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AFM Subscribers Ask...Arizona\'s Mike Stoops

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Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops recently completed his third season in Tucson as the Wildcats finished with a 6-6 regular season record after back-to-back 3-8 campaigns. A 21-year coaching veteran, Stoops had an overall 168-48-2 record as an assistant coach. For five years prior to taking the Arizona job, Stoops was the top aide to his brother Bob at Oklahoma. A defensive back while an undergrad at Iowa, Stoops also coached at Iowa and Kansas State. Having a reputation as an outstanding defensive coach, the Wildcats led the Pac-10 in a number of defensive categories. In his first year in Tucson, Arizona led the nation in fumble recoveries.

Q. As a head coach, what have some of the adjustments you and your staff have had to make going from the Big-12 to the Pac-10?
Bob Gibbons, Assistant Coach, Albia High School (NM). AFM subscriber since 2003.

Each conference has a unique style. The Pac-10 has a West Coast offense style of play which is more passing oriented. Many of the offenses in this conference make special use of tight ends and concentrate on the passing game more so than the running game. But each conference has their own style of play.

Q. In scouting an opponent’s defense, what are the initial things you look for on tape? Is any one thing more important than any other?
George Smith, Assistant Coach, Harrison High School (NY). AFM subscriber since 2004.

From a defensive point of view, we always look at the front first. How do they rush and attack? We then look at how they defense the run and how many are in the box in different situations. Are they in a 8 or 9-man front? We also look at the secondary match-ups and if – for example – the tight end regularly blocks the linebacker. We try to create mismatches in analyzing our opponent’s tape.

Q. How do you break up your defense for individual practice periods? Is it just d-line, linebackers, and d-backs or do you have combinations working together for different phases of practice?
Peter Llaneza, Assistant Coach, Morris Catholic High School (NJ). AFM subscriber since 2003.

Part of our practices include 25 minutes of fundamentals. We separate at that time for the different defensive positions. We then work on odd gap adjustments as well as on the different kinds of defenses we’ll be facing and how it affects our defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

Q. Since your days at Oklahoma, has your scheme changed in your version of the Cover 2 related to stopping the run?
Larry Basalyga, Offensive Coordinator, Centreville High School (VA). AFM subscriber since 2003.

It varies depending on the situation. We use two different types of cover 2. We use the true Tampa 2 – which is Monte Kiffin’s defense, the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Bucs as well as a more regular deep Cover 2.

Q. Our team runs a version of the ‘Eagle 43’ but we’re usually undersized vs. our opponents at the line of scrimmage. We see mostly man blocking schemes in the run game. What are some of the things you would recommend we do to help with being undersized, especially against the running game and man blocking schemes?
Doug Clarke, Head Coach, APW Central School District (NY). AFM subscriber since 2002.

We try to teach and work with our players with subtle movements that can make a difference. This may be a form of stunt that may keep the offense off balance, especially if you are undersized. We may vary defensive coverage as well so that our opponent may be caught off guard. This could be putting eight in the box, mixing your blitz packages and bringing the safety down to show blitz.

Q. How do you defend 3x1 and empty sets? What are the keys to making a defense work against these two formations?
David Nelson, Defensive Coordinator, Lake Travis High School (TX). AFM subscriber since 1995.

We can plus the coverage depending on the individual match-ups for the 3x1 sets. We can also protect the coverage as we anticipate what’s going to happen – based on our scouting – and defend it that way. For empty sets, we play zone coverage or zone blitz or some times bring in 6 to upset the offense.

Q. What is your general strategy as it relates to blitzes and stunts? Do you use both regularly or are you more selective based on time of game, down, and distance?
Roger Seaman, Assistant Coach, Sandia High School (OK). AFM subscriber since 2006.

Much is dependent on the down and distance situation as the game progresses. We try to mix it up, cover all phases of trying to stop an offense, and will often blitz against a running situation as well as a passing situation.

Q. As a high school coach, we are given limited statistics at halftime. What do you feel are the most important statistics to look at with your staff at halftime in preparing for the second half?
Chris Miller, Offensive Coordinator, Mt. Zion High School (NY). AFM subscriber since 1998.

The most important thing is looking at a team’s tendencies; that is, how many times do they run and pass and what are the base plays rushing and routes passing? Defensively, do they attack consistently a certain way or do they vary their pressure. I believe knowing these tendencies are more important than rushing or passing yardage stats. We also look at their various blitz packages and how often they use them. What a team does on third down conversions is crucial as well. We also try to analyze turnover margin and how it’s affecting the game.

Q. I’m two years as a high school varsity coach and interested to start at a new program. What thoughts and suggestions would you have in moving to a new program?
M Carter, Assistant coach, Cactus High School (AZ) AFM subscriber since 2006.

Always stay with your philosophy and your beliefs. Keep a strong work ethic and realize the importance of leadership. Kids read people and they certainly read you.


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