Dominating with Data: Jenks High School Knows Its Numbers

Jenks (Okla.) defensive coordinator Keith Riggs joined Hudl Radio to discuss how data and Hudl Assist have helped the Trojans frequently identify and expose holes in opponent game plans.

Dominating with Data: Jenks High School Knows Its Numbers

Jenks (Okla.) defensive coordinator Keith Riggs joined Hudl Radio to discuss how data and Hudl Assist have helped the Trojans frequently identify and expose holes in opponent game plans.

Few programs in the Midwest have experienced as much success as Jenks High School has in Oklahoma over the past decade. The Trojans are an astounding 133-17 since 2006, taking the state crown six times in that span.

Much of that success is due to the school’s ability to cultivate talent and Allan Trimble’s coaching acumen. But the Trojans have also fully embraced data and stat breakdowns, allowing them to consistently spot and exploit holes in their opponents’ game plans.

In a recent episode of Hudl Radio, we talked with defensive coordinator and technology coach Keith Riggs about why Jenks values data so highly, how they relay the information without overloading the players, what numbers the staff finds most interesting and how Hudl Assist aided the staff last year.

You can listen to the episode above, download through iTunes or read the entire transcript below. Regardless of how you prefer to consume content, we think you’ll find what Riggs has to say is valuable to any coach.

Your job titles are Jenks are defensive coordinator and technology coach. I guess I don’t know for sure, but I doubt there are a lot of schools out there that have someone designated as a technology coach. Could you walk me through what your responsibilities are in that role?

“I’ve been dealing with that technology title since I’ve been here the past 14 years. It’s really just handling all things tech-related - our equipment, any upgrades to our laptops; all of our coaches have laptops that they can have with them at all times. I manage our network and our data storage. If it has anything to do with technology, I’m kind of the guy that everybody starts with.”

Jenks is a program that has been widely successful for a long time. Recently you’ve gotten more into statistics and breaking down the data and looking at the numbers behind the game. Why does the program place such a high premium on stats?

“I think as coaches, we want to put our kids in the best situation possible to be successful. Ultimately they have to execute when they’re on the field, but if we can keep them out of bad situations and put them in the best possible situation, that is to our advantage. I think the use of data really helps us do that in giving our kids the best chance for success.”

Along those lines, you have a lot of data that you as coaches use. How do you effectively relay that to the players so you’re not overwhelming them and having them think too much, but at the same time they’re gaining insights from that information?

“That’s a tricky line that you don’t want to cross. You don’t want to overload them too much. Some of the data, things that we would want them to be able to recognize on the field, are down and distance scenarios that we want them to be aware of. We share with them and we build into our practice schedules so they’re recognizing those things during the week. Then they practiced it when they get to Friday. Other things related to the data really are as much for the coaches as anybody. Getting us in the right call in a certain situation isn’t something the kids need to worry about, but the coaches need to be able to make the correct call given specific tendencies.

www.jenkstrojanfootball.com

I’m kind of a stats nerd myself. I could just dig into these numbers and just talk about them all day long. When you’re breaking down the reports as a coaching staff, what numbers interest you the most? What gets you going and makes you say, ‘Wow, this is cool!’”

“We have a number of standard numbers of reports that we run week in and week out related to down and distance, the personnel that’s on the field, an opponent’s favorite runs and passes, the passing zones they throw into. We always kind of start there, but we dig a little deeper. We do a little ad hoc reporting that’s maybe specific to an opponent. The favorite part of the weekend when we’re preparing for an opponent is when we find that one special nugget that maybe tips us off to something they really like to do. Whether it’s the stance of a lineman or where they move their best player, if they move him around, and what that means to our defense. It’s really cool when you dig deep enough and you find those things. Along those lines, the things really buy into that. When you tell them, ‘Hey, when you see this, you’re going to expect this,’ and we can back it up. We can share film with them that shows them that exact tendency.”

Can you give me an example from this past year of a little nugget you were able to discover before you played an opponent that really helped once the game started?

“We had a particular opponent that had really athletic receivers and ran a lot of jet motion, which is the speed motion where they can either hand off or fake it to him or run an inside run with their tailback. With enough digging, we discovered there were certain situations where they ran 20 personnel and had two backs in the backfield. Based on where the fullback and tailback were lined up dictated whether they would actually hand off or not. There were situations that our kids could basically ignore the jet motion by the receiver because they knew they weren’t going to hand off to him. On the flip side, if the tailback and fullback were lined up in a specific formation, we knew there was a high probability that they were going to hand off to the receiver in motion and we shifted our defense to play the jet sweep.”

That’s really cool, and I think that ties into your last answer about the players getting excited about certain insights. That’s a huge thing for them. If they know just based off of formation what to expect or, ‘If they run this fake, we don’t have to worry about defending a certain player,’ that’s huge for them, right?

“Yes, and again, we rep it all the time in practice so they’ve seen it over and over and over through the course of the week. Our kids do a great job in preparing and being ready on Friday nights.”

What does your workflow look like during the week in reference to stats? Are you getting into the data right away on the weekend on Saturday and Sunday after the game? Is this something that gets more incorporated at the beginning of the next week or the middle of the next week? What does that look like to you?

“We really start breaking down an opponent right after lunch (on Saturday). We finish our previous game with the kids before lunch, and then we start breaking down an opponent on Saturday. We track about 30 data points, give or take two or three, for a given opponent, so we enter a lot of data over the weekend. Saturday is largely built around getting the data in, running our basic reports as far as the breakdown goes. We spend most of our day Sunday analyzing the data, running the reports, finding tendencies and then building the game plan off of that. Most of the work done is over the weekend. However, we continue to look for little things, sometimes as late as even Tuesday. We may find some deeply-hidden nugget or tendency that may help us on a Friday night.”

www.jenkstrojanfootball.com

Most of what we’ve talked about so far is scouting and opponent and looking at what an opponent likes to do in this situation. How do you use the data to scout yourself and look back at your games?

“That’s a great point. We enter data over the weekend on our previous game and we do a self-scout analysis each week looking at our own tendencies, things that maybe we do specifically on third and long - maybe we have some specific tendencies. Maybe some calls that we really like but they haven’t been productive for us, maybe we need to change some things because we’re not getting the productivity out of specific calls or specific down and distance scenarios. We want to see what our opponent is looking at in terms of looking at our defense and be prepared for what they may try to do based on our defensive tendencies.”

When did you guys really start diving into the data and getting into this stuff and really incorporating it as a part of your game plan? Was that a few years ago? When did that start?

“It really started probably in the early 2000s. We had tracked a lot of this on paper, and we went to a computer system in the early 2000s, and it made it so much easier. You could go through and sort the data, filter the data, run reports on the data. If there was a specific play you wanted to go back and look at, you could pull it up immediately. I would say in the 2003-04 range is when that really all started and it has just slowly evolved over time. We’ve used it more and more with each year.”

I would love to be able to go back and look at those pieces of paper with all the data. I think that would be fascinating. But yeah, I’m sure you’re pretty happy with the computerized system now.

“Oh yeah, it’s much, much easier.”

You guys have had a little help with Hudl Assist as well, right?

“Yeah, we tried Hudl Assist out last year and we signed up for this next year to use it for all of our game film. We’re really excited because getting some of those things done quickly and turned back around to us in a timely fashion, where we’re not having to spend the time entering it, is just going to save us more time to do the in-depth analysis. We’re looking forward to that.”

This is looking to the future a little bit, but where do you see data in football going next? In five years, or maybe even just two or three years, what are we going to be talking about in terms of data as the new, cool thing?

“I’m not very creative, so I’m not sure I’m the right guy to ask that. As probably with all parts of the game, the new wave or the new great best thing, it kind of flows down. You’ll see things at the NFL or the college level, schemes or defenses, they make their way to the high school level at varying degrees. With data it’s the same thing. More and more high schools are embracing the use of data and reporting and analytics, which the colleges are really strong into right now. It’s a great growing industry at the college level, and the trend will trickle down and people will start to do more and more analytics and more game film analysis. You can never rely solely on the data, but it gives you a huge leg up as a starting point. I think what you see at the college level now, you’re going to see at a more significant level at high schools in the next three to five years.”

You brought up a great point there at the end. We’ve been talking about the importance of data and stats, and they’re greatly important. There’s no doubt about that. But you can’t just rely on those numbers, because everything in a vacuum doesn’t work out that way. You have to combine that with your coaching instincts and with the traditional coaching abilities, correct?

“Certainly. Yes. But it’s a great tool.”

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