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Coaching Lessons from Mike Haywood

Mike Haywood provided a blueprint for rapid MAC turnarounds, leading Miami (Ohio) from 1-11 in 2009 to the conference title in 2010. He provided a blueprint for all second-year coaches, in fact, especially those like Larry Porter and Rob Ianello, two relative youngsters trying to rebuild moribund programs while locating their own coaching voice on the fly. It’s not easy, which is why Haywood is one of the few coaches in recent history to turn things around so well, so fast. So what can Porter and Ianello take from Haywood? Though you can’t always translate what works at one stop to another, there are a few things to take away:

Don’t be afraid to play the young guys. Partly by design, partly thanks to a lack of depth, Haywood’s two-deep was littered by underclassmen. A portion were not his recruits, to be fair, but many were: freshman receiver Nick Harwell, for example, or right tackle Josh Harvey, running back Tracy Woods and defensive tackle Kelvin Jackson.

Most notably, Haywood eschewed experience for production down the stretch, calling on and remaining with redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Boucher once Zac Dysert was lost to injury. Both Memphis and Akron added recruits with the potential to make an immediate impact, and as at Miami, each team’s thin roster will allow players to make a difference relatively quickly. Neither should be afraid to throw younger, more inexperienced players into the mix.

Stick with the run. Miami continued to struggle running the football. Still, struggle is a relative term: compared with how it fared on the ground in 2009, Miami’s running game was a completely different animal. In 2010, the RedHawks beefed up the rushing attack from 73.1 yards per game to 121.9 per game, which not only gave the passing game room to operate but began to grant the offense some sort of identity.

Neither the Zips or the Tigers were as poor running the ball last fall as Miami in 2009, but improvement must be made. This is particularly the case when looking at how each team might break in a new quarterback in 2010; Memphis will go with Andy Summerlin, as mentioned during today’s preview.

Stand tall against the run. From second-to-last in the MAC to best in the conference in one season: Miami cut more than 100 yards per game off its rush defense in 2010, an improvement which defined a wonderfully improved defensive attack. It’s easier said than done, of course, which is why so many teams across the country struggle slowing down the opposition on first and second down; as Memphis and Akron can attest, it’s very hard to get stops when the opposition faces third-and-short with regularity.

Memphis has the defensive line, particularly along the interior. Dontari Poe is big enough to stand up at the point of attack on the nose, and Frank Trotter quick enough to slide between linemen and make stops in the backfield. The key is consistency, playing all four quarters — though the offense could help by putting some points on the board, forcing opponents to pass in an effort to keep pace.

Just keep the faith. Believe in your system, most notably. Haywood didn’t make many wholesale changes after 2009, though no one would have faulted him for doing so. Porter has already rocked the boat, making staff changes and revamping the offense to a spread attack. That latter change makes me think of Tim Brewster at Minnesota, who was in such a rush to win games that he swapped systems and coordinators in each of his first three seasons. Porter does not want to be like Brewster. Coaching ability got a Larry Porter this far; he should believe in what he believes, not make quick changes based on a slow start.

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  1. Rookierookie says:

    Also, don’t run your head into the law.

  2. [...] Coaching Lessons from Mike Haywood | Finally, a U.F.L. Draft Worth Watching [...]

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