Thoughts From A First Year Offensive Coordinator

I used my early years in college coaching to hone my recruiting skills and begin processing what it would take to call a collegiate-level offense. After two years as a position coach and a developing cog in our recruiting efforts, I was granted the opportunity to become the Offensive Coordinator. I knew I would have to learn on the fly, and even if I was not completely ready in my mind, it was time for me to challenge myself in a coordinator role. I relied heavily on the time that I had spent growing up on the sideline watching my dad coach, the knowledge that I acquired from those I had previously coached with, and the wide array of information available on social media as the foundation for this upcoming experience. It was this collection of ideas that helped me prepare for my new role.

Where Do I Start?

The toughest part of being a first-year coordinator is simply getting started. You have to jump into the development process in order to see what you like, dislike, and what you need to allow to evolve over the span of the season.

With my goal of running an Air-Raid style offense, I knew that I had to meet with some veteran coaches to see how they were successful. I was able to meet with a variety of coaches, such as: Tom Grippa (Milford High School Head Coach), Evan Dreyer (Anderson High School Head Coach), Josh Stratton (Canal Winchester Head Coach), Dave Wirth (Purcell Marian High School Head Coach), Troy Styer (Campbell County Offensive Coordinator) and Slade Singleton (Chase High School Offensive Coordinator). All of these coaches offered something unique for me to add to my notebook and take forward in my creation of the MSJ offense.


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On top of meeting with these coaches, I studied as much offensive film with similar principles to my interests as possible. I did a lot of comparing and contrasting these offenses to one another, which allowed me to grow exponentially as a football coach. These were some of the most beneficial film sessions I have ever experienced; just myself, my laptop and my notebook frivolously scribbling down anything and everything that I thought could help me progress.

With all of this information, the cornerstone of this process for me was seeing my ideas come to life on the whiteboard. You can take and learn from a lot of people, but in the end, it is ‘your’ offense, and you have to make the key decisions. Once this process started, I felt as if I had really grown as a coach and removed myself from my comfort zone of relying heavily on others to form the schemes.

What Do I Believe?

After finalizing the schematic elements of the system, I knew I had to create a philosophical identity that would get our guys playing the way I envisioned.  Just like with forming a calculated game plan or developing a naming system for a play, putting what you want your offense to look like into words can be a trying process. By keeping a notebook and recording adjectives describing what I imagined my offense to look like, I was able to narrow the focus of what I really wanted.

I wanted to capture the characteristics of my philosophy in one phrase and decided on the motto of: “We Compete – Fast, Physical, and Fun”. Coach Dreyer once told me to limit the number of points that you preach. The more you add, the more watered down your message becomes.  This phrase would serve as a constant reminder of how we needed to practice, prepare and play. When we faced our toughest stretch of the season, and some of our biggest disappointments, we would refer back to what we set out to be and focus on those keywords.

The Best Piece of Advice I Received

Throughout my time seeking advice from the myriad of respected coaches, I received a lot of great material on schemes, individual plays, and practice structure. There were many things that I was able to take and implement, but one piece of advice seemed to come from every coach, no matter what their background or style of play was – “in the end, you have to be yourself”. I heard this so many times that I knew there had to be a lot of value to this statement.

At the conclusion of my conversations with each coach, they would end with some form of this statement. It was a sentiment that they seemed to be very firm about. To me, it seemed like they were saying no matter how much information you take from someone else you have to do what you feel most comfortable with. As I became more and more inundated with ideas, I knew that I had to just dive in and create an offense that not only fit my personality but was one that I believed in.

If I could provide any coach seeking advice one thought to take forward, it would be this very sentiment. It was the one defining piece of my first year that stuck with me throughout the entire season. There is value in utilizing inspiration from others, but in the end, it is all about your implementation of a system that will be the foundation of what you lean on during the course of a season.

How Do I Manage a Staff?

Managing a staff is very different from what I had expected. This is an aspect of coordinating that I had to learn on the job. Setting clear expectations, communicating throughout the day, and correcting other grown men when they did not meet established standards were probably the most difficult challenges that I faced. I know that this is an area in which I have room to grow after my first year.

There are many key principles that I learned about managing a staff this year. First and foremost, establish clear expectations. Those who work for you cannot read your mind, and they will not be able to meet standards that have not been set. This all seems simple, and I definitely set standards before our camp started, but I did not do a great job of reminding the coaches or following through with what we initially discussed. You must believe in your standard and uphold it on a daily basis.

Second, over-explain everything.  Assume nothing.  If you want something a certain way, detail it appropriately.  I did a whole lot of assuming people knew what I knew last year, but in reality, how could they if I have not effectively communicated with them?

Lastly, all of these aspects of managing a staff can be improved by the way we communicate. It is imperative to over-communicate with your staff; even if you feel that you are constantly providing them with information, it will be worth it. The most notable breakdowns between our staff all come back to a lack of communication. Keep those lines open, positive and active, and even the most difficult of situations can be worked through.

What Do I Want My Offense to Look Like?

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to implement Air Raid Principles into our passing game, an effective running game, and a high tempo capability. I wanted to place stress on defenses by attacking the field both horizontally and vertically while maintaining simplicity in our schemes and teachings.

I had to develop a foundational set of plays for our system that could be run out of any formation and executed at a high level. As a staff, we believed that if the players did not understand our scheme, then we were not teaching it effectively. I tried to garner as much feedback from my staff and the players throughout the installment of the offense. This was very helpful in finding new ways to teach our guys and improve their comprehension of our offensive goals.

How Do I Make Practice ‘Fast, Physical, and Fun’?

Once we had a system, philosophy, and staff systems in place, we had to transition our focus to how we would conduct practice. I understood the basics of what practice had to entail, but I wanted to create efficient and energetic applications in order to get our guys to meet our expectations for how to play.

We used some basic elements to increase the competitive energy and amount of cooperative skill work during our practices. I challenged each coach to have a competitive drill within his position group, which we would break out once a week. I also tried to pair position groups together while doing skill work. These simple, yet effective, additions added a lot to the amount of positive energy that we had in our practices.

A great example of a unit vs. unit competitive drill is Kirby Smart’s “Millennial Oklahoma Drill”. The offense would go against the defense on one half of the field, and we would work bubble, smoke, and swing perimeter screens. It allowed the offense to work on blocking in space, reading blocks, and getting downhill as a ball carrier. We would go right to this drill after our flex period, immediately igniting energy and creating natural competition.

One example of a cooperative skill drill we would do is what we called “Window Drill”. I cannot take credit for the creation of this drill, that goes to fellow Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference coach Matt Theobald (Hanover Head Coach). This drill paired the QBs with the WRs while working on finding an open window depending on how the defenses reacted. The WRs would work a ten-yard stem and then speed cut as if they were running a dig. After that, they would identify how the coach (simulating a LB playing the curl zone) was playing them and adjust their routes. During the drill, QBs are responsible for their footwork, timing, and ball placement. This one, simple drill allows us to work on multiple offensive skills simultaneously.

We tried to make sure we practiced at a high tempo, with a physical tenacity while having fun on a daily basis. We felt that if we could emulate our motto into our practices, we would have a much better likelihood of playing to our standard in the games.

What Every Coordinator Needs

There are many different things that go into any successful offensive or defensive unit – having good players would be the first that comes to mind. With that said, there is one particular aspect of my first year as a coordinator that any coordinator would be so lucky to have: a Head Coach who trusts and believes in what you want to do. This was something I certainly had in Tyler Hopperton, who took over as the head coach in April following the retirement of Mount St. Joe’s longtime Head Coach, Rod Huber.

In one of his first acts as a head coach, he named me as the Offensive Coordinator and gave me my first full-time coaching job. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity, but I was even more appreciative of the freedom he gave me to learn, make mistakes, and find my footing as a coordinator. He certainly gave me a guideline for what he wanted the program to look like, but essentially allowed me to do whatever I felt I needed to do to put the team in a position for success.

We were both learning on the job, which created a strong bond on and off the field. When a head coach trusts his staff, he provides them with the room needed to find their potential. I made plenty of mistakes in my first year, but he never lost confidence in my ability or my approach. The best thing he reminded me of was to stick to my values and document what happens, both good and bad, so I could reflect upon it afterward. I must say, it was this positive working relationship that allowed us to have the output that we did for the season.

My experience as a first-year coordinator is one that I certainly will never forget. There were so many opportunities to learn about myself, how to work with others and the game of football itself. While it was not a perfect first outing, it did result in a 6-4 team record, a few school recording-breaking performances by offensive players, a Top 20 scoring offense in the nation (40.7 ppg), and a Top 20 passing offense in the nation (310 ypg). I must give the credit for our success to our staff and players because of their ability to work with me through this learning process. Many important lessons were learned during my first year as an offensive coordinator, and I am looking forward to learning more in seasons to come.

 

Caleb Corrill just finished his second season as Offensive Coordinator after serving as the Mount QB’s Coach the previous two seasons. Additionally, he serves the Mount’s Director of Recruiting. In the first year under Corrill’s watch, the Mount’s offense was ranked in the Top 20 in both Scoring (14) and Passing (18). Previous to joining the Mount, Corrill was coaching at his high school alma mater, Batavia High School from 2010-2014.


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Comments 3

  1. Pingback: HOGG: A Way Of Life For Offensive Linemen - AFCA Insider

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  3. Congratulations on a successful first year coach. With time you’ll find out that installing a specific style of offense or defense, although important, is not as important as knowing how to immediately fix it when it breaks down on game day. This will happen to all coordinators. Meet with as many defensive coordinators as possible, and this will better prepare you to fix things on game day. Sean Mc Vay went on record as saying that he was caught off guard by the Patriots’ use of five-man pressures with single high safety looks that were implemented off a quarter-quarter pre-snap base. These concepts are decades old, and he should have known how to fix it in game.

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