Chin Music Sweet for Penn State RBs

A new concept for carrying the ball has significantly cut down on fumbles by the Nittany Lion backs this year.

PSU Working on the Chin Technique in Practice Earlier This Year

Akeel Lynch and his fellow Penn State running backs were skeptical when new position coach Charles Huff introduced them to the “chin concept” earlier this year.

“At first we all hated it, we thought it was stupid and was never gonna work,” Lynch (shown above) admitted with a laugh earlier this week.

Ten games into the 2014 season, that opinion has changed dramatically. The “chin concept” is Huff's catch phrase for carrying the football. It involves holding the ball vertically, cradled in the arm and also secured by the chest. It is held high near -- you guessed it -- the chin.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Huff said the staff simply uses the word “chin” to describe all that “so you're not yelling five different things while the kid's running down the field.”

How effective has the technique been?

Heading into this week's road trip to Illinois, the Nittany Lion running backs have combined for one fumble all season. That happened when Bill Belton lost a ball in last week's 30-13 win over Temple, a play that was upheld by video review even though replays appeared to show Belton being down before he lost the pigskin.

“I haven't fumbled all year, and I'm a big believer of Coach Huff and what he does,” Lynch said. “We've had one questionable fumble this year, so it definitely works.”

It is a big change from previous seasons. In 2013, Penn State backs fumbled seven times, losing six. In 2012, the backs dropped the ball eight times, losing four.

Huff was asked about the chin technique Thursday and went into great detail on it. Here is what he had to say, all in one answer:

“A lot of the time, coaches ask kids to do something but they don't really tell them how or why. When I got here, that was one of the first things that was brought to my attention, that the backs in the past had had a problem putting the ball on the ground.

“Going back and looking at all the film from last year, the same problem continued to come up -- they don't know how to hold the ball. A lot of times, people assume or coaches assume or high school coaches assume that kids know how to hold the ball. But you've gotta really teach them from ground one.

“We started it, we taught them where you put your hands, where you put the ball on your chest, where you put the ball kind of on your forearm and bicep. And chin is kind of an acronym to put it all together so you're not yelling five different things while the kid's running down the field.

Bill Belton holds the ball vertically while being tackled.

“The key of it is you want to try to keep the ball as vertical as possible as long as possible because that limits the area defenders are able to put their helmet on, that limits the area defenders are able to grab on it. And when it comes to the game of football, the angles that you kind of get hit by, if it's vertical, it reduces the chance of the ball coming out.

“Early, when I first got here, they thought it was a little awkward, very similar to anything that's not comfortable or not what you're used to doing. You say, 'Awe, does this really work?'

“As things went on and we continued to show them the importance of it and how it helps them … I really think the biggest part was as the season went on, and they were doing it and they didn't fumble the ball, that's the biggest part.

“You try something new and it's still the same problem, it's kind of hard for them to switch. But as the season went on and they didn't fumble the ball they started believing in it, and now it's kind of who they are. They take pride in being the group that doesn't put the ball on the ground.”

As importantly, they now understand why it works.

“Just having the ball high and tight, you allow yourself to (avoid) the fumbles that you're not aware of,” Lynch said. “For example, if someone is running behind you and they're (trying) to poke it out, but they can't because the ball is in such good placement. I think I had one (instance) during (the) Temple (game), I had a long run and someone tried to strip the ball, but it was vertical so they couldn't get it out.

“That's what Coach Huff talks about, is when you don't expect it, that's when it's gonna happen,” he added. “So if you have the ball in good position, you are unlikely to fumble.”


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