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DESIGNING CONDITIONING DRILLS WITH A FOOTBALL CORRELATION
Of all the factors that a coach must work against, time is one of the hardest to overcome. Because we believe that every practice should begin and end with our defensive team working together as a unit, and trying to best use the limited time we had, we concluded each practice session with a conditioning session which had a direct correlation to an activity which the players would encounter in the game.
During the regular week, we would alternate between a team interception drill and a team pursuit drill to end each practice session. The day before the game, even though it was not a true conditioning drill, we added a team fumble recovery drill for our final practice event.
It was our belief that each of these drills must be done correctly by every member of the defensive unit on the field. If we saw one player loafing or not executing the drill correctly, we would make the entire defensive unit run the drill over. Team conditioning was important, but team execution and unity was equally important.
Our interception drill started with the line of scrimmage on the 25 yard line, with the defense facing toward the goal line. The quarterback would position himself on the 20 yard line. On ìgoî our team would execute their respective drops based on the defense called. The players committed to the rush, would hold two counts and then begin to rush the quarterback. The quarterback, the only offensive player in the drill, was instructed to drop straight back and to move to his right or left before throwing the pass. As the year went along, we would introduce all types of movement passes for the quarterback to use in this drill.
All 11 players were responsible to turn and start to move to the ball when it was thrown and then to run with the player who made the interception all the way across the goal line.
In the interception drill, the following points were emphasized. Everyone must be prepared to make the interception and know how to catch the ball. Each player had to know the proper reaction he must take to every pass. Every player needed to know the path the return would take following an interception. Finally, every defensive player had to understand who had the responsibility for blocking the intended receiver and the quarterback.
TEAM PURSUIT DRILL
For our team pursuit drill, we would turn the drill around and have the offense on the 25 yard line coming in. Our defensive units would rotate going from offense to defense. The plays, which we taught our defensive players to run, would feature wide running plays, pitch, sweep, option and lead off tackle runs. Later in the year we would introduce runs up the middle, cutback runs, the draw and various screen passes to the drill.
Every player on the defensive unit, except those with reverse and bootleg responsibility, was responsible for touching the ball carrier before he crossed the goal line or the entire unit repeated the drill.
In the team pursuit drill, we emphasized the following points to our defensive players. Each player must know his proper pursuit path based on the defense called. Every player on the defense must know who has responsibility for force, anchor, cutback, reverse, bootleg and pursuit. Pursuit paths and responsibility must change based on formation variations and different personnel sets.
FUMBLE RECOVERY DRILL
For this end of practice drill, we had the entire defensive team line up on the 15 yard line facing toward the goal line. Our defensive coaching staff would stand on the five yard line and each of us would have a couple of footballs. One by one a coach would call out a playerís name and roll the ball out on the ground. Each player had to successfully pick up the ball on run, at full speed, two times and run it across the goal line before the defensive team could go in.
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