The Huskies missed 30 tackles during their 30-24 loss to California on Saturday, defensive line coach and special-teams coordinator Jeff Choate said Tuesday morning. So that will obviously be an emphasis as the Huskies practice during their bye week, prior to their Oct. 8 visit to USC.
Here’s more of what Choate said about the Huskies’ tackling problems, as well as an explanation of those fair-catches that were called on Cal’s sky kicks.
(On tackling) “…Our tackling was a major issue for us in the Cal game, obviously, and (we spent our special-teams meeting) really going back and kind of stripping it down and saying, OK, let’s talk about our eyes, let’s talk about what we’re trying to get out of our wrap and our hip extension, showing the rugby clips and talking about those specific techniques that we need to get back to. So I think we’ve got to be disciplined as coaches, and we can’t let that go. It can’t be just a bye-week thing. We’ve got to just stay on it, every Sunday, every Tuesday, and continue to develop those skills, because every year’s a different year. You could say a year ago we spent a bunch of time talking about it. Well, we graduated a bunch of guys, so we have new guys and we can’t just get away from it. We have to continuously reinforce those techniques and those fundamentals.”
(Have a ballpark figure for missed tackles?) “We had 30 is what we ended up with, which is a high number for us, so we were very disappointed in that. A lot of that had to do with really where we were targeting. We were targeting too high, and that’s a huge part of the rugby concept is, lowering our target level, taking the engine of the ballcarrier away, which is his legs, and doing a better job of wrapping up.”
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(Any specific drills that help with that?) “For the wrap part of it, we do pit tackle where we’re really trying to get in as deep as we can. We put a ballcarrier there, simulate a ballcarrier with a hand shield, they’ve got to shoulder-punch and wrap and drive their legs. We do the gator tackle, where we’re wrapping and rolling on the bags. There’s a lot of different things you can do.
“We try to look at, each week, what were our missed tackles? What were the issues with these missed tackles, and then how can we replicate those in drill work? And sometimes you’re almost even inventing a drill that tries to simulate what happened in the game. But I think that’s really important as you look at, not jus doing drills because they’re drills, but, OK, we had two-foot takeoffs in these situations. How do we reinforce not getting that? We lost leverage on the ballcarrier in this situation. How do we simulate that so that we can maintain our leverage and own our leverage a little bit better. I know those are technical things, but yes, we definitely look at the specific tackles that we miss, and try to replicate those in drills.”
(Does the fact that it was a big ballcarrier factor into that evaluation?) “There’s no question, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s always a mechanism for getting him on the ground. So if I’m a 175-pound DB, obviously I’m knife-tackling or I’m going a lot lower to be able to get into that wrap. Because even at the thigh level, he may be a massive guy for a guy who’s a little bit undersized. That was our big issue, was targeting too high, and not doing a good job of wrapping up. Some of those things are timing things, where our foot’s not on the ground on contact, we’re not getting in deep enough on our wrap, and there’s some very specific things that we try to emphasize to correct those things.”
(What was the explanation for the fair catches on the sky kicks?) “We’ve always had our front-line guys – because on the approach, the kicker, you may not be able to tell on a squib, but our front-line guys are usually locked into the laces or the approach of the kicker, and a lot of times on the approach of the kicker, when they sky kick, they’ll kind of bottom out a little bit and slow their approach. So our front line guys may be the first ones to see it, so they’ll start alerting, hey, it’s going to be a sky kick [with two hands in the air], so if we haven’t already rotated up, that we’re in position to field the ball. And so the ruling is, any member of the kicking team that simulates a fair-catch signal, the ball’s dead. Well, we’ve just got to coach those guys better on the mechanics. I haven’t really felt like two hands up was necessarily a fair-catch signal, but they interpreted it that way, we got the ruling on it, and we’ll correct that and coach those guys differently in the future.”