As a member of the football staff here at Denison I enjoy the opportunity to visit with other coaching staffs in a variety of ways. One obvious way is through various clinics like the THSCA clinic (see Staff Retreat) and a variety of others. Some of the best known to our staff that many of us have attended are the DFW coaches clinic, Glazier Clinics, Lone Star Coaching Clinic, and the FCA Coaching Clinic. A really nice way to learn as a staff is to find a college that will make time for your staff and help you with some new ideas, techniques, and or plays that will be beneficial. I have had the pleasure of visiting Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina in the Spring of 2008 with the Denison offensive coaching staff. We spent three days with them right at the first of Spring Ball (no pads). This was great because we sat in meetings with players and heard their coaches reiterate many of the same basic things we tell our kids. It was also special as they were just finished winning their third straight NCAA College Division National Championship and had the historic victory over Michigan that year. We benefited greatly on this visit where we discovered the beauty of some old single wing power sweep rules (Truck Sweep) that still hold true today and meshed really well with soon to be secret weapon 175lb. center (obviously we knew he would be good at pulls). We also discovered we could put his athleticism to good use in reaching out to the weakside 1 and or 2 technique so as to stretch defenses more and utilize our more athletic linemen who were more capable of running and fitting than drive blocking and powering down on people off the ball. The idea of what to do with the nose shade in an even front is also handled very simply when you have athletic offensive lineman and like to get pull reads on your inside zone. Just have the backside guard step to "dig out" the shade and if he can not dig him out just "keep him on the board" washing him by. This means the defensive end (QB pull key) must really close fast. This also allows the backside tackle to "check step" the shade (just in case the shade or the MLB are on run through stunt his way and then he is "locked" (man blocks) the backside linebacker (we call this the #2). this will account for and "exchange stunts so you don't have the QB pulling the ball only to be met by and unblocked linebacker. If you want to help the inside zone out against 4-2 teams that like this exchange game try this. Make a "lock" call with the backside guard and tackle meaning they are both now "man" blocking. Everybody else from the center over is still zone blocking with 3 hats to fit 3 hats. Another great change up for this front is the midline zone. Backside guard and tackle block backside defensive end and #2 backer while everybody runs zone and the backside defensive lineman (preferrably a 3 tech) is turned loose and read by the QB. This can also be changed up once more with the backside guard and tackle "man" blocking while the zone read is the #2 linebacker.
We have also had the opportunity this past year to visit the Univesity of Texas. Two great days we had the free run of a meeting room and much of their "cut-ups" to learn their throwing game. Coaches Bobby Kennedy and Greg Davis made themselves very available to talk about routes and concepts. The "two man" game is what coach Davis is famous for going all the way back to his "option route" successes as offensive coordinator over fifteen years ago Tulane. Double out, spots, cube and in are all further concepts that we have benefited greatly from. We also simplified our play action some by going with the "naked" boot play. The Horns are happy to let Colt McCoy go 2 on 1 in space but we just could not see that being a good idea so we went with part of our old boot rules which tells the backside tackle to leave 1 guy. This does affect how much he can sell play action though. Coach Mack McWhorter shared with us too his offensive line drills and progressions. These were very good for us especiall the pass pro drills.
We opted in early 2010 to visit coach Brandon Faircloth at Port Neches Groves high school to learn about his use of the "Malzahn style" H-back in their offense and talk offensive philosophy. The trip was an excellent trip for learning and sharing ideas but unfortunately we were not able to utilize much of this package as we had hoped due to problems at our QB position. We were 4 deep at the QB position by mid season and in short we were just very bad at a position where you can not afford to be bad. On a positive note by year end our sophomore starter at the position showed some very good signs for the future. We just recently visited Bentonville High School in Arkansas. They fresh off of a 13-0 championship year. We went there to learn the pistol offense. They have close ties to the University of Arkansas where they hired former Nevada offensive coordinator Chris Klenakis to coach offensive line. The staff at Bentonville High under Barry Lunney decided to install the pistol for added run and pass balance. It sure did help the play action game too as the Bentonville Tigers used it to gain coach Lunney his seventh Arkansas State Championship. Coach Lunney junior is the offensive coordinator there. He shared some nice and simple passing game concepts with us too. The only drawback to the trip was getting snowed in for an extra day in Arkansas. Good thing the hotel had a swimming pool!