MULLEN MOMO: The Art of Preparation

Carroll quarterback Jeff Becker warms up on the sidelines on August 20. (Photo by Leverage Photography)

Joining the Outside the Huddle staff in 2021 is former Bishop Luers standout Kendrick Mullen. The member of the Class of 2013 suited up for Ball State University and after college served as an assistant coach for several years with his high school alma mater. Mullen is now a football trainer and 7v7 coach at Optimum Performance Sports.

Kendrick’s weekly Monday column goes by the name “Mullen MoMo.” According to Kendrick himself, MoMo was something late Bishop Luers coach Mike Egts used to say to players to get them going. “I’m pretty sure it just means like momentum or something,” Kendrick says.

Friday Night Lights.

There’s just something about getting out and enjoying two teams battling it out to see who will come out victorious.

All throughout the week, you see and hear the trash talk, whether it’s between players through text or social media, lifelong fans, parents, school Barstool accounts and sometimes even coaches. The hype leading up to a high school football game is something that has the potential to bring every walk of life together. Let’s be honest, after the unprecedented season a year ago, everyone deserves the chance to be able to play and to have a memorable 2021 football season. The players clearly missed packed stadiums and the fans missed their chance to cheer on their teams in attendance at the games!

The 2021 season feels just a tad bit different compared to the ambivalence the 2020 season brought forth. It’s not just because there are zero fan restrictions (for now, fingers crossed), but also because coaches and players were able to have a full offseason to actually develop their teams. With the restrictions last year, coaches had to meet and watch film with their team on Zoom, rather than in person. Weight rooms were only allowed a limited capacity in which lifting sessions were broken up into groups based on class, position groups, etc.

While COVID-19 is still a very real thing, compared to where Indiana high school football was last season, this year feels like a modern-day Renaissance. When speaking to multiple coaches throughout the area, the time they were able to spend with their team in the spring and summer is something they has not been taken for granted leading up to the season.

As fans of the game, we love to enjoy the results of our teams going to war under the lights, but there is so much more that goes into the process behind the scenes before you even get to Fridays. Very often the preparation of a team gets overlooked in the hype of a great matchup. Programs who have had success for an extended period of time can all agree that there is no success without the establishment of proper preparation.

The pre-Friday prep lays the foundation of your favorite team going out and giving it their all during a game. In Week 1 around the area, saw just that! There were many exciting games as some matchups went down to the wire. I can’t remember the last time a Week 1 game in the city was won on a last-second field goal! There were new faces on the field, as well as the sidelines.

I was able to catch up with a few coaches and players before the Week 1 Game of the Week between 6A Carroll and 2A Bishop Luers about just what goes into their preparation leading up to their matchup. Both teams have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, as well as great coaching staffs who prepared them for what turned out to be a thrilling game. From the opening kickoff that was returned for a touchdown by Carroll sophomore Braden Steely to the fourth quarter punt by Brody Glenn that put the Chargers inside their own 5-yard line with under two minutes to play, top talent delivered throughout! But I digress, we all know the final score of the games. This column is to shine light on the preparation that went into these outcomes. 

I’ve noticed that there are plenty of similarities between teams in terms of preparation than many may not realize. For instance, Bishop Luers offensive coordinator Jeff Stanski and Carroll quarterback Jeff Becker both agreed that a team’s depth chart is one of the biggest things they look at when they prepare for an opponent. A team’s two-deep depth chart has a big impact on the approach of an offense because it allows them to find out who might be a liability on the field, as well as the matchups they may struggle with.

On the other side of the ball, Bishop Luers Defensive Coordinator Carson Bradley explained that the biggest things for him while forming a game plan is formation recognition and personnel. Personnel plays a huge factor in how a defense lines up. For example, if an offense comes out in 22 personnel (2 Running Backs, 2 Tight Ends) there is a good chance that the team is looking to keep the ball on the ground. In a personnel such as 10 (1 RB, 0 TE), also known as the Spread offense, there is a better chance of airing it out with more receivers on the field.

There are also particular challenges when preparing for your Week 1 opponent. Most, if not all, coaches and players agree that in the first game of the season you are limited in just how much you know about the team you are preparing for. “Lack of film” is the most common response I received when I asked about the challenges for the first week, as opposed to later on in the season. The only film that teams have on opponents in Week 1 is either from a scrimmage or film from years prior.

Becker described his challenges by pointed out that teams typically have a different game plan when playing against him as opposed to other teams. It makes perfect sense with Becker arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the state! Most teams feel their best option is to have a linebacker spy him in case he decides to take off and run during a passing play. That may not show up on film from previous games.

Bishop Luers senior RB/DB Sir Hale takes a different approach to the challenges he faces while preparing for an opponent. Being a leader for the Knights, he finds it challenging to find the balance between leadership and friendship. Hale understands that holding a leadership role also means that you have to be the “bad guy” at times.

One of the most important things when getting ready for an opponent is how well the team utilizes Hudl, a database in which coaches and players are able to watch film, install playbooks and game plans, as well as come up with reports that show the opposing team’s formations and tendencies.

Glenn best utilizes Hudl by watching film and breaking it down with teammate and QB1 Carson Clark, Stanski and wide receivers coach Darrion White. Bradley also made note to add that “watching too much film can sometimes be a bad thing to the game plan.”

Film can also be very deceptive. When asked if there are any pros or cons to watching film as opposed to real-time game experience, Carroll coach Doug Dinan explained, “You can scout players and schemes, but it is very difficult, especially early in the season to put a lot into what you see on tape when it comes to scrimmages.”

Most coaches would agree with that statement because it is hard to tell the amount of playmakers a team has based on the offseason. You also see schemes that may vary depending on the opponent. Becker believes that oftentimes looking at film brings out a bad habit of thinking something might be easier to do than what it actually is during the game.

Most players, and former players can admit that there was a time when they watched a team and thought they were slower, or not as physical when watching film. The sometimes then left to them showing up to a game having completely misjudged the opponent. 

One aspect of preparation that doesn’t always receive the recognition it deserves is the scout team. While scout team guys are typically not the stars you see on Friday nights, their role throughout the week is extremely important to the success of the team.

Bishop Luers senior offensive lineman George Buday let it be known that in order for him to play well in a game, he needs to have a good look from the scout team players lined up across from him. For offensive and defensive lineman this statement hits home because there are no other positions that require the amount of physicality as the guys in the trenches! A scout team player who gives it his all against a starter only strengthens the overall build up of the team.

Leo coach Jared Sauder put it into perspective as the scout team being “huge” to his team’s success.

“When you look at attempting to replicate what opponents do, there is nothing more valuable than a scout team that can operate effectively,” Sauder said.

The Leo coach makes sure to remind the scout team that they are important to what the Lions do on Friday nights, even if they do not see any playing time.

Preparation is not something that receives the most recognition, but is the key to sustained success and necessary for shaping a program into a powerhouse. Winning comes with a huge price, and those who have had the privilege of being a part of a successful team can attest to the preparation it took to get to that level.

It’s much more than just showing up on Friday nights. Great players come and go, and while great players may elevate a team from average to above average, there is still a requirement of preparing with your coaches and teammates to accomplish team goals.

High school football is a perfect combination of the work put in and the joy of the end result. Win or lose, if coaches and players can honestly look themselves in the mirror and say they have given their all in preparation, that in itself is something worth applauding!

Mullen MoMo appears every Monday during the prep football season. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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