Underrated Stud: Bruin Barnes – 2021 DB – Hamburg HS, AR

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @gridironstuds

Everyone likes a little aggression on the football field. There’s nothing little about the amount of aggression Bruin Barnes brings to the table. The 6’1″ 190 lb. safety prospect out of Hamburg HS in Arkansas is all about violence.

Clip after clip on his highlight video features him taking some young man’s soul who’s only mistake was to be carrying the pigskin and not wearing Hamburg’s colors. Barnes’ full metal jacket approach to the game is eye catching. He moves at a different speed than everyone else on the field despite not having eye popping athletic numbers. Barnes has what we have all come to know as game speed. He does have 4.59 speed which is plenty fast but not what anyone would call elite. His 405 lb. squat is above average for high schoolers and certainly D1 worthy.

The other think you will like to see from him on film are his instincts. It is clear when watching film that he likely played football for several years before high school. He has a keen sense for what is about to happen and reacts well to it. There is very little hesitation in Barnes game. I think he is a division I prospect but in the crazy recruiting year of 2020, many a prospect is hiding under a rock. Whatever program lands this gridiron warrior is going to be getting a treat.

Check out Bruin Barnes’ GridironStuds profile and highlight video

Empower Your Signal Caller on Defense vs. Hurry Up Offenses

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @gridironstuds

When teams want to throw you off as a play caller for the defense they will resort to the tactic of hurry up offense.  There are times that you will be inside of the offensive coordinators head with your calls and you seem to be one step ahead of him.  A good offensive  coordinator will reclaim his edge by moving to an uptempo offense to change your play calls and get your defense to line up wrong.  There’s one good way to counter that counter and this article will talk about that.

There are three reasons why hurry up offense works.  First is it fatigues the defense which leads to blown assignments and missed tackles. Second,  is that it causes mis-alignments which leads to big plays because the defense is out leveraged.  Third is it causes miscommunication which leads to big chunk plays in the passing game as receivers are left wide open.  Regarding number one,  thats on you as a coach if your team is not in shape enough to handle an uptempo offense as virtually every team has it in their repertoire.  Reasons two and three can be severely eliminated by doing this one thing and that is turning the play calls over to your middle linebacker.  Why the middle linebacker?  Because he’s typically the brains of your operation and the one who calls the signals in the huddle.  If he’s not for some reason then give the play calls over to whoever that signal caller is (aka the guy you trust the most).

I know what I just said is like a guy giving his girlfriend his cell phone (pretty scary) but it’s a must.  Unless you absolutely don’t trust your Mike backer,  putting the power to make the calls in his hands helps the defense in several ways.  First,  it limits the whole defense having to look over to you or the signals coach to get a call while the offense is getting ready to snap the ball.  Second,  it gets everyone on the same page more likely.  Finally,  it limits the playbook which is a good thing when teams go fast.

Against a hurry up offense,  the best defense is the one where all 11 men on the field know what the call is.  Signaling in the defense from the sidelines in a haste causes problems.  First you must choose the defense,  next either you or the signals coach has to signal it in.  Then the you have to hope that all 11 players see the same thing and echo the same call around.  By then the ball is snapped and the players have little chance to decipher their assignments vs. the look to go play with any amount of speed and confidence.

So how do we set up the play calling controls for the middle linebacker?

(1)  Give Him 3 Options

As a defensive coordinator,  I experimented with 5 calls, 4 calls, 2 calls, etc.  After trial and error,  I settled on three options as the best for the player to choose from.  If you have a really smart Mike AND a pretty experienced unit you can throw a 4th call in there.  Yes,  I know shortening the playbook makes you feel like you are in prison but guess what,  the offense has shortened their playbook too.  They are simply hoping you line up wrong vs. one of 3 or 4 plays they want to run.

(2)  The Calls Should be One of Each

Within those 3 options,  you want to give the MIKE a zone call, a man call and a blitz call.   This gives him a range within the curtailed set of options.  He can now match the defensive type to the situation.  This is where you will do your best coaching.  Since in this situation you are removed as a coach on game day,  you replace it with your coaching during game week.  Discuss with your MIKE the possible scenarios that could occur and what call best sets the unit up for success in the given situation.  Your MIKE should be able to think like you but given his IQ and experience,  let him know he has a certain amount of freedom.  Yes,  I know for the college coach making $500,000 to $1.5 million annually,  the thought of a U-Haul truck pulling up to the front of your house because of calls made by an 19-22 year old frightens you.  Relax,  that kid might call a better game than you in this situation especially if you have done a good job coaching him.

Regarding the actually kind of calls.  Your zone should be your best zone.  Is your team best in a 1 high Cover 3 concept?  Is a split safety coverage where you excel?  Your man call should be the one where your unit is most comfortable.  Remember,  they will be fatigued a bit.  You don’t want to mix discomfort in with fatigue.  Finally,  the blitz should match up with the objective.  Are you trying to stop a run play with the blitz or a pass play?  Is the QB a pocket passer?  if so then you might want some kind of double A gap pressure.  Is the QB great outside of the pocket?  Then you may opt for bringing edge pressure.  This call will likely change from week to week.

(3) Give the Calls Simple Names

Give the play calls a one word name.  Trust me on that.  Don’t go getting complicated.  Remember on offense during uptempo,  simplicity works.  This applies to you on defense.  For example,  “Migos” named after the popular rap group can be your Cover 3 call.  There are 3 members in Migos.  Your young group can appreciate that and will prefer that over you calling Cover 3 “Run DMC” (who also had 3 members) who is old and has two words in it.  “Hulk” could be a blitz call and “Lebron” could be your Cover 1 call because to this generation,  he’s #1.  If you really want to do this right,  you let the MIKE come up with the names for the call.   It will make it more fun and the unit will embrace it.

Now you need hand signals because on top of calling it out,  he must also signal it for the guys that are far away from him like the secondary. The defensive line can look forward at the offense and hear the call while the secondary can eyeball the MIKE for the hand signals in the event that they can’t hear him in a crowded stadium.  Simple hand signals are best.  Touching a part of the body,  raising a hand in a certain direction,  etc.  If you don’t have ideas,  go watch a first base coach signaling to a batter in baseball.  LOL.

(4) Practice, Practice, Practice

Now you need the dress rehearsal.  In the meetings you must present to the MIKE and the whole defense the scenarios and what you think works best.  You must also ready the team for scenarios like the offense switching suddenly from a regular offense to hurry up.  Is there a safe call for that scenario that you automatically call just to make sure you are lined up right and in position?  It’s probably best to have that and make it known to the MIKE that this is the call on that first hurry up play.  Also,  cover the objectives each week and go over constantly what calls have changed each week.  You don’t want to change all the calls each week.  Again,  the objective is comfort which brings confidence and allows your unit to play fast.  Finally,  you have a 2 minute session in practice and let your MIKE go to work.  My signal to the MIKE when we were in hurry up was to simply point to him.  That meant “your on! It’s your turn”  Sometimes it’s best to launch that 2 minute period in practice without warning.  This preps the mind for the sudden change, chaos and pace that could occur in the game.  Preparation is key.

Example Calls

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In closing,  the best defensive call in any scenario is the one in which all 11 men know what it is.  The biggest plays on offense typically occur when there’s a miscommunication assuming you have near equal talent to your opponent.  Closing down the playbook and giving an on field player that ability to choose cuts out the middle man.  As we all know,  the middle man slows down any process and causes the prices to be higher.  In your case the high price is confusion on defense and a 30 yard run off the edge where the ball carrier is untouched because you had three guys in the same gap.  Empower your players and watch them excel.

Underrated Stud: Malachi Hayden ’21 OL – Meig County HS, TN

Everyone hates a bully right?  Wrong,  not if he plays tackle on your school’s football team.  Malachi Hayden may be carrying a biblical name but he does some rather unholy things to would-be defenders on Friday Nights.

Hayden stomps around the gridiron for Meigs County High School in Decatur,  Tennessee looking for food every play.  With a 375 lb. bench press and a 530 lb. squat,  he’s eating opponents.  His highlight video is a litany of dudes getting shoved around like extras in a fight scene of an action movie.  He uses surprising quickness for his size and superior strength to descend on defenders surprisingly and move them out of the way in a hurry.  We expect most lineman to be strong but what is most surprising about this prospect is his quickness.  I love the way he gets off on the snaps and either into the defensive lineman or up to the next level on a linebacker.  He also looks great on pulls as he gets around the corner or through the hole with quickness.

Hayden has ample size too at 6’3″ 285 lbs.  He would be a good catch for a college football program looking for a guy that has a nasty streak and appears to be a hard worker.  You always love to see a guy that can take what he has accomplished in the weight room and transfer it to his performance on the field.  Hayden definitely provides that and with zero offers and no Rivals profile,  he definitely qualifies as an underrated stud.  If you are college football fan or coach,  you definitely want to check out this prospect.

Click here to view Malachi Hayden’s profile on the GridironStuds App

5 Thing Middle Linebackers Need to Show College Scouts

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds
Twitter: @gridironstudsYouTube Channel | TikTok: @Gridironstuds

Middle linebacker is the glory position on defense especially when we start talking about college football.  College football is ripe with celebration of the middle linebacker who was the lifeblood of the great defenses in the history of the game.  If you fancy yourself as being the next great college football linebacker,  there are somethings you are going to need to show to sell college football scouts on your ability to do that for their school.

(1) Big Tackler

Notice how I did not say good tackler.  Of course it is nice to be a good tackler or a guy that does not miss tackles very often when you are playing linebacker.  However,  as a middle linebacker,  your tackling sets the tone for the entire defense.  It is kind of hard for a defense to have the reputation of being a ferocious one if the middle linebacker is a soft tackler.  The middle linebacker is the tone setter when it comes to good old fashion hitting.  When the “Mike backer” gets in the A gap and stones the other team’s leader rusher with a punishing hit,  not only does the crowd go crazy but so does his teammates.  This inspires them to do their individual jobs to the utmost and gets the juices going.  A middle linebacker’s job is to hit people so be a hitter that finishes off ball carriers.

(2) Football IQ

While being a big hitter may give off the impression of being a meat-head,  a middle linebacker should be anything but that.  Most of the time,  the defense runs through the “Mike”.  That means you make the calls in the huddle,  survey the defense and alert the defense to what may be coming.  In addition,  any shifts by the offense prior to the snap may require you to change a call or make a check.  Finally,  within a second of the ball being snapped,  the middle linebacker has to know what is going on and move to his assignment instantly.  That’s a lot of responsibility and the guys who are the smartest,  handle it the best.  Think of how much guys like Ray Lewis and Brian Urhlacher knew about the game of football.  These things did not happen by accident.  The guy in the middle has to know it all.

(3) Take on Blocks

If you are going to be in the middle and typically first on the scene,  you are going to have people trying to stop you.  Often times that comes in form of massive linemen that outweigh you and are coming from various angles.  Your ability to excel at the position of middle linebacker means knowing where the blocks are coming from and defeating them quickly.  The quicker you defeat the block either by being slick or with force,  the faster you can make the tackle.  Middle linebackers are measured by tackle numbers and you’re not making tackles if you are getting blocked.  Develop elite abilities in the area of defeating blockers through proper angles, pressure and technique.

(4) Pursuit

Sometimes the play gets beyond you or runs away from you.  This is when you have to show your relentless nature by running down the play and getting involved.  As a middle linebacker,  this doesn’t just mean on run plays.  Even when the ball is thrown down the field and into the secondary,  middle linebackers have to turn around,  haul tail in the direction of the throw and get involved.  As a middle linebacker you have to take any attempt to move the ball into your team’s territory personally.  So,  just because a play did not come directly to you doesn’t mean that you get to take a play off.  When that ball is snapped your mission has to be to get to the football first and deal with the unsavory act of the offense trying to advance the ball towards your goal line.

(5) Blitz

I saved the best part for last.  What middle linebacker doesn’t like to blitz?  Enough with being passive and waiting for the action.  How about dictating it with a nice blitz.  However,  blitzing is an art and if you are to be great,  you better know how to execute a masterpiece.  Many young linebackers think that blitzing means running full speed through a gap and into a blocker.  That’s not it.  A successful blitz results in a sack of the quarterback or a tackle for loss on a running back.  When you slam right into a blocker,  you lessen your chance at making that happen.  Instead,  learn how to be crafty along with forceful in achieving your objective.  Part of that craftiness is learning how to time up your blitzes so that you hit your gap right when the ball is snapped.  Catching the cadence right will be the first good step in achieving your sack and tackle for loss dreams.  Also learning the various ways to dip, swim and rip through blocks will help you be a menace on the other side of the line of scrimmage as well.

There you have five things that will certainly catch a college football coach’s attention.  It helps if you are 6’3″ and 210 lbs. too but if you aren’t,  you control the five things named in this article.  Whether you have that size or not,  being excellent at the different aspects outlined in this article will go far in making your defense great and your team a winner.  When it boils down to it,  that’s the name of the game and will surely attract the attention of somebody that could use your winning ways.

Underrated Stud: Jamall Thompson ’21 DL Sarasota High School, FL

If you don’t like big and fast prospects dominating on both sides of the ball then I urge you to not look at Jamall Thompson’s profile on the GridironStuds App.  I repeat,  do not look at his highlight video or profile if you do not like absolute dominance by a physical specimen.

Standing at 6’3″ 240 lbs.,  Thompson will put his hand on the ground at defensive tackle and be in your backfield quickly like a lead blocker. He has an incredible get off for a player his size.  He’ll run through an offensive lineman like finish line tape and do what he wants on the other side of the line of scrimmage.  You’ll enjoy watching him ruin run plays and pass plays alike.  In the event that he does not ruin the play before it starts,  he has no problems running it down from behind and delivering a a solid tax to the ball carrier.  His size is noticeable on film but what jumps out at you more is his explosion and quickness.  Big and fast is a great combo on the football field and he has it.

On the offensive side of the ball,  Thompson lines up at tight end and has a good time there too.  He displays great hands,  a willingness to eliminate defenders with blocks and speed to make big plays after making the catch.  He could be a legit prospect at tight end too but I just love his potential on the defensive line.  Sarasota currently plays him at defensive tackle but he could be even more dangerous at the defensive end spot because of what he brings to the table athletically.  It’s crazy how players like this slip under the radar.  Currently,  Thompson,  who is a senior,  only has offers from Tennessee State University and Southern Mississippi.  As his profile gets around,  we fully expect more offers to land on his table.

Check Thompson out GridironStuds.com – click here or on the GridironStuds App – download now.

Top Recruit Breakdown: Korey Foreman ’21 DE

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

By now,  if you don’t know who Korey Foreman is then you aren’t much of a recruiting nut and aren’t a college football fanatic.  Foreman is considered the top recruit in the country for the class of 2021 in some circles.  If he’s not #1 then he’s most certainly #2 and rightfully so.  I will tell you why in this top recruit breakdown.

If you’ve been following recruiting at all over the last 1/2 or full decade then you have noticed that there has been a heavy move towards the defensive line in overall rankings.  In general,  there has been a move towards the line of scrimmage as more defensive and offensive lineman have been pushed up in the rankings each year.  This is not be accident.  The move towards the line of scrimmage has coincided with the way the game of football has progressed.  Football has become more a passing endeavor with multiple receivers on the field and running backs being asked to do more than just take handoffs.  As such,  wide receivers and running backs have become more plentiful and less valuable.  Add to this the fact that rule changes have made it harder to play pass defense in the secondary and we have a situation where rushing the passer becomes the best way to stop the epidemic of high powered pass offenses.

With all of that said,  enter Corona Centennial HS senior defensive end Korey Foreman.  Foreman is exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to rushing the passer,  controlling the line of scrimmage and disrupting an offense.  At the high school level he demands a double team.  It is almost comical to watch teams attempt to take an offensive snap without having two people block him.  Foreman’s well developed lower half is packed with power.  He has two ways of beating you and that’s through you with a massive strength infused bull rush or around you with overwhelming power and quickness.  His agility is surprising for someone with his build and size.  This is why he projects so well at the next level and is a 5 star recruit.

Before any of you attempt to say something like he’s a 5-star recruit because of his size,  I would urge you to watch film and issue a retraction.  Foreman does not just rely on God’s gifts.  First of all,  while he is physically gifted,  it is apparent that he developed those gifts intensively by spending time in the weight room and on the field.  He is technically sound and explosive.  Furthermore,  what you see on film is a guy who will hustle to the football and takes delight in running down the field to catch guys that think they are going to the house.

Ultimately,  what the school the winds up landing Foreman is getting is a guy that appears to have work ethic to go along with the ultimate build for a strong side defensive end.  His explosiveness and technique makes his a threat to the quarterback on every pass play.  His well developed lower half combined with his strength doesn’t make him a liability against the run.  Basically you are screwed either way on offense against him because he can either beat blocks on runs at him or run down plays away from him.  Foreman looks to be the mold for what future strong side defensive ends are going to look like in recruiting.  USC, Clemson and LSU are the primary teams in the hunt for the top rated prospect with USC rumored to be the lead.  Him staying in Los Angeles to become a man of Troy would be an extraordinary get for USC and spark a return to the top for the Trojans.