Create an environment on the practice field that is turnover hungry using these drills.
By Brian Mazzone
Stafford/Somers/East Windsor Co-op (CT)
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We try to create an environment on the practice field that is turnover hungry. Through drills and mentality, we focus days of the week and segments of practice on forcing turnovers and getting our hands on the football of an opponent.
Creating the Hunger for Takeaways
Daily in team periods we focus on a “Loose Change” period. The Loose Change is something that I picked up from the University of Dayton years ago. We took the idea and put our own spin to it. We create this starting the first day of the season when we run team. The veterans know the routine, but the new players need to understand the process. The idea is that every time there is a ball on the ground someone needs to pick it up. It can be an incomplete pass, a fumble, a tipped pass, interception, anything.
The idea behind it is to create an environment where the kids are hungry for the football. This gets defensive players wanting the football at all times because there are rewards. It also gets your players to play beyond the whistle. There are always moments where players “believe” the play is over. In our minds the play is not over at the whistle, it’s over when we have the football.
Each week we have a coach who tallies the recoveries. He keeps track of every time someone picks up the football. At the end of the week we give out team awards that we post to our social media page. They are given a necklace with a giant half dollar on it and a cane with a dollar symbol on it. At the end of the year, we tally all the turnovers that the players have created. The winner of the loose change concept gets a gift card to a place of their choice for their victory.
Focus on turnovers
The same way that coaches harp on tackling technique and tackling drills, we harp on turnovers. When we have our weekly tackling circuits, we sprinkle in turnover stations. For example, we have two tackling stations and two turnover stations. We try to hit this two days a week. The one thing that we want the kids to understand is that we can’t just expect turnovers to happen. We need to believe that we are forcing the turnovers and that we can create them. If we just expect it to happen, we will be left without the football and having missed great opportunities to score.
Peanut Drill Application
This is a drill taken from Charles “Peanut” Tillman. Tillman led the NFL in turnovers many times during his career. His idea was to poke the ball loose. We practice drill work where we have two players going to perform a tackle. The first player is going to pursue and secure the tackle. The second player comes in and “peanuts” the ball. The player focuses on getting an aggressive poke/punch on the football. The idea behind it is to be aggressive on the ball, not just to the ball. By being aggressive on the ball the ball carrier is most likely to lose focus and handle of the football.
By being aggressive on the ball the ball carrier is most likely to lose focus and handle of the football.
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To our staff, the art of forcing turnovers is not done by accident. We believe that forcing turnovers needs to be practiced just as frequently as tackling, running routes, or linemen footwork. There needs to be muscle memory related drills that develop a mindset for the players to attack these plays instinctively. In order to develop the instincts it must be continually practiced and taught.
Meet Coach Brian Mazzone: Coach Mazzone recently completed his third season as head coach of the Stafford/Somers/East Windsor Co-op. Mazzone has a record of 22-8 in three seasons, was Pequot Eastern Division Coach of the Year in 2015, and Co-Conference Coach of the Year in 2016. SSEW, which had not posted a winning season since 1996, has qualified for the Connecticut CIAC Class S Playoffs each of the past two years. This past season SSEW went 10-2 and competed in the Class S Semifinals. Mazzone is also the defensive coordinator.