tipped to one side. If there’s a counter, cutback, or reverse- he’s screwed.
Next to him is Amari Carter. Carter has a lot of movement deficiencies to his game. His arms are out wide, he’s off balance, he’s standing so upright he’s almost doing a back bend.
After Carter is Quincy Roche. Roche is signaling for a right turn on his bicycle feet one way, glutes the other, and his feet are too close together.
One the bottom rack is the same Duke player. That’s defensive end Victor Dimukeje. Dimukeje is six-foot-two, 265 pounds and runs like a sprinter. In four seasons at Duke he logged 21.5 sacks, 32 tackles for loss, and 161 total tackles. Not too shabby for the former three-star out of Baltimore’s Latin School.
Dimukeje plays with his hips down, his feet spread to the hip, his elbow in to his ribs, and when he turns to accelerate he has balance and control. Dimukeje had a beautiful assisted tackle to finish that play.
I know some of these are blurry as hell but I’m taking a screenshot off of random videos. My screenshot game is on par with the ‘Canes movement mechanics.
Top left you’re looking at both players being completely off balance. Bottom of the top left picture is an over-stride and heel strike, top of that one his arms are too far away from his body and I would guess he’ll heel strike as well.
Top, 2nd from left- Arms are too wide, heel strike, off balance, pelvic tilt.
Top, 3rd from left- Heel strike, spikes up to Jesus, shin angle on lead leg is going to be horrible.
Top, 4th from left- Heel strike, over-stride, arm getting away from him, waist bender.
Bottom, 1st on left- Way over-stride, heel strike, pelvic lean, going to overrun the play.
Bottom, 2nd from left- Everything. Elbow away from body, fist made vs loose hand/knife, heels in with knees out... that looks painful.
Bottom, 3rd from left- Heel striker.
Bottom, 4th from left- Spikes up to Jesus, pelvic tilt, shin angle on lead leg, heel striker.
If you’re wondering why there are missed tackles and bad angles, you’re looking at piss poor movement mechanics. You would have to be Usain Bolt levels of naturally gifted to overcome this stuff, and he’s that fast because he doesn’t do 99% of this stuff.
Who are the best movers?
Miami has a few players who move like a million bucks. Gil Frierson has a hell of a stride, rarely overruns a play, and can finish. At times his tackling can be poor but again, we saved that for a different post. Don Chaney runs really well. He can accelerate, motor down, cut, and re-accelerate instantly.
But the best? That’s Mike Harley Jr. Harley just has a running form and acceleration about him that the others don’t. The top rack below shows Harley cut and re-accelerate without loss of form.
The rack above (bottom three of the image) shows Harley go up for a wildly thrown bubble, come down, with great form, and set up for a cut without his arm all wild away from the body or a heel strike that’ll force him into a bad shin angle and inability to re-accelerate.
So how do you clean this mess up?
When I walk into a program the first thing I do is evaluate what the “warm up” is and how guys move during it and whether or not anyone is coaching the period.
In high school, the warm up is often a slapdick around time where guys bitch about homework or talk about the new xSlappy_boi_42x song on Sound Cloud. You can learn a lot from a high school program during their warm up.
The first thing is to coach technique intensely in the weight room and to program your weight room in order to increase power, explosion and speed. All of that curly mustache-sleeveless shirt garbage needs to be pushed aside. It’s great for a two minute hype video but it means nothing in the end. The best strength staff in college football is David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea- they’re short on sizzle and heavy on steak.
Of course, improving speed and sprint mechanics will go a long way, too. 300’s, 110’s, and 80’s aren’t going to improve speed nor sprint mechanics. I personally am in the cult of Dale Baskett. So was Pete Carroll at USC and in his early days in Seattle. I’m also a believer in #FeedTheCats and Tony Holler and Chris Korfist of the Track Football Consortium.
Plyometric drills, and I don’t mean the shoes The Jimmy wore on Seinfeld. Bounds, straight leg and bent knee primetimes, hurdle hops, lateral hops/jumps/bounds, diagonal bounds, rotational hurdle hops, vertical jumps, broad jumps, depth drops, the list goes on. Working them into your lifts as supersets, and as part of your speed work (sprint and COD/Agility) will improve your mechanics.
Stop using “speed” ladders, bosu balls, and The Jimmy shoes. Move your damn body in the way the sport demands.
What else will fix this disaster? Proper COD/Agility programming in the off-season, and proper indy drills with your position coach. If your running back and linebacker coaches are still stepping over bags- fire them (I’m only 96.3% joking). Cut around a bag? OK. Step over them? Stop it.
Are your indy drills open ended and forcing the player to read and react based on a defender or ball carrier? Then you’re finally heading in the right direction. If they’re nothing but cone and bag drills with a clear start and finish, and no stimuli? It’s not going to go well.
The questions are plenty. Will anyone fix the poor movement mechanics of the Miami Hurricanes? Is the strength and conditioning staff teaching sprint mechanics? Are the ‘Canes getting faster on the football field, during the games when it counts?
I would love to see more of the Miami S&C program and hear more than MPH times and how they’re “getting after it.” Football S&C is more than biceps and puking. I want to see the ‘Canes moving better, moving faster, injured less, and of course- winning more games.