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tendenciesBy Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

What makes a tendency? It was a common query among coaches that contributed to our special report on offensive and defensive game planning this pre-season. XandOLabs.com surveyed those coaches who won at least half of their games the last three seasons to find out their metrics on what should be noted and what should be ignored in game planning. And now that the season is gearing towards the playoffs, their advice on what to spend time on (and what not to) could be vital for your success.

By Mike Kuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs


Insiders Members: Click here to login to the Insiders and read the full-length version of this research report.



What makes a tendency?  It was a common query among coaches that contributed to our special report on offensive and defensive game planning this pre-season.  We wanted to find out.  So, we surveyed those coaches who won at least half of their games over the last three seasons to find out their metrics on what should be noted and what should be ignored in game planning.  And now that the season is gearing towards the playoffs, their advice on what to spend time on (and what not to) could be vital for your success.

In order to do this, we send a five-question survey on how they define and utilize opponent’s tendencies on offense, defense and special teams.  Some of the reputable programs that contributed include:

Please Note: All current records were accurate as of 10/20/14


Xavier High School (CT), currently 6-0

Ben Davis High School (IN), currently 7-2

Winnetonka High School (MO), currently 7-2

Nassau Community College (NY), currently 6-0

West Florida High School (FL), currently 6-1

Xaverian Brothers High School (MA), currently 6-0

Westfield High School (VA), currently 6-1

Choctaw High School (OK), currently 6-1

Union County High School (GA), currently 7-1



Question #1:   

What is your definition of a tendency (this could be offensive or defensive)?



Without going the Webster’s route, we wanted to find out from coaches how they defined a tendency.   We all hear that term being thrown around a lot, but we were curious to see what coaches spend their time on preparing their players and what is ignored.  Their responses are below. 



“For us, a tendency such as down and distance must be over 65 percent. We look at the formation and play we take the number play out of each.”- Andy Guyon, defensive coordinator, Xavier High School (CT).

“Tendency is anything that gives something away to the opposition based on what you are inclined to do (have shown to do in regularity).”- Ian Gardner, Quarterbacks Coach, Desert Eagle High School

“A clear pattern or tip-off based on specific formation, personnel, down/distance, etc.”- Zach Cunningham, Defensive Coordinator, Winnetonka High School

“An inclination to do something by personnel or formation that creates a recognizable and usable predictor.”- Tony Bowman, Defensive Line Coach, Kentucky Christian College

“Technically, a tendency would be anything that occurs more than 50% of the time.  However, to be useful, it should occur at least 75% of the time.”- Mark Bates,  Head Coach, Village Christian High School

“For us, the term means 3 things: statistical tendencies, the tactical tendencies of the play-caller and also the human tendencies of the kids we'll be facing.  All good teams have certain tendencies, but a tendency is noteworthy only if it provides a specific weakness you can take advantage of.  For example, if you know your opponent plays an 8 man box but you also know you can't win matchups on their corners, the information doesn't help much.”- Joe Metzka, former Offensive Coordinator, O’Fallon High School

“My definition of a tendency is something that’s easily remembered by me, our coaches and our players that is a dead give away to the play our opponents are running at that given moment. I mean really think about it.  You can make nearly anything a tendency. It’s all about making the information work for you and your kids. I’ve had teams that could remember everything from alignment of the running back dictates the play, to knowing if it’s 2nd and 4-6 and their on our 35 on the right hash their running this play. The team I currently have can’t remember crap. I mean they barely remember their assignments, so throwing a bunch of extra information on top of them doesn’t help. Matter of fact it hurts us. The less info I give them the better we play.”- John Johnson, Defensive Coordinator, East Lawrence High School.

“For me a tendency is a defensive action that I am relatively certain will happen. It is not a tendency if there is doubt that it will happen.”- Doug Taracuk, Offensive Coordinator, Dublin Scioto High School (OH)

“Something a team does enough that I can have a educated guess of when they will repeat whatever is it we see.” - Ordell Walker, Head Coach, Bluefield College

“Something we can assume the opponent will do in a certain down/distance, field position, or against certain formations or personnel we determine a tendency.”- Justin Iske, Offensive Line Coach, Fort Hays State University (KS).  

“Something that indicates a certain frequency as related to a play, i.e. hash, boundary strength etc.”- Al Fornaro, Xaverian Brothers High School

“A tendency in football is an action or reaction that a player or coach will exhibit most of the time in a specific situation.”- Jerry McCoy, running backs coach, Hopewell High School (VA) 

“Play-call habit either known or unknown to a coordinator.”- Jay Michael, Wide Receivers Coach, Bishop Verot High School.

We would define a tendency as something a team does a multitude of time from a formation, with an alignment, a split, etc.”- Joe Ginn, Defensive Coordinator, Choctaw High School (OK).

A offensive, defensive or special teams play/call that is performed in specific situations as well as down/distance. When something is done beyond 50% it is a definite tendency.”- Joe Hadachek, Head Coach, Union County High School.   


Question #4:

In your opinion, how much film review (plays or games) is needed in order to develop a clear picture of a tendency?



In most high school programs, there is a two-game requirement on exchanges.  But many coaches take it upon themselves to study more film their opponents.  So, we wanted to find out how much inventory is needed to get an accurate picture of tendencies.  While the majority of coaches stated 2-3 games are sufficient, we did find there were some exceptions (on both sides of that figure) that may be all they need to generate a tendency.  These responses are below:




3-Game Reasoning

“I think after three games you can get a clear picture of what people want to do and when.”- Andy Guyon

“I think 3 games is efficient enough.  For bigger games, we usually breakdown 1 or 2 more games so sometimes up to 5 games we will scout and breakdown data.  This week we are playing a lesser opponent and we broke down 2 games this week on them.  I also do this for self-scouting reports for our offense.  I will breakdown/self-scout all of our games, and will run a report based on the last 3 games or what how many games we exchanged with the other team.”- Ian Gardner

“At least 3, preferably the latest 3. However I will pull data from as many films as possible. If there is something that is a team's "bread & butter", it will show up in all games.”- Zach Cunningham

“At least 3 games. You can get a picture of tendencies from 2 films, but we only tend to get things concrete when we watch three films. But as always the more video you can break down, some tendencies get stronger and others get weaker.”- John Johnson


Less than 3-game Reasoning

“I really need to see at least 2 games. That gives me enough game like situations to get an evaluation on what I'm up against. Its helpful if I can get 2 films vs. opponents that are at least similar in their formations, otherwise I am guessing based on personnel what they will try and do against us. Luckily the spread has become popular in a lot of programs, but can be difficult at times.”- Jerry McCoy

“Last two games of opponent plus previous year's matchup against us (if applicable).  Specifically, the first series of the second half and all 3rd down calls in close games.  That is typically when coordinators use their best calls.  First series of the 1st quarter are often scripted and do not reflect play calls later in close games.”- Jay Michael

“One.    We really put time into the ONE game that resembles our team the most.   If a video has an offense similar to ours the greatest amount of time will be studying that film.      Getting how a team lines up and how they defend, for example is more important that a four game breakdown to us.”- Joe Hadachek



More than 3-game Reasoning

“Never seem to have enough film - try to watch 4-5 games to get a feel for what they are comfortable with and what they feel is there go to plays and players, I watch for scheme the first time through, watch for personnel the second time through, watch for match ups the third time, then use computer data to check my thoughts.”- Mike Kirschner

“Four games is our threshold for starting to see an accurate picture of what our opponent likes to do.”- Mark Bates

“We break down and input data on opponents last 4 games.  In addition, we then cut the film into every formation we use and make specific cut ups within that formation to get a clear picture of every adjustment that was made within those 4 games.”- Joe Osovet

“As much film is available, in order to run the mathematical tendencies. But in many cases you can determine the tactical tendencies of the play caller based on a smaller sample size, film from previous years and even on what you know about him as a person from face to face visits.”- Joe Metzka

“We will watch film on Sunday, but I will continue to study every day until Friday morning to see if I can pick up something that will help.  We go through as many films as we can and pull spread clips out 2x2, 3x1, empty, etc...mark those clips and get down and distance.”- Harry Lees, Head Coach, West Florida High School.

“I think film review is very important.  I'll review as much as possible.  For instance we have 4-5 games on our upcoming opponent I want it all broke down.  With that breakdown however I think some has to be taken with a grain of salt.  For instance, what is the opposing defense doing, does it correlate with our defensive scheme?  Did they predominately run do to a large score differential, did they throw a bunch trying to come back?  Was there a rain, or wind conditions?  I think breaking down film can be very accurate so long as it's done with a grain of salt at times.”- Joe Ginn

High school can be a little tricky but I will watch everything I can get my hands on normally we have three to four games. I like to watch the opponents last game and then jump to their first game to see how much they have progressed over the course of the season. Watching the next games in order allows you to see how they have adapted their personnel to the personality they want to be.”- Eric Peterson


What You're Missing:

Join XandOLabs.com exclusive Insiders membership program and gain full access to this research report, which includes:

  • The metrics coaches are using to determine tendencies. What is accurate? Is it 70 percent? 65 percent? 33 percent? The reasoning behind successful coaches assertations on how they assess a tendency.
  • Complete listings of the tendencies that coaches analyze- which are not relegated to simply down and distance and field position.
  • Self-scouting methods that these coaches have developed in order to break their own offensive and defensive tendencies.
  • Detailed examples of situations from coaches who have decoded tendencies and the methods they used to exploit them.

Join X&O Labs' Insiders Website. Click Here!





We all know opponents have tendencies, but we wanted to explore what is considered to be a tendency and how coaches can take advantage of them.  Our goal was to present data on what you need to devote time to in your studies, and what you should not waste your time with.  




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