Tom Herman at his first spring practice of 2017 (Joe Cook/IT)
Tom Herman at his first spring practice of 2017 (Joe Cook/IT)

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The term thud made it’s way into my vocabulary at some point during the 70’s. I first thought it to be very large human beings running to the football—you know, thudding along. By definition I came to understand thud meant full ass boom to the ball and then play “touch” without impeding the runners progress down the field. Where’s the fun in that?

The main problem with “thud” practice is it’s a necessary evil at best. I contend that for every injury one might avoid in thud tempo there is at least one bad habit rearing it’s ugly head to offset the gain. I have a hard time believing that tagging or waving at a ball-carrier without breaking down qualifies as development as a player.

They pretend “thud” is a healthier way to practice. Tell the OL, DL, LB, and TE’s that thud is easy on the body. Those groups go full speed every down—they just don’t tackle at the end of the play. I still remember assistant coaches yelling “stay up—stay up” like that will eliminate the pain and suffering and allow me to read the 5 chapters in English Lit that night. Right.

The best thing “thud” produced was to give the defensive staff a tool to check out pursuit angles from all eleven defenders. Allowing the ball to escape any form of impediment going forward allowed the staff to check out the backside corner (usually last one to have a chance) and backside DE trailing for cutback or reverse along with intelligent angles from the other defenders.

The worst thing “thud” produced was create bad habits with open field tackles and over-running the ball. For every big hit tackle in space you will get 10 “air” tackles along with a few “drive—bye’s” and “ricochet’s” that don’t win you ball games. Thud didn’t allow you to break down and “bear hug” the ball down. Bad habits developing without a single shot fired.

The bear hug is still the best space tackle as long as you only give the runner a one way option. They have some slippery devils carrying the mail in space these days. We don’t see enough boundary tackles period—the boundary is your friend when you are in the neighborhood. Same is true for turning the ball back to the pursuit when the boundary is unavailable. Thud doesn’t always allow you to utilize these useful tools.

I guess I will stick to my definition of “thud” until I get a better choice of words or description. Thud is working your ass off full speed until you get to the ball and then you crater down into a non contact technique without breaking stride. Kinda like cutting yourself a piece of pie and then not eating it.

I really enjoyed reading that coach Orlando spent quality individual time teaching defeating blocks and reaction to flow in practices this week. I truly believe it’s a lost art form in too many situations now that schemes have replaced technique coaching. I would bet my hat, ass, and overcoat that Orlando had the same techniques taught him while he was growing into a LB back in his day.

I still remember the how’s, why’s, and when’s taught me as a Mike backer. There is a huge difference in the game now but that shouldn’t eliminate teaching quality responses in how to play the game. I read where backers now have gap control and run fits and somehow it makes me wonder if robots or mental giants are backing the line these days. Gary Johnson is a throwback backer and it’s refreshing to watch him operate.

I know it’s yesterday’s news but I still remember having A gap responsibility if the ball entered that gap. I had B gap when ball appeared there. C gap when they went off tackle. D gap when they ventured outside. Had to run a gasser for every time I over-ran the ball. Our scheme was everybody funneled the ball back to the Mike.

Tommy Nobis secured the ball instead of individual or pre-determined gaps. He just did it much better than the rest of us. Odds that Tommy spent much/any time developing his “thud” skills? Bet Vegas won’t take book on it.