Hot Reads: What Makes a Coach Hard to Game Plan Against?
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads: What Makes a Coach Hard to Game Plan Against?

November 07, 2017

What makes a coach difficult to game plan against?

Everyone’s favorite former (for now?) football coach Les Miles tackled that one in a Reddit AMA yesterday. Miles faced Tom Osborne teams eight times as an assistant during stints as the offensive line coach at Colorado (1982-86) and the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (1995-97). As the Cowboys’ head coach Miles also faced Frank Solich twice (2002, 2003), going 1-1 against the Huskers.

Despite the history, game planning to face the Huskers didn’t make Miles’ top two. I’m not implying they should have, just letting you know ahead of time in case you were here hoping for a Nebraska link. There isn’t one.

But I still found Miles’ answer plenty interesting. There were two key parts to it. This is part one:

Defensively, even though you knew generally where they were going to line up, the way Alabama played technique made it very difficult to play against them. The plan was pretty simple on paper — you could draw up what you wanted to do and line everyone up perfectly. But once you were on the field, they played with such great technique that oftentimes your plan didn't matter much.

Notice Miles made no mention of talent there. Most years LSU was one of maybe three or four schools in the country that could line up against Alabama and not feel at a massive talent deficit. Maybe that’s the reason, but more likely in my mind is that Miles actually views Alabama’s level of execution as its key differentiator. Reminds me of some of the things I’ve heard from a certain coach in Ames this season. The difference there being, of course, when you multiply an intense attention to detail by 4- and 5-star talent you get the last decade of Alabama football. That might make it even more notable then that Miles mentions “technique” twice.

This is part two of Miles’ answer:

Offensively, Urban Meyer has a style of offense when he has a certain kind of quarterback — i.e. Tim Tebow or JT Barrett — that gives him a running advantage with numbers and the best possible play action scenarios. Those play action wrinkles were fun to work against, and in some cases, copy for ourselves.

So here you have scheme. (And you also have Miles mentioning the top two coaches in the game. Probably not a coincidence.) Some of what Miles has to say here reminds me of some of the things written recently about a certain coach in Orlando.

The fact that Miles listed Meyer and Saban is probably an indication of the level LSU was at during those years. The Tigers could go into those games most years as equals to the teams of the two most successful coaches of this era. And that’s actually what makes Miles’ answer somewhat portable.

I think what he’s really saying when you combine the answers is that when the playing field is mostly level – no matter what that level is – the actual advantages are small and can come in different ways. Interesting things to consider as Nebraska heads towards another offseason.

Also, Miles promised to answer this question “more in depth” on his podcast, “Les is More,” this week. New episodes are released on Wednesdays.

The Grab Bag

  • Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrisey makes a plea for Jim Harbaugh to become the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
  • UCF takes a shot at the Civil ConFLiCT trophy, a Bob Diaco creation during his time at UConn, in its game notes for the Knights-Huskies game this week.
  • Here's another report that Texas A&M is planning to move on from Kevin Sumlin at the end of the season.
  • ICYMI: Football, volleyball and basketball press conference reports from Monday.

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