There are two new books on my desk at home, both signed by the author. Both will give me pleasurable summer reading. They also promise to be important resource guides for many years.
They are, in order of arrival:
Winning Defensive Football, by Richard Bell. I asked for this one. Bell was captain of Frank Broyles' first Arkansas team in 1958. I talked to him on the phone a few weeks ago when I first learned of the book. He sent me one immediately.
It's a coaching manual, but there are wonderful truths sprinkled throughout, along with over 1,000 diagrams that will help a sportswriter understand college football. But make no mistake about it; this is a book for coaches by a great coach.
Trout and Their Food, A Compact Guide for Fly Fishers, by Dave Whitlock. This one was a Father's Day gift from my daughter. It's special because Whitlock, the first inductee in the Trout Fishing Hall of Fame, wrote a note and drew a rainbow trout inside the cover. Becca found Whitlock by accident at a local book signing and immediately knew she had a special present for her dad.
We'll get back to football so as not to lose too many readers. Bell's book is a massive work. It's 431 pages, the fruit of 42 years of coaching, many as a Division I defensive coordinator. He ran Fisher DeBerry's defenses for eight years at Air Force. He also coordinated defenses at South Carolina and Georgia for over a decade. Bell was inducted into the University of Arkansas Hall of Honor last season.
If you are an Arkansas fan and only read the four-page acknowledgment, the book is worth purchasing. The first two chapters -- defensive philosophy, then leadership and motivation -- were other highlights for me. There are chapters on game planning, practice organization and details on the complexities of fundamentals and techniques for all defensive positions.
Bell's defensive scheme centers on the 4-2-5 alignment out of a 50 front used against modern passing games and there are chapters on defending the shotgun and also the flexbone option.
I've heard coaches talk about much that I read, but didn't understand until I saw Bell's details. For example, there is a chapter on the "eighth man in the box principle." I know more about the zone blitz than I need now. For the first time, I have a grasp for "gap-fill responsibilities."
Back to the acknowledgments, all Razorbacks can appreciate what Bell wrote about Wilson Matthews, Broyles and the rest of his coaches during his time at Arkansas. He played three years for Jack Mitchell, then his senior campaign under Broyles. He mentions Jim Mackenzie, Dixie White, George Bernhardt, Doug Dickey, Merrill Green, Steed White and Matthews.
"I couldn't have played for a better group of assistants, whose knowledge of the game, their ability to teach, and talent to motivate have aided me tremendously over the years," Bell wrote. "I will always admire the success Coach Broyles achieved at Arkansas.
"Having had the opportunity to be a part of his program and then to observe it from a coaching perspective, I better appreciate what an unbelievable job he did with the Razorbacks.
"His attention to detail, astute knowledge of the game, ability to surround himself with outstanding coaches, and concern for this players all contributed to his outstanding record at Arkansas.
"Coach, it was a privilege to play for you during my senior year. I will always appreciate your willingness to help me and advise me throughout my career."
There is special mention of Matthews, Bell's high school coach at Little Rock High School. He noted the 111-15-1 record achieved by Matthews during his 11 years coaching the Tigers. Bell wrote, "His impact on all of us who played for him was unbelievable. He was a tough, demanding, in-your-face coach who took you beyond what you thought were your limits. To this day, when I've been faced with adversity, I think back to his words and actions to find the strength and courage to fight through it."
Not surprisingly, Bell also mentions by name every assistant coach he worked alongside during his coaching career. There is special mention saved for DeBerry and their Air Force days.
Much of Bell's defensive philosophy originated at Arkansas where he played for Mackenzie and Matthews. The basis of his defense came from that "monster" defense developed by Mackenzie out of a 50 front, but was really a wide tackle six -- much the same as popularized by Bear Bryant -- after the snap.
"It was always amazing to many things that I learned at Arkansas were still relevant years later," Bell said in a phone interview. "It was really that defense that got me into college coaching at VMI (under John McKenna) at age 24. He wanted someone to bring the Monster to their defense. I think he wanted Barry Switzer, but Coach Mackenzie, Coach Matthews and Coach Broyles told him Barry wasn't coming and he should take me.
"We had a lot of success with that defense at VMI. It wasn't popular in that part of the country and I think we caught some people by surprise."
Mackenzie's "winning axioms" are singled out in the early part of Bell's book in the leadership and motivation chapter. There are 20. If you get only those two pages of bullet points out of the book, the price will be worth it to any young coach. The final two are my favorites:
• Always have a plan, and believe in it. Don't compromise or lose your guts. Everything must be planned. Nothing good happens by accident. Your plan will keep you from overlooking the little things.
• Form a team of winners. Surround yourself with players and people to whom football means a lot.
Included are pre-game talks, team-building exercises and how to develop leaders. There are definitions, some I needed.
I've heard coaches describe loafs for years, but it's the first time I'd seen how they identify them. From Bell's perspective, here you go:
• Change of speed.
• Not turning and going to the ball.
• Getting passed by another player.
• Laying on the ground.
• Turning down a hit.
• Not finishing with the mind-set to make a big play.
Tackling, pursuit and takeaways are stressed.
Bell writes, "The goal of every defense should be to have the desire and dedication to be the best pursuit team in the country. The defense wants to have the reputation among opponents that it looks like it is playing with more than 11 because of how passionately the defense flies to the ball."
Bell's book represents his passion for the game. He spent over a year putting it together from his notes, playbook and the diagrams he used as a coach.
"I've seen a lot of coaching manuals that you have to sit down and read the whole thing, but this one you can skip around from chapter to chapter," he said. "If you want to study practice organization, there is a chapter for that. If you need some help with goal-line defense, there's that. You don't have to read all 400 pages to get something out of it.
"I was pleased with the publisher. Coaches Choice is tops for how-to DVDs and coaching books and they were top notch. There were things I wanted and they yielded to my requests.
"It was a labor of love for me and a way for me to give something back to the game. That was my motivation from the start."
It's neat to see that the start of it all was Arkansas football.
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