FROM THE SIDELINES: Communication is key on defense
by Mason Shelton, Trigg County Student-Athlete
Sep 03, 2014 | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s fourth down, five yards out from the goal line, and I am playing defense. It’s the last play of the game, and we could lose it with a score from the opposing team. I’m expecting a run up the middle. Ball snaps, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back, I take my first step up towards the line of scrimmage… until I hear someone yell “PASS!” Instantly, I drop back, and the ball comes my way. I swat it down, game over, and Trigg wins!

In this situation, I wouldn’t have made the play if it weren’t for the “heads up” from my teammates. In football, communication is important, and it is especially important on crucial plays such as this one.

Effective defenses never have a silent moment on the field. Defensive coordinator Dixie Jones preaches communication before, during and after the play.

Before the snap, coaches must communicate with players to call in plays. This is often done by hand motions, since a coach’s voice may not be heard over the crowd.

On offense, there may be times where head coach Coby Lewis will call the quarterback over to the sidelines in order to give him more detailed instructions. On defense, Coach Jones will call the play in to one of the linebackers, and then they will relay it out to the rest of the team.

Out of all the positions I have played, I’ve realized that communication in the secondary (defensive backs and safties) might be the most complicated. Before the play, safeties have to make the coverage call on the field, because they can see the offensive formation better than a coach would from the sideline.

After the ball is snapped, my job as a safety is to get a run/pass read on the offensive lineman. If the lineman stands up, it is a pass. If they move forward, it is a run. Safeties are supposed to call “RUN!” or “PASS!” to the rest of the team. This helps the cornerbacks stay with their man or release to make a tackle on the ball carrier.

Safeties are not the only one responsible for communicating this call. Players standing on the sideline also help with the run/pass call. In fact, the sideline may actually have a better view of the play when it comes to recognizing some plays like the read option and play-action passes.

On pass plays, safeties must communicate with the cornerback in order to switch receivers in zone coverage. This on-the-field communication is probably the most important for a safety.

Communication is a great thing, but a miscommunication can lead to absolute failure. University of Kentucky football fans might remember when Kentucky beat ninth-ranked Louisville. Louisville’s secondary left Stevie Johnson wide-open on the sidelines for a touchdown. While Kentucky fans are glad it happened, the Louisville secondary could have prevented this if they would have communicated a little bit better with each other.

Some of Trigg County’s assistant coaches watch the game from the booth. They can communicate with the coaches down below using two-way radio headsets. From this different point of view, coaches up top can suggest plays or adjustments that coaches on the field may not see.

Just as people must signal when driving a car, players must let other players know what they plan to do, too. Sometimes, players have so many things that they must watch at once, that being able to hear what is going on is a valuable tool. With that said, players must always be talking with each other in order for that tool to be effective.

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