Les Miles on the “Red Zone” Offense Package
We got a chance to see LSU head coach Les Miles on Saturday at the Nike Clinic in Atlantic City. Many big name coaches like Miles often make quick work of these clinics, tell a few funny stories, speak in generalities and make a beeline for home. Fortunately for all of us there, Coach Miles decided to go away from this script and get into great detail about LSU’s Red Zone offense.
While LSU was crowned as National Champions last year, they also led the Southeastern Conference in Red Zone efficiency. Coach Miles used up every minute of his allotted time and even went over by more than an hour to give us an in-depth look at how LSU approaches offense in the Red Zone. While I can’t go into every detail of his presentation, what I can say is LSU focuses on scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone. It is the first thing they work on in Monday football practice and the last thing they work on on Thursdays. What surprised me the most is LSU has a “go to” play they will use in many of their short yardage situations. So many people have told me at the “upper levels” you can’t impose your will on people, that if the defense knows what you are going to run they will always shut you down.
LSU’s “Go To” Play
While many people criticize youth football teams and coaches for being predictable and going to a “go to” play when we need it, big time programs like LSU think the same way us youth coaches do in many ways. LSU LOVES to run Jacob Hester off-tackle to the left on a very simple power play when they need short yardage in the Red Zone. LSU down blocks the playside defenders, kicks out the end man on the line of scrimmage with a running back and they pull the backside guard up the hole to the linebacker. The playside wing or flanker also blocks inside on the outside linebacker, does this play sound familiar? If you run my offense, it should. The interesting part wasn’t that LSU ran this football play, the interesting part is LSU was so predictable at running this play anytime they needed short yardage down close. LSU knew they were going to run the play, the defense knew LSU was going to run the play and LSU knew the defense knew LSU was going to run the play BUT LSU ran the play anyways. Invariably they got the touchdown or first down with nearly flawless execution. There wasn’t a bunch of broken tackles or great runs, Jacob Hester is a hard working kid, but he is a very ordinary running back. It was just great execution by everyone on the offense that made the play work well nearly every time.
What coach Miles emphasized was this football play, while simple, was of extreme importance to the success of his football team. It is always the first play they teach their kids every year and is often the last play they rep before they wrap up their last full contact football practice of the week. The moral of the story is: make sure you have a “go to” play you can execute perfectly when you need it and don’t worry so much about being “predictable”. Starting and ending with a great off-tackle play may not be the hottest thing going right now, it’s not the “Pistol” or West Coast Offense, but who cares. It helped LSU win a national title and could help you win a league championship.
Coach Miles Youth Football Story
Coach Miles stayed around afterward and let his guard down a bit. His youngest son played youth football for the first time in 2007. This is a kid Coach Miles wasn’t sure would ever play any organized sports, let alone football. The boy is into other things including video games and has never been very physical. He related a story of how this boys youth coach encouraged a visibly weaker player who was giving his all to the team, Coach Miles son. Now the boy can’t wait to go to football practice and is very gung-ho, the kid lives for it now. Coach Miles got visibly choked up while telling this story and was very appreciative of the job youth coaches do, especially the encouraging kind like the one that coaches his boy.
Coach Miles was great to speak with in person and I found him quite humble and approachable, he was less the story teller and more the X and O coach at this event. I don’t know much about the man but I have a positive opinion after this up close and personal interaction with him.
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