Summer football competitions designed to help offenses, defenses

Much of what Chris Coll learned about football came while he was playing for Mike Gillin at Tri-West High School in the early 1980s.

Both coaches remain proponents of the passing game, though their opinions contrast when it comes to 7-on-7 competitions conducted during the summer.

Designed primarily to benefit teams incorporating pass-oriented offenses, 7-on-7s feature skill-position players only — quarterback, receivers and running backs — on offense. Defensively, only linebackers and defensive backs take the field.

Linemen do not partake. However, the majority of host schools hold some sort of strength competition for the linemen in order for them to be involved.

Gillin, who coached at Indian Creek for 15 seasons and now leads the program at Mooresville, is confident he helped start the 7-on-7 craze locally when he was head coach at Decatur Central in the mid-1990s.

“We ran one every year. It was something that got us a little bit of a head start on the passing game,” Gillin said. “For me, it’s fun, but it’s also work.

“I’m talking routes to receivers and things like that. I get to do a lot of teaching at 7-on-7s. I know it’s not real football, but you’ve got to know how to play the passing game.”

Traditionalists have scoffed at the scrimmages due to the obvious lack of generations-old football staples such as blocking and tackling.

Coll’s multiple spread offense incorporates characteristics of pistol and shotgun formations — a drastic departure strategically from the run-oriented flexbone triple option used the past four seasons by former Grizzly Cubs coach Adam Reese.

Franklin will be attending the 7-on-7 competitions at Brownstown Central on July 22 — though it seems as if Coll is taking his team there somewhat reluctantly.

“As much as the passing game has been part of our offense over the years, I’m not a big 7-on-7 guy,” Coll said. “There are just so many elements that are missing. You go to a competition and you’re seeing things you wouldn’t see in a regular-season game.

“But with this group of kids, they haven’t thrown the ball much. We’ll probably go to one or two of these (annually) for a while.”

Center Grove hosts a day committed to 7-of-7 competitions every Father’s Day weekend at its Bantam League complex. Attending programs are broken into Big State teams (Classes 4A, 5A and 6A) and Small State teams (Classes A, 2A and 3A).

Though it may seem unusual for a program that averaged only 9.3 pass attempts per game last season to be so immersed in such competitions, Trojans coach Eric Moore knows his players benefit from the experience.

“We get to run all those routes and our quarterback gets throws,” Moore said. “But the best thing is that our defense gets reps against a lot of different offensive formations. In our situation, the defense probably benefits more than the offense.”

Brett Cooper, who succeeds Gillin at Indian Creek, used the event at Center Grove to familiarize himself with the talent and resolve of those who will be on the Braves’ roster this season.

“For me as a new coach it’s a real simple opportunity to see kids in a low-impact competition,” Cooper said. “And then, if adversity hits, it’s a chance to see who reacts and who responds.”

Not every coach is on board with the 7-on-7 trend. In June, Whiteland’s Darrin Fisher took his players to an 11-on-11 team camp at DePauw University.

It provided the 13th-year Warriors’ coach three days to gauge the progress of all of his players — linemen and kickers included.

“We only go where we can play 11-on-11. I like stuff where the whole team is involved,” Fisher said. “Team camp is always a good experience. I like it because you’re focused on fundamentals and you play fast.”

The power of seven

Here are the basic guidelines to 7-on-7 competitions:

• All players must wear a helmet and mouthpiece

• Field length: 45 yards

• Possession always begins on the 45-yard line at the right hash mark

• All offensive plays are passes

• No punting or kicking

• No blocking

• Receiver/ball carrier is down when touched below the neck with one or two hands

• Offense must gain at least 15 yards in first three plays or defense takes over

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at