Sunday, November 05, 2006

We Are Marshall

December 22 2006. Mark your calendar.



"We Are Marshall tells an inspiring true story set in Huntington, West Virginia, a small town steeped in the rich tradition of college football. For decades, players, coaches, fans and families have come together to cheer on Marshall University's "Thundering Herd." For this team and this community, Marshall football is more than just a sport, it's a way of life. But on a fateful night in 1970, while traveling back to Huntington after a game in North Carolina, 75 members of Marshall's football team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash. As those left behind struggled to cope with the devastating loss of their loved ones, the grieving families found hope and strength in the leadership of Jack Lengyel, a young coach who was determined to rebuild Marshall's football program and in the process helped to heal a community."

The Mesh Revisted

Howdy, Folks!

(my apologies to the M.C. at the Dixie Stampede)

This past season had taught me a lot of things about football. Much has been teaching technique. I had never taught O-Line before, and I was acutely aware of it at the beginning of the season. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and I seemed to do pretty well with the run blocking techniques. Pass blocking... that's another story. Thank the Lord we were mostly play-action so I wasn't too far over my head. But I've learned a bunch concerning X's and O's... I've seen a lot more even fronts and 3-3 stack down here in North Florida than I would have seen back in Kentucky. I certainly have seen a bunch of D-1 prospects... all unfortunately on the "wrong side" of the line of scrimmage... sigh.

Without a lot of backstory, we ended up switching to the "I" during the season due to a lack of depth at the QB position. We still ran our inside veer and midline, but needed something where we could "just hand the ball off" if our starting QB was injured again. The inside trap was already in (for the cutback dive from splitbacks) so trap and trap option was easy to install as well. I found that "necessity is the mother of invention," as they say, and this split back veer guy found that you "have to do what you have to do." It seemed to help us keep it together offensively, to be sure. When the worst happens, and the "fit hits the shan," you can't be afraid to innovate... that's for sure. Coach B taught me that this year.
The JV stayed with splitback veer (ISV, OSV, Speed Option, Trap and play action) and went 6-2. So my faith in the splitback veer is still unshaken, so all you SB Veer "true-believers" our there can rest easy, lol!

The reason I'm revisiting the Mesh is that I'm in a conundrum concerning the relative importance of aligning the dive back as a true fullback versus a true halfback, having one good inside runner versus two, less filling - tastes great... you get the picture. I find myself nodding in agreement with the FB guys... but if you were to ask me if you would I line up in it myself, I would have to say "no."


It's hard to explain. Perhaps the exchange below will help illustrate my ideas on the matter.

Here's a question I got from a coach a while back:


I would like to hear your thoughts on "Why" the Split Back Veer as opposed
to the Flexbone formation like Navy.

I have coached both, and I am currently on a staff running the Flexbone, but
in my gut I keep feeling that we have more flexibility and less
predictability (because of motion in the flexbone) in the Split Back Veer
instead of the Flexbone.

I look forward to your thoughts/comments.


Here is my reply:


Thanks for the email. I'll do my best to answer your question.

Why use split backs over the flexbone? For me, the answer is simply a matter of personal preference. I feel more comfortable in split backs because that's what I cut my option teeth on.

That's the politically correct answer.

The main reason I like split backs is I prefer the offset dive path of a halfback as opposed to a fullback. I also MUCH prefer the "fast mesh" or "no-mesh" (ala Carson Newman) as opposed to the traditional mesh you get with true fullback sets. I want the dive to hit as fast as possible and I think the No-mesh if ran properly cuts down on fumbles dramatically. I don't think I can get that out of the "I" or any set with a true fullback. I also seldom see a "true" fulback type kid any more. I see plenty of halfback type kids, but not the big kid with speed. Hey, I would love to have a 4.6 (sec 40) 225 FB to establish the dive, but I just don't see that kind of kid very often. Running with 2 HB's also divides-up who "totes the mail." Most of our RB's couldn't take the pounding a FB takes over a season. I guess if I only had one good running back and a bunch of reciever types, the flexbone might be an alternative.

Well, I hope I've answered your question, Coach. I honestly don't have a definitive answer, I just know what I like and what I know how to coach.

Let me know what you think and keep in touch,

Coach Smith"

Another thing I've realized is that Coach Sparks hit the nail on the head when he said the No-Mesh was a way to eliminate rundowns from backside penetration (...which you shouldn't get if you are scooping backside... I know! But you still get that from time to time... admit it!!) Stepping up into the LOS and pointing the ball at the dive read and not reaching back is definitely the way to go in my book - no matter where you align the dive back. If you can do the No-Mesh with a true FB, then I'm all over it. If you can't, then I'll stick with split backs, thank-you-very-much.

I guess I've gone from 50-50 "I don't really care where you put the stinking dive back" to 70-30 "I don't care where you put him... as long as he's 4 yards back and splitting the inside leg of the guard!"

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post or email me at the address below:

Here is an earlier article concerning the No-Mesh or Point-Mesh.


A while back, I mentioned I would do an article concerning the no-mesh mesh or what I like to call the point-mesh method of reading the dive on the Inside and Outside Veer. So here it is. Actually, this is an excerpt from an email I sent a coach a while back concerning the topic. It's been cleaned-up and spell-checked a few dozen times - which means there's probably no more than 2 or three dozen errors left to correct. Fortunately for me, I can live with that many errors so here it is. Here are my notes and observations from watching Coach Spark's veer install video, hearing him speak about it at his clinic, and first-hand observations from our use of it at M.H.S.

The Point-Mesh Method or No-Mesh Mesh

1. The speed of the dive is important. If you have your HBs sitting back at 5 yards off the ball, it's going to seem like the QB is just standing there waiting for the dive back to make it to the line. In C-N's splitback alignment, the HB's feet are 4 to 4 1/2 yards off the front tip of the ball... And are aligned so as to split the inside leg of the guards (who are 2.5-3 ft from the center.) The dive hits FAST- so the misdirection of the ride-and decide is replaced by the misdirection of Oh-sh**-there-goes-the-dive-back-with-the-ball. The HB's aiming point for ISV is the outside leg of the guard and the inside leg of the tackle for OSV.

2. The path of the QB is important. The QB path is not only down the LOS but up into the LOS as well. This is important- the QB needs to work his first step towards the dive read forward as well as sideways. He is trying to put his foot in line with the toes of the playside guard before the snap. We will lay a half bag down at that angle so it forces the QB up into the LOS as he works down the line during the individual period. They all hate that, but it helps get them going at the proper angle.

3. There is no ride-and-decide in the no-mesh mesh. The QB extends the football out straight at the dive read while gripping the football firmly in both hands. If the dive read does anything besides step straight in at the QB, he leaves the ball extended and hands off to the HB. If the dive read comes at the QB, he pulls slightly before the HB arrives and continues to the pitch read. The HB rolls over the "ball" and is either tackled by the dive read or if he is able continues up field to help seal-off inside pursuit.

Coach Sparks said on his tape he did this due to 60% of C-N's fumbles on the option coming from mesh problems. I also heard at one of his excellent C-N clinics that the speedier dive (and the QB being up into the line) helps reduce problems with backside pursuit. It also takes away angles for defensive linemen trying to slow-play the dive, feather, etc.

4. Some might think the no-mesh (or point mesh) is too difficult to read. The idea to put into the QB's head is this: if he just guesses every time on the dive read, he should be right about 50% of the time. All we want him to do is be right 25% more of the time. Don't pressure him too much- many times our QBs have missed the dive and given the ball when we should have kept -- but we ended up with decent yardage due to the HB's momentum, the speed of the dive, and the dive read not being able to get more than an arm across the path of the ball carrier. Our biggest plays seem to come off the dive... The HB hits it and nobody knows he has the ball until he's at the depth of the FS.

Here is a video clip where you can see the angle pretty good. Notice the QB is getting up in the LOS and he doesn't swing the ball back and ride the HB. In this clip, we are facing 40 front and end up reading a DE instead of a DT.

The next clip shows the QB keeping on ISV. If you watch it a few times, you'll se that he almost immediately pulls the ball back in for the keep. The "give" is technically what we are supposed to do when the dive read squats on the LOS, which is pretty much what the read did. However, he does "box in" completely, and seeing this gave the QB the impression that he had committed to the dive. I've said it before, reading the dive is more "art" than "craft." Another factor may be that the QB is one of only four seniors on the field along with a host of freshmen - including the dive HB. I think the QB might have taken it upon himself to try and carry the team at times. He was (and is) a competitor.

Well, that's about it. If you want to see a few more clips, here is the link to some Outside Veer from a previous post.

Coach Smith