During the session, the PSU coaches in attendance said they would not answer questions on PSU schemes or specific game preparations since they are unsure of who is in attendance. As a sidenote, in previous years there have been coaches from South Bend and Ann Arbor area schools in attendance.
Observers stress that coaches like Tom Bradley and Larry Johnson are very intense and engaging. "They are very interactive and will actually show [the attendees] by doing what they are saying," one observer explained. "It makes it more enjoyable and understandable."
They talked some about defensive stats that are important to measuring success, like turnovers, "which create opportunities," "end zone turnaways," offensive runs over 10 yards and offensive passes over 15 yards. The coaches also discussed game management and getting players to recognize trends to adjust their play to help manage the game. Also, they said players need to watch their assignment's tendencies that "give away" what kind of play is coming.
They also stressed the importance of players managing the play by keeping the ball in front of them. This helps the player to make plays and avoid giving up the big play. This is a major point they work on with the players and incorporate in their scheme.
When they discussed the secondary, they talked about playing press coverage, which PSU has not used in recent years. They added a bit more last year, but not as much as Bradley would have liked. In terms of using the press, they reviewed techniques and getting the player to "manage direction" off the line. The key to using the press is to help the "front guys (defensive line) grab coverage sacks."
In spring practice the team tends to use right and left corner positions in secondary play. However, there were games during the 2007 season where PSU would put Justin King on the opposing team's best receiver on every down, playing "strength to strength."
Player motivation is essential to a team's success, the coaches said. Positive peer pressure was pointed to as one of the best motivational tools in sports. Getting teammates to push each other makes good players great. This also creates a tighter bond and determination with players and their performance. "They don't want to let each other down," was the message.
The defense has previously run a one-gap attack which the coaches modify based on which team they are facing. Johnson likes to get his players in an aggressive state of mind to "attack the pocket." Consistency is the key with aggression. Player's need to control their emotion and learn to use it to elevate their play. When the ball is snapped the secondary and linebackers typically take a step back, but the defensive line is the unit that always attacks forward.
Some blitzing topics were discussed where "disguises" and "bluffs" were reviewed. Bradley will "hide what is coming." If they are sending four guys they make it look like five are coming, and if it's five then they make it look like six and so on. Speed is important to blitzing, but technique is also essential — the ability to get off the line and hit the corner in one motion.
Meanwhile, Johnson tends to adjust the defensive lines approach in terms of pressure, personnel or rotation to improve the matchups on the offensive line.
Recently, Penn State has taken a stronger focus on dual-threat quarterbacks who can run and throw. These types of quarterbacks are desirable becuase of the "opportunities they can create with their versatility." Michael Robinson, Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin are "in this mold" to varying degrees. This spring they have had the quarterbacks working more rolls and shifts to create openings in the scheme.
Defenses are getting bigger and faster and the offenses have to keep pace with speed and the ability to adjust based on what is being "thrown at them." For this same reason the offensive coaches have increased the variety and types of formations in the playbook in recent years to "keep defenses guessing."
The importance of misdirection and leveraging speed was stressed, but also shifts within the offensive set are important to get an advantage over the course of a game. Great offenses use motion and shifts to open up opportunities.
Communication is also key not only between the center and the offensive line, but also with the quarterback and backfield and receivers. They are always pushing to get everyone talking to call out defensive shifts or things the "other guys may not see."
The current offensive line is said to be excellent at communication primarily due to the veteran leadership and the calls of center A.Q. Shipley, who knows how to make adjustments and has a "good command of the line."
The annual Penn State Coaches Clinic, which hosts hundreds of football coaches from around the region, kicked off Friday morning. This weekend's event, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, as usual, has tight security around it. In fact, all entrants must have their PSU issued identification badge with them at all times to attend the events which are scheduled to take place in Holuba Hall and Beaver Stadium.
Although last year, for only the second time in the past two decades, Joe Paterno closed the Coaches Clinic event and scrimmage to the media, this Saturday's event is scheduled to be open. As usual FOS will have full coverage of the event.
9:00 Welcome and Overview
9:15 Defensive Instruction
11:15 Offensive Instruction
2:15 Strength & Speed
Among the coaches expected to participate in the Friday morning sessions are Bill Kenney (OL), Larry Johnson (DL), Dick Anderson (OL) and Jay Paterno (QB). Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for more reports from the clinic.
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