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.