Fly on the wall: Harbaugh learned from prep coach


Fly on the wall: Harbaugh learned from prep coach

Pete Lavorato was watching the 49ers on Thanksgiving night when he saw something familiar flash across his TV screen.Receiver Ted Ginn, in motion from the right side of the 49ers' offensive formation, received the handoff from quarterback Alex Smith at near full speed. Ginn got a block from fullback Moran Norris to get to the outside. On a night when it was difficult for the 49ers to move the ball against the Baltimore Ravens, the play gained 9 yards.NFL Network play-by-play man Brad Nessler referred to it as an "end around." Analyst Mike Mayock, more precisely, described it as a "jet sweep." The 49ers know it as the "fly sweep" -- a new addition to the ever-expanding playbook.The 49ers ran the same play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams and it netted 16 yards. On Monday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh gave full credit to Lavorato, who has used the Fly offense for each of his nine seasons as Sacred Heart Prep's head coach."Thanks to Pete Lavorato over at Sacred Heart Prep -- the 'fly sweep' master," Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. "We had a great fly sweep clinic about two and a half years ago. He learned us up on the fly sweep and it's paying dividends for us."Lavorato, 59, does not consider himself the master of the offense, rather a conduit. The origins of the offense are most-often traced to late Delano High coach Gene Beck. Lavorato first saw the system as a Hollister assistant coach when his team played Norm Costa's squad at Palma High."We had to defend that," said Lavorato, a native of Canada who spent 10 seasons as a free safety with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. "I remember saying, 'If I ever become a head coach, I want to run that offense.'"When Lavorato asked Costa for some tips, Costa generously sent him the entire Palma playbook. Lavorato also spent time studying the offense at North Monterey High, where Phil Maas and Roger Sugimoto installed it.Armed with a firm grasp of the Fly, Lavorato became a head coach in Canada and won a provincial high school championship before returning to Northern California to excel as coach at Sacred Heart.The nation's best-known Fly master is Mark Speckman, the longtime coach at Willamette University. Lavorato's teams have attended camps at Willamette to sharpen their execution of the timing- and speed-based offense.The basic idea behind the Fly, is that the ball carrier is able to build up momentum to outrun a defense that must pursue from a standing start. A typical running back is stationary at the snap of the ball.
"I could be faster than you," Lavorato said, "but if you get a running start, that gives you a big advantage in a race."The slot receiver is coached to go in motion at about 90-percent speed, Lavorato said. The ball is snapped around the time the eventual ballcarrier hits the guard-tackle gap. With a clean handoff, all the runner needs just one block to get to the edge and potentially gain big yards.If the defense starts to slide their linebackers to the outside to account for the speed of the player in motion, it becomes vulnerable in the middle of the field to a counter or power run, Lavorato said.. Also, play-action pass could be effective if the defense tries to compensate for the fly sweep.And those could be the next pieces of the puzzle that 49ers' opponents will have to guard against in the coming weeks.Lavorato does not do clinics -- other than the one session he held at Harbaugh's request. Lavorato and his assistant, former Stanford lineman Matt Moran, agreed to meet with Harbaugh a couple years ago. The Sacred Heart campus is four miles from Stanford."I'm sitting there, thinking I'm going to talk to Jim about the fly sweep," Lavorato said. "And he said, 'Are you ready, Pete?' Next thing I know, every coach on his staff comes in and they all take out notepads. Talk about being intimidated. Here's this little high school coach talking to the entire Stanford football coaching staff."During the lockout, Harbaugh watched video of almost every play of every game from the 2010 NFL season. He said most of the fly sweep concepts he saw were from "Wildcat" formations."Mostly it was used as an eye distraction to run," Harbaugh said. "The running back steps back, fakes the fly sweep and then runs power off tackle. I can't recall seeing it as a handoff."It's understandable that the Fly has not taken flight in the NFL because of the amount of time required to get the ballcarrier in sync with the center and quarterback. One minor breakdown could easily result in a turnover.
Said Lavorato, "If you're going to run that fly sweep offense, you have to put the time in. But when you think about it, when teams have to defend it, they have to be able to learn it in practice in two days to run it."Ironically, Lavorato has been victimized by variations of the offense on several occasions, he said. Five years ago, then-Salesian High speedster Jahvid Best took a handoff as the flyback and romped for a touchdown on the first play of a section playoff game. Best, of course, starred at Cal and is now with the Detroit Lions.But Lavorato has certainly swatted down more than his share of opposing defenses with the Fly. Sacred Heart won the Central Coast Section Division IV title last year, and lost in the semifinals this season."I'm not the fly sweep guru," Lavorato said. "I took something that I saw that was successful, and I learned about it. And that's one of the great things about Jim Harbaugh. I don't think he will ever get to the point where he'll think he knows it all. And that's why he'll be successful."

Comings and goings: 49ers coaching staff

Comings and goings: 49ers coaching staff

First-year coach Kyle Shanahan is close to completing his 49ers coaching staff.

Shanahan will handle the duties of the offensive coordinator, the position he held with Houston, Washington and Atlanta over the past nine NFL seasons.

Robert Saleh is the 49ers' new defensive coordinator, while Richard Hightower has been hired as the special-teams coordiator.

Here's a look at the 49ers' coaching staffs under Shanahan and last season under Chip Kelly:

Position: Coach (2016 job)
Head coach: Kyle Shanahan (Falcons, offensive coordinator)
Defensive coordinator: Robert Saleh (Jaguars, linebackers coach)
Special teams coordinator: Richard Hightower (Bears, assistant special teams)
Assistant head coach/tight ends: Jon Embree (Buccaneers, tight ends)
Run game specialist: Mike McDaniel (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Quarterbacks: Rich Scangarello (Wagner, offensive coordinator)
Running backs: Bobby Turner (Falcons, running backs)
Wide receivers: Mike LaFleur (Falcons, offensive assistant)
Offensive line: Vacant
Offensive assistant: T.C. McCartney (LSU, offensive assistant)
Senior defensive assistant: Jason Tarver (49ers, outside linebackers)
Defensive line: Jeff Zgonina (N.Y. Giants, assistant defensive line)
Linebackers: Johnny Holland (Browns, inside linebackers)
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Offensive quality control: Taylor Embree (Chiefs, defensive assistant)
Defensive quality control: Bobby Slowik
Head strength and conditioning: Ray Wright

* * *

Position: Coach (current status)
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Offensive coordinator: Curtis Modkins (Bears, running backs)
Defensive coordinator: Jim O’Neil
Special teams coordinator: Derius Swinton
Quarterbacks: Ryan Day (Ohio State, quarterbacks)
Running backs: Tom Rathman
Wide receivers: Bob Bicknell
Tight ends: Jeff Nixon (Baylor, co-offensive coordinator/running backs)
Offensive line: Pat Flaherty (Jaguars, offensive line)
Assistant offensive line: Eric Wolford (South Carolina, offensive line)
Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro (Cal, defensive line)
Assistant defensive line: Vince Oghobaase
Outside linebackers: Jason Tarver (49ers, senior defensive assistant)
Inside linebacker: Joe Bowden
Defensive backs: Jeff Hafley (49ers, defensive backs)
Assistant defensive backs: Roy Anderson (Bears, assistant secondary)
Assistant special teams: Michael Clay
Offensive quality control: Mick Lombardi (Jets, offensive assistant/assistant QBs coach)
Defensive quality control: Tem Lukabu
Senior analyst: Dana Bible
Director of human performance: Mark Uyeyama

Report: 49ers receive permission from Broncos to interview O-line coach

Report: 49ers receive permission from Broncos to interview O-line coach

John Benton, who coached on the same staff during Kyle Shanahan’s four seasons with the Houston Texans, has reportedly received permission from the Denver Broncos to interview with the 49ers.

The Broncos hired Benton on Jan. 15 to work as the team’s assistant offensive line coach under line coach Jeff Davidson.

But Denver coach Vance Joseph and general manager John Elway provided Benton permission to interview with the 49ers, Denver’s 9News reported. The Sacramento Bee was first to report the 49ers were looking at Benton.

The offensive line coach is the last major position that remains vacant on Shanahan’s staff.

Benton worked last season as Jacksonville’s assistant offensive line coach. He worked the previous 13 seasons as offensive line coach with the St. Louis Rams (2003-05), Houston (2006-2013) and Miami (2014-15).

Shanahan’s first NFL coaching job was with Houston in 2006, when he coached wide receivers. Shanahan became the quarterbacks coach with the Texans in 2007 before spending the next two seasons as offensive coordinator under then-coach Gary Kubiak.

The 49ers announced nine additions to the coaching staff on Friday.

Also, the 49ers are expected to hire Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach, according to The Sporting News. Bullocks worked in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. The Jaguars' linebackers coach last season, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' new defensive coodinator. Bullocks appeared in 31 games in three NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2006 and '08.