Well our season has been over for a whole week now (got destroyed in the 1st round of the playoffs). After stepping away for a week, relaxing, and catching up on some school work I have finally begun to prepare for 2013. Before I can really prepare for 2013 with all of the clinics, off season workouts, college visits, online research... whatever... I have to first review this past season. I am big on self reflection so I have reviewed every offensive snap of the season, looked at what we did well and why, and also what went wrong and why. We had some explosive games, for example scoring 70 points in one game to break a school record. We had some games where we moved the ball well but just could not score how we should have (had 3 games with over 400 yards of offense but did not put up nearly as many points as we should have) and then we had 2 games where we simply could not move the ball consistently if our lives depended on it.
This was my first year taking over as the OC. I had been the JV HC/OC with this group of seniors their sophomore year, and coached the OL and assisted the OC last season. I was excited and had some fun weapons to work with. We had a returning utility kid at QB, EXCELLENT runner, but had not thrown the ball at the varsity level. A stud caliber RB. A couple Speedy WRs. And I had the beefiest OL I have had since I came to this school.
Forgive me if I ramble on and drift... I am just going to write about the things that stuck out to me over the course of the season.
We ran the bell well for the majority of the season. I installed a track style IZ blocking scheme that focused much less on doubles (4 hands 4 eyes blah blah blah) and much more on blocking gaps and attacking. What I found is it removed some of the hesitation and completely missed blocks we had in the past. Now this was not a cure all, we still missed plenty of blocks do not get me wrong. However I felt overall it was vastly improved to how the OL played this year compared to the previous 2.
Our backfield was what I had to showcase, yes we had talent at WR, but our QB was really a much better runner than thrower, and struggled to throw the ball when he wasn't sprinting out with a clean edge. We ran the ball more often than in the past but also for a lot more yardage.That stud RB ran for 1300 yards even with missing 2 games. Our QB rushed for over 900 yards even with missing a game and a half due to ejection. We rushed for almost 2.500 yards as a team. Our QB through for 1600 yards. Overall we had a 700 yard improvement in total offense over the previous season.
However we just did not score as much as we should have. This team had an odd chemistry and personality. It was next to impossible to get quality reps at practice and to get great effort in any sort of drill. However they generally responded well and played hard at game time. While they were gamers, the lack of quality reps greatly affected us in games, we could not throw the ball well enough when teams forced us to. We had a slight divide in the team, the WRs wanted to catch the ball and felt left out, the OL, RB, and QB wanted to run the ball because we were having success... It was kind of a mess and I wish I had addressed it sooner, or simply gotten rid of some of the WRs and just played in 21 personnel. I love the fact that we can spread teams out to run in reduced number boxes, however as we began playing better teams, they started blitzing more, and playing more ZERO coverage. We just could not always beat it when we needed to.
We would have a lot of drives where we moved the ball right down the field, then a key drop, missed read, missed block, or turnover would just kill us and take points off the board. We had touchdowns called back, dropped balls in the end zone, red zone turnovers, even a pick 6 in the red zone. It was not the typical case of a spread team who struggles in the red zone because the field is compressed and they have no vertical threat. We were never a vertical threat team. Our case was more a lack of execution when we needed to execute most. Our WRs showed zero interest in blocking at any point on the year and sold whoever was getting the ball out most of the time. Sometimes the OL would just not man up and be able to let us punch it in. We had drives running the ball down a teams throat, the defense still made no adjustment, and then its like we run in to a brick wall at the 20... I have never seen anything like it and this was probably the most frustrated I have ever been as a coach in 7 years because of it.
We will miss our QB and his running big time. His skill and effort made me look a lot smarter than I am at times. Him and our RB were just tough kids and were able to make a lot of guys miss or just run through tackles. Our QB was good when we could get an edge for him, but struggled if we couldn't sprint out or had to drop back. We were able to hit 4 verts occasionally and he felt most comfortable with Snag he just never got as adept at throwing from the pocket as I would have hoped.
The good news for next year is we have 2 QBs returning who got some playing time and both show signs of being capable pocket passers for us next year. They are nowhere near the athlete or runner that we had this season but the playbook will just evolve slightly to fit their skills better.
The thing I struggled with most was the near death of our screen game. Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I love and value the screen game. I went away from our solid screen and having the OL release to block for 2 simple reasons.
1. My OL was much bigger and not as athletic as in the past so they were really struggling on releasing and actually getting out there (trade off was that we at least ran the ball better)... we would simply zone it instead
2. We began running more screen/run combos so that we always had the "right" play call
I was ok with my OL OZing the quick screens because we usually had the number or leverage advantage. If I called screen we had numbers, or if it was thrown on backside of a run it was thrown due to numbers. But this was the biggest area our WR group let us down. Getting the ball to an athlete in space was the whole point of us selecting to run the spread 3 years ago, and now it was pointless because if we were in trips, the 2 blocking WRs simply would not hold their block to allow the 3rd WR to really hurt the defense. Yes we had some successful screens on the season, but we were never anywhere near as good as I wanted to be in the screen game.
We had some injury issues that hurt us offensively. Lost our best 2 WRs in league play. Stud RB got hurt in league... so by the end of the season I could not help but feel like I had a really nice shiny GUN but not enough bullets to make it matter.
Moving on to next year I am excited about the following
More personnel groupings... use of TE/FB types
I return the left side of my OL, 2 sophomores who played varsity all season, a junior who would have started all year on the OL but was ineligible, and 3 very good, very big sophomore OL from the JV team
Our JV team wasn't loaded with studs but they had some good quality kids on it who I look forward to building in to varsity players. I think this upcoming team will "work" more than this past team. We have to replace the backfield which will be tough. We return our stat leading WR (although he might have to convert to RB because he needs touches).
Our biggest challenge will be the weight room. I know I mostly talk schematics and OL play on here but the biggest reason we lost games this year was due to the weight room. We have got to improve our attendance program wide and it starts in a couple of weeks for us.
Right now we are a middle of the pack team... back to back 6-4 records... squeaking in and then losing in the 1st round of the playoffs
Whether we can turn the corner or not depends solely on the off season weight program.