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The best laid plans
First thing to understand is that game prep is a long, arduous process that most of the time carries a quantitative approach that easily converts into 90-hour work weeks. The information below is an extremely high level overview of the process.
1) Breakdown - The last 3 games your opponent has played, including: formations, down and distance, boundary vs field, red zone, personnel groupings, substitutions, blitzes & stunts, coverages, the entire kicking game and, of course, whether or not you can pick up any signals from their sideline.
2) Formations – However we line up, how is it going to affect the opponent’s call? What kind of substitutions will they make and how can we get the best match ups? Can we gain a tactical advantage in a certain formation? Does this allow us to have better numbers into the boundary or into the field? How do they fit their safeties & linebackers in their run fits? Do they blitz certain formations?
3) Down and distance – When are they most likely to give us the coverage we want? How often do they blitz on 1st , 2nd, and 3rd down? On ‘neutral’ downs, what will you most likely get? 2nd and short vs 2nd and long? 3rd and short vs 3rd and long? Does their coverage compliment their defensive front on certain downs and/or distances? Do they stunt when they blitz? How so? And what are they attempting do? Do they blitz primarily to the RB side or away from the back on certain downs and distances? Do they give away anything particular by their alignment on certain downs? What does their substitution package look like when in nickel or Dime?
4) Boundary vs Field –Can we gain an edge running into the boundary? Do they always shift the strength toward the field? Do they slant their front to the field? How often? If we shift from one formation to another, how do they adjust their front, their backers? Do they roll their coverage based on field vs boundary? How do they run support from the field vs the boundary? How do they spill?
5) Red Zone – Is this when it heats up? Are they bringing the house or playing vanilla? Do their fronts change dramatically? If so, why? Do they like to play man in the red zone? Subs? Packages?
6) Blitzes, coverages and stunts – What are their favorite blitzes? What are their favorite stunts? How can you beat it? Do they blitz the back to take him out of the route? Do they blitz away from the back? Why? What are their favorite stunts? When will you most likely get a certain blitz or coverage? Again, do they have any certain ticks that give away their call?
7) Coverages – what are the most frequent coverages? Cover 1; Cover 2; 2-Inverted; Cover 3; 3-Insert; 3-Cloud; 4 (quarters); 6 (quarter, quarter, halves) or man? Who is in the game? What do they not do well? Who is their weakest cover guy? How do they attempt to cover him up? What are they attempting to take away from your attack?
8) Kicking Game – (perspective from Kick off return team only) From where do they kick the ball on kickoffs – left hash, middle, right hash? Do they cross any of their cover guys while running down the field? Do they fold the end players or anyone else running down the field? Where does their kicker most often kick the ball? How deep does he kick it? Do they sky kick, pooch kick or squib kick? Who are their best runners?
9) Signals – Can you see their signal caller on film? Can you pick up any particular signal that gives way the play?
Side Note: The answer is very often yes! Most film you get has been cropped, so you can’t see the signal caller. However, when you separate all the plays called into categories, (all opponent’s inside zone runs, power, dart, zone read, option, drop back pass, play action, etc.,) you will see the same plays run over and over. It doesn’t take too long to see the same signals given for the same plays. So what do you do? Change the signals from week to week? That is a pain in the rear! Many do not change their signals.
This is just a little insight on what coaches do during the week in preparation for a game. Mind you, this is only a snap shot from the film room. This does not include: team meetings, staff meetings, unit meetings, special teams meetings, practices, weights and, of course, the class room.