03 Jun 2012
If you subscribe to my Twitter account (@FO_ASchatz) you may have seen me send out a picture yesterday morning from the start of Eric Mangini's "football fundamentals" camp in Hartford. You also may have wondered why I sent one picture and no more. Well, it was pouring all morning and I didn't want to soak my phone. Crazy insanity. We were all out there in the pouring rain running 750 high schoolers through football drills. When I say "we," I mean the volunteers, who consist of a mixture of NFL coaches, a few ex-NFL players and college players who know Eric, a lot of Connecticut high school coaches, and a few other friends. (I was not the only writer this year; Seth Wickersham was there helping out too, along with the guy who runs this blog.) It's too bad, because I wanted to send out some pictures of some of the folks there. They gave all the coaches these cheap thin plastic rain poncho things and you have not truly appreciated the NFL until you have seen Rob Ryan and Rex Ryan in ridiculous goofy blue rain ponchos.
(By the way, if anybody doesn't like the Ryan brothers, let me tell you it is impossible to dislike the Ryan brothers after watching them tossing up passes and teaching high school kids to play defensive back. Man, are they having fun out there.)
Anyway, the second half of the day, after lunch, is a series of 7-on-7 tournaments featuring the campers. Last year, I coached a team with Bill Callahan. This year, I was supposed to be helping out Clayton Holmes of New York Maritime, but Coach Holmes did not show up for the camp. So I was coaching a 7-on-7 team by myself. I am not going to pretend I'm some kind of coach, but I got lucky. They inadvertently gave me the Connecticut High School Sophomore All-Star Team. These kids were amazing: Not only talented, but within 15 minutes they were completely in sync as teammates even though only two of them knew each other before the camp. Some of the coaches bring a whiteboard to draw up plays, or some sheets where they've put together some simple five-wide route combinations. I had none of that, so my basic instruction before we started playing was just "talk to each other and figure out what kind of routes you each like to run" and "let's play man coverage with two deep safeties."
As another coach later said, I am the Barry Switzer of 7-on-7 football. I just let the kids take the field and do their thing. By about the middle of the second game out of three, the rain had stopped. We won our three games 32-0, 22-6, and 40-0. (No kicking, you go for two after every touchdown.) That's a combined score of 94-6, which is apparently a camp record. It was ridiculous. The only touchdown against us came when one of my guys tipped a pass away but a different receiver from the opposing team made a shoestring catch of the tip and backed into the end zone. My coaching consisted of two things. First, I told them not to get greedy on third-and-short or fourth-and-short after we missed a deep pass on our only four-and-out (no punting in 7-on-7). Second, near the goal line on defense I had one of the safeties move into a Cover-1 Rover position in the middle to sit and wait for crossing patterns. That's it. That was the extent of my coaching. Meanwhile, they worked together so well that on defense, whichever kid was not playing (we had eight guys) would start to call out what kinds of routes the other team was running and which kids were the fastest to watch for.
At the end of the camp, P.C. Richard, one of the sponsors, gives out laptop computers to ten campers who have been recognized for effort and attitude both in the morning and afternoon sessions. Three of the ten were guys on my team.
So here's a picture of the greatest 7-on-7 team that ever was:
You're definitely going to see at least one or two of these guys on Saturdays in a couple years. For anyone out there who wants to know who to watch in Connecticut high school football, here's the roster. All of them are currently sophomores, going from left to right, and I apologize if I mix up names.
Jack Rakoczy, Stamford High (Camp MVP)
Caleb Jean, Maloney High
Evan King, Windsor High
William Gardner, Hyde Leadership High
Patrick Richards, Sport and Medical Sciences Academy (Camp MVP)
Harold Cooper, Hillhouse High (Camp MVP)
Cody Carrillo, Middletown High
Yamaal Jackson, Middletown High
They didn't win Camp MVP awards but I do want to mention the two guys from Middletown High. Cody was a very good quarterback. Yamaal has really well-developed running back moves for a 15-year-old. There's no handoffs in 7-on-7 but when he caught short passes he was slashing like Ray Rice out there.
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