this may be of some local interest
About me: See the Art Briles post. TL;DNR summary. I am a doctor in Toledo who played center and LB in high school and safety at Cornell. I have been going to UM coaches clinics since RichRod as a “prepare to do something new” pre-retirement strategy and to be more of a football insider and a better fan.
About Frank Beamer: Beamer grew up in rural Virginia and spent most of his life coaching football within a few miles of where he grew up. He was a three sport star athlete in high school and started three years at cornerback for Virginia Tech. He went to grad school at Radford University a mere 15 miles from VaTech and became an assistant coach for the high school football team. He became a grad assistant at Maryland, the defensive coordinator for several years at The Citadel under Bobby Ross and then the DC and eventual head coach at Murray State. He was named head coach at Va Tech in in 1986 after NCAA violations led to the firing of Bill Dooley. His choice was controversial but he became one of the most successful coaches of all time, winning multiple conference championships in the Big East and ACC and coach of the year awards in both conferences. After going undefeated in 1999, his team played for a national championship with Michael Vick at QB but lost to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. At the time of his retirement this year, his VaTech teams hold the current longest active streak with 23 straight bowl game appearances.
About that scar- he was keeping a trash fire contained with a push broom as a kid. When he put the broom back in the garage, he did not notice it was smoldering. He placed it too close to a can of gasoline that exploded. He required dozens of skin grafts to correct those injuries. Just my opinion, but I suspect that after living through that as a kid, you learn how to take the ups and downs of being a coach in perspective.
His presentation style is low key and friendly. He told a story about his first encounter with Harbaugh. They were meeting before the 2011 Orange Bowl. Harbaugh told Beamer how much he was looking forward to playing Georgia Tech. Beamer followed up by saying how happy he was to be playing Samford.
His advice on creating a winning program: As with Briles, I feel many of his comments are good advice for anyone leading a team or organization.
You must be able to relate to your players. They are the only ones who can get you through a crisis and you must prepare for crisis on and off the field. You do this with honest, respect and caring.
Big decisions need the entire staff to be involved. His experience is that this leads to better decisions and better support for those decisions when all feel involved.
Practice is key as it sets the tone for how you play. It should be fast, furious and fun and you have a better tempo when you hit the field for games. Short practices are better than long ones and fast furious and fun helps to make that happen.
If you are delegating an important job, give it to one person. That makes it possible to keep people accountable for performance.
Special teams need special preparation. Special teams play is the quickest way to win or lose a game.He then gave an excellent talk on special teams play. It was quite detailed and probably too long to cover in this format but he did give some good general advice.
He spot practices special teams during practice not at the beginning or the end because that is how it happens in games.
Kick off to one side as it makes for less field to cover. Structure coverage to make the kick receivers run sideways. The coverage must stay in their lanes until the ball takes a direction and then must keep the ball in front of them. Do not overrun the ball.
Practice and use pop up kicks once in a while as they force personnel changes by your opponents.
On kick off returns, the key is to stop the backside gunners away from your general return direction and then set up double teams blocks up the middle or on the return side at your chosen point of attack.
Spread punt protection (pro-style with gunners out wide and blockers in slot positions) makes it easier to cover kicks but harder to defend against blocked kicks. Shield protection (seven on the line and three blockers in front of the punter) makes it easier to protect the punter but harder to cover the kick. He would always be fine with high punts for 35+ yards with a fair catch.
If you can get good punting with two steps that is preferable to avoid blocks. You want your long snapper to be fast and an athlete. No one can hit him at the time of the snap, so he can function as one of your gunners down field. You punt protection blocks must be square to create a wall. Footwork is important. Stance with inside foot up and then first step is quick back with the outside foot then second step back brings feet square to form a wall.
Feel free to skip the following but here is an attempt to cover in more detail one part of his talk. Diagrams would help here but I have only hand drawn ones. I do not know how to digitize my drawings and embed. Anyone want to give me a lesson?
Punt blocks and returns: Against a shield formation, put 10 on the line of scrimmage and one receiver deep. For a return right, attack the L end with two players one is to force the kick and contain the kicker and the other maintains a block on the end.
The kick rushers are the next two players inside on the left. They attack the outside gaps of the blockers over them and rush the kick. They slow those linemen in front of them and occupy the shield blockers so there is no reason to block the shield players or punter. Punt blockers must keep their eyes open and avoid any collision course. Block punts with one hand reaching out with the left hand if attempting to block from the left and the reverse on the right. So for a return R, your punt block attempt comes from the L and the reverse.
Once the long snapper leaves the LOS, the man over him pops him once to slow him down then drops quickly back to set the first part of a wall facing left. The right side of the line blocks and maintains the blocks on the men they are covering with a double team on the end. The receiver returns the punt right. You flip all this to return left. He did not have time to discuss the punt block and return against a spread pro-style protection.
If this is Goodbye, then thank you for our program [Patrick Barron]
FREQUENCY OF SEEDS AND PERFORMANCE
It occurred to me that it might be interesting to do a high-level survey of the seeding of both the Final Four as well as the tournament champions and then look at ways we can check expectations (i.e., that the higher seeds should go to the better teams overall) versus results (i.e., the actual seed of the champion).
As some of you may be aware, seeding as only been a thing since 1978, so this was a constraining factor in the data collection, but there is definitely enough there to see some interesting phenomena in the data. A couple things that I did not know, just as examples:
- As much as we talk about 5-12 matchups in the tournament, a #12 has never made it to the Four. An #11 seed has made it, however (three times).
- Only once since the tournament was seeded did all the #1 teams survive to the Final Four (2008)
- Only three times since the tournament was seeded did no #1 teams make it to the Final Four (1980, 2006 & 2011)
There are other interesting tidbits you can glean from it, of course, but something that is just as interesting, or so I believe, is some of the other trends buried in the data.
First, here’s the seed count for all 152 teams which have graced seeded Final Fours in the NCAA tournament:
It should look exactly like you might expect, which is the point here. Indeed, by the time you get out to the 4-seed, you are at 82.24% of all teams that have played in a Final Four game, which in 152 games leaves only 27 instances where a team has been lower than the 4-seed (in the case of some years, multiple seeds were lower than that, of course)
Days later, as we know, three of these teams are gone – two in the Final Four and one in the NCAA Championship Game. Here’s the seeding frequency of those that won it all:
As you can see, truly quizzical endings to the NCAA Tournament have been a sparse exception statistically, with only four of them ending with a champion that was seeded as lower than a #4, and of course, one of them is that Villanova team (at #8) that made what some have argued is the quintessential Cinderella run some 30 years ago.
What about any sort of performance metric though? I wasn’t sure how to approach it – we’re just talking about the seeding, after all, so we have to make an assumption that one of the four #1 seeds is the best of the best, or at least that they are deemed such by how they are seeded and what they actually do in the tournament. The expectation then might be that all four of them should make it to the Final Four, but that only happened once to date for as we also know, there are far too many variables in a basketball game, human and technical – the countless upsets in tournament history are a testament to that.
Something that I thought was interesting was to look at the average seeding of the Final Four teams through the years and then build a frequency chart with those averages:
There you see the sole time all participants at this stage of the tournament were #1 seeds, but look at how many times the average has been less than 2.00 – only 10 times. Here’s part of the reason:
In 30 of the tournaments since seeding began, the Final Four has seen only one or two of the #1 seeds make it, although as you saw earlier, a #1 seed has won on 21 occasions.
Another assumption we have to consider is seeding as an indicator of projected performance, which is one that we all make typically when doing brackets, but team performance is taken into consideration as well when the committee does lays out the 64 and 4 as well. Taking a shot in the dark regarding how we can use this to look at the performance of the committee as well as the winners versus their seeding, I subtracted the champion’s seed from the average of the corresponding year and got this frequency chart:
The overall results are interesting – we find that in 26 of the 38 tournaments which have employed seeding, the champion’s seed has fallen above the average seed of the Final Four, which I would argue is “overperforming” in that, well, a higher seed beat the average quite simply. This includes all 21 occurrences of a #1 winning the tournament, but also some outliers – 5 instances where a non-#1 seed won and still outperformed the average seed of the Final Four – 1979, 1980 and 1997, where a #2 won, and 2006 and 2011, where a #3 won.
Here’s another chart where you can see how rare the Cinderella story is as well – that -5 belongs to 1985’s Villanova team, with an average seed in the Final Four of #3 and Villanova winning it all at #8. It happened again in the 1980s, however – the value -3.5 is 1988’s result, where the average seed was 2.50 and the tournament was won by a #6. Of course, there’s 1983 as well and that improbable run by North Carolina State at a value of -3.00. These are the examples of the unlikely becoming possible, where a team was probably seeded below their actual potential – misjudged, if you will. Other interesting note – only twice has the average seed of the Final Four matched the seed of the champion – in 2004 (#2 won) and in 2008 (#1 won).
You will note, however, that 22 of these 38 results fall between 0 and 2, meaning that in nearly 60% of the tournaments – at least this is how I read it – the Final Four results versus the champion seed fall fairly close or almost right on the default expectation. In other words, slightly more than half the time, they appear to get it right in the end despite all the chaos that seems to happen in earlier rounds in some years.
A moment of Zen, courtesy of the movie "Crazy People":
This story begins with my great grandfather. For the sake of privacy, I will refer to him as "Bill". Bill was born in a extremely strict and discipline orienented household. Bill's father was a WWII veteran, and basically treated Bill like he was in the Marine Corp once he was around the age of 7. This made my great grandfather the person he still is today. For good and bad.
At a young age, Bill was interested in playing football. His father would always talk about the days of Don Hudson, Bronco Nagurski, George Halas, etc... So eventually, Bill took up in playing football. As it turns out, Bill was really good, and really fast. My grandmother still has newspaper clippings of Bill breaking track records at his high school that still stand today! Back then, people usually played 2 positions. Bill played Fullback and Middle Linebacker for his high school varsity team for two years. Bill got calls from Michigan and Michigan St as a senior. In his own words, "It was one of the easiest decisions of my life." Bill decided to attend Michigan St University.
Bill used his upbringing to his advantage. He was never intimidated, scared, or nervous. Whatever Bill went through at home was worse than what he experienced on the football field and he even wanted to be on the field so he could take out some of his built up anger towards his father. Bill exceled at Moo U..uh...I mean MSU. He played 4 years there and lets just say, he enjoyed beating the shit out of Michigan. When he played, MSU was dominating Michigan (Early 50's). To make a long story a little less long, he graduated from Msu and was drafted by the Detroit Lions as a late round pick. Unfortunatley, during the second practice of the season, Bill had his knee blown out. Technology wasn't what it is today, so he couldn't play ever again.
When my dad was a wee lad, he idolized my great grandfather. And why wouldn't he? Bill taught my dad how to hunt, fish, skin deer, change oil, fight, and all of the other things a man is supposed to know how to do. This also included telling him stories about the glory days when he played for MSU. He told my father how their biggest rival, were nothing but spoiled little shits who couldn't even sniff MSU's jockstrap in man's greatest sport. This was worrisome to my dad, who loved watching Bo coach Michigan in the 70's, and didn't want to make his idol and grandad dislike him. Eventually, Bill conditioned my father to become a sparty fan. My dad still respected Michigan and rooted for them when they didn't play Michigan St, but he knew better to tell his family that.
My dad of course wanted to play football like his grandpa before him. My dad played halfback as a starter for three years at his high school. He was 5'9 and 180lbs and averged 20 y.p.c. Bill wanted my dad to play for Michigan St more than anything in the world. My dad didn't have the grades and barely passed his senoir year because he was chasing girls, being popular, and doing all the things you would expect a teenage boy would do. He couldn't even finish the rest of his senoir season because his grades got so bad (oddly enough, he did really well on the SAT) that he had to go to school 6 times a week for the last semester just so he could pass. Bill was enraged at this, and my father told him how he didn't want to play football anymore because he felt like he was just doing it so Bill would get self gratification out of it. Thats when my father and Bill's realationship started to erode.
My dad never played organized football again. The fallout he had with his idol and best friend made him dislike football for a while. It wasn't until his thirties when he saw a replay of Michigan vs Ohio St 1986. Bo was tearing a ref a new one. As my dad told me, "I felt happy about football for the first time in a long time." My dad started watching more replays, read more about Michigan, feeling as if he had missed out on something very special that he didn't witness. My dad said that he officially became a "full on" Meechigan fan in the mid 90's. One day, my family on my dad's side held a game day party. It was Meechigan vs Msu. No one knew he was a Michigan fan. That is until he showed up wearing a Michigan Football t-shirt. He told me their faces were priceless. At first, he said some people thought it was a joke, and some people were snickering. That is when he finally told them that he was a Michigan fan. They laughed at him. Everyone except my grandma. Literally. Every. Single. Person. Laughed. Well, at the end of the day he was laughing because Michigan won 40-20.
Later on my father and my great grandfather mended their realtionship, but not to the full extent to what it used to be. My great grandfather still holds grudges about my dad not doing well enough in school to go on and play college ball, and my dad still hates the fact that Bill only cared if he was going to choose to play for MSU. They still love each other for sure, but when there is a holiday and we are over at a family member's house people can still feel slight tension in the air when they talk to each other.
Football has always been a big deal in my family. Half of us are Michigan fans, and half of us are Sparty fans. My dad was almost brainwashed and basically had no choice to pick which team he supported until he was a grown man. I am forever grateful that my dad let me choose which team I liked, without his opinion mixed in. I am happy my father and I choose the good guys, and not the stupid ass clowns from East Landfill. GO BLUE!!!!!
About me (feel free to skip down to my bio of Briles):
I played center and linebacker in high school and strong safety in college at Cornell for two years until I blew out a knee. Back then, they did not know how to fix them like they do now. Arthroscopic surgery came along about 10 years later. It was clear to me that I had better hit the books if I wanted to make a good living. I was certainly not going to happen playing football.
I have been going to UM games since I was 7 years old and that is almost 60 years ago. My mother, my father, my older brother, my younger brother, all three of my children and a couple of my cousins all have Michigan degrees. After medical school here in Toledo, I completed a masters in public health at Michigan to finally catch up with the rest of the family with a Michigan degree.
Although I am not a football coach, for the past several years I have been going to the UM football coaches clinic each spring. I am approaching retirement and have been thinking I could volunteer as an assistant coach at a local high school after I retire. The coaches clinics might better prepare me for that role. I also thought it would be fun to get more of an inside view of the coaches and players at Michigan and a more sophisticated take on the game that would make me a better fan.
I started attending the coaches clinics under Rich-Rod and have gone every year since. They have all been enlightening but this year was the best yet. I decided to take even more detailed notes than usual and I thought I could share some of them as a diary. If there seems to be interest, I might continue to add to this diary with additional notes from some of the other coaches who spoke this year this year and even some from previous years.
What follows is a brief bio and summary of the talk given at the coaches clinic by Art Briles, the head coach at Baylor.
About Art Briles:
As you may know, he was a star QB at his high school and played in a state championship game. He was a starting wide receiver at Houston. He began his coaching career as an assistant high school coach and high school teacher in 1980. He became a head coach in 1984 and had a mix of great success and great failure over the next few years but then developed a knack for taking over teams with serious losing records and turning them into winning programs.
His Stephensville, Texas high school teams went from 0 wins to 4 state championships. At his first college head coaching job at Houston, they went from 2 winning seasons in 12 years to conference champions. At Baylor, he has taken them from dog meat (14 consecutive losing seasons) to one of the best programs in the Big 12 with two conference championships and six straight bowl appearances and top 20 poll rankings in 4 of the past 5 seasons.
He is not an imposing or intense man. He is average height and fairly thin. His communication style is folksy and it was easy to listen and follow his talk. Here is what he offered about what it takes to be successful as a football coach. I think some of this advice would apply to successfully running any team or enterprise large or small.
His advice on creating a winning program:
As a coach you must accept that winning is tough. You must learn to win with the team you have. You must create an edge. You do this by your style of play and the players you recruit must fit your mindset. You want players who will be fearless, physical, disciplined, determined and desperate. These characteristics need to be your trademark. You must think about and envision and communicate the big picture. Accept that the only consistent thing is inconsistency. There will need to be constant change and adaptation and this is especially true on special teams because more of the players are changing every year and often less experienced. Personnel management at every level of the program is your most important task as a coach. You must get the right person in the right spot.
Get happy, get beat. Get satisfied, get passed.
He has no team captains because every player should behave like a captain.
Leadership is a daily act in how you treat people and improve the mind set of the players, coaches, staff, administration and alums. You do this by how you act not just what you say. Kill your detractors with kindness. Surround yourself with people who are self starters of high character. Be the face and direction of the program . Challenge yourself. Be thankful but never satisfied. Love and care for those that fight for you.
He was scrawny as a youngster and grew up in a tough high school so he decided “I'm gonna' have big friends!”. No one messed with AB and his big friends. So, recruit the QB you need first but he needs big friends too. So recruiting the OL and DL is just as important. The “bigs” will run the locker room for you.
His offensive strategy: Tell the receivers to run as fast as they can and then tell the quarterback to throw it as far as he can. However you must be balanced and unpredictable on offense. The past five years, Baylor had averaged over 47 points per game, over 4000 yards passing and over 3000 yards rushing per season.