Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Advanced Handler Cutting: Part 2

In part 1, I discussed resetting the disc to a handler when the disc is near the middle of the field. Part 2 will focus on resetting the disc from the more difficult position of the sideline.

In general, most offenses try and stay near the middle of the field. The sideline acts as an extra defender, which makes both the disc-marker and rest of the defense's job easier, knowing the horizontal space the offense has is more limited.

For dump cuts, the sideline makes resets more difficult for a couple of reasons. First off, where you setup as a dump (force vs break) is no longer up to you. Whatever the defensive force is, will obviously dictate what side of the thrower you will set up on. Even if you are on the force-side, which as discussed in part 1 is the ideal setup for a mid-field reset, the equivalent throwing angles no longer apply because the sideline will be cutting off the space throw to one side and any defender worth their salt will shade towards the wide-side of the field.

Let's take a step back and talk briefly about disc movement. The biggest difference on offense between a good team and a mediocre team is disc movement. You've probably heard your coaches or captains say "keep the disc moving," and while it seems obvious any maybe even a little cliche, this is probably the most important principle of any offense. As the disc movement slows down or stagnates with any one player, the defense is allowed to settle onto the offense, take a breath and assess their biggest threats.

Think of the difference between playing defense in a specific defensive drill versus an in-game situation. Defensive drills tend to be somewhat scripted defensive scenarios. It's a simulated game-time instance for a player to work on footwork, triangulation or whatever. When the movement of the disc slows down or stops in a game, the defense is allowed to settle into this "drill" setup. They know where the disc is, where their offense threats are, and can adjust accordingly. If the disc stays moving, the defense stays on their heels and will usually stay a step behind the offense.

So, below I'm going to discuss getting the disc off the sideline from a stationary standpoint, when the defense is set up as intelligently as possible (in my opinion). The actual best "technique" to get the disc off the sideline is to keep the disc moving, avoid a stopped disc anywhere near the sideline and never allow the defense to settle onto your cutters, either down-field or backfield.

Resetting From a Trapped Disc

Anyone who knows me as a coach and player, knows that I'm not a fan of trapping the disc. This means that I rarely will switch a force, given the opportunity, to force a disc towards the sideline as it approaches that sideline. The reason for that, is that it gives ample deep (horizontal) space down-field and makes covering the dump more difficult.

Regardless of my defensive preferences, teams will still end up on that sideline with a trapped disc frequently, and just like with a mid-field reset, where the primary dump sets up their cut is paramount to the success of that reset.

Horizontal Spacing

As far as setting up horizontally from the disc (distance relative to the width of the field), that is dependent on your own person speed, skill-set and most importantly where the defense is setting up on you.

If you have an explosive first set up, you want to be closer (5-7 yards) as you're more likely to gain early separation in your cut. If you're strength is top-speed rather than quickness, then giving yourself a little more space (7-10+ yards) will allow you play to that strength.

Another determining factor is how your team runs their offense. If your team runs a stack with more than one handler back, you have limited horizontal space because it's occupied by another handler. If your team looks to get disc off a sideline by default at an early stall count, then you can utilize more space as you have a bigger timing window to get open. Your team may clear the 'primary' dump position into the down-field and fill in a secondary look from elsewhere.

The one default rule to follow as far as horizontal space is concerned, is to make sure you have enough space to actually get around your defender and make a line (oven) cut. If you set up too close to disc, there simply isn't enough room to get to the line space. (see figure 1.1 below)

Vertical Spacing

This is where things start to get interesting. I learned and ran for years that setting up slightly backfield from the disc (3-5 yards) is the best way to start. This gave you more space to drive your defender up the line allowing for both easy backfield resets and plenty of line space for the oven cut. However, these past couple of years I have been changing my stance on this backfield set up. There are simply too many disadvantages against a smart dump defender.

Simply put, a smart defender will oftentimes play just far enough off of you towards the line that in the time it takes the thrower to break the mark to you, the defender has closed the gap to cover you, or they're close enough to potentially make a play on the disc, causing the thrower to hesitate or not make the throw at all. Basically, you're giving the dump defender a lot of the tools they need to either shut you down or make it so the only space available is straight behind the disc, where you're gaining nothing but a new stall count (Which shouldn't be your only goal when resetting the disc!)

Let's break this down in a somewhat routine offensive sequence from the sideline:

1.2) Frank picks up the disc on the sideline. Jules is trapping him. Bob, his primary dump, sets up about 7 yards horizontally away from the disc (good), and five yards backfield from Frank (not so good). Ernesto, Bob's defender, plays about 3 yards off of him towards down-field, containing the line space slightly opening his left hip to bait the line cut.

1.3) Frank turns to Bob at stall 4. Bob attempts to force his way into the line space, but Ernesto takes a straight line to that space gives him a bump and forces Bob into the backfield.

1.4) The sideline yells "hard no-around" to Jules knowing that with Bob's poor positioning he has no where to clear and is stuck backfield now. Jules then shifts his mark to contain the around throw and Frank is unable to get to the disc to Bob and is stalled, turnover.

Now I know there are a ton of variables here, different fills, getting a reset straight behind the thrower, etc. But the most important point here is that Bob's options are limited. He doesn't have enough backfield space to draw his defender out of position for a line cut and with some verbal help to the mark his options as to where he can get a reset are limited.

However, if the dump (Bob) sets up parallel (1.5) to the thrower horizontally or even slightly down-field he has many more options than with the backfield setup. It's a similar idea to the equivalent throwing angles piece from part 1: If you give yourself somewhat equal space to either side of the disc you retain a greater cutting advantage because the defender can't overplay the side on which you have more space.

With a parallel setup, if the defender overplays the line, there is enough backfield space for a good reset (meaning one that isn't straight behind the disc). If the defender overplays the backfield there is still plenty of space to get the disc up the line. If the dump defender and mark coordinate a "no-line" defense with a "no-around" mark, the dump is in a much better position to clear their defender out of that line space to open up the inside break for the thrower.

Even a setup where you're slightly down-field is fine because you're giving yourself even more backfield space. If the defense overplays the backfield where you technically have more space, you can go be active down-field from the disc (essentially taking on a down-field role). With the backfield setup, you can't go be active in the backfield in the same way because no defender will care if you decide to make a cut 20+ yards behind the disc.

Wait what does this all mean? That was a lot of words. Simply put:

If you are setting up a dump on the break side of a sidelined disc (a trapped disc), you're better off being parallel to the thrower or slightly down-field.

Resetting From a Non-Trapped Disc

In this situation both horizontal and vertical spacing are almost completely dependent on how the defense sets up on you.

If the defender is going to play off of you in the throwing lane, then you want to be backfield and as far to the middle of the field as possible to still get the free reset. If the defense tries to play just far enough off up the line that they're shutting down your backfield space you want to move farther into the backfield because the "no-around" mark is a non-threat and again you'll get a mostly free reset.

However, what a good, shut-down dump defender will do in this situation, is swing around to your back hip and push you up the line, staying between you and the disc, knowing that the line throw should be covered by the mark. This is the defensive set-up we're going to focus on for this next section.

Horizontal Spacing

When you're attempting to reset the disc from a disc that is forced to the wide-side of the field rather than trapped, horizontal spacing is similar to resetting from a trapped disc: it's going to depend on your own skill-set and how exactly your team sets up to get out of these situations.

Much like the trapped disc, ideally, you want to drive your defender up the line, get his hips turned then move out into open space for the reset. However, in this situation the defender is forcing you into that line space (remember we're assuming the "shut-down" defensive setup from above) rather than taking it away.

There are two opportunities you're going to have to get the disc in this situation (assuming a mark that won't get broken around):

1) There is a small window where the thrower can get make an inside out break throw, bending the disc around the defender and leading you into down-field space.

2) On your "cut" (directional change). Notice the different cutting angle initially being made. You're really driving into your defender here so as to get as much separation on the cut-back as possible.

The problem that people run in to with #2 is they try and make their cut back into the space they cut from (the backfield), much like they would if the disc was trapped. However, the defense knows a backfield throw has no help from the marker on the disc, whereas the line throw does, so they will body up the dump to keep them out of the backfield. That defense being the case, rather than cut into the backfield you want to drive your defender hard up the line then turn and cut horizontally (or even slightly down-field) into space. Technically, the dump is set up on the wrong side of you in this situation, so once you've gotten into space past the thrower, cutting back into the horizontal space out towards the wide-side of the field should leave you open for an easy force-side throw.

You do have to be careful in this situation as a floaty throw too far out into space could potentially lead into down-field poaches from your stack defenders.

For your horizontal spacing for this cut, you need to decide whether you're going to attempt to get the disc in the #1 situation above or in the #2 situation above.

If you're assuming the thrower will get the slight inside-out break off (#1) then you want to set up further away from the disc because it will make that throw easier. Think of throwing a 3-4 yard inside-out throw versus throwing a 10-12 yard throw. Both throws are doable, but the margin of error on the longer throw is much greater because you have much more space to lead your receiver.

If you think you're best chance for a reset is getting the disc on your cut (#2), then you want to be closer horizontally, because you know you have to make a cut all the way to the disc, then back out and away, which takes some time to develop.

Vertical Spacing

Where you set up vertically from the disc is again going to be dependent on where you're planning on getting your reset.

If you're assuming the slight break throw for a down-field gain, the farther back-field you start, the larger the "window" will be for the break(1.10) . However, if you set up too far backfield the defense will stop pushing you up line because you're either going to lose a ton of yards on the reset backfield, or they can shut you down anyway because of awkward throwing angles (1.11).

Obviously you can't perfectly predict where you'll get the disc or assume one specific thing in this situation, so leaving yourself some middle ground, (setting up just far enough back to open up the break-throw window up, but not so far that your cut will take too long to develop if you need to cut out into space) can oftentimes be the best option.

Even with all of these fancy diagrams and longwindedness, this is a difficult situation to get out of against a team that is defending smartly. There are a lot of "ifs" and "plannings" in my descriptions above and subtle defensive shifts or good communication can shut down a lot of these options. However, if your team is trusting that primary dump look to get the disc off the sideline here, applying some of these techniques should give you a decent shot.

(I'll go ahead and note that in this situation my team specifically clears the "primary" dump out of the dump space and fills from elsewhere.)

As always I'm happy to have any of my points refuted, or good ideas brought to light. Please comment below and good luck to all the college teams in the middle of their series these next several weeks.

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