Teaching Situational Football Part Three: “Mock Game Thursdays” and the 4-Day Situational Teaching Workweek

Sep 8, 2023 | Practice Organization, Program Development

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Researcher/Co-Founder
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar



Once pre-season camp concludes, the teaching of special situations does not. Now coaches will be more opponent specific when working in situational football during the season. This case will focus on how our sources segment their game weeks to work situations in practice. We noted that the prior model of waiting until the day before the game (Thursday for a high school model) is an outdated method of working in situations. Fact is that if you’re not working in some form of situational football in the beginning of your prep week, you may be doing your players a disservice.

Since high school and college programs work off two different schedules, we segmented our research into days. For the most part, coaches work off a five-day work week. One day a week is always off, usually Sundays for high school coaches and Mondays for college coaches. And with games being played on Fridays (for high school) and Saturdays (for college) that leaves a five-day workweek for our coaches. We wanted to provide a snapshot of how our sources are filling that five-day workweek with various special situational periods.


Day 1: “Choice Down Emphasis and Situational Review” 

For the most part, Mondays are designated as “non-consequential down day,” meaning this is where coaches will spend time working through opponents’ first and second down tendencies. Texas A&M Kingsville defensive coordinator Jamie Bisch calls these situations “choice downs” meaning this is where he will spend a large chunk of his time working on open field (-16 to +31 typically) downs. Here he can tweak and adjust our defense to any twists and quirks the offense might have. “On Monday I want to have a pretty good set of ideas we want to run on choice downs and this is a collaborative effort by our whole defensive staff,” he said. “After choice downs I will start to gather ideas for 3rd Down, 4th Down, Red Zone (Approximately +30 to +11) , and Goal Line (Hi +10 to +4, Lo +3 and In) at some point on Monday evening. At this point I just want to start thinking about those things but won't always have a game plan in place just yet.”

At the high school level where most Mondays are designated as JV football day, Brookfield Central High School (WI) offensive coordinator Clay Iverson spends his time working walk throughs with his varsity players against opponents base fronts and coverages. After conditioning, he will work in a 35-play script specific to his opponent and what he wanted to attack that week. After this, he’ll compose a 20-play script to work the “green zone” ( -30 to the +30), then 10 plays in the “Red” zone (+25). Finally, he’ll finish practice with a 5-play package for his emergency quarterback. These are five plays he knows his non-QB emergency guy can run. As high school coaches can attest, during the course of the season, this turns out to be an invaluable period.

Mondays can also be a day for coaches to make cutups of the specific situations that occurred during the previous game and discuss what went right and what went wrong. There are coaches like Matt Kelly, the offensive coordinator at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA) that will go back and score his players efficiency in situations- using the metrics in case one of this study- and spend time reviewing them. “We will go through if we didn’t do something well enough or we screwed up really badly,” he said. “We’ll talk about hey, ‘this was a two-minute scenario and you got 8 yards but instead of getting the first down or going out of bounds you didn’t do either.’ It’s a reminder for them.”