You have probably heard about the Arkansas high school football coach who never punts and always onside kicks. Much has been broadcast and written about his odd, yet winning, tactics.
Well, he’s up to some more tricks.
Kevin Kelley at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock has gained fame in recent years for his unconventional approach to football. Even when his team is deep in their own territory, he’ll forgo punting. And, unless his team up big late in the game, they’ll onside kick every kickoff. He has crunched the numbers on both strategies, and it always work in his favor, to the tune of winning 80 percent of their games and three state titles.
His latest tactic is revealed in a great piece by the Washington Post.
Kelley, who cites Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” and “Freakonomics” among his favorite books, has researched another contrarian theory.
From the Washington Post:
Kelley used an ESPN database to study college football history. He found that historically, there was no bigger indicator of victory than winning the turnover margin – teams that forced more turnovers than they committed won 80 percent of the time. But last season, Kelley said, a new trend emerged for the first time: Teams that recorded more plays of at least 20 yards won about 81 percent of the time.
Great. So just throw the ball long, right? Nope. There’s much more to it.
He became obsessed with finding a system designed for big plays. He found that on plays when two players touched the ball – a typical handoff or pass – teams gained 20 yards about 10 percent of the time. But when at least three players touched the ball – a trick play with a lateral involved – the percentage for gaining 20 yards rose to around 20 percent.
“That got me thinking,” Kelley said. “How could we develop a system for more than two people to touch the ball?”
Kelley had his eureka moment while watching a rugby game, the story states. He figures that he can amass more 20-plus yardage plays by lateraling downfield. Instead of having the non-targeted receivers block on a pass play, they run to where the catch was made, expecting a lateral.
Kelley aptly named the new offensive scheme, “rugby.”
“Let’s say we could successfully complete a pitch three times a game,” Kelley told the Washington Post. “The guy with the ball is going to be in more one-on-one situations down the field. Even if it’s not working as well, I do think opposing coaches are going to have to change the way they defend the field.”