In part one of the series, we discussed talent Acquisition. With 247 and On3 ranking less South Florida players in the top-100 than in years past, is there a talent gap in South Florida? While some families have moved further north to Orlando and Tampa, many have stayed in South Florida.
In part two, we discussed Development. The gaps that I see in blocking, tackling, and strength and conditioning- and how those holes are holding back the talent that has remained in “The State of Miami.”
Now in part three we’re going to discuss Deployment. This Deployment discussion will dissect how far apart the South Florida prospects are from other high school prospects when it comes to being prepared to run a college playbook.
Multiple college coaches are participating so this isn’t just my opinion, it’s the opinion of the people acquiring, developing, and deploying these athletes to win games and keep their jobs and paychecks.
Deployment Issues: The U
At times for the ‘Canes, the issue has been deployment. But I don’t mean at the high school ranks, I mean at Miami, too. The schemes at The U haven’t done favors for certain players. Miami always felt behind on the times when it came to X’s and O’s. Dan Enos, Josh Gattis, and Patrick Nix ring a few bells.
Then you have Rob Chudzinski, a guy that I do think can coach, but he was woefully behind on his creativity when it came to Brock Berlin and the shotgun spread offense that Berlin commanded with so much ease. That ‘laggard’ quality created some issues for Chud, and Brock, in 2003.
On defense, you have the stubborn nature of Randy Shannon who signed Willie Williams, but then attempted to force him into his NFL style 4-3 defense. not being used as an edge terror like Lawrence Taylor (who often didn’t do what he was asked in the 3-4 defense by Bill Parcells) and instead being asked to play a true linebacker role.
Picture Williams in a 3-4 being allowed to run free, or Jacory Harris in an Air Raid offense instead of a pro style boring offense. Then ‘Canes OC Mark Whipple ran his slow developing, back-turned, play-actions where as Harris would’ve benefitted from Mike Leach’s quick releases and brains over arm strength approach.
Some part of the offensive and defensive schemes at Miami have had issues under every Miami head coach since Sonny Lubick left Coral Gables for Colorado State.
Deployment Issues: South Florida HS’s
CFB isn’t just about the playbook, it’s also a game of nuance in this modern era of Air Raid concepts mixed with run-pass options (RPO’s) and complex defenses in the college game that have to stem, invert, simulate, and pattern-match.
And the phrase scheme means the whole deal to me- it’s the install plan, the practice model, the plays, tempo, the personnel groupings, and the drills. It’s the overall mindset of the offense. Run ‘em up or fill ‘em in?
Questions that you hear often regarding quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft is how many reads did they have to make in the offensive system? And were they realistic progressions for those reads?
On the podcast The Solid Verbal, Nate Tice discussed Hendon Hooker going from one wheel route to the next wheel route all the way across the field. As Tice points out that’s simply impossible in the NFL.
In high school you’re often able to do the impossible because you’re behind a great O-Line and the other team has Alex Mirabal Jr. rushing the passer. Between that and having a handful of D1 players across from you all season it just isn’t a true sign of a QB’s potential at the next level.
This is another reason that college coaches want quarterbacks from Texas and Georgia, as well as from IMG- they’re well schooled by full-time, professional coaches. These are coaches using technology that is similar to what QB’s will see in college. On field scout team tech, sideline tech, virtual reality tools, Visio playbooks and detailed installation and game plans.
If Manny Navarro was right (also on The Solid Verbal podcast), and Miami blue chip receivers were having what a slant is yelled at them from the sideline of games, I can’t blame 247 for starting to second guess their South Florida ratings. If South Florida coaches are just telling jits to run to the Buick and turn around, we’re in trouble.
What the coaches say
Now it’s time for what the actual college coaches say (anonymously for the most candor). These are the coaches that are recruiting and coaching the South Florida talent. Coach A and Coach B have also coached high school football in Florida at some point in their careers.
Are the players that far behind other areas in Florida and other states in general? Where do they fit in the world of playbooks, coaching language, and technique?
Dottavio: What’s the key issue you see in the transition from HS to college football?
Coach A (Power 5, has worked mostly with QB’s): The amount of structure and detail that is involved in playing college football. From time management, to the details, structure, and pace of practice, to scheme - it is a hard adjustment for guys to be able to sustain the level of detail needed to be successful at the college level.
Having to study installs and playbooks, having to study film, and have answers about opponents, personnel, and tendencies, as well as studying some of their own practice film, and having detailed notes on how to improve themselves.
Coaches at the college level will also be on top of their players year-round, with very high accountability standards, that they, as coaches are being held to where they lose their jobs.
Many players coming in don’t understand this level of accountability that is needed from player to coach and player to player; so it is sometimes a hard adjustment for them to understand that there is details in that accountability as well.
Other things such as the intensity of strength and conditioning program, as opposed to what they experienced in high school, can be daunting. It’s also extremely necessary, taking care of their bodies, including: daily treatment, hot and cold tubs, stretch, and foam roll routines, all of these things that take up a lot more time than players will ever experience at a normal high school.
Coach B (NAIA and JUCO, has worked mostly with WR’s): I think one of the biggest issues is this steadfast belief in KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) at the HS level. From an offensive standpoint it’s very difficult to have quarterback success when everything you run is mirrored routes (ex. both sides of the formation running a slant with the outside WR’s and slot fade with the inside WR’s).
That then stems to how do the high school coaches teach a QB to progress from one receiver to the next. And how do you define “open (note: there’s a great book called What’s Open? written by Dub Maddox on this very topic).”
Dottavio: What about South Florida guys in particular? Any differences?
Coach A: It seems to be particularly difficult for guys from South Florida for a myriad of reasons. One is that a lot of those teams tend to rely on utilization of talent to win games as opposed to detail and structure of schemes. Additionally, in my experience, practices at a lot of places in South Florida have no structure, no scripts, no practice plan.
Guys routinely will show up late, coaches and players included, with little accountability. This may be a generalization, but a lot of practice is just consist of a stretch, then maybe some pass skelly and unnecessarily long team periods.
Indy periods are very rarely detailed and planned out, if there is any indy at all. Very rarely do you see groups or pod (group) type work to further develop skills needed to run a particular scheme.
Schemes are not particularly difficult, as teams tend to rely on having superior talent and tend to scale back what they are running to the simplest form, and all three phases of the game. To some degree, if this seems like the coaches unwillingness to learn how to teach new schemes and clinic with other high school and college coaches for their own professional development to do what is best for the kids by teaching them football as it will translate at the college level.
Coach B: The players from North Florida, Georgia and Texas came in with a higher football knowledge base than the players from South Florida. The GA and TX guys “know the language” of higher level football. So when you say phrases like “cushion” “leverage” and “route stem” they know what those phrases mean.
Their technique has been coached better at the HS level in GA and TX compared to FL. The KISS stuff in FL has even trickled down to receiver play. If QB’s don’t know how to progress through a pass play then receivers don’t know what’s expected from them in terms of timing and spacing.
Then we have (running) back play. We don’t teach backs to effectively read blocks and HS coaches don’t incorporate them in pass protection. Sometimes you need 6-man protection. And then there is O-Line play. Too much reliance on who to block, and not how to block them.
Dottavio: So the technique is lacking? What about film review?
Coach A: In high school there is rarely meeting time to install, most install is done on the field, which makes adjustments to meetings in college (that can last upwards of 45 minutes) very difficult. What you’re starting to see from other states are more programs that are detailed and structured at the high school level, specifically in Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, and other parts of Florida (compared to South Florida).
This is helped more and more with the adjustment to college football, as coaches at these other programs have bought in to learning how colleges are doing things, and applying it more to their high school programs. This includes meeting time, weight room structure and programming, practice plans, situational football, time management skills, and scheme detail.
Coach B: Yeah technique is lacking. And no, there’s no difference with film. Everyone sucks at watching film. I think watching film might be the most misunderstood aspect of football.
Dottavio: Do you have any solutions to the issue?
Coach A: The solution lies in college coaches being honest with high school coaches in areas like South Florida about where the development of the players is lacking. College coaches need to be brutally honest with some of these high school coaches in forcing them to understand their players are coming in under-developed in all phases of what it takes to be a college football player.
This can include conversations when visiting those campuses, visiting those practices, visiting those weight room sessions, and being honest when a high school coach asked why their kid is not playing early in the process of their college career.
College coaches need to just let these high school coaches know the exact reason why and it is typically because of their under development from a physical, mental and emotional standpoint of being able to handle the rigors and intensity of college football.
Dottavio: I think the one or two day coaching clinics they offer at say UNC or UCF aren’t frequent or thorough enough, what do you think?
I also believe the college coaches can do a better job in terms of professional development for high school coaches. The true detail in the professional development is lacking. I think colleges will be better off to do a couple of different coaches clinics throughout the year, perhaps travel to different areas of the states within their recruiting footprint. They would need to be willing to truly share what it takes to implement a college program and how that can be tailored to the development of high school players.
Coach B: Most of these issues stem from communication. I don’t think the head coach needs to be an expert at each position, but he needs to be able to express an expectation of what he wants from each position.
Dottavio: Clarity, Confidence, Conviction?
Coach B: At the college level there are install meetings and everyone knows exactly what will be ran and why every day. When I’ve been in HS meetings or coaching at the HS level it’s, “He runs a slant, he runs a post, it’s easy shit,” but there isn’t a detailed description of what concept we’re running and why the rules are the rules.
A player’s perspective
Note: I spoke with a client that is a college football player, and asked what the largest gaps were in his game on the move from high school to college. His response seem to fit perfectly into the conversation.
The study and practice habits of most HS athletes aren’t where they need to be, because they’re dominant physically. Once they’re on the field and all things are even, are you better at practicing and preparation than the other guy?
Anonymous player: Biggest thing is that in college, coordinators actually scheme around the teams they are facing each week. It become so extremely important to watch and study film, because if you don’t, you are automatically put at a disadvantage.
Of course there are also mandatory film sessions after practice every day, which took getting used to.
Once you get to college, technique becomes absolutely imperative. Everyone in college was super athletic in high school, you can’t count on just your athleticism to take you the distance anymore. Learning the proper fundamentals and technique is absolutely important.
When all high school players get to college they’re behind in some area. It could be S&C, tackling, tracking, technique, film, X’s and O’s, identification, language, etc. It’s impossible to show up and know every single aspect perfectly.
However, just how far behind are some of these athletes, and why are they behind? Some of the issue is the lack of modern Deployment in certain high schools across the country. Part four of the series will focus on a potential solution to the issues being faced at the University of Miami when it comes to local recruiting, and overall development of the local athletes.