LESS IS MORE (Part 2): Building A Defensive Call Sheet

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By James Vint, Offensive Line Coach, Estacado High School in Lubbock, Texas, Former College Football Coach, Author, CoachJamesVint.com

When I first became a defensive coordinator, I thought I would call everything off the hip. In my mind, back then, I assumed I could be successful by simply going by feel and what was happening in the game.

Every morning after one of our games, I would inevitably ask myself, “Why did I make that call?” Or, “Why didn’t I call the ‘XYZ’ pressure package that we worked on all week?

Over time, I began to realize I had to do a better job of planning and preparation. As an offensive coordinator, I had a very detailed call sheet. So I decided to adapt this to defense.

Our No. 1 goal on defense was to get the ball back. Getting the ball back was the premise for everything we did. We could get the ball back one of four ways…

No. 1: They score. This was the worst way to get the ball back.

No. 2: We get a turnover on downs. This was good, but often meant they had driven into our territory and went for it on fourth down.

No. 3: We could force a punt. This was good, as it usually meant we stopped an opponent on their side of the 50.

No. 4: We force a turnover. This was the best scenario, as it meant we created momentum, and often, would end up with great field position.

When I put our call sheet together, I did so with the thought of getting the ball back (as mentioned in No. 3 and No. 4). But, we were prepared for the second way as well.

As we built our call sheet, we focused on a couple of areas first. We wanted to make sure we knew who their playmakers were, and when they went to them.

One week, we faced a team who had a great receiver they would go to every time it was 3rd and 4 or more. We knew we had to take him away as an option. We scripted a couple of calls that were designed to cover him with some sort of bracket coverage. Below, as shown in Image 1, is a prime example of this column…


Depending how many playmakers our opponent has, we may use two, three or four of these columns.

Typically, we are going to have two of these columns, because most teams have two playmakers. Some teams may have three or four. But usually, each of these guys are  “go-to guys” within specific situations.

This same team, for example, had a big back that they went to on 3rd and less then four. They ran power 90-percent of the time. We had a call specifically designed to take power scripted.

We might have one or two calls. Sometimes we might have three calls we like. The big key is I can look at this column and quickly communicate a call to our guys on the field.

The next column I built was designed to identify our opponent’s personnel groups and run-pass percentages, followed by the calls they made most often, and what we liked to call against this group. I used these typically on 1st- and 2nd-down situations.

I had a coach who was responsible for telling me personnel, down and distance, as well as run-pass percentages. I would then make my call based on the call sheet.

In this way, we were now using concrete data to make calls. Below, as shown in Image 2, is an example of what this section of my call sheet looked like…


Most teams are very tendency oriented, and I wanted to know what their tendencies were from each formation and personnel grouping. I also wanted to be reminded of potential screen-pass downs.

We had specific calls built in to take away screens against teams that were screen-pass heavy. I also wanted to know if there were certain personnel or formation keys that tipped us off as to what our opponent would do.

Each section of our call sheet gave us specific info and insight that helped us take away what our opponent wanted to do.

Ultimately, we ended up calling our defensive call sheets an “in-game information sheet” because it contained so much necessary data.

I had a communication coach who relayed in-game information to me based on this sheet. We felt like this data helped us to put our players into positions to be successful. A good play call can help your players to become better at doing their jobs.

A year after first implementing this system, we ended up with six shutouts and beat some teams we shouldn’t have beaten. We were organized and able to play very well on defense.

Many coaches have asked about my call sheets, and I decided to put together a packet of every single document we have used to prepare on defense. These packets contain everything we used, including our 2-sided color call sheet are available for purchase on my site for just $14.99. Order now and download instantly. (Use code STATE2016 and you save 20%.) Click the following link to order or to learn more : https://sellfy.com/p/AY1u

Read Part 1 “Developing An Offensive Game Plan & Call Sheet” on AFCA Weekly.

James Vint is currently the offensive line coach at Estacado High School in Lubbock, Texas, and has extensive experience as an offensive, defensive and special teams coordinator at the high school and college levels. As an offensive coordinator, Vint’s known for being an offensive innovator – especially in regard to the pistol offense and spread.

Vint has authored numerous books and instructional DVD’s with Coaches Choice and can be purchased on his website.

James Vint’s Website:  CoachJamesVint.com

Follow James Vint On Twitter@CoachVint

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