Installing R4 for the first time

Football season doesn’t end in November/December for me.  I do almost as much work in the off season as I do in season.  Like most coaches I attend clinics, watch videos, research online, and just try to talk to as many coaches as I can.  I am like a sponge and I try to absorb as much information as I can, doesn’t matter to me what it is about, I just like to learn about football.

One of the biggest things I researched this off season was the R4 system created by Darin Slack and Dub Maddox.  I feel like I am getting to this party a little late but as they say “it’s better late than never”.
When reflecting back on last season I was probably most disappointed in our drop back pass game.  We ran the ball well most of the time, we sprinted out well, but we just could not complete passes consistently from the pocket.  We could not stretch the field vertically in any way.  Eventually teams stopped defending vertical passes, loaded the box, and we couldn’t do much.  I knew I had to find a way to hurt teams in the air.  I have owned the R4 DVDs for over a year but didn’t feel I understood it well enough to install it last year.  I knew that devoting a lot of time and energy yo the R4 system would be the best thing for us.

So I watched my R4 videos over and over until it sunk in.  I bought the iBook “From headset to helmet” to further my understanding of the system.  After reading it twice, and watching the videos three times I felt I had a good enough understanding to teach it, install it, and make it our system.

The first thing I had to do was dissect our playbook.  I had my ideas of what concepts I liked best and wanted to run, but now I had to put everything in to R4 terms.  This meant some concepts had to be adjusted just slightly, I had to change some route DNA to fit into R4.  I had to adjust our teaching from yards for WR routes into steps, to time things up better.

Once I had our concepts properly aligned with R4, I had to begin teaching our players and coaches.

This is what I have started doing and will continue to do until spring ball.

Right now we are all about our lifting program, we are saving anything football related until spring ball.  However in my mind R4 has a lot material that has to be understood before you begin installing plays.  I felt that our QBs would need a head start on everyone else.  Installing R4 requires a lot of work upfront but once the kids understand the concept of what R4 is, it can be applied to the entire playbook.

2 weeks ago I began meeting with the QBs every Monday night after weight lifting/baseball practice.  Each night I have had 2 QBs from each grade level there.  We go at night because 2 of our QBs are on the baseball team and that is the only time they can make it.

The first thing I did was buy each QB a spiral notebook.  I got them for a buck each and I feel that they are more likely to learn the system and retain information if they are the ones writing things down and drawing it up rather than if I printed them off my powerpoints or diagrams.

I began by drawing and explaining all of the necessary terms and information for R4.  We discussed the 5 vertical tubes, hard deck, pre snap cap.  We discusses the ideas of cushion and collision.  We discussed the timing of Rhythm, Read, and Rush routes and how it matches up with their footwork.  We discussed why certain plays fail and what defenses do to stop us.  We discussed how to read coverage.  We discussed their timeline vs man and zone.  We discussed a lot.

I didn’t throw all of this at them at once, we went slow, I encouraged them to ask as many questions as they could, and believe me they did.

Now we are at a place where the kids have at least an elementary understanding of how R4 works, how they will use it, and how their decision making is sped up by using it.

Last week we installed our first play on the board…SNAG.  I think by now everyone knows that Snag is my favorite play, so of course it would be the first that I install.  We went through the play over and over again and how the R4 elements apply to it.  Every kid left this past Monday with an understanding of the Snag concept that was light years ahead of how we were reading it last year.  My 2 returning varsity QBs (both were backups but got game snaps last year) left the room saying, ‘Coach, we really like this”.

Now we will continue to install 1-2 concepts each Monday night until we get to spring ball.  I have my schedule set up so we are installing similar plays to help in the learning process.  I am excited, the kid’s are excited and I KNOW we will be a much better passing team than we were last season.


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