Coach’s Comments: What’s not to like with the Brady Bunch?

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Charles Fischer asked me to express my thoughts about the Oregon defense and its new coordinator after spring practice.  They’re almost all positive.

I’ll admit I was not a Brady Hoke fan when he was hired.  I wanted an “intellectual”, and I judged Brady Hoke to be a “tough-talking buffoon.”  Wrong.  Oh, the tough talking part was right — but in a good way.  And getting rid of my buffoon prejudice was helped by his significant weight loss.  But Hoke’s image more significantly and positively changed for me because of :

1. Listening to him talk — at the Oregon Coaches Clinic.  He definitely knows his stuff, and I was impressed by his presentation of a badly needed “simple but thorough” defensive system.  His macho rhetoric also seemed refreshingly needed to rebuild the Ducks’ defense. “A team will reflect the personality of its coach.”

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Gary Breedlove

Team Mighty Oregon’s defense pouncing all over Team Webfoot’s offense

2. Watching him (and his assistants) teach — at an Oregon practice. As I said in a previous article, “Rah-rah rhetoric in a bad teacher is worthless.”  Coaches  Aiken, Pellum, and Neal are excellent teachers, but sometime last year  they lost their way.  I called it then “delusions of grandeur.”  The Duck defensive coaches seemed to think their players were better, smarter, and more thoroughly prepared than they actually were.  The Ducks way too often played confused and made game-changing mental errors.

Coaches should be judged by how closely their players play to the maximum of their potential.  And many physical “mismatches” should be accepted.  But mental mistakes must be unacceptable.  Longtime Arizona State Head Coach, Frank Kush, used to make any players who made mental errors, AND those players’ assistant coaches, make punitive runs up a very steep hill, by the practice field.

Brady Hoke appears to have that same distain for mental errors.  He preached it in his clinic talk, and he and his assistants definitely seem to be enthusiastically practicing it.  Playing fast is a good thing; but practicing too fast — not thoroughly and precisely learning all the very necessary “little things” — can lead to confused, slow-playing, unaggressive, critical-mistake-making football players.

It wasn’t the 3-4 front that caused Oregon to be a bad defensive football team.  It was HOW the coaches taught the 3-4, and the many other supplemental defensive schemes.  It won’t be the 4-3 front that turns around the Oregon defense; it’ll be the way the coaches teach it.

So far, I’m very impressed with everything I’ve heard and seen.

3. Listening to Duck defensive players talk about how they’re being coached — on post-practice videos. They all seem to be honestly enthusiastic and optimistic about the defensive education they’re receiving.  Beats the hell out of guarded skepticism.  Fortunately, the Duck defenders are all very well-cast for the responsibilities of their positions.

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Gary Breedlove

Team Webfoot defense coming up big against Team Mighty Oregon’s receivers

Brady Hoke is making a genuine attempt to change the culture of the Oregon defensive players, and they know and appreciate that.

4. Watching and analyzing the spring game.  Yeah, the defense kept it simple, but you know what else was missing, besides a lot of different defensive “stuff”?  Defensive MISTAKES and offensive touchdowns.  We all know how explosive the Duck offense can be, and I never heard significant criticism of the QBs, but a constant Duck offense only scored 5 TDs. One touchdown was because of an easily correctable  mental error by a Duck safety.  Two others were 50-50 jump balls [great catches by Dillon Mitchell] in the end zone.  In thoroughly going over the game tape, I didn’t see a significant defensive mental error.

Keeping it simple and, therefore, playing smart, fast, and aggressive can be a wonderful thing. To me, the best coached defensive team in college football is Michigan State [and now Ohio State, which copied the Michigan State system], and they do less “stuff” than any other teams.  But Michigan State and Ohio State almost never make  mental errors, and the opponents’ offenses almost always make mistakes that give the ball back.

Brady Hoke wants to be a lot more attack-oriented than those other guys.  He wants to make things happen, not just wait for them to happen.  Can he attack and still keep it mistake-free?

Hopefully, we’re gonna have a lot of fun this year watching Brady’s Bunch show us how defense should be played.  “Be the predator, not the prey.”

 Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

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Coach Morris

Coach Morris

Coach Mike Morris spent 30 years coaching at seven different high schools throughout Southern California. He coached many players who went on to Pac-12 programs including Oregon, such as Saladin McCullough. He is a writer, Football analyst and a good friend of the Principal of the site.

  • jon joseph

    Great take Coach! I truly believe hiring Hoke was one of Coach Helfrich’s best moves to date.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Awesome Coach and I agree with everything that you said because a lot of it was common sense and that is something a lot of these kids now days don’t have a whole lot of. I like the fact how you said it wasn’t the 3-4 but the coach’s that failed the players because lets be honest the Ducks have a lot of talent on the defensive side but obviously wasn’t brought out from especially DP. I also think the lavish facility’s have had a affect on this Coaching staff and not all of them because I think Greatwood, Campbell and to some exception Coach Neal but I feel that their all getting a little complacent in that the AD and God Bless him Phil Knight are not being strict enough with the Business of Oregon Football as to I like to always remind the intellectual one’s ” Nobody remember’s 2nd place. ” Thanks Coach and I really believe Helfrich is Coaching not only for himself but also his staff so in that aspect the Hire of Yost and Hoke I believe will ressurect the program at least 1 more year and get back to the 4 Team Playoff because this is a loaded team that needs to be Coached to win it all. Sooner or later this staff is going to be gone and someone new and young like say Coach Herrman at Houston would I believe be a greta hire is this doesn’t work out.

  • goducks58

    Thanks Coach, for another great commentary. I agreed with your take that the glimpse we have of the defense is much improved. Moving to the 4-3 won’t be the magic bullet, but IMO, it will help with simpler gaps and an aggressive attack on the backfield. Hopefully the Fall Camp will provide further proof that the defense is on the upswing. (It HAS to be…. They really couldn’t have been much worse last year…. Even with a top NFL D lineman.)

  • Eric

    I like how he makes it clear that it’s not just switching to the 4-3 that’ll make it work. Some people seem to think that you can’t be aggressive in the 3-4. Not every 3-4 is a two gap, read and react system. There are one gap, attacking 3-4 systems.