Zone Read: Finding The Right Formula

Good to be back after taking last week off from the “Zone Read” to remember why San Diego is such an amazing city to visit this time of year.

Here in Arizona some schools are already back in session (what!?!?), while many others will be in the coming weeks. 

This means only one thing: the magic of Friday night lights is just around the corner.

Here we go…

Let’s Get Personal

It’s incredible the wide-ranging responses I received when discussing the importance (or lack thereof) and place of personal position coaches here in our state. Although specialty quarterback coaches seem to get the most notoriety, there are several instructors at nearly every position available for service.

The personal coach-high school head coach relationship can be a delicate, at times sensitive balance. All high school coaches preach team-first. These priorities can easily be skewed and sometimes forgotten in different settings. Players may be taught one style or technique at school and a completely different one from their personal coach.

Some question if personal trainers have, at their core, the players best intentions.

“Most of it is a money-making scheme,” one head coach who wished to remain anonymous  said to Sports360AZ.com. “Get as many quarterbacks as you can in one place. Get some big names and attach your name on to theirs. They are, ‘your kid.’ Guys make a lot of money doing that. Not saying that some of these guys don’t know what they’re talking about but they are like used car salesmen.”

He continued.

“The frustrating part is that we, as coaches, are the ones that are actually going into live action with them [in games].”

Others coaches cite a bit of deception from specialty coaches. Whether it be unrealistic expectations of their player’s “ceiling” beyond high school or the fact some benefit from using fields or facilities for free, usually tax-free.

The flip side is, some parents I spoke with insist personal instructors not only provide skill sets needed on the field but other traits which go beyond football, especially for teenagers.

“Certainly he has shared his technical understanding of the position and physical aspects of being successful,” one parent of a recent in-state decorated recruit explained to Sports360AZ.com. “Probably more importantly [this coach] has shared his passion for the game and the important role [of this position] that is so unique in sports. [He] has helped [my son] through the hard times, as well.”

As for the previously discussed delicate relationship between the high school coaches and personal coaches?

“Coaches that are unwilling to accept the input of others,” the parent continued. “I believe lack the courage in their relationship and the trust they have built with their player.”

To each their own.

No doubt.

A Little Help Along the Way

Next weekend former Arizona Cardinals quarterback and Valley resident Kurt Warner will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His rags-to-riches story from grocery store employee, to the Arena Football League, to an undrafted Super Bowl Champion has been well-chronicled.

What you may not realize is Warner’s quarterbacks coach with the Cards was Valley Christian’s Jeff Rutledge, who was a part of Ken Whisenhunt’s staff during the Bird Gang’s 2007-08 Super Bowl run. 

“He’s certainly deserving,” Rutledge, a star quarterback at Alabama who also played in the NFL said to Sports360AZ.com. 157052 ----1-23-09---cards-----Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks coach Jeff Rutledge, cq, works with quarterbacks at the practice facility in Tempe, Friday, Jan. 23rd, 2009. The team is practicing for the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa next week. Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic“I didn’t coach Kurt. Kurt was so smart he coached me most of the time. Kurt was not afraid to say what was on his mind. His leadership was what you wish all quarterbacks had.”

Taylor-Made Philosophy

As the one and only head coach in the history of Centennial High School, Richard Taylor has built the program from the ground up dating back to 1990. Along the way he’s instilled many of the same football philosophies he started back in Ohio before arriving in the Valley.

Five state championships later the model has produced the most dominant program in the west Valley.

One key area Taylor stressed during our recent conversation was his belief in not playing freshmen on varsity, regardless of their enhanced skill set.

The walls inside the Coyotes’ modest weight room are lined with enlarged pictures of all the players who went on to play at the next level. Every single one of them: including greats like Terry Longbons, Zach Hoffpauir, Jon Clanton, Jalen Ortiz and Dedrick Young played on the freshman team their first year on campus.

Taylor believes, both mentally and physically, it’s best for freshmen to practice, play, and bond with their own class. Richard_TaylorHis thinking is a young teenager’s physique can be damaged if they don’t have the immediate success playing varsity after being the star of their eighth-grade team. Those incidents can have a lasting impact into the player’s career moving forward. The only exception Taylor would consider to moving a player up is if a ninth-grader is a risk of injuring others at that level because of their size.

 Taylor’s track record certainly speaks for itself.

Big Man In The Big House

Head coach Jake Barro has done a nice job building the Casa Grande football program since taking the job before the 2015 season. The Cougars, 15-6 over the last two years, appear to still have some studs in the stable, including Perry transfer Trysten Williams who has flashed in off-season workouts entering his second year at CGUHS.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior defensive end has certainly caught the eye of Barro.

“Trysten has been really progressing well,” Barro said to Sports360AZ.com. “He’s been working hard in the weight room and solidified himself as one of our defensive leaders up at camp.”

Besides improved strength, Barro believes Williams is quicker in space than he was even during spring workouts. He’s become more familiar with the Cougars’ schemes, as well.

Last year as a sophomore, he tallied 21 total tackles and blocked a punt.