- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

As the offensive-line coach for Maryland football, Tom Brattan has more in common with George Allen than with George Lucas.
Unless, of course, you're talking about digital video.
In that case, Mr. Brattan has a high-tech addiction to rival that of the "Star Wars" director.
With the click of a button, Mr. Brattan can call up dozens of Florida State defensive plays, watch all of the Seminoles' blitzes and even calculate coach Bobby Bowden's favorite line stunts on third-and-long.
Best of all, he can do it all in a matter of seconds, without leaving his desk.
"We tell our kids that knowledge is power," Mr. Brattan said. "With [our] system, we've gone into ballgames and known every time a [defensive lineman] was going to slant. We knew it because we watched the tape, pulled out all the times he slanted and saw what his body language was. It's like the keys to the kingdom."
The method behind Mr. Brattan's magic? A state-of-the-art digital video-editing system that allows the Terrapins' coaching staff to store, sort and combine up to 100 hours of game and practice footage one of the many cyber-scouting and techno-teaching tools that are pulling sports into the information age.
Maryland's system, known as the Pinnacle Pro, is used by a number of college and professional teams, including the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Many NBA clubs use the IBM-developed Advance Scout, a computer program that provides statistical breakdowns of opposing teams, including players' pet moves.
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling travels with a laptop that replays digital footage of every pitch he has thrown during the last nine seasons. Before each start, he views the clips to help devise a game plan for each batter he might face.
The Washington Capitals provide each player a laptop and access to a team intranet that contains video clips, game plans, scouting reports and a database of more than 1,000 opposing players and referees. The system can be used even on the club's bench, as well as its private plane.
"I don't know how I'd coach without it now," Mr. Brattan said. "You use it constantly. These are your eyes for the game. These are your tools."
And they're fast becoming standard. The Baltimore Orioles deploy five cameras to record everything that takes place during their home games. Players then can review the footage to analyze swings and ball movement.
During a shaky outing last week, pitcher Jason Johnson approached pitching coach Mark Wiley in the dugout and asked for help. After a short video review, Wiley determined that Johnson's delivery was slightly off, causing a loss of control.
"I can put four or five different outings on one screen, look at arm angles in different situations," said Mr. Wiley, who uses a custom program to break down pitcher movement. "You can see any subtle changes in [a pitchers] leg kick, his takeaway, his arm action. It will stand right out."
The Orioles also plan to purchase a sophisticated all-digital video system this season, a move that will put them in the company of the Cleveland Indians, Kentucky basketball and Boston College hockey, among others.
"With the new video stuff, I could say, 'Third pitch to [New York slugger Jason] Giambi in the second inning,' and, bang, it's right there where I can see it," Wiley said. "That's a tremendous help."
Digital dominance doesn't come cheap. Schilling reportedly spends about $15,000 yearly for computer-ready footage of his starts, and the Orioles are considering systems that cost more than $200,000.
Then there's Maryland. When Terps football coach Ralph Friedgen took over the program before last season, he insisted that the school upgrade its video system, which lagged behind the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The result? A $750,000 technological marvel that includes a main server, two mini-towers, six digital videotape recorders, more than a dozen regular VCRs and 23 individual computers one for each team meeting room and coaches' offices.
According to Maryland running backs coach Mike Locksley, the new equipment played an important role in the team's run to the Orange Bowl.
"It allows us to work faster and smarter," he said. "With the old way, if I wanted to see all of an [opponents] third-down blitzes, it would take a graduate assistant to go in and pull them off of game tapes and then our video guy to put it all on one tape. And I'd have to fast forward through that tape to find a certain play."
Those days are long gone and have been replaced with a system that works something like this: Before each Maryland game, team video coordinator Mitch Wilkens loads game film of the Terps' opponent into a hard drive. Two graduate assistants then watch each and every play, labeling them with series of game-related criteria, such as down, distance, formation and coverage.
Once the breakdown is completed, the coaching staff can manipulate the film like so much digital Play-Doh at finger-snapping speed. For instance, if Mr. Brattan wants to study Virginia's goal-line run defense, he can view all the relevant plays with nothing more than a few clicks of his mouse.
Likewise, Schilling can call up video of any batter he's fanned say, San Francisco home-run king Barry Bonds and see exactly which pitch earned him a third strike.
"All the computer does is take the data and put it any way you want it," Mr. Brattan said. "I can take any of these variables, change them around, sort it by front, stunt, blitz, coverage. It's unbelievable."
Going digital also can give teams and players a leg up in determining an opponent's tendencies that is, what the other guy likes to do in certain situations, critical information that can then be used against him.
During the 1997 NBA Finals, the Utah Jazz reportedly used a computer scouting program to deduce the number of dribbles Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan liked to take before shooting a pull-up jumper (two or three). And by simply glancing at an on-screen spreadsheet, Mr. Brattan can see that Georgia Tech last season shifted its defensive line 60 percent of the time on third-and-long.
Pair that sort of information with a trained pair of eyes, and less obvious cues become apparent.
"Last year, we could tell every time a certain defensive lineman was going to go inside because he changed his feet," Mr. Brattan said. "Or you can tell a linebacker is going to blitz because he's not where he should be. He's shifted over by half a man. So our guard now knows when he's coming."
Beyond acting as a scouting assistant, Maryland's system functions as a teaching tool. Coaches can create instructional video montages, complete with voice-overs. Thanks to a trio of high-powered laptops, the team can view footage on the road.
Back in College Park, all of the Terps' games and practices are filmed and logged into the system, the better to see what the team is doing right and what it needs to work on.
"I can sit at my desk, pull out the mistakes from practice yesterday, e-mail it to my meeting room and have my players can come in and pull up the edits," Mr. Locksley said. "Most kids now are pretty computer savvy. They all know how to log on and watch what's going on."
Of course, not everyone is interested in taking a look. Citing a desire to keep things simple, the Orioles' Jerry Hairston, Jeff Conine and Josh Towers rarely watch video.
Hitting coach Terry Crowley can relate.
"At times, [video] makes my job easier," Mr. Crowley said. "But you have to be careful with it. Constant taping, guys looking at every single swing, trying to pick it apart that can have a negative effect."
That said, Mr. Brattan expects the sports world's digitization to continue. In fact, he predicts a future that's downright, well, Lucas-like minus the annoying, computer-generated sidekicks.
"The next I think you'll see is virtual reality," Mr. Brattan said. "Kids are going to be able to put things on their helmets, around their eyes, and then you'll have a program for game situations. A quarterback takes his snap, and you program two-deep coverage. Where is he going with the ball? What did he see?
"I think people are already working on that."

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