Football A Chess Match Not Seen By Many

Man this is exciting, isn't it? The Cats playing #5 West Virginia in Nippert on Saturday Night on ESPN with the Big East Championship on line, it doesn't get any better than this! But I'll talk about the game later on but as promised; I wanted to talk about the game of football the average fan does not see from the stands.

I've always been a student of the game and you have to be if you want to be a better player. In high school, I would always study film to try to find a weakness in my opponent. Tendencies, injuries, line splits, anything to give me the edge I needed. I was taught early to go after the ball no matter where it was and make a play and in the aggressive 6-1 defense we ran, there was no margin for error. For those of you that have never seen a 6-1 defense, it's comprised of four defensive lineman, two outside backers, two cornerbacks, two safeties, and to make it all work one middle linebacker. It's a defense that is very hard to run or pass on but you need a very good middle backer that can make plays sideline to sideline. To our advantage our linebacker was former OSU and St. Louis Rams linebacker Lorenzo Styles, so that made it easier. Anyway, the transition from high school to college was huge and there were three things that I learned very quickly.

One, the speed of the game was much faster and my defensive line coach explained to me that I could no longer run up field to make plays in the backfield because the running backs were too fast. I had to learn to run down the line of scrimmage, take angles and make the hit at the point of attack. Second, there is only one angle that we could view film in HS and that would be the side angle but in college you also get what is called the tight angle. The tight angle is the view from the back of the play. This angle allows you to see how big line splits are between offensive lineman. Why is this important? Well, the majority of the time when there is a big spilt, that is where the offense is going to run the ball. Third, I learned how to read blocking schemes. I could tell based on the alignment of the offensive lineman what play the offense was going to run and also how I was going to be blocked before the ball was snapped.

For example, I played nose tackle which is usually either lined up in a zero, one, or two technique. That is in normal terms, head-up on the center, on the outside shoulder of the center, or on the inside shoulder of the guard. If I was lined up in a one technique, and the guard was lined up right next to the center with no split and I saw no blood flow in the guards' fingers and all his weight was leaning forward, it was going to be a double-team block. If the guard was slightly off the center sitting back a little and I could see the blood flow in his fingers, they were probably going to scoop block me or the guard was going to pull around to block someone else. A scoop block is when the center and the guard give you the illusion of a double team block and then the center slips off and blocks the inside linebacker while the guard tries to cut you off and the back runs right off the cut off block. Also, one the hardest and most frequent blocks is the reach block. That is where the offensive lineman try to cut-off every blocker down the line and the back then can stretch the play out and cut back when he finds an open gap. The Colts run this play to perfection in the NFL. Being able to recognize things is primarily the reason why alot of HS players have to wait awhile before seeing significant playing time. You must be able to see things at game speed many times so repetition is the key to success.

So how is this considered a chess game? Well, do you ever wonder why a coach will call certain plays to one side and not to another as much? It's because he is trying to find the weak link on the line and when he finds it, he will exploit it. Many times a coach will go at certain players to first see how tough they are at stopping certain plays. If that doesn't work, then they will see how smart the player is by running certain plays and blocking them differently to try to disguise the same play. For example, have you ever noticed an offense run a play to the left or right and the QB continually fakes the bootleg action after the ball is handed off? That is for the defensive end to keep him honest because if he's coming down the line hard and making the tackle on the run without checking the QB, they are setting him up to run the naked bootleg with the QB or worse the reverse that can produce a long play if run correctly. After all, it is the job of the defensive end to keep contain, that means he is the last guy on the outside and he must keep everything inside of him and not let anything outside. If the defensive player can survive all of that, the offensive coordinator then has to find other things to get his offense going. Screens, draws, and quick passes are a few ways that teams will try to get something going if the basic doesn't work.

So there is definitely more to the game than meets the eye. That is why I love the game of football so much because there is a game within the game that makes it so interesting and fun. This is why you have match-up difficulties for most teams than others. Next time, I will try to explain to you what goes into a game plan when preparing for an opponent. I hope I was able to shed some light on what goes on during a game through my eyes.

Go Bearcats!!!


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