Football preview: What it takes to put together the best scouting report

Lyons assistant Jon Beutjer is responsible for analyzing the opposition’s defensive backs and relaying what he sees to quarterback Tom Fiedler. | Brian O’Mahoney/for Sun-Times Media
Lyons assistant Jon Beutjer is responsible for analyzing the opposition’s defensive backs and relaying what he sees to quarterback Tom Fiedler. | Brian O’Mahoney/for Sun-Times Media

The creation of a scouting report is a weekly ritual for high school football coaches across the state.

Lyons assistant coach Jon Beutjer said putting together good intelligence is the needed preparation for the chess match that takes place every Friday and Saturday at football stadiums in the area.

“It’s the most important thing,” Beutjer said. “If you do not have a good game plan, it’s hard to be successful. You can’t go out there and pull plays out. You have to know some team’s running plays and their coverages.”

Beutjer quarterbacked Wheaton Warrenville South to the 1998 Class 6A state championship with a record-setting passing attack and went on to play for Iowa, Illinois and in the Arena Football and Canadian Football leagues. He is the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for Lyons coach Kurt Weinberg, who also is the offensive coordinator and calls the plays.

“It’s important to study teams and find their tendencies, and obviously try to practice those things so the kids see it,” Beutjer said. “The kids need to buy into it and believe it.”

Beutjer’s input on the scouting report is focused mainly on what opposing defensive backs are doing. With a few clicks on a website, Beutjer can show quarterback Tom Fiedler what pass coverage the defense is in on certain plays. Beutjer looks at an opponent’s tendencies in certain situations: What defensive alignment do they run on fourth-and-long, third-and-short, third-and-long and in the red zone?

The days of sending out lower-level football coaches to games with clipboards so they can prepare hand-written reports are ending. The only Friday games Weinberg’s staff will likely scout are Sept. 19 and Sept. 26, when Lyons plays the next day. For each opponent, Weinberg’s staff analyzes downloaded video of two games provided by the opposing team on the website hudl.com.

For teams like Lyons, scouting reports are a collaborative, staff-wide process. Position coaches analyze the moves of the opposition. They make comments on a notes tool as well as a scouting report feature at the hudl website.

“Everybody has a specific role looking at the next opponent. It’s like an orchestra,” Weinberg said. “The running backs coach is in charge of blitzes. The offensive line coach looks at the defensive front. Beutjer will look at the secondary and coaches on defense do the same thing.”

New Trier defensive coordinator Jason Dane enters his 14th year as a coach. He is the scouting coordinator for new Trevians coach Brian Doll. Dane played at Niles North and graduated in 1992. He was a wide receiver-defensive back in high school, and learned to break down video in his early years as an assistant high school coach when VHS was the only format available.

“One of the things we look at is formation breakdown,” Dane said. “We look at trips with receivers [on offense]. Do they have an empty backfield? What formation do they use with a tight end? Do they have twins or double slots [receivers, two on each side of the field]?”

The weekly scouting routine for Barrington coach Joe Sanchez begins around 7 a.m. every Sunday when Sanchez and his entire staff report to school. Sanchez usually finishes around noon, though a few other coaches will stay longer to sort through more video. Sanchez said it takes two hours just to identify key players on video from the opposing team. That’s the first step Dane and the New Trier staff take when preparing their scouting report.

Once Dane determines the opponent’s key players, he assigns non-starters to become scout team members in practice to execute the game plan based on the scouting report.

The scout team will duplicate an opponent’s plays on offense, and Dane said it also will perform any trick plays that show up in previous game video footage.

By Sunday night and Monday afternoon, Sanchez’s players can look at their portion of the report on their phones, tablets or personal computers through hudl.

“I want the team to be as prepared as possible,” Sanchez said. “It’s a collaborative effort with what we do. … I like [my staff] to look at the film together so we share ideas and situations.”

Glenbrook North coach Bob Pieper admits he might be one of the last high school coaches to send his freshman coaching staff to Friday night games and they type a computerized report as a backup to their hudl.com software. The freshman coaches, who have Saturday morning games, are Scott Williams, John Byrne, Tim Drevline, Mark Rebora and Jim Howie. Other teams are willing to give their freshman coaches Friday nights off, but Pieper likes to see his staff contribute to the varsity.

“We have a veteran freshman staff. They know what we’re looking for and they know how important it is to us,” Pieper said. “I say, ‘We’re one program. Not four.’ “

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