Hudl’s second annual virtual football summit brought together coveted minds from all levels of the game. And reminded us to keep pushing the boundaries.
Don’t ever be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.
Among the many talking points from the esteemed speakers who crowded the Blitz ‘22 lineup over three days in March, that may be the most overarching theme encompassing the many presentations that challenged the way football coaches think about the game.
The greatest coach’s challenge: Yourself
The days of “because I said so” are a thing of the past for coaches at all levels. Players today want to understand the “why” behind the decisions their coaches make. And in turn, these same coaches can learn a lot just from listening.
That was a point echoed by numerous speakers throughout the event, including Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, and LSU special teams coordinator Brian Polian.
Polian, whose presentation specifically centered on coaching Gen Z, reminded us we’re in the “edutainment” business, and it’s on coaches to keep the players engaged rather than just lecture.
Freeman, in his Q&A with NFL analyst Charles Davis, said he never goes into a coach’s meeting thinking he has all the ideas. He’d rather his staff, and players, to bounce ideas off one another.
Culture is what you make of it
The term “culture” is thrown around a lot in the football coaching world. But in his hour-long Q&A with Davis, Hall of Famer Deion Sanders saw it differently.
Culture was a popular topic among Blitz’s most noteworthy speakers, including Aranda’s “People > Person” presentation, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s “Wildcat Leadership Values”, and Fleck’s “H.Y.P.R.R.” culture.
The AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals have their own well-known acronym for their culture—P.H.A.T.—which head coach Zac Taylor went into detail about. Others from the NFL ranks, such as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson and Indianapolis Colts assistant offensive line coach Kevin Mawae, preached the importance of fundamentals at the grassroots level.
Be an Idea Thief
Bixby High School has taken Oklahoma by storm over the last decade, winning 49 straight games and averaging a blistering 61 points per game last year en route to the program’s seventh state title in eight seasons.
One of the architects of that explosion, offensive coordinator Tyler Schneider, presented 12 “nuggets” that help make the Spartans so volatile with the ball. Chief among the principles? Being willing to borrow ideas from anyone, anywhere, at any level of the game.
In football, old ideas often become relevant again in a new context. Such is the case with Coastal Carolina University, whose unique triple-option scheme makes much of its offensive staff a popular request at coaching clinics. Offensive line coach Bill Durkin gave the Blitz audience a deep dive on two Chanticleer staples, speed option and freeze option.
Few in the college ranks are as well-traveled as North Texas defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who brought 40 years of college coaching experience into his presentation on defensive game-planning. But it was an icon on the other side of the ball—and a Wishbone coach, at that—who shaped his defensive philosophy.
Data doesn’t have to be intimidating
In his presentation “Toppling Goliath: Creating a Plan to Win,” Rich Worsell expanded on a question he was asked after his presentation at the American Football Coaches Association convention in January: How do you prepare to beat a team that hasn’t lost yet?
Worsell, the former University of Akron Director of Research and Analytics, used his analysis of the Georgia Bulldogs and Los Angeles Rams to lay out a data-driven foundation for how to attack opponents that seem overwhelming on paper.
The entry point to applying tendency data doesn’t have to be such a heavy lift. In their panel discussion on using the new Hudl Beta experience, three high school coaches—Onalaska (Wisc.) head coach Tom Yashinsky, Brooks County (Ga.) defensive coordinator Brandon Evans, and St. Pius X (Mo.) defensive assistant James Reyes—stressed how it’s made their game-planning process so much more fluid.
“Once the data was in, it was so easy to look at what that data actually told you,” said Evans, who credits Hudl Beta with helping him win a Georgia Class A state championship in 2021. “It felt like once I’m done tagging data, I can actually use it.”
One of the most interesting data-driven sessions was from Army head coach Jeff Monken, who presented on his “Seven Commandments” of winning football. Using data from the 2021 Division 1 FBS football season, he explained why the metrics tell him to focus on seven areas in particular for a winning outcome:
Look for these and other featured sessions over at our Blitz ‘22 Rewind page:
Hawk Tackling Technique
Rocky Seto, former assistant coach, Seattle Seahawks
(with special guest Pete Carroll)
Outside Zone RPOs
Jason Mohns, head coach, Saguaro High School (Ariz.)
Denton Guyer RPOs and PROs
Rodney Webb, head coach, Denton Guyer High School (Texas)
Offseason Self-Scout and Third Down Defense
Diante Lee, defensive coordinator, Mt. Carmel High School (Calif.)
Lobo Triple Option Game
John King, head coach, Longview High School (Texas)
Easy Completions to Keep the Chains Moving
Lee Wiginton, head coach, Midlothian Heritage High School (Texas)
Coach Vass’ Offensive Roundtable
Brennan Marion, wide receivers coach, University of Texas
Kiel McDonald, running backs coach, University of Southern California
Willy Korn, co-offensive coordinator, Coastal Carolina University
Coach Vass’ Offensive Line Roundtable
Terry Heffernan, offensive line coach, Stanford University
Jeremiah Washburn, Directo of Player Personnel, Philadelphia Eagles
Scott Wooster, offensive line coach, Grand Valley State University
Coach Vass’ Defensive Roundtable
Adam Gaylor, defensive coordinator, Jenks High School (Okla.)
Chris King, defensive coordinator, St. John Bosco High School (Calif.)
Kyle Cogan, nickelbacks coach, Benedictine College