Nike Coach of the Year Clinic: Day 1

Tag: Neil O’Donnell

7Mar 2011
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Nike Coach of the Year Clinic: Day 1

Danny Hope looks like this 100% of the time.

This past weekend I attended the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Several coaches at my school visited, and we all headed up on Thursday afternoon.  Due to some commitments after work, I left later than most of my colleagues.  I missed some talks from a Kutztown coach about the 4-2-5 and a Villanova coach about the Wildcat, but I was going to arrive in time to see Danny Hope, the head Boilermaker.

Since the clinic was held at the Holiday Inn, we checked in and headed down to the room.  While we were waiting for the elevator, I glanced back and a familiar face was walking through the door.  Danny Hope himself came around the corner and said, “How you guys doin’?”  I said, “Good, Coach.  How are you?”  He said, “Good to see you guys” as he sauntered down the hallway, presumably toward his room.

Let me tell you something about Danny Hope – he walks like a cowboy.  I assume he has old joint injuries, because he walks all bowlegged and stuff.  He was an offensive guard at Eastern Kentucky in the ’70’s and ’80’s, and offensive linemen often end up with bad knees from bending down all the time and lifting so much weight.

Shortly afterward Hope was the main speaker on Thursday night, and as I entered the banquet room, I noticed a familiar face sitting about two rows back.  He was wearing a baseball cap and a heavy coat, but I tapped my friend on the shoulder and said, “That’s Matt Millen sitting a couple rows behind us.”  Yep, the guy who drove the Detroit Lions even further into the ground was there, too.

Hope talked mostly about pass blocking fundamentals for offensive linemen.  We watched a lot of film of drills, but here were a few key points.

  • Offensive linemen should keep their nose on the defender’s inside number and have a “tit in each hand.”
  • Defensive players shouldn’t threaten the depth of the pocket.  In other words, he doesn’t want interior blockers (mostly centers and guards) to give ground when creating the pocket.  This refers mostly to defensive tackles and blitzing linebackers.
  • Defensive players also shouldn’t threaten the width of the pocket.  That means offensive tackles who hinge back shouldn’t allow defensive ends or outside linebackers to squeeze the pocket from the outside.  The tackle should keep his inside toe pointing toward the line of scrimmage to prevent from getting turned.
  • Tackles should only hinge backward immediately if the first player outside him on the line of scrimmage is “loose.”  In other words, if the man is close enough and fast enough to beat the OT to the inside, then he’s “tight” and the OT should protect the depth of the pocket by not hinging backward.
Millen was being super annoying.  For approximately half of Hope’s hour-long presentation, Millen was talking to someone sitting next to him.  A bunch of coaches were sitting there in the room, taking notes, learning, etc., and Millen was being completely disrespectful to the man on the stage.  At one point I even heard him say in a condescending tone something like, “High school kids aren’t going to be able to understand this stuff,” when Hope was talking about how much weight to load on your back leg.  Not that I’m a fan of Hope or anything, but rude is rude.
In the middle of Hope’s speech, a tall, well dressed guy walked in the door and sat somewhere behind us.  He looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place the face.  Then it dawned on me: Neil O’Donnell.  He didn’t have a beard anymore, but it was Neil O’Donnell nonetheless.

Neil O’Donnell tries to avoid Sean Jones

After Hope’s presentation the attendees retired to a separate room for a “coaches social” with beer and pizza.  Millen stood up and addressed the crowd, introducing surprise guest speaker O’Donnell.  The old quarterback talked a lot about his background.  The main gist of his speech was what he thinks quarterbacks are lacking in today’s game.  His assessment is that college quarterbacks (some of whom he trains) lack the ability to handle pressure.  He said his old coach Bill Parcells used to stand right behind him in practice and scream “NOW!” whenever he thought the timing was right to throw a pass.  And if he didn’t throw it right then, he would get his ass chewed out.  According to him, game day was easy since Parcells wasn’t standing right behind him.  O’Donnell was a little bit awkward and didn’t seem like he knew what he wanted to say, but I wasn’t expecting to see a former NFL quarterback speak, so I didn’t have any expectations.
As for Hope he was very, very serious.  I don’t think I saw him crack a smile the entire evening.  I learned quite a bit about stance, footwork, technique, and practice drills, but he wasn’t a very inspiring speaker.  I do have to give Hope some credit, though.  He was perhaps the most energetic presenter of the entire weekend. He hopped on and off stage several times throughout the evening, and every time he did, he looked like a 70-year-old man.  But when it came time to demonstrating footwork and technique, that guy got down into a good stance, showed good footwork, and really worked his hands.  In his opening comments, he said “Explanation without demonstration is simply conversation.”  He said that demonstration from coaches seems to be disappearing, and he certainly put his words into action.