Pulaski Academy (AR) head coach Kevin Kelley has always been a man whose coaching philosophy has defied conventional coaching approaches.
Chances are you've heard the stories. He's the man who onside kicks every single time, who doesn't believe that sending someone back to field a punt is worth the risk of the kid muffing it, and who never - I repeat NEVER - punts the ball. It may sound crazy, but he's got plenty of data to back it up, along with a 77-17 record and two state title appearances.
Well, the Washington Post recently ran a story on Kelley's next innovative idea that is going to buck conventional coaching, and give defensive coordinators nightmares. After using an ESPN database to study college football history, Kelley found a new trend emerge last season where teams that recorded more explosive plays of 20 yards or more won 81% of games.
Kelley also found that on typical plays where two players touched the ball (QB and RB or WR), those 20 yard plays came at about a 10% clip, but when at least three players touched the ball (on a lateral or trick play of some sort), the percentage for an explosive play almost doubled to about 20%.
While Kelley contemplated how to develop an offensive system around that idea, he flipped to a rugby game on TV and it hit him - instead of having his receivers rushing to block someone after a catch, when they're given a pre-snap "Rugby" call from him on the sideline, all receivers will work to get into pitch-phase. They will then yell the receivers name, and what side they're on, and work to run a rugby style option downfield.
The Washington Post points out a couple things that really work to Kelley's favor here with this approach, one of which is open-field tackling. Spread teams have long loved the one-on-one match ups in the open field, and this new approach takes that to the next level, and then spreads it all over the field a few times over. The second thing is that regardless of how well the strategy ends up working, it will no-doubt force defensive coordinators to change the way that they defend the field. If they hated option football, preparing for this will surely give them nightmares.
Coaches have come out of the woodwork over the last several years to talk ball with Kelley, including a number of NFL and FBS coaches over the years who just want to pick his brain. But this latest innovation isn't something that he necessarily wants to see catch on. He knows the numbers, and he knows the advantage it provides for his guys, and that's all he's ever really needed.
“I don’t want anybody else doing this. With not punting and the onside kicks, I know I have a stat advantage. If this works, I want everybody thinking this is stupid, too.”