Kliff Kingsbury is now the youngest coach in the BCS, at only 33 years of age. He was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M last year, and helped propel Johnny Manziel to a Heisman worthy season, so trusting his knowledge and approach should be a little easier, even if you’re an age-ist.
Kingsbury’s approach is one of quick tempo, good conditioning, and drilling in concepts so fully that they become second nature for players. While Kingsbury obviously runs the show, he’s also taking himself out of the game equation just a little bit, and letting his players know and feel their way to success.
As the 2013 college lacrosse rule changes, and the recent success of teams like Loyola, seem to illustrate, lacrosse has been, and will continue, heading in this direction. Coaches get less input in personnel (due to no sideline horn), and plays restart much quicker in general. Shot clocks create short periods of time where action is required quickly, and highly successful players are required, more so than in recent years, to truly know the game inside and out.
Loyola’s offense used a number of preset plays and patterns to generate offense on their way to a title in 2012 before the rule changes came about. They were well ahead of the curve. This meant d-mids, LSMs, defenders, AND o-mids could all be dangerous, because they all knew the systems. Offensive guys that weren’t necessarily stars all on their own, or on other teams, played team lacrosse every game, and became huge names in lacrosse that we still recognize. The ability to just play, without thinking about it, was the Hounds’ biggest strength. Duke did nicely to use portions of this approach in their 2013 run as well.
Two other teams (like Loyola and Duke) that have used this type of training are Tufts and Salisbury, two top tier DIII teams. Tufts, like Texas Tech, focuses on reps, learning in film, and keeping tempo at a high pace, while playing hard. They rely on conditioning, and fundamentals. Players know what they have to do, and don’t wait for coaches to tell them to do it. It’s a more hands off approach, and puts the pressure on players to make the right choices.
Salisbury also employs some of these tactics, and I see it the most in their high repetition, scripted shooting and passing drills. These guys KNOW what to do in a situation because they’ve done it 10,000 times before. They know where the pass is coming from, and they know how to finish the pass. It’s truly second nature.
In the case of football, the play without thinking mentality seems to have no limit, but it also seems to be a relatively new concept, whereas in lacrosse it’s been around a while. The gridiron game is so fast, and the ability to think ahead by even a second or two can make a huge difference. While lacrosse is much more free flowing, and has been doing this kind of thing for a bit longer, there are still similarities.
I like to think of it this way: Picking up a ball to restart the game is much like running a no-huddle offense. There is little time to get set, and the defense is on their heels. If you can make the no huddle, or the quick restart, your base of operations, you’re going to be very well prepared to execute. And like the no huddle, if you go fast, the defense has no other choice but to go fast as well. If your team is prepared for that, a lot of success can come your way.
I believe this approach could be more potentially beneficial for football, because every single play could conceivably be no huddle and quick, but it obviously has a place in lacrosse as well. If a lacrosse team can create five or six more good chances in a game, that is often enough to turn the tide for a losing team. By coaching in games and practice LESS, and coaching during film MORE, it might actually be possible.
I’m curious to see if any mid-tier teams in D1 try this in 2014. Honestly, what do they have to lose?