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Sockeye's Wheelhouse

by Mike Caldwell

Cutting from the middle in a horizontal stack is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you have the freedom to cut in any direction, your defender is on an island with no deep help, and the offense is looking to you to make a play. Awesome. 

On the other hand, the flat stack presents some unique challenges for cutters. I'm going to focus on the unpredictability of the flat stack as a cutting problem, and explain a couple simple adjustments that address this issue. 

Most downfield cutting happens in flow, off of a moving disc, and not from a stopped position. In a flat stack, cutting opportunities off of disc movement can be sudden and difficult to predict, even for flat stack veterans. In a flat stack, the disc may be thrown downfield from any lateral position on the field, and in many systems the middle cutter(s) will always be the priority target(s). A good opportunity can arise at any time—as soon as a thrower gets the disc with his mark trailing, it's on! There is no easy-to-predict, side-to-side rhythm (like a vert stack dump-swing) that precedes a good cutting opportunity. Additionally, many flat stack offenses operate at a higher tempo than their vert stack counterparts, focusing on rapid disc movement and "team offense" rather than isolating cutters for extended periods of time. This makes cutting opportunities even more rapid and unpredictable, and also puts more pressure on the cutter to hit the cutting window on-time. If the cutter is open but late, the thrower is already looking to the next option. 

So, what to do? 

1. Keep your eyes up
Without a sure-fire way to predict good opportunities, you have to make sure you see them when they happen. Always be aware of the disc—keep an eye on it much more than you're used to. It's tempting, especially when cutting deep, to put your head down and just churn for a couple seconds—don't do it! Practice cutting deep while you look over your shoulder. This way, you'll be aware when one opportunity ends and where the next begins, and you'll get there on time and before your defender. Cutters who are aware of the disc in a fast-paced offense put enormous pressure on the defense, simply by being the first to see and react to the changing disc position. 

2. Always be preparing
When opportunities are hard to predict, you often won't have time to see a cut, set up and shake your defender, and still get to the cutting window before the thrower is looking elsewhere. The best way to deal with this is to always be preparing to cut. Make short fakes, move evasively so your defender can't get a body on you, make him constantly think about adjusting his position. But do all of this while staying basically in the same place—don't sacrifice your position by committing to one direction on a fake. You need to be ready to cut in any direction, while still keeping your defender off-balance. This takes practice, but it's not hard to learn. Train for quickness and footwork. 

3. Hone your deep game
This doesn't really have anything to do with tempo or predicting cutting opportunities, but it needs to be said. The big idea behind the flat stack is the deep threat—it gives all four cutters direct access to the end zone and spreads them out so "help" defense is harder. If you can't go deep effectively, you're a liability as a cutter. On the other hand, the end zone is always a good place to cut. If you don't know where else to go, go to the house! 

huddle Issue 11 Cutting From The Middle Of A Ho Stack

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Use On-Field Cues
by Gwen Ambler

Five Easy Steps
by Dusty Becker

It All Comes Back To Throwing
by Lou Burruss

Sockeye's Wheelhouse
by Mike Caldwell

Understanding Offensive Priorities
by Greg Husak

Everything Should Be Intentional
by Bryn Martyna

Three Keys To Being A Good Middle
by Chelsea Putnam

Downfield 1-On-1 Defense
by Seth Wiggins




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