Senior College Football Columnist

New site allows coaches, fans to dig deeper into the X's and O's

Coaches who want insight into Bud Foster's 4-2-5 defense can get it at XandOLabs.com. (US Presswire)

These days there are more and more ways fans can learn about the inner workings of the sport of football. One of the best resources for diehards looking to learn more about the details of certain schemes can be found via XandOLabs.com. There are many free articles and a lot more behind the pay wall. Among the staffs that subscribe are the Jets, Falcons, Wisconsin, Florida and Notre Dame. Next week, X and O will have an extensive report on the 4-2-5 defense with video tutorials on TCU and Virginia Tech game film. Earlier this week, I spoke with the co-founder of X and O Labs, Mike Kuchar about, among other things, what makes his site unique; how the internet has impacted coaching and trends we may see over the next 18 months. (Full Disclosure: Kuchar is a former colleague of mine.)

Q: There are a lot of resources online for football coaches. What makes XandO Labs different?

Kuchar: All of our information is research based. We are not a blog, or a single person's perspective on the game. We are collection of coaching data, supported by generated surveys and multitudes of coaching methodology provided by our readers. There is an extensive and elaborate process that we follow when putting together our reports. We follow a model -- we ask specific questions about what coaches do, therefore we get specific answers. Most importantly we provide a service to football coaches who want information on various topics.

Coaching football is such a technical endeavor, a craft that is honed only through trial and error, so why not have a platform where these proven methodologies are shared? It's not a version of hand-me-down football, or some far off interpretation of something we've seen on TV. What you see on our site is the culmination of information that coaches have spent a majority of their lives developing. They are more than happy to share it with us, and we are gracious for that.

Q: Why did you want to start this project?

Kuchar: Well, for one I'm a football coach by trade. I spent the last ten years coaching both at the high school level and FCS level. I study football on a daily basis, so my partner and I wanted to develop an online database where coaches can access all this information. I've also been writing about football for that same amount of time -- for such publications like ESPN Magazine and American Football Monthly. So I feel I have the versatility to convey the subject matter in a way that is technical enough for coaches, in a way that I would want to understand the game as a coach.

Like any other coach, I've searched the ends of the earth to get my hands on anything I could revolving around football. We wanted to take the legwork out if it for coaches and provide them with everything they need at one location.

Q: What are some components of your site?

Kuchar: Like I mentioned before, it's a service. There are two components to our site. Once you sign up on our site, you get weekly email blasts every Tuesday with free football content. This will consist of an offensive clinic report, a defensive clinic report (all written by our coaches) a research report on a given football discipline -- such as variations of the scat pass game to use an example -- and a column written by one of our writers. The research reports consist of data based on surveys that we distribute to our coaches. There will be diagrams as well as film to support our findings.

There is also a paid, subscription based service -- called “X&O Labs Insiders” where you can enroll in for an annual fee. Here you get unlimited access to all of our research including what we call “special reports” that are distributed four times a year. We just followed up our zone read study with a 32,000 word report on the 4-2-5 defense complete with an exclusive Q and A with Virginia Tech's Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster and over two hours of game film from TCU and other programs all over the country that run the 4-2-5 scheme. We also have coaches from all levels of football posting some of their drill tapes and teach tapes based on schemes or fundamentals they are using in their program.

Q: What are some of the pieces that have generated the most buzz inside the business?

Kuchar: Our demographic is football coaches, not the casual football watcher. So we know that coaches are attracted to useful and applicable information, and not necessarily magnetized to the glamor of the game -- the pieces that they are attracted to will vary, based on what they can apply to their programs. We could have a high school coach in Wisconsin write about a tweak in his pistol option game, and it will take off on the site. But as far as internet buzz goes, the three-part series on QB play that we did with Mike Leach at Washington State was one our readers favorites (as well as mine).

Dirk Koetter, the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons put together something on his four vertical pass game that also had a tremendous following. But, like I mentioned, coaches don't necessarily look for names, they look for content that can help them, and we do our best to supply them with it.

Q: What is your targeted demographic? Who reads your stuff?

Kuchar: We're really across the board -- we have Pop Warner programs up through three franchises in the NFL that have subscribed to our service already. I get emails from coaches in Germany, Italy and Mexico to name a few. It's really exciting. Guys just want to talk ball with us.

Q: Coaches often don't like to share their stuff, how receptive have these guys been when you approach them?

Kuchar: Like anything else, some are forthcoming and some are not. We've found that all coaches want to talk football, but some may not talk about everything. So, we find things that they want to talk about. As long as it's about football, it's helping someone. There's an ageless maxim that's clinic talk in the football business that reads, “if you can learn one thing it was worth your money.”

We like to think we provide our readers with much more than that- but often times it can be one thing you pick up from someone else that can make a season successful.

Q: You wrote a really insightful breakdown of the Boise State offense a few years back. How much do you see those principles being used at Florida this year since Brent Pease is now the UF OC?

Kuchar: Good question. I'd imagine a good deal of it considering the success that Coach Peterson has had over there. It seems like he is developing his own “coaching tree”- with his former staff picking up jobs all over the country. He's one of the brightest in the business. Funny thing is Coach Pease is a subscriber to our service, but I hadn't had a chance to reach out to him yet.

Q: How do you think the internet has impacted the development of football coaching?

Kuchar: Tremendously, but not always in a positive light. Coaches can access a myriad of information in a few clicks, but how credible is the source you're getting your information from? There are blogs out there that will tell you how to do anything, but there may not be any validity to them. That's what separates us from other websites. We go right to the coaches and we tell our readers where we get our information from. It's credible and it's proven, right from the source. There is a trust that is developed with our readership because they feel connected with each other. It has generated a coaching community.

Q: What trends do you think college football will be seeing a lot more in the next 18 months scheme wise?

Kuchar: Offensively, we're getting a ton of requests about the option read scheme in the pistol. We are actually in the process of developing a special report about it within the next few months. It's such a difficult scheme to defend because of the instant misdirection it creates in the backfield. You'll also see a lot more teams running a no-huddle tempo offensively, and keeping the same personnel on the field.

I had the chance this spring to visit with 12 FBS and FCS programs, and at least 10 of them have converted to it, many for the first time.

Defensively, it's all about multiplicity these days, trying to create different “pictures” for the offense. Coaches are finding unique ways to bring pressure out of Odd and Even fronts while keeping the same personnel. So, essentially, there are matching what offenses are doing- keeping their best athletes on the field. Football is so cyclical as it is, now what Coach Belichick has done by meshing the Odd and Even fronts has picked up a good deal of momentum.

Q: As someone who played college football, coached it and also written about it, how have you seen the technical interest from people outside the coaching world grow in the past 5-10 years?

Kuchar: As I mentioned early, football is and always will be a technical game. There are so many intricacies in the game that need to recognized and attended to in order to achieve success. Anytime you watch a football play, it's a work of art. There are 5-6 little subtleties that can either make or break a huge play -- and we've found that your coaching methodologies can influence your success. To us, it's about coaching- getting the most out of your players and putting them in a position to succeed. We try to provide our coaches with all the variables and possibilities in which they can do that.

 
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