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Part 4: Does The U have a South Florida problem? The Solution

Part four of a series on South Florida talent. We’ve covered the issues in acquisition, development, and deployment. Now it’s time to address a potential solution to the South Florida Problem.

NCAA Football: Miami at Virginia Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

I wouldn’t want to be the type to offer a three part series on problems and not offer any solutions. Today’s three solutions are accompanied by an FBS strength and conditioning coach offer his take on what he sees at the next level.

In part one of the series we dissected the Acquisition issues regarding Miami being in South Florida. In part two we took a deep dive into the Development issues that college coaches are facing when they get So. Florida football players.

Part three detailed the Deployment gaps between high school and college for all athletes, and some nuances college coaches face with South Floridians.

Graphic is from my class on “Talent Acquisition”

According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, college football comes down to those three key areas detailed in the previous posts, and below:

1- Acquisition: recruitment (selection, retention, and identification)

2- Development: strength and conditioning, contact, position-based skills

3- Deployment: schematic (drills, technique, practice style, concepts, language)

Let’s now dive into part four, a look at how can the big money “boosters” in The Collective can help. I believe they can help even more than they are by providing local coaches and players with specialty coaches in niche areas, especially in coaching and playing areas that need the greatest improvement.

More Data

After a comment on Part 3 of the series, I got to digging with the College Football Playoff and South Florida recruits. Of the four PO teams from 2022, there were:

29 players from Florida on four rosters. 12 of which were from South Florida. Three were from Chaminade, three were from St. Thomas Aquinas, and three were from American Heritage. Plus another player from Pine Crest, one from Verot Catholic and one from University School.

Yeah you read that right- 100% were from private schools in South Florida.

So these top four programs in ‘22 were adding an extremely small percentage from Florida, and an even smaller percentage from South Florida to their 85+ players.

TCU was obviously recruiting Texas heavily, with Ohio State hitting Ohio hard. Michigan gets a solid number of Michigan and Ohio Players and UGA stays home to Georgia. They’re all adding in California players, while OSU and UM hit PA and New Jersey.

OSU also hit Arizona heavily for players on their roster, and Colorado is seeing an increase in talent due to the price gouging in CA lately. If programs want to be great they need a solid home base, but even more so a national recruiting footprint.

Solution 1: Contact Prep

Collectives need to start thinking more long-term with their investment. You can squeeze one player in today or develop dozens more in the future. This can be done by improving the quality of coaching, and that is done via more 1-to-1 coaching rather than overrated Glazier Clinics and NIKE COTY clinics.

What would I do if I had an endless supply of dough and a local talent base and coaching world that needs to be brought up to date ASAP? I would fund a “contact” gym and get the local coaching staffs in for education, and the local players in for contact preparation all season. Just because coaches can’t work on tackling (dumbest rule) in the off-season doesn’t mean a contact facility can’t.

Much like I proposed requiring your strength and conditioning and team sport coaches to be certified to enter the weight room; require the contact facility to be USA Football certified in every contact and tackling course they offer, pay to fly in coaches like Andy Ryland and Richie Gray for clinics to coach your coaches. Ryland and Gray can teach tracking, tackling, and ball carrier prep as well as tackler prep.

If this was taken seriously by area coaches and players, you would see drastic improvements in contact and tracking and possible decreases in injury rate due to safer tackling and more contact preparation.

This would clean up a huge issue in South Florida which is the poor level of tackling that you see on a weekly basis on Friday nights, which turns into poor tackling on Saturdays.

Andy Ryland, USA Football

Note: I reached out to USA Football’s contact (blocking, tackling, tracking) expert Andy Ryland to discuss the transitional issues he sees from high school to college football.

Dottavio: Is there anything you’ve seen from a defensive, tracking, and tackling standpoint?

Ryland: Most players have to learn new tools. Players that could always chase down HS kids, or could always win with power and finish the tackle, have to learn subtle adjustments in how to finish when presented with equal challenges.

Nothing makes your tracking and leverage look as bad as a really good, really fast, really evasive carrier. Instead of seeing two of those guys a year now everyone is that guy.

Another big thing is the athleticism of the blockers. A lot more running free in HS, now that is added to your tracking and having to adjust angles.

Dottavio note: So us fans can now see why someone on film (James Williams) in HS looks so damn good but when he’s up against other Blue Chip and Power 5 athletes where the shine starts to come off. P5 guys are now against other P5 guys (literally) and what they could rely on in high school (being bigger, faster, and stronger) is now an equal playing field.

Solution 2: Football IQ

Per The Athletic’s Manny Navarro, former blue chip prospects from So. Florida are being told by coaches where to line up and what routes to run in the middle of games in year two of college. As in, they’re screaming out onto the field what a slant does, not even “run a slant!”

Everyone needs to ‘level up’ a bit when it comes to what they’re coaching. I’ve worked with wide receivers in North Carolina that have a position trainer and don’t know what a slant is. I’m not sure what a private WR coach is worth if you aren’t using the language of the game.

Our coaches conversation in part three of the series detailed the typical high school knowledge gaps upon transitioning the players to college football. Language, technique, film (knowing what to watch and how to study film), X’s and O’s, practice quality, etc. can all be gaps that keep players from being ready for the next level.

Area middle schools need to up their game and worry as much about development as they do about wins and losses in games that don’t matter. If players go up to high school and struggle to grasp concepts, those coaches have to ‘dumb down’ the content (KISS issues from part three). From there the players arrive on a college campus and there isn’t any dumbing down, they just wind up off the field and in the transfer portal.

There’s no reason to hold clinics going over extremely complex schemes that won’t be run with 12 year olds, but there is a need to hold coaching clinics, ran by the college coaching staff or people paid by The Collective, that teach coaches how to teach concepts!

How do you use Hudl to really teach an inside zone with an RPO tag? It’s an interesting case study in whole-part-whole and learning style approaches to educating athletes who are going to learn more through tactile learning than film or chalk-talk.

Solution 3: Speed, Practice and Rest

I know fans want guys with that dawg in ‘em, but maybe the key is to actually train properly for the sport rather than run their athletes into the ground via 300’s, 110’s and bi-weekly one-rep max days.

I’m a firm believer that every single high school coach (head and assistants) should have to take the USA Football contact courses, including the advanced tackling and contact course. If you don’t pass the test, you don’t coach.

Just look at how poorly the Miami Hurricanes have tackled the past five or so years. Tackling is a skill that has to be taught, like throwing a curveball or shooting a fade away jumper. It has to be practiced, well coached, and emphasized on the field and in film sessions.

When it comes to S&C, I’m a firm believer that every high school head coach should have to be USA Weightlifting Level 1 certified. This would end a lot of the ugly “cleans” and good mornings... I mean squats you see on a player’s social media, and would align the coaches into a more “do no harm” mindset that focuses on technique and safety over hideous heavy lifts.

Who will pay the bill for USAW certs? The Collective. They could create a ‘grant’ for the State of Miami counties and use their money to set the agenda towards new and improved S&C in the area high schools. If your high school program adopts safer, more scientific S&C, you get the grant money to improve your facility and coaching education.

In the speed realm, Tom Shaw might be a bit steep in price, even for the millionaires club of The Collective. But bringing in Dale Baskett so you can throw away the ladders and step over bag drills for actual speed work would be a huge increase.

Out go the ladders, out go the 300’s; and in comes the actual speed coaching, curved sprinting, and rest and recovery times to allow the players to show up with room to grow and not having peaked in high school.

Of course, it would also help to bring in coaches to serve as guest speakers like Kurt Hester (Tulane), Daniel Bove (multiple NBA teams) and Zach Dechant (TCU). Hester to discuss how to properly use mat drills and define Mental Toughness in athletics; Bove to discuss rest and recovery as well as high-low practices to avoid injuries; and Dechant to emphasize “Movement over Maxes,” curved sprints, and S&C injury prevention info.

Remember, these guest speakers would be set up via The Collective for special niche clinics that could just so happen to be open to middle school coaches, high school coaches, and the University of Miami coaching staff.

Kurt Hester, Tulane Football S&C.

Note: This section could be its own series. Kurt Hester has almost 30 years of experience in the world of high level strength and conditioning. While at LSU and working with the Tigers baseball program, they won the College World Series twice.

Hester has coached at private facilities and trained NFL prospects for the NFL Combine as well as pro players like Tim Tebow. Recently he’s been head strength coach over football at Louisiana Tech and now Tulane.

When I asked Kurt if he would like anonymity, his reply was, “Use my name, address, passport & phone number.” So no, he won’t be anonymous, he’ll just be Uncle Kurt.

Dottavio: (I explained that the series has been on the gaps in the transition from high school to college football) Anything you’ve seen on the S&C side?

Lower Body- No ankle mobility, terrible T-spine mobility in overhead squatting. Athletes 6’5”+ were excessively loaded in squatting and we are seeing a lot of disc issues looking at MRI’s on day one walking in the door.

Dottavio’s Note: In the private sector we have so many issues with HS coaches doing some form of a one-rep max per week on bench, back squat or deadlift. There’s no blocks, it’s all just 85%+ for 12 months. Hence why I push for certifications and continuing education at the HS level.

Upper Body- Shoulder integrity and stability is poor from excessive bench movements and no shoulder mobility. No upper back strength and zero strength in vertical pressing.

Dottavio’s Note: The almighty bench press. It’s a great way to improve strength but once you’re in a new block focusing more on power production the bench gives way to push press, landmine press and other standing variations.

Speed Related- Most are backside mechanical sprinters. Zero ankle & foot stability and poor decelerators because of lack of eccentric strength & mechanics.

Dottavio’s Note: Poor deceleration is a common issue for team sport athletes, they have no idea how to hit the brakes. It’s something we teach in change of direction, agility training, and low height depth drops.

Freshmen- And freshman are a pain in the dick because they want to do what everyone else is doing as well as loading the bar with loads they cant handle. I verbally murder one the first day as to not have problems later.

Dottavio’s Note: Much like all high school male athletes, the college freshman isn’t much different. You can thank Uncle Roscoe who “benched 400#” in his day for some of this issue, and their HS coaches for using a 1RM as the only indicator of success, instead of how well the athlete moves now, or plays their position.

The Wrap

South Florida has local talent. The issue isn’t the raw ability, even if some of the young families are moving to more affordable areas in Central Florida (I was certainly priced out of South and Central Florida in my career). The issue is whether or not the athletes are ready to make an immediate impact as college freshmen for the Miami Hurricanes.

If The Collective could be involved in creating a contact facility, funding and emphasizing the importance of USA Football and USA Weightlifting courses, and in putting on niche coaching clinics the coaching would improve and the stud athletes down in the big three counties will be better schooled to flash their ability on day one at a Power 5 program.

Now a program like Miami could be built on a heavily majority South Florida roster, instead of with just a few handpicked South Florida guys- like we see with Miami-area players at Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson.