Chalk Talk: Resources to Improve Your Football IQ


Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers play chart is displayed during the first half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game against the Florida State Seminoles at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when I thought I knew a lot about football.

I played a little high school football, grew up as a huge college football fan and watched game, after game, after game. I read articles on the Internet about not only my favorite team, but also about the coaches I respected and the teams whose style of play I enjoyed watching. I couldn’t get enough of the X’s and O’s, the strategies, and the schemes. I thought I was pretty bright.

And then I started coaching football.

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  • I quickly found out that there are so many things about this wonderful sport that I had never even considered. That was six years ago, and I’ve filled in a lot of gaps in my football knowledge, and increased my football IQ along the way.

    If you are a fan that wants to learn more about the ins and outs of football, you’ll enjoy our Chalk Talk series at Fly War Eagle.

    As an Auburn fan, you are very lucky. Gus Malzahn is one of the most interesting coaches in all of football from a schematic and philosophic standpoint. We will discuss everything from his tempo to personnel to play calling.

    And, not to be forgotten, there is plenty to talk about on the defensive side of the football as well. Ellis Johnson is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the game, and his 4-2-5 defense is one of college’s football’s most fashionable and successful schemes.

    But, before we dive into the X’s and O’s, I thought it would be best to lay some groundwork and provide some resources that helped me as a young football coach, and that I still turn to on a regular basis as a writer.



    • The Dictionary of American Football Terms, by John T. Reed. One of the first things I realized as a football coach is there is a language among coaches that is unfamiliar to the common fan. This glossary does a great job of explaining a large portion of that vocabulary. It is best not to jump into the glossary and try to consume it all if you’re not familiar with many of the terms. Instead, keep it as a bookmark and refer to it when reading other information, or when you hear unfamiliar terminology on television.


    • Coach Huey is a fantastic resource for anyone and everyone interested in learning more about football. It is a coach’s forum, largely populated with high school coaches but a few college ones as well, that offers technical football discussion for every subject under the sun. Many of the members and contributors on the message boards have their own blogs and websites with tons of additional insight and information as well. I suggest signing up and searching through older posts for topics of interest (because there is probably already quite a bit of information available on anything you could ever want to know) and taking plenty of time to watch and read before jumping into the dialogue. If you are just starting out and don’t fully speak the “coaching language,” it’s best to acclimate slowly.


    • Jim Light Football is the best resource I have found for All-22 coach’s video on the Internet. Mr. Light has done us all a favor and compiled an impressive catalog of game film using the All-22 angle, including quite a bit of Auburn footage.
    • is a great resources for coaching videos of all kinds. It is a subscription service similar to Netflix that offers hundreds of videos from offensive line technique, to quarterback drills, to the Wing T and everything in between.
    • Somewhat similar to eFootballFlix is the Glazier Clinics Online program. Glazier Clinics are very valuable in themselves, and an annual subscription to Glazier Clinics includes the price of admission to any and all national clinics. But, if you can’t make it to a clinic and would rather watch videos at home, the Glazier Clinics Online program has hundreds of options to choose from, and there are interactive chalk talk sessions and webinars regularly.
    • The folks at do a great job covering Oregon football specifically, but a lot of the work they do will increase your overall football IQ as well. Here, you’ll find a large database of videos from the 2011-12 season that breaks down individual concepts like the zone read, inside zone, outside zone, and much, much more.
    • If you want to re-watch a TV copy of a game, almost anything you could want (including lots and lots of Auburn games) are now available on YouTube. Most are even edited as to skip commercials.


    This is by no means a definitive list, and these are placed in no particular order. I have not read every football book ever written, but I recommend the ones on this list for fans and coaches alike that would like to improve their football IQ.

    • Take Your Eye Off The Ball, Playbook Edition by Pat Kirwin with David Seigerman. This book provides a simple explanation of many different aspects of football that fans don’t often consider. The playbook edition comes with a useful companion DVD.
    • The Essential Smart Football by Chris B. Brown. Chris B. Brown is a Grantland contributor and the brains behind He has written quite a bit for both about Gus Malzahn, and one chapter of this book is devoted Malzahn’s “Multiple Attack.”
    • The Hurry-Up, No Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy by Gus Malzahn. Written when he was a high school coach, Malzahn shares his HUNH with the world. There is a video by the same name featuring Malzahn as well.
    • Football Scouting Methods by Steve Belichick. If the name looks familiar, it should. Bill Belichick’s father wrote this gem decades ago, but it is still very useful today.
    • Nike Coach of the Year Manuals Edited by Earl Browning. Any of them – all of them. Get the clinic notes too. The topics are endless and every one is packed with useful nuggets about the game.
    • Coaching the Under Front Defense by Jerry Gordon. Well written and easy to understand, written about one of football’s most popular defenses.
    • How Good Do You Want to Be? by Nick Saban. I know – it’s sacrilege, but it really is worth a read. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, and all that.
    • Do You Love Football? by Jon Gruden. Like the book listed above, this is less about X’s and O’s, and more about an overall philosophy with biographical details mixed in.

    Advanced Reading/Classics

    • Finding the Winning Edge by Bill Walsh with Brian Billick and James Peterson. The football coaching Bible. More of a textbook than anything, this is a legendary volume from one of football’s greatest minds.
    • Coaching Team Defense by Fritz Shurmur. One of the most well respected defensive books ever written, this book includes everything you could ever want to know about defensive football. Arnsparger’s Coaching Defensive Football has a similar reputation, but I have not personally read it yet.
    • The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football by Tubby Raymond. When a high school defensive coordinator named Gus Malzahn was promoted to head coach and thought he needed to figure out a few things about offense, he used this book and implemented its strategies word for word. Much has changed between now and then, but there are still some principles Malzahn learned here that he implements today at Auburn.

    There are many individual articles that have been written that could be included here as well, and we will refer to some of them in our Chalk Talk sessions. If you would like to suggest topics to be discussed in Chalk Talk, let us know in the comments below.