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Jim Dawson, Senior Consultant, Secondary, Trinity University (TX)

44 years of coaching football (15 high school and 29 in college) have taught this Texas coach more than a few things about how to run a good scout team. Find out more here...


By Jim Dawson
Senior Consultant, Secondary
Trinity University (TX)

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We all know that we need a “good look” on our practice fields from players running the opponent’s scheme. The task of asking lower level players on a depth chart to perform and execute at a high level is a daunting task. For me, managing good scout teams has always been one of my passions. I am speaking primarily from the defensive side of the ball. That said, I’m sure these principles will apply to all scout teams. Perhaps these tips may help the situation and provide the best “show” in our weekly preparation against opponent schemes.

Tip #1 – Use Your Best Available Players

Over the years, I have found that nothing can beat reps against talent. For this reason, we go “good on good” in 7v7 and inside run. The team portion of the practices is then manned by our scouts. Everywhere I’ve been, we have subscribed to the adage that if you are not in the 2 deep you are servicing on scout team. These guys are our resource so try to make the best of the talent available. This means that position coaches need to know that they cannot be hoarding talent. They must be bought into the understanding that all players that are not in the 2 deep should be available.

Putting the best huddle on the field can be a challenge. Finding offensive linemen and getting them to give a good look is the first challenge. Many times injuries and banged up guys deplete this group. There are times we’ve used a TE as a tackle, a large back as a TE or even one of our own defensive line or LB to create an OL to service. Skill spots seem to run a little deeper but there are times we use a DB to simulate a receiver, a running back or an option QB.

Tip #2 – Use the Classroom

Preparing the unit begins in the classroom by showing video of the opponent scheme and teaching them the look. This provides a foundation that we can build off of in our pre-practice walk through. It is important to note that we sometimes will not teach our scout groups the more difficult concepts like an option attack or a timed wing T, (fly motion), that requires reading skills and timing. Instead, we will teach it in our group drills or walk through the play and check the fits. We try to match talent in the spots that best imitate the opponent.


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  • The scout card system that Coach Dawson and the staff uses at Trinity, including how positions, field position, formations and shifts are indicated.
  • The two-huddle scout team operation that Trinity uses to prepare its defenders to play no-huddle, up-tempo offensive systems.
  • How Trinity segments its team periods by personnel, down and distance and field locations.
  • The progression that Coach Dawson uses in its first practice of the week which teaches scout players how to run the opponents base plays against Trinity’s base alignments, sub alignments and pressures.

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The scout team units really only have 2 days of work. We try to instill pride in the value of their role. We ask them to perform a difficult task and expect a good show. Our defensive guys are taught to appreciate these guys and not to take advantage of them by excessive play or finish. We foster a positive vibe and our players get along, work hard, play hard but not in a cheap or demeaning way. Most importantly, our scouts actually have fun while preparing our defense for the game. We acknowledge that with “Atta-boys”, weekly awards, and the players and coaches showing they care. At our banquet each year we honor the scout O/D player of the year. Often times, these guys go on to be tremendous players for us later in their careers.

Meet Coach Dawson: Jim Dawson is beginning his 44th year of coaching (15 high school & 29 college) at all levels. He is now entering his 7th year at Trinity after a brief retirement period. He said, “I don’t fish, hunt, play golf or work on old cars; football is what I love. This is an opportunity to continue coaching and work with a great group of young coaches.”Jim is always open to talking ball and remaining active in the game. Jim is a proud member of the THSCA 25 years+ and a lifetime 35 + of the AFCA.



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