Last spring, my first as head coach at CCA, I introduced our players to the idea of personnel groups and #’s. We ran two groupings (21 and 12) from three formations (reg. I, twins I, and dbl tight- ace). When we adapted our offense during the fall* we added two new groupings to our offense (11 and 10) and three new and important formations (doubles, trio, and quads) with converting our 21p from a stacked I to a split pro. While everyone changes formations and thus personnel groupings on a written level, at a few schools I have coached at we haven’t changed the actual personnel on the field with the new formation. What this article will discuss is the pros and cons of personnel groups at the ironman level when we actually change the players on the field.
The Pros: Why do we use groupings at CCA? We’ve actually been lucky in the aspect of having guys to fill some different roles. This fall we had two tight ends that could block for our 12p. We had a slot that could come in at H for 10p and 11p when we lined up in spread formations. Early in the year, we had a fullback for the H in 21p. When I coached at Mel High at the freshman level, we had one player that could play all of those roles and is being recruited by Fresno City. Here at CCA, we had to split it between different players.
Bringing in different groups allows our ironman players to get a rest on offense (best 11 are always in on defense), gives younger players some experience without having to play an entire game, and takes pressure off of the coaching staff (what if he gets hurt?) and a 14-18 year old player that would have to learn how to play TE, FB, and WR.
Cons: On film, if you track personnel groups, you could signal from the booth what formations to expect, and thus, narrow down to certain plays teams run from each. The benefit to our zone scheme is that we run our 5 runs from every one of our formations and personnel packages.
When you have a small roster, it’s difficult to find players to fit roles, be healthy each week, and learn multiple positions with less practice time on offense. We ran into many situations mid-game where we lost personnel groups and formations because a player was injured or gassed and we couldn’t run a double tight set without our 2nd TE or a 10p or 11p group if our slot was out.
Our largest con for breaking down personnel groups is the age old coaching question of whether you should teach players only what they need to know, or give them complete information and thus creating mini-coaches for the guys that can handle it and either have the capacity for football IQ or already obtain football IQ, or the fine line where you overwhelm players and they say “uh-huh” just so they don’t get in trouble for saying “I don’t know.”
Like any aspect in high school sports you can have pros and cons to the decisions and styles that you employ. The question you have to ask is whether the pros outweigh the cons. I always promise my players that I will have them prepared to go to college and not have their coach say “where the hell did you play?!” which is what would have been said about me after high school. I was taught only my position and responsibilities and never knew what was around me. Needless to say, my first year into coaching I was 100% clueless and completely humbled.