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USF coaching clinic: Ten things I learned ...



I've spent most of the past day with about 150 coaches gathered in the Sun Dome for USF's annual coaching clinic, with hourlong sessions with six Bulls assistants and guests that included Tony Dungy and Tommy Tuberville. Lots to learn here, even if some of the terminology still goes flying over my head -- greendogs, highwalls, fire zones, you name it, I heard it. Ten things worth writing down ...

-- Dungy spoke for 45 minutes Saturday night without so much as a single X or O. He opened with sad numbers that show the NFL isn't preparing its players for life outside football, saying that the average NFL player lasts 3.8 seasons making $900,000 a year, and despite that, within two years of playing his last game, 75 percent of NFL players have filed for either bankruptcy, unemployment or divorce. And someone who has played in an NFL game is six times more likely than the average person to attempt suicide. "We have not done a good job of helping our players grow as men," Dungy said.

-- Great tidbits from Dungy, about lessons learned from Chuck Noll, who always started fall practice with simple fundamentals. Dungy remembers how the first play of the first practice each year, veteran Steelers defensive lineman Dwight White would shout out that the offense was running "19 straight," pointing exactly where the ball was going to go. Dungy was impressed by the accurate read, until a few years in, when he figured out that Noll only allowed the offense to run one play on the first day of practice:" 19 straight."

-- Dungy tells his players there are five things that can lead to trouble off the field: staying out past 1 a.m., getting involved with alcohol or drugs; being around guns, driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit and being around too many women you don't know. So if his players get in trouble and it's one (or all) of those things: "Don't come to me saying 'Coach, it wasn't my fault." Dungy also estimates that three out of four players coming into the NFL didn't have a male influence in their lives growing up.

-- Tuberville, who is "bored stiff" being away from coaching, said his wife joked that his first week at home, he changed all the light bulbs in the house, and since then, he's sat around waiting for one to burn out so he can change it. He said he'll likely work for ESPN this fall, but is eager to get back on the sidelines.

-- Tuberville likes quick if undersized players on defense -- his ends can be as light as 205 pounds, saying they're often just slower linebackers. Eight of the last 10 seasons, his leading tackler has been a defensive end. His outside linebackers, similarly, are often just big safeties. When he was at Miami, he used Rohan Marley as a 170-pound weakside linebacker -- instead of "Will," he calls his WLBs "Willy," which works right into the old Southern charm. Bootlegs aren't naked, they're nekkid, and he wants an end on third down to run "like a scalded dog." He likes strong hands in his linemen, and remembers Butch Davis giving linemen tennis balls and racquetballs to squeeze to build strong hands.

-- Larry Scott talked about the constant search for athleticism in offensive linemen. "The biggest thing in getting them to play athletically is to get them to bend their knees," he said. "Once you find a strong guy and get him to bend his knees, you have something special."

-- Carl Franks, laying down how to run drills for running backs, talked about ball security and the amount of time he spends teaching players the correct way to hold the ball and take a handoff. He talked about the nature of habits -- "you probably put on the same shoe first each day," and the need to get the fundamentals right so players don't even have to think about technique. When his backs run a gauntlet drill with players on each side trying to strip the ball, they'll often do it with a ball in each hand, so they don't rely on the other arm to keep hold of the ball.

-- New linebackers coach David Blackwell and defensive coordinator Joe Tresey talked about the importance of having a "scoop and score" aspect to drills. After running through a drill, his linebackers will have a loose ball on the ground that they must pick up on the run, constantly working them on picking up fumbles the right way. Tresey likes players with baseball backgrounds so he can tell them to pick up a loose ball like a shortstop, getting low and keeping the ball directly under them as they move.

-- Tresey opened with quotes from Bob Knight: "What kind of concentration do you have? From that concentration, is there anticipation and recognition and reaction and execution?" Tresey's a big fan of KISS -- keep it simple, stupid -- and showed the importance of doing deep-ball drills every day, getting defensive backs in position to catch the center-field type balls over the middle. There's a real focus on turnovers, so you see why Cincinnati led the nation in interceptions two years ago and tied USF for the national lead in takeaways.

-- When Tresey calls his defense a "multiple 4-3," he isn't kidding -- without too much detail, he ran through all of USF's potential defensive looks, and they run the gamut. A big key to USF's defensive success this season will be how quickly they can master Tresey's philosophies and terminology, and those first three games, against two I-AAs and Western Kentucky, should come in handy for that.

I probably have 10 more I can cull from this easily ... obviously the big event of the day is USF in the Women's NIT championship at Kansas at 2 p.m. -- there's a watch party on campus at the Beef O'Brady's at the Marshall Center. We'll have more from that later this afternoon ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:13pm]


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