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The Scouting Reportby: Mark Speckman
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Mark Speckman has been coaching Willamette University football for the past eight years. The Bearcats are 46-34 under Speckman and in 1999 he was named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year after Willamette won the NWC title and earned a trip to the D III national playoffs. Speckman was the Bearcats’ offensive coordinator for three years prior to being named head coach. He also spent 14 seasons as a high school head football coach, compiling an overall mark of 113-48-3. But he’s more than just a coach.
Mark Speckman is a teacher and motivational speaker and someone who has learned to turn the adversity life has dealt him into a positive affirmation. Born without hands, Speckman has taken his physical liability and turned it into a positive. Speckman was an honorable mention NAIA All-America linebacker at Azusa Pacific before graduating in 1977. A popular speaker among educational and business organizations, Speckman and his defensive coordinator, Nate Naggi, spent time with AFM on the subject of scouting your next game’s opponent.
1. What is the process in analyzing an opponents’ game tape?
MS: By Sunday morning, our game of the previous day game is digitized and the cut-ups are divided by offense, defense, and special teams. We’ve also graded our players and we can begin the process of breaking down our opponent by Sunday night.
NN: As defensive coordinator, we have the information ready for our kids on Monday. Our system prints out reports for our players to take home and study. The opponents’ scouting report will be broken down into formation tendencies as well as down and distance trends. We work during the week on what they’ve studied – formations, tendencies, and personnel groupings.
2. What do you look for in scouting an opponents’ offense?
MS: We look at the big picture first but try to get a feel for personnel and favorite plays. We then break the tape down in finer detail for game tendencies.
NN: As a defensive coach, I’m looking for personnel groupings within their formations; that is, how many backs are in the backfield, how many wide receivers are spread out, what about the tight end…where is he positioned?
3. What about scouting the opposing quarterback? Do you look for something specific?
NN: We look at the entire offense and pass protection schemes. That is, how do they protect on running plays, the option, how do they pass protect on the sprint out pass, and so forth. We also think it’s important to put in our gameplan the intricacies needed to get to the quarterback.
4. In scouting your opponent, how much of an emphasis is placed on situational tendencies?
MS: Our system is set up so that the tendencies jump right out at you. We look for all the big numbers – running and passing – in putting together our gameplan.
NN: We look for breakdown tendencies such as if they’re in a bubble-screen and how do they block and position players.
5. What are the keys you look for in scouting an opponents’ defense?
MS: What we’re trying to do is get a general view of their defense…are they a four man front or a three man front…are they aggressive or somewhat conservative. We try to determine if they have multiple looks and what’s their favorite defense. Then what’s their #1 blitz and #2 blitz packages within that defense.
6. How much attention do you place in zone vs. man-to-man coverage?
MS: It’s important and you can get tip-offs from various coverages and alignment…our quarterbacks and wide receivers must know tendencies and various alignments – we need to get an edge on their defensive formations.
7. Tell us your process of self-scouting? How important is it and how often do you do it?
NN: Self-scouting is good for both the kids and the coaches. Our job is to put our players in a position to be successful. We’ll do more off it in the off-season and determine why some plays work and others don’t. There’s more down time to do self-scouting in the off-season, especially as we prepare for spring ball.
MS: There are really three components to self scouting-
• 1st - During the season as we look for big numbers; that is, what you’re doing during a specific formation…we spend time on this during the week.
• 2nd - In the off-season, you can go into both tendencies and technique. Tom Osborne said that good teams have tendencies and this can be a good thing. Execution and technique must be good, though, if you have tendencies.
• 3rd - Grading your players…during the season every play is graded and we evaluate technique, performance, and effort for every game. We try to make it a teaching tool. The majority of the time self-scouting is critiquing our own players and to a lesser extent on our tendencies.
8. How do you critique a player after the self-scouting evaluation of his performance?
MS: We watch all special teams play together because it’s made up of our offensive and defensive players. We look at the cut-ups and this critique is part of a player’s accountability. Rather than a personal attack we look at it as a ‘how do we get better’ approach. We have about four stations going as the defensive players will watch their performance.
9. What’s a typical week like in breaking down film, giving it to the coaches and preparing a gameplan?
NN: In formulating a gameplan, it’s not how much I know but how much our kids know…we formulate a good gameplan on Sunday, we tinker with it on Monday, see how it can be implemented by Tuesday and Wednesday.
MS: We like to have 80% of our gameplan done by Monday night. We then review situations such as goal line and short-yardage situations. Sometimes you change things Wednesday but the key is to be organized so the tasks are done by Tuesday and Wednesday. We try to be systematic about our approach to it.
10. Tell us about the digital system you use?
MS: You need a system that gives you the information you, as a coach, need. At a small school with a small staff you really have to be organized and the DSV system has allowed us to do that. We’ve just scratched the surface of using technology. The key, though, is to get the information you need.
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