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Sonny Dykes' keys to being a successful head coach

I arrived at Presidential ballroom B at the Gaylord Opryland on Sunday night expecting to hear Tony Franklin talk about quarterback play. He didn't make it. Instead, I arrived to see Sonny Dykes speak on the three things he has learned that are important to becoming a successful head coach.

Such is life at the AFCA convention.

Instead of three things, Dykes ended up listing nearly 20.

Such is life at the AFCA convention.

Here are a few nuggets I found intriguing.

Morale is critical. Dykes told the story of this year's Louisiana Tech team, which started 9-1 and finished 9-3. Louisiana Tech had gotten to 9-1 behind one of the nation's top-ranked offenses and lowest-ranked defenses. Through 10 games, Dykes knew his team had issues forming between the offense and defense, and that his defense was losing confidence in itself. Despite knowing that, Dykes mistakenly did not want to rock the boat of a 9-1 team, and the Bulldogs dropped their final two games. Next time, he won't be afraid to changes things when change is necessary. 

Short practices. Dykes' teams are never on the field for more than two hours, and by the end of the season sometimes practice as short as 40 minutes.

Execution is much more important than scheme. Dykes relayed an anecdote from when he served as a GA under Hal Mumme at Kentucky. The Wildcats had spent all August practicing two scripts, one 11 plays long and the other eight-plays long, with some situational plays (third-down, goal line, etc.) thrown in. For Kentucky's season opener against Louisville, Mumme brought just the eight play script, two third down plays and some goal line plays, bringing the total to 14. Running nothing but those 14 plays, Kentucky scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions.

Don't let it become all business. Dykes said that his teams try to have fun whenever possible, and that he has his staff do something to lighten the mood every day. 

Coach turnovers. Dykes' coaches emphasize turnovers in every period of every practice throughout the season. During Louisiana Tech's 9-1 start, they committed only eight turnovers, and quarterback Colby Cameron set an NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception. In their two season-ending losses, the Bulldogs committed six turnovers.