Brandon Herring began coaching college football in 2000 at UAB, where he stayed for six years before moving to Samford University. He was the Co-Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach at Samford. He began coaching high school in 2015, where he has been a strength and conditioning coach, offensive coordinator, and head coach. He transitioned to a full-time strength and conditioning role at Hewitt-Trussville High School in 2018.
Freelap USA: With top speed becoming popular in the football social media networks, what is your approach to using top-end speed training to enhance football performance?
Brandon Herring: At Hewitt-Trussville, we implement max velocity training purely as a stimulus. The approach is no different than a focus on power or max strength in the weight room. I believe the recent “max velocity movement” has been taken out of context. Football is a game of acceleration and change of direction. Somehow, track coaches have made a huge push into the football world.
Football is not played in a straight line. Max velocity training is important. Running faster is always a good thing. However, selling out to increase max velocity and placing it as the top priority for training football players is fool’s gold. By that logic, Anthony Schwartz, a wide receiver from Auburn, would have been the first receiver taken. He’s considered the fastest straight-line runner in football, but he was taken in the third round.Running faster is always a good thing. However, selling out to increase max velocity and placing it as the top priority for training football players is fool’s gold, says @BrandonHerring0. Click To Tweet
Game speed is what is most important. This includes the ability to accelerate, separate, and change direction efficiently. Training within the context of the game to develop great instincts plays a huge role in game speed. You often hear amongst the coaching community about a player performing “faster than he is.”
A player can be impressively fast in linear speed, but if they lack the qualities needed to excel in game-like situations, the player can easily become average. Conversely, a player with average linear speed, but with elite sport-context abilities, can play “fast” in the sport. An athlete who has all of them is elite.
Freelap USA: You are a current Freelap timing system user. How has the Freelap timing system helped the development and performance of your football program?
Brandon Herring: Freelap has been a game-changer for us. We time with our Freelap system at least twice per week year-round. It has helped us create a culture of speed in our program. We track many metrics using our Freelap system. In our linear acceleration work, we time a 0- to 20-yard sprint where we record the 0-10, the 10-20 split, and the 0-20 times. As I stated before, football is a game of acceleration. It is vital to allocate acceleration training from multiple stances into multiple planes. Neglecting acceleration work is neglecting the demands of the sport.
In our top-end training, we record 10-yard flies with either a 20- or 30-yard build-in. I have found that the vast majority of football players at this level reach max velocity within those build-in parameters. Occasionally, we may have a player who needs to stretch a bit further, but they are few and far between.
We also record times on a “snake” sprint where we use the numbers on the field to weave top to bottom and utilize 10- or 20-yard build-ins for those. We implement snake sprints because football is rarely played in a straight line. Athletes must be able to sprint as close to max velocity as possible while adjusting mid-sprint to avoid a defender, run a route, or react to their reads. Generally, we include the snake sprints with our max velocity day. Curved sprints (in a half moon shape) will be timed periodically for the same reasons and are usually programmed on acceleration days.
Freelap USA: You are a former Division 1 college football offensive line coach. Where does speed development belong in the training of interior linemen and how do you implement it?
Brandon Herring: The majority of the speed work with our linemen is in acceleration. Football is a power sport, especially for those guys. We focus heavily on the 0-10 start, 10-20 split, and 0-20 start with the linemen group, who are also known as the “bigs.” As I stated earlier, I believe top-end training is important for all athletes, including linemen, as a high-speed/high-force training stimulus. However, the majority of linemen will reach max velocity much sooner than a skill player such as a defensive back or wide receiver. The bigs have a hard time maintaining top-end speed because of their body weight, so one 20-yard build is as far as we need to go in order to execute a top-end speed stimulus.
Acceleration training is similar to what we do with our skill players. We film players in the 0-10 and look to correct technique and make sure they are getting on a good power line. When setting up the execution of the drill, we have taken two different approaches. First, the bigs are in a separate group from the skill players if they are on different build-in lengths. The second approach, which is what we use most, is to set the bigs a designated number of yards ahead of the skills but running in the same groups. For example, the skills may be on the goal line running from the 0-30 for a 30-yard build-in, while we set up the bigs on the 10-yard line to run into a 20-yard build-in finishing at the same destination as the skills.
In the off-season, we utilize pulling sleds and sled pushing once a week on acceleration days. We also utilize the prowlers in the summer for conditioning for our bigs.
Freelap USA: When it comes to football, how do you approach allocating your time to acceleration, change of direction, and top speed work?
Brandon Herring: We place a heavy emphasis on change of direction and acceleration in our training. We believe it has the highest return on investment for our performance. That does not mean we neglect max velocity training, but we believe our money is made through acceleration and change of direction.We place a heavy emphasis on change of direction and acceleration in our training. We believe it has the highest return on investment for our performance, says @BrandonHerring0. Click To Tweet
In the summer, we train four days per week. Within those four days, we have one max velocity day, one acceleration day, and two change of direction days. During the season, we have two “speed” days. The first speed day is max velocity focused and the second day (closer to game day) is acceleration focused. We rarely train change of direction in-season due to the amount of stimulus athletes get in practice and competition.
During the season, we dedicate Monday and Thursday for speed training. The Freelap system allows us to get two to three times on all of our players, including a warm-up, in under 30 minutes. This is done after meetings but before practice begins. We track the times throughout the season. Our goal is to be faster when we start the playoffs than we were in game 1.
I was able to provide data this past year to our coaches that proved, as a team, we indeed got faster as the season went on. The data created buy-in from the coaches and players.
Time is always a factor, especially when dealing with large groups. In football, we do not have much time to allocate to pure sprinting mechanics. We cannot expect our football players’ max velocity mechanics to be as good as a pure sprinter. Some seem to believe speed training is solely max velocity training. This simply is not true. Acceleration and change of direction training are both speed training, in my opinion. Each skill requires maximum effort for it to develop, because it is still speed training.
When the off-season begins, we focus heavily on acceleration and tissue prep work for change of direction. As we progress into spring, we stretch our sprinting into 20- and 30-yard builds in preparation for spring ball. Concurrently, we train change of direction and agility heavily.
Freelap USA: Training with big groups can be challenging in a team setting. What is your approach to being as effective as possible with your time when speed training?
Brandon Herring: Organization is king when it comes to sprinting in large groups. The Freelap system makes it all possible. It takes two minutes to set up, and you are only slowed down by the number of chips you have and the time it requires to record the times. The times pop up on the app instantly, so athletes can be running at the same time. As soon as they hit the finish cone, the number shows up on the screen.
In the off-season, I have help from many of our coaches to assist in recording the times. When we run the 0-20 split, we usually have four lanes running concurrently. With the Bluetooth chips, we have a coach reading the times from the chips in lanes 1 and 2, and another coach reading the times from the chips in lanes 3 and 4. We have a coach charting the times as the coach calls them out. That coach yells the times loudly, so the athletes get instant feedback on their times. It takes a bit longer to record the times in our 0-20 work because we are charting three different times in one rep: the 0-20 time, the 10-20 split, and the 0-10 split on every athlete.
The setup for timing flies is basically the same. However, because you are only recording one time, it can go much faster. Another vital aspect of the organization is having a coach with an easy-to-read chart, so that manually recording times is simple and swift. We simplify our communication by only recording the second two numbers. For example, if an athlete runs a 1.11 fly, the coach only calls out and records 11—“one-one!” Both the coaches and athletes understand that “one-one” means 1.11, as we all know it isn’t possible to run a 0.11. Also, we hope to not have someone running a 10-yard split as slow as 2.11 seconds.
After the session, I take the charts from the coaches and input the times into Google Sheets. It doesn’t take long to do this, and I don’t have to worry about issues with technology by taking an iPad or using a phone to record times. I post these times outside of our locker room so the players can see where they rank on the team.
During the season, we are able to get 2-3 times on 90+ players in under 30 minutes using this setup. It has had a tremendous impact on our culture and competitiveness to be the fastest and most explosive team on the field.
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