2015 AFCA Convention: Day 2 Highlights

A lot of great stuff from some amazing coaches and people on Monday. My favorite part of the afternoon was being able to listen to a man I respect tremendously, Bill Curry, speak as part of the Master Coach segment. There was plenty of knowledge to go around, so let’s get into it.

Also, if you want my complete notes from the 2015 AFCA Convention, click here to sign up as an Insider, or just click on the picture of Chip Kelly in the top right of the page.

General Session – Bret Bielema – Arkansas

The Arkansas Edge (This is posted everywhere around the football facilities)

  1. Mental/Physical Toughness
  2. Play Fast and Through the Whistle
  3. Play Clean
  4. Win Critical Areas
  5. We Earn Everything

– “Numbers 1-3 have nothing to do with your ability.”

– When he first got to Arkansas he wanted to establish the expectations right away. On the first day of spring practice, he put 25 minutes of inside drill on the schedule, because he wanted his players tough, but also because they hadn’t run any inside drill before when the last coach was there.

"We are all a product of how we use our time."

“We are all a product of how we use our time.”

– “Being a Hog is a good thing in Arkansas. You can walk up to the prettiest girl in Arkansas and call her a Hog and she’ll love it.”

– Had a big challenge to change the culture of negativity and losing when he first got there.

– Time is everyone’s common thread. Everyone’s time is equal, and you can’t go back in time, and you can’t buy more. As a college coach, you can’t fine them any money for poor behavior, but you can take away playing time.

– One of his favorite things to do when a kid doesn’t manage time wisely and isn’t punctual is to schedule a meeting with him at the most inconvenient time possible for the kid, and then Bielema won’t show up on time. That way the kid can see what he’s doing to others when he doesn’t show up on time.

General Session – Doc Holliday  – Marshall

– “The thing that bothers me the most is watching how tough it is for young guys to get into this profession.”

– When he was first offered the job at Marshall, he wasn’t sure if he should take it, since he didn’t think it was a good job. He called one of his mentors Robert Neyland who he worked for at Tennessee to ask his advice. Neyland’s answer?

“If Marshall was a good job, they wouldn’t be callin’ your ass.”

He took the job.


– “At Marshall there’s no place to hide.” They’re gonna find out real quick if you’re not tough and you don’t love football.

– It’s a personnel-driven game. It’s important to develop players.

Plan To Win

  1. Play great defense
  2. Take care of the football
  3. Score in the red zone
  4. Play great special teams

– At Marshall, you won’t play on offense or defense if you don’t perform on special teams. It’s a great place to develop confidence in younger players and give them playing experience.

– Everything they do on special teams is first practiced at the POD level. In other words, they practice each different part of a play separately before practicing the scheme as a whole unit.

(Holliday had some great insights to share when it comes to special teams, but those will be in a separate post so that they can be presented with diagrams and explanations.)

The Master Coach – Bill Curry, Jerry Moore, Ken Sparks

Q: Do you make players aware of your approach during recruiting?

Jerry Moore: It all starts with sincerity. You know what you’re looking for in the player, and you don’t want there to be any surprises on either side, for you or the player, once you get to fall camp.

Jerry Moore

Jerry Moore

Bill Curry: I think football coaches at the high school and college level are the most important people to our culture, because they’re the last line of defense in our effort to teach morals and values.

Bill Curry

Bill Curry

Q: Thoughts on discipline and motivation?

Ken Sparks: It’s important to be consistent with your discipline, but that doesn’t mean that you always treat everyone the same. Different people need different things. When it comes to discipline, you have to have a structure that works, makes sense, and you have to make it there’s.


Ken Sparks

Ken Sparks

BC: There are three ways to motivate people: Fear, incentives, and relationships. The first two are only temporary. At Georgia Tech during his playing days, he had an assistant coach named John Robert Bell who told him when he was having a rough time and didn’t think he could play, “I know you can play.” He helped him improve as a player, and ten years later in the NFL, he was still playing and giving effort because he wanted to make Coach Bell proud. The relationship was what kept him motivated.

Robert Wimberly- Liberty University – Defensive 

– It’s important that you build a foundation with your scheme, and that you structure your playbook correctly. You should know the ins and outs of your scheme.

"Is your scheme ready for something unexpected?"

“Is your scheme ready for something unexpected?”

– It’s important to delegate to your assistants and let them do what they do.

– Sample coaching responsibilities for opponent analysis during the week:

  • Receivers analysis (Who is the bubble guy, who is the best blocker)
  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd down passes
  • Blitz package, 5-man, 6-man pressures
  • RB/TE analysis & pass protections
  • 3rd down runs, OL play
  • Field zone breakdown
    • Backed up: -1 through -15
    • Open field: -16 through +21
    • Red zone: +20 though +4
    • Goal line: +3 through +1
  • Defensive coordinator handles the formations

– He has several templates to structure his call sheet based on the kind of offense they’re facing that week. One is based on down and distance-predicated offenses, and another is based on formation-predicated offenses. He will have a lot of the same calls that carryover from sheet to sheet, but they are just arranged differently to help him make better decisions.

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