Penn State coaches clinic: Friday morning

Penn State coaches clinic: Friday morning

April 5, 2009

I got home yesterday from the Penn State coaches clinic. The clinic was held on Friday and Saturday and culminated with an intrasquad scrimmage. A lot happened and it was very interesting, so I’ll report it in segments.

The clinic was held at Holuba Hall, PSU’s indoor practice facility. The building is nothing spectacular, but it has two fields adjacent to each other, each one about 70 yards long. There were chairs and makeshift video screens in two corners of the facility. The offensive coaches (WR coach Mike McQueary, QB coach Jay Paterno, offensive coordinator/RB coach Galen Hall, and OL coach Dick Anderson) were going to talk in one corner, and the defensive coaches (LB coach Ron Vanderlinden, defensive coordinator/CB coach Tom Bradley, DL coach Larry Johnson, S coach Kermit Buggs) in the other. I stuck mainly with the defense.

Ron Vanderlinden – linebackers
I was interested in hearing Vanderlinden speak, not only because PSU always produces good linebackers, but because there were rumors that he might become Michigan’s defensive coordinator before Greg Robinson arrived. He clearly knows what he’s talking about, but he’s not a very dynamic speaker. Luckily, he demonstrated some of the drills he does with his linebackers and had highlights of his former star linebackers, such as Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor. He really emphasized the linebacker stance and remaining in that position – knees over toes, almost in a squat position – throughout a running play. He also talked extensively about teaching his linebackers to shuffle while remaining square to the line, saying he doesn’t use carioca drills (where players cross their feet) because the legs cross over naturally, but the shuffle is an unnatural movement. He doesn’t believe in doing a lot of different drills, just doing the same drills over and over.

Tom Bradley – defensive coordinator/cornerbacks
Bradley reminded me somewhat of Tobin Bell (Jigsaw from the Saw movies), slightly because of his looks and slightly because of his voice. He went through his defensive philosophy and stressed tackling; he said that for every 10 yards gained, there’s at least one missed tackle. To add on to that, he talked about “explosion plays” which are plays that gain 25+ yards. Teams that have zero explosion plays average 6.8 points per game. Two explosion plays give you 14.8 points per game. But if you give up three explosion plays, opposing teams will score 28.7 points per game.

Larry Johnson – defensive line
Larry Johnson is the father of the former 2,000 yard rusher and current Kansas City Chief running back of the same name. Johnson sounds like a preacher. If I were a recruit, this guy could make me want to run through a brick wall. A brick wall covered in bee stingers. He talked about being a good person and a good coach, and he wants to start a “new generation of coaching” in which coaches don’t swear at their players. He said that’s not how you teach young men. And it’s hard to argue with his coaching methods, considering the success he’s had at producing first round talent on the defensive line. He had some very interesting things to say about defensive line play, especially the first step. He also had video of some superb defensive line drills that I’ll talk about in more detail when I get to the recap of Saturday morning’s session. He was the best presenter I saw.

Dick Anderson – offensive line
After sitting through three consecutive defensive presentations, I thought I’d go over to the offensive corner. Jay Paterno was scheduled to speak at the last session, and even though I coach OL, DL, and LBs, it’s hard to understand the game if you don’t understand quarterback play. Unfortunately, the schedule had been rejiggered and instead of seeing JayPa, I observed the monotonous skeleton named Dick Anderson. Anderson is approximately 700 years old and was the head coach at Rutgers from 1984 until 1990. A fellow coach on my high school’s staff began counting the number of times he said “all right?” He repeated that phrase 95 times in 25 minutes. But it was more like, “Okay, on the snap of the ball, awwright, our playside guard, awwright, takes a reach step and reads the strongside linebacker, awwright . . . .” From what I’ve seen of PSU’s offensive line, I’ve never been impressed. His linemen don’t finish their blocks and don’t exactly blow people off the ball, so I spent more time thinking about what we were going to have for lunch than listening to Anderson.

In case you were wondering, they served us cold cut sandwiches, bags of chips, macaroni salad, and Pepsi products.

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