Varsity is the free Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.
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Y BEHIND THE DESK BY BARRY ALVAREZ // UW DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS Tackling safety issues by teaching tackling 14 ou always worry about tackling going into that first game of the season. With your DBs, you have to make sure they can tackle in space. With all of the spread offenses now, you also have to make sure your linebackers can tackle in space. There will be plenty of attention paid to tackling this season. You can't launch anymore. You can't put your head down or use the crown of the helmet to hit a defenseless player above the shoulders. Officials can eject players for targeting. That's a pretty severe penalty when you're talking about costing guys playing time. But that's the rule. To what extent they will enforce it, we don't know. I used to teach my linebackers to tackle with their chest. I was always taught to do it that way. We never tackled with our helmet. I know the Big Ten recently announced joining forces with USA Football to advance player safety through support of its Heads Up Football initiative. I like what they're doing. There will be a huge emphasis on teaching and educating youth coaches, players and parents on proper tackling techniques to avoid injuries by taking the head out of the game. I think it's great. When parents aren't letting their kids come out for football because of their fear of injuries, and you see future ramifications of concussions, you have to teach them how to tackle at an early age. // VARSITY August 22, 2013 It's a matter of conditioning them to the right way of doing things. I thought we really tackled well during Monday's scrimmage. We were sound. I didn't see as much blitzing which was good because we had to play some base defense. I thought the offense did a lot of good things. You saw some movement; you saw the ball thrown down the field. You have different quarterbacks with different strengths. THERE WILL BE A HUGE EMPHASIS ON TEACHING AND EDUCATING YOUTH COACHES, PLAYERS AND PARENTS ON PROPER TACKLING TECHNIQUES TO AVOID INJURIES BY TAKING THE HEAD OUT OF THE GAME. I know it was limited in what they did but you saw some good hard running by the backs. I think some running backs need to get hit before the season, but not too much. James White doesn't need many carries in a scrimmage. He doesn't need to get knocked around. That was always my belief with backs ― the ones that were established you don't need to beat up because they're going to get a lot of hits during the season. You just want to get them into a rhythm with the offense. You want them to get the feel for getting hit so they have an awareness of ball security when they get into a game. Creating turnovers always has to be an emphasis on defense. We had a second-man drill where someone would tackle the ball-carrier and the second guy would go after the ball. We condition our running backs to hold the ball high and tight. So as soon as they let that ball get out from their body a little bit, it should be like blood in the water for a shark. On defense, you should see their eyes double in size because they know the back or receiver is vulnerable to a fumble when they're holding the ball out there and that's when you can take a shot at it. If you can get some turnovers early in the season, now the guys really start believing in all of the practice time that they are spending on it, and they start looking for more turnovers. Chris Borland has got one of the best noses for the football of any player I've been around. He creates fumbles. He gets fumbles. He's always around the ball. I would put him in the same category with Michael Stonebreaker and Larry Station, a couple of linebackers I coached at Notre Dame and Iowa, respectively. They all did it different ways. But they'd impact a game. Turnovers can do that. It's field position. It's another possession. It's getting your defense off the field to get a little rest. It's keeping their offense on the sidelines and wearing their defense down. It's a big part of winning football.