- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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" 'Find your opponent's weakness and exploit it!' I keep telling my men. 'Every player has a weakness!' And if you're smaller, you have to think bigger. The fact our men believe they can use their brains to defeat a physically superior opponent pays dividends you can't reckon with—they're so great.
"It takes a man to play defense. We say anybody can play offense but it takes a man to play defense. You must have a few linemen who are big enough to defend the center of your line. You must have people in the secondary, the containing portion of the defense, who have speed enough to keep the play always inside of them and in front of them. Football is a game of movement, 100 %. It's a series of one-punch rounds. It's like everybody comes out to throw one punch because the offensive will snap the ball and run the play. It's the question of who makes the correct decision and who makes the bad decision, and they might both make the perfect decision, then you get into the area of which is the better football team. If our team will block better and tackle better and run better, we'll have a good chance of winning, if we don't make mistakes.... In football most teams defeat themselves. If we never get a penalty, if we never get a pass intercepted, if we never fumble and always try to execute our assignment, we'll probably win. We should be able to control all of those things il our organization and practice and preparation are adequate—with the possible exception of the fumble.... An intercepted pass will defeat you right now. It has a shock element.... Running is the most important fundamental there is; balance footwork, agility, quickness, reflexes, reactions.... Everything you're going to do is based on trying to defeat the clock. You must have an effective offense and a stout defense and they must be able to handle the kicking game in all of its ramifications. The kicking game provides the margin of winning or losing in most close contests more often than any of the other factors. Kickoffs, kickoff returns, punting, punt coverage, punt returns, block kick plays, field goals and points after touchdowns.
"All this has to be taught and learned within the limited time allowed for football practice. There's no limit on practice in any other sport except basketball," Wilkinson said almost ruefully.
"According to the rules now," he said, "we're permitted 40 hours of practice in the spring. In the fall, we start about September 1st and many people are playing their first game September 17th, so you have about 15 practice days because you can't really practice the day before the game. Our season is only nine weeks. Yet baseball teams play 154 games during the summer, and they have six weeks of spring training."
ACCENT THE NEGATIVE
A member of the rules committee of the National Football Coaches Association and also on its board, Wilkinson feels strongly about this subject. "It is my considered belief, " he said, "that the practice rules put in with the thought of controlling the activities of the coach in helping to keep football and basketball within the bounds of propriety, magnify the problems instead of solve them.
"With not enough practice time allotted, you've got only one outlet left; that's go recruit the boy who already can do it. If you had more practice time, you'd have a chance of bridging the gap between talent and ordinary ability plus a great desire. Then recruiting would not be as important as it is and the coach would be able to do what he was hired to do; what he enjoys doing and what he derives satisfaction from—and that's teaching boys to play football.
"There's a lot of difference between that and going to the parents of a boy and asking them why don't they enroll their son in your school. Most people feel that a football coach in looking for candidates for his team is trying to find the best athletes available from a physical standpoint. It's absolutely true we have to have athletic ability. You can't deny that or belittle it, but I am totally of the opinion that because football is a morale game, because it is primarily a game of the heart, and I don't mean to sound sentimental, I believe you must first find a boy of character, a boy who first must be a good enough college student to do college work without undue difficulty, and to be able to graduate from college. If he doesn't have that much academic ability, he doesn't belong in college, that's all there is to it. I believe college athletics are for college students. Most people don't believe coaches feel that way. But they do.
"Football players are criticized and chewed on all the time, but the competition and recruiting in basketball for a guy who's 6-feet-7-inches tall makes football recruiters look like a bunch of kids in a marble game."
NOT ONLY THE BRIGHT