Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Developing a High School Defense- Understanding and Implementing Check Defense

The coach I first started learning under used to play check defense and years ago as a young buck I wondered "why would you want to do that?".  Well, I followed right in his footsteps and did the same thing until I finally broke away from this in 2010.  Worst mistake ever.  You may think you can call a good game, but in all honesty you can't be perfect.  All defensive coaches know a mistake made by the offense is second down and 11, whereas a mistake made by the defense, is six points.  The theory of check defense is one that allows players to become comfortable with what they are seeing and know that when the bullets are flying and things might not be going their way, they have something to fall back on.

What is Check Defense?

Check defense is nothing new.  It is having a set coverage and front and/or stunt or blitz to go against what an opponent lines up in.  We base out of check defense which means we may do things a bit differently than most, but starting with our junior varsity we begin teaching this.  We teach what our base checks are to certain alignments.  Now this doesn't mean that we can't call what we want on game day.  My guys know we'll run whatever's in the playbook during a game, so they have to be ready.  What check defense does is give us a base to work out of, defending what our opponent does.  Usually the base check for a game plan is set up via scouting and film breakdown data on what an opponent does well out of each of their formations.  Most of our checks are based on personnel groupings.

Check Defense-Set the Coverage First

As with any good game plan you must set the coverage first.  You have to figure out how to cover the guys you need to cover before you can stop the run.  We base our coverage checks of what I call "structure" or what some would call distribution.  The types of structure we set up for our base coverage checks is as follows:

  • Single Width Nub- defined as an eligible tight end (TE) to one side (no split receiver)
    • Check is Cover 0
  • Single Width Split- defined as an eligible receiver (wideout) to one side
    • Check is Cover 0
  • Single Width Pro- defined as one split receiver (wideout) and a TE to the same side
    • Check is Cover 0
  • Double Width- defined as two speed threats (twins) to one side
    • Check is Cover 2
  • Three-to-a-side- defined as the name implies, any form of three eligible receivers to one side of the formation
    • Check is a coverage we call "Corner"
  • Four-to-a-side- defined as the name implies, any form of four eligible receivers to one side of the formation
    • Check is Corner
There you have it.  Simple as that to be honest.  So, in spring ball, summer and fall camp we work on our checks.  That means in spring football I only have to teach three coverages (see coverage section of this post series), 0, 2, and Corner.  Now, that isn't all the coverages we run with, but it's the bare minimum we can teach and be competitive with.  

Front Checks

Checking the front is a bit different as it is based completely on personnel groupings.  At the end of each season I do a personnel grouping analysis and that is the personnel group we start working on the following spring.  For nine some odd years that group has been ten personnel, however 11 personnel with the advent of the Y off offenses (thank you Big 12) is steadily catching up.  So listed below is our base front checks to the following personnel groupings.  You may need to go back to the fronts section of these posts to remember our numbering system.

  • 10 Personnel- 45
    • Change up: 42
  • 11 Personnel- 49
    • Change up: 49 Bite Strong/47/46

  • 12 Personnel- We have a double tight check we call "Check Shoot" for two TE offenses (see fronts section)
    • Change up: 47/46/49 Double Bite/Slide/Wide
  • 21 Personnel- 45 Over
    • Change up: 45/42/47/46/Slide/Wide
  • 22 Personnel- Check Shoot
    • Change up: 47/46/Slide/Wide
  • 20 Personnel- 45
    • Change Up: 42/45 Over
For three back offenses we'll usually come up with another sort of goalline-ish check, but our 21, and 22 personnel checks should work for those personnel groupings as well.

As you can see we teach not only our checks but some of our change up fronts as well.  Change up fronts are just as important as the actual check itself because it allows you to be multiple.  In today's defensive world you do not want to be static in your alignment.  Our goal week-to-week is to try and diversify our look as much as possible so we are difficult to prepare for.  This comes with a price though, and has to be managed so that you don't overdo it for your kids.  Remember, it's not how much you know, it's how much they know on game day.  

Putting it all Together

So as we move through this I'll walk through a few of the formations we see from each personnel grouping and show you what the base check would look like.

10 Personnel Four Wide
Many people call this Doubles, we call it Four Wide, but nevertheless it's a 2x2 set with one back in the backfield.  Our check to this is shown below.  Starting with the coverage, since we have two speed threats (twins) to either side the coverage will be cover 2.  All our 10 personnel front checks are 45, so the check is 45 Cover 2.  Our change ups to this formation are 45 Roll 1, 42 Cover 2, 42 Roll 1.  Again you may need to refer back to some older posts on this to see what these calls mean, but that is our base check with a few of our change up fronts and coverages thrown in.

Base Check to 2x2 10 Personnel

11 Personnel Ace
Ace for us is a 2x2 set with one side being Single Width Pro and the other being Double Width (twins).  The coverage for us is a coverage called "20".  That's Cover 2 to the twins side and cover 0 to the pro side.  Since it's 11 personnel the front call is "49", putting us in the look you see below.  We could also check to 47 Cover 20, or 47 Roll 1 as well.  46 is also a front option here as well.

Base Check to 2x2 11 Personnel

11 Personnel Triple
Triple for us is a 3x1 set with two speed threats aligned outside of an attached TE (Three-to-a-side).  To the opposite side of the coverage, this would be a single split receiver, otherwise known in our terminology as Single Width Split.  The coverage check is Corner and the front check for us 49 Bite Strong.  We run the Bite Strong to keep the Sam from having to defend the open C gap to the multiple receiver side.  A change up we like here is 46 or 47 with Roll 3 coverage.  This keeps the Sam LB closer to his work.

Base Check to 3x1 11 Personnel

00 Personnel No Back
Most folks call this Empty, we call it No Back (it's more descriptive in my opinion).  Since there is no TE our check will be 45.  We tag our Corner coverage as "Corner Will" to notify the Will LB to walk out of the box and cover the #2 receiver on the weak side man to man.  Change ups for us are 45 Cover 6, or 45 TGO/EGO Weak 6.

Base Check to 3x2 00 Personnel

12 Personnel Ace Shoot
Ace Shoot for us is Single Width Pro to both sides, so our check here is Cover 0.  Front check is shown below and we call it "Check Shoot".  Check Shoot is simply 45 Over, but instead of being in a weak side five technique, the weakside defensive end (DE) aligns in a nine technique and runs the Bite stunt.  Another change up for us is our 50 front against this look.  We call that Slide/Wide depending on which way we move the defensive line (DL).

Base Check to 2x2 12 Personnel

21 Personnel Split Pro
Split Pro is an offense as old as the hills.  We still see this actually.  One side of the formation has Single Width Pro the other is Single Width Split.  Both get a coverage check of 0.  For the front, with it being two backs I like to put an extra defender on the line of scrimmage (LOS) and play the Under Front so we have our front check as 45 Over Cover 0.  Slide/Wide is another good change up against two back offenses that we use often.

Base Check to 21 Personnel Pro

22 Personnel Split Shoot
For us, the check would be no different than 12 Personnel.  The front aligns in Check Shoot and the back end is going to be playing off their check rules and play Cover 0.  We could also play Slide/Wide to this as well.

Base Check to 22 Personnel

20 Personnel Split Twins Open
Twins Open is a tough gig to defend.  If you lighten your box and only play with six, you're asking for trouble (you have nobody to play cutback).  For us, following our rules puts us in Cover 2 to the twins side and Cover 0 to the single receiver side (Cover 20).  Front rules have us in 45.  We like to play our three technique to the twins side and keep the Sam LB out of the box.  The free safety (FS) is our extra "fitter" here.  This is not ideal and our change up of aligning in 45 Roll 3 allows us to get into a 4-4 (we actually call this our T.O. Check for when our guys get to varsity).  Our T.O. check keeps LB's doing LB things and DB's doing DB things.  Of course we could also run our 42 front and angle our DT's to keep the offense off guard here as well.  If we want the three technique away from the two receiver side we would simply run 45 Over.

Base Check to 20 Personnel
4-4 Look to Twins Open

Implementing the Check System

Like I mentioned earlier our check system starts when our guys get on campus.  We train them about personnel groupings and alignments from day one.  The first two weeks of spring ball is spent on nothing but alignments with both the front and the secondary.  We do our best to platoon so that our guys don't have to learn too much, but we do train our guys somewhat on both sides of the ball.  The idea behind our check system is that it allows us to line up fast and it isn't so overly intensive that even our offensive guys can learn it.

During the season we start on Mondays installing the checks.  We have 30 to 45 minutes of film and check review that we go over.  We put in the checks and the players take notes.  We watch a few clips of film and the guys then go to practice and must execute the checks.  Monday is a little rocky in team session, however as the season rolls along they learn to clean it up.  Tuesday we do the same as we watch the film of the practice the day before.  All checks are reviewed.  One thing that I think helps them is we meet in our locker room.  In that room there are two big white boards we write the formations and checks on.  I do this Monday prior to the start of our meeting.  We then make our guys write all of the checks down in our scouting report (I'll get to that in another post, the one of game planning).  So Tuesday's practice usually looks much better than Mondays.  Wednesday we repeat and again review all the checks.  Wednesday' practice needs to be crisp and smooth.  Thursday we repeat our film session, again reiterating our checks.  We go to walk through and work them again.  In Friday's pregame meetings we go over them one final time as well as all our pressures and special situation checks and then we go get after it.

This system is repeated week after week during the regular season.  This constant review is a major reason why we are very good at aligning in our checks throughout the season.  I firmly believe in our players being able to write down stuff in their notes.  I give our guys notebooks on day one of the season and they put their scouting reports in them.  They are to take notes every day.  Coaches also share notes with their individual player groups (DL, LB, DB) so that there is a constant reinforcement of what we are trying to do.  It's a lot of work for your staff, but in the end it's all worth it.  Being misaligned or in a wrong coverage will get you beat quickly.  Our alignment success rate is so good I can only think of about four or five times we misaligned all of last season. 

A lot of learning can go on in here as well as on the field

Game Planning Checks

During the season we will stray away from our base checks.  If you noticed I didn't put anything up there about Flexbone or Wing-T style of offenses.  Those are not very standard offenses anymore (though I do have a standard game plan I like against all of them), so we have to game plan our checks for teams like this.  As part of this series on Developing a High School Defense, I'm going to get into game planning a little more in depth than I am here, so please hang with me.  For now, you should be acquiring enough data on your opponents that you can formulate a hypothesis on how they would attack your defense.  You should also have enough data so that you know what their top five formations are and their top five plays are out of each formation.  This allows you to develop a check that defends their offense the best.  Some tips:

  • Have a check that "best" defends what they do
  • Don't chase ghosts, i.e. don't plan for a play they've run 3 times over an eight week period
    • That doesn't mean you don't need to be mindful of this play, what it means is don't let this play change your mind about the top five plays they run and how you want to defend them
  • Always have a change up or multiple change ups
    • These are usually some of our standard stuff that I went over earlier.  These are fronts and coverages our kids can fall back on if our check fails us for some reason.
  • Rarely if ever have a stunt or blitz as a check
    • I prefer checks to be static and I'll call any stunts/movements/blitzes I need to in order to attack what my opponent is trying to do to me.
  • Try to make your check universal for the personnel grouping you're defending
    • In other words your 10 personnel front check, should be the same for 2x2 as it is for 3x1.  The coverage, can and should change, but not the front.
    • This isn't to say that your 10 personnel check will be the same as your 11 personnel check, it shouldn't be actually, these are two totally different styles of offense.  This means keep your checks rooted in the personnel grouping you're facing
  • Base any pressures you have off of your checks so that you're not giving it away when you blitz
    • Shown below was a pressure we developed out of our base check against an opponent last season (45 Cover 6 Crazy was our check).  One of my favorite pressures against the spread is our Outside Charge (OSC) blitz.  Well, had we run that we'd have tipped our hand quite quickly to an offense that was quite readily adapted to checking at the LOS in the face of pressure.  So my version of OSC is shown below where we sent the walked out Mike LB and the boundary corner to make up our 6 man pressure.  This pressure was much easier to disguise than if we had simply run OSC.  What was even more remarkable about our guys last season was that had we gotten 2x2 or 11 personnel we would've run OSC, whereas if we got 10 personnel 3x1 we ran the blitz shown below.  
  • If things don't look good by Tuesday it might be time to trim it down.  I rarely let repeated mistakes bleed into a Wednesday practice.  Get it fixed before Wednesday's practice so that the kids have time to adjust.  Never be afraid to scrap a check.  Your base checks and base defense should always be good enough to defend most of the offenses you see, so have faith in it.

Outside Charge how we Normally Run it
Same blitz, just different people


Having a system in any organization is extremely important.  Football is no exception to this rule.  The system we have in place is that of check defense.  It was what I've built my defense on and I believe in it wholeheartedly.  This system, in my opinion, always has fail-safes built into so the kids can resort back to something they are comfortable with.  Having kids be able to fall back on stuff they know as basics is huge for getting the high school-aged mind to calm down in a crisis situation (i.e. things are going as planned on game night).  Also having a system of checks allows you to fix it when it's broken.  Never be afraid to fix something on game night.  Those "fixes" are known as adjustments and are what the really good coordinators are able to do in the heat of battle.

In the next installment I'll discuss goalline and short yardage defense.  I've got to keep writing to keep my mind off not having spring football practice right now!!!  It's driving me nuts!


Monday, May 4, 2020

Developing a High School Defense-The Blitz Package

Oh boy, the blitz package!  This is the part of the series on Developing a High School Defense most coaches are going to flock to.  Blitzes are sexy, they are stylish, they make you the coordinator look so in vogue.  Well, I've got a little news for you.  If you really have a dominant defense and have done your homework scouting and breaking down your opponent, you shouldn't have to blitz to defend them.  I hate to burst everyone's bubble, and while we are going to get to some blitzes, you'll first have to hear my sermon on blitzing.

Blitz Philosophy

First off, I'm just like everyone else.  I absolutely love when a good pressure hits home.  There's nothing like seeing the offense completely decimated by a pressure you've designed hit its mark.  I'll be the first to admit, I probably blitz too much.  I'm also guilty of blitzing to keep my players appeased too (we all know kids would rather blitz than read).  I think if you've done your homework, studied your opponent, and have a solid game plan, blitzing should just be the icing on the cake.  I remember when the 3-3 stack became the craze several years ago.  I get it, we all like to blitz, but the 3-3 took the football coaching world by storm because most packages were based on pressure.  I can tell you this, I've torched many a 3-3 as an OC in my time because their coaches were simply guessing and trying to throw anything against the wall to see if it stuck.  That's not sound defensive football, no matter what defense you run.  Several years back, when I was still an OC, we faced a 3-3 team like I'd never faced.  They rarely blitzed.  What?!  They stunted quite a bit, but didn't blitz.  Let me tell you this, they cooked our goose that night.  Why?  They were well prepared and played excellent run fits.  I really didn't have an answer for them.  I'd never seen a 3-3 Stack defense set up quite like that.  Well come to find out that DC is now a multi-state championship winning head coach now, doing the exact same thing he did when I faced him.  He's coaching sound defensive fundamentals.

I was told years ago if you don't run a single blitz all night and win, that's a good night.  I remember hearing that thinking "What the hell?".  However, a coach that ended up being a mentor for me was right.  It was early in the season, and we were struggling to blitz.  Our kids just didn't "get it" for some reason.  This coach made this comment and then stated that he thought our guys were too nervous for blitzing.  We did have some guys that were nerve wracked and always full of "if-this-then-that" questions.  So we eased back on the blitzing and noticed we actually started playing better.  We got really well at reading and reacting to blocks and our run fits became solid.  Well, end of that season we were in the playoffs for the first time in over 10 years.  Our first three games we blitzed almost 50 percent of the snaps.  That number dropped to an astonishing 11 percent of snaps over our last three games.  I took four of our better front seven defenders and asked them about blitzing and all of them were universal in that it made them nervous.  We didn't try to fit a round peg in a square hole and backed off with the pressure packages.  What I saw was we became better defenders all around.  We tackled better, we covered better.  Yes we still ran stunts and movements but not as much as we had prior.

Now I know what many are thinking here and listen, my blitz percentages since that season have been much higher (almost 70 percent in 2014), but what I realized is you need to teach kids to be sound defensively in your base stuff before you ever turn them loose to blitz.  Get good at what you do without blitzing.  You can't blitz every snap and have it be effective.  Sure, it might work in a game or two, but there are going to be games where pressuring is not the answer.

Another part of my blitz philosophy is field zone.  I don't pressure much in my opponent's end of the field.  I'll give you some stats from this past season based on field zone so you can see what I'm talking about:

  • Backed Up (Opp GL to -6 yard line): 0 blitzes
  • Coming Out (-7 yard line to -25 yard line): Blitzed 16% of the snaps
  • Green Zone (-26 yard line to 50 yard line): Blitzed 25% of the snaps
  • Yellow Zone (49 yard line to 26 yard line): Blitzed 37% of the snaps
  • Red Zone (25 yard line to the 7 yard line): Blitzed 39% of the snaps
  • Goalline (6 yard to our GL): Blitzed 61% of the snaps
My philosophy on pressure is based on what I have in the secondary.  I don't zone blitz (at least not in the traditional sense of having a 3x3 zone or 2x4 zone behind it, I'll get into that later), so we are usually in man or voiding a zone when we do it.  I've coached where I'm at now, off and on, for almost 20 years.  I've rarely had a secondary anyone would brag about.  Serviceable guys, but I've never had a defensive back (DB) go any higher than a Division III player.  That's not to say we don't have some decent DB's, it's just not often that we do.  Well, when you're not a very good cover guy, having to cover 80 yards can be very difficult in single coverage.  However, covering 40 yards, or less isn't too bad.  Even the worst of the DB's I've had can usually handle that.  So, as you can see the need to pressure in an opponent's end of the field isn't as high.  Also, the average high school drive lasts about seven to eight snaps before things begin to break down (penalties, fumbles, mistakes etc.).  It is in my opinion if we can get our opponent to this eighth or ninth snap, the defense begins to have an advantage.  For the first seven snaps we play our base stuff, perhaps altering a coverage here or there and throwing in the occasional stunt.  Once we start getting over eight snaps, I begin to turn up the heat on the offense a bit more.  Remember, if you're making them get to that many snaps you are beginning to frustrate the high school mind.  The added pressure exacerbates the mistakes being made by the offense, leading to more negative plays.  It is a win-win philosophy in my opinion.  I don't have to cover huge chunks of the field in man to man coverage and we are being very simple with our approach to defending the offense by staying in our base checks.

I know, sounds all too much like bend-but-don't-break defense, and quite Frankly that's what it is!  See aggression is nice and all, till that stud wide receiver (WR) hauls in a 65 yard bomb and your opponent's band is blaring their fight song.  It is also demoralizing to give up a big play.  I know you hear all the time about DB's having to have short memories, but let's face it, these guys are 15-19 year-old high school kids.  Some may have a short memory, but many don't.  I also understand it's demoralizing to give up a 12 play 80 yard drive as well.  Hence, the increase in blitz percentage as you cross the 50 yard line.  The more my back is against the wall, the more I'm trying to land a hay maker on you to stop you.  Again, that's just my two pennies worth of blitz philosophy, that's really taken about 15 years to develop (remember, in my beginnings I was probably close to twice those percentages listed above).

Blitz Types

Within the defense there are different types of blitzes.  We have single linebacker blitzes, multiple inside linebacker blitzes, overload blitzes, outside blitzes and secondary blitzes.  For the single blitzes, which includes blitzing a single defensive back, we may simply vacate a zone in our zone coverage.  I know, you just said out loud "Oh my God, WHAT?!".  I don't really zone blitz much anymore.  In my experience most high school quarterbacks are too flustered to find a hot receiver or the open window to throw to in the face of the blitz.  That's not to say I won't zone blitz, but they are not a part of the main blitz package we put together and install with our players.

On the note of coverage, if we can simply void a zone and play zone in our single pressures, then we will do it. It's the simplest of all the blitzes to install and keeps the back end the same.  For our multiple inside linebacker blitzes, I typically like to run man free, but sometimes the offense will dictate that you have to be in pure man.  Our outside blitzes and most of secondary blitzes will also require the defense to be in Cover Zero.  We also can have a combination of man and zone as well based on the offensive structure that we are blitzing.

Obviously vacating a zone is a low risk, low reward blitz because most of the time, from a four down front, this is a single LB blitz.  Our man free blitzes tend to get a bit more exotic as we are usually bringing six and covering with five.  The outside blitzes are high risk, but also high reward (see the section below on outside blitzes).  The risk is you are in man coverage and if they pop you, it could go the distance because the DB's have little time to react to defending the run as they are covering WR's.

Single Linebacker Blitzes
I'll start first with the Mike, or middle LB.  The first blitz I teach the Mike is a blitz we call "Mack".  Mack tells the MLB to blitz the gap he's assigned.  This gap can change based on the front we are in.  Two of our most popular Mack blitzes are shown below.  The first one we call Nose Mack.  If we remember from our post on fronts, Nose tells the weak side DT to align in a zero technique over the center.  With a strong three technique and a zero, the center cannot see the MLB blitzing.  The second Mack we like to run is called Pinch Strong Mack.  Pinch Strong tells the strong DT to stunt from a three to a one, thereby taking the A gap, while the MLB blitzes the B gap (if I would've just called Pinch Strong the Mike's gap is the strong B gap, so by tagging the pressure "Mack" it is still telling the Mike to blitz the gap he has based on the front and stunt).

If I want the Mike to go to the weak A gap I call "Maw" (Mike A Weak).  I will also usually couple this with a Nose call as well to keep the MLB hidden from the center.  If I want to put the MLB in the weak B gap, then I call Mob.  Finally if I want to blitz the MLB into the C gap, I call Mach (like the razor).  Mach can be strong, weak, field, boundary, to or away from the running back (RB).  All of these blitzes are single pressures that involve the MLB only.


Maw, Mob, Mach

For the Sam and Will, I name the gaps on either side of the formation so they know what gaps to blitz.  Gaps on the strong side of the formation are names that begin with that letter of the alphabet.  The names and gaps are as follows:

  • Abil = Strong A
  • Baker = Strong B
  • Charlie = Strong C
  • Dog = Strong D
To the weak side the gaps also have names, however the gap names start with the letter "W" to indicate they are on the weak side of the formation.  The names are as follows:

  • Wally = Weak A
  • Wilbur = Weak B
  • Wacko = Weak C
So an example of one of our single outside LB blitzes would be if I wanted to send the Sam to the strong C gap, I would simply call the front and then tag it "Charlie".  This would put the Sam blitzing the C gap to the strong side.  The same could be said if I wanted to send the weak side LB to the weak  B gap.  I would simply call the front and then "Wilbur" to send the Will LB.

Now some of you may not like the naming convention, but that's fine, there's other way to name blitz gaps.  I've named them cities before (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Detroit) or body parts(Arm, Breasts (what 16 year old doesn't get that?), Chin, and uh...I won't tell you what we labeled the D gap, this is a censored blog) and tagged them strong and weak.  We've done numerous things over the years as well as car names, states and capitols etc.  However you choose to name your gaps you want to blitz, I would definitely recommend having the gap names in the pressure.  Otherwise why do you teach the gap names in the first place?

I've had defenses where the names of the blitz had nothing to do with the gaps.  For instance, one time we ran a blitz called "College" and that was the good old NCAA blitz (some folks also call it America's blitz because it is run so frequently).  College really told our kids nothing about where they were attacking though.  It was a memorization that they had to learn.  As I progressed in my coaching career and learned Gary Paterson's TCU blitz package I really loved the way he compartmentalized the blitzes and then combined them to create a nice blitz package.  Not being a three safety defense, led to the creation of the blitzes I'm showing you now.  A 4-2-5 has to get either two linebackers (LB's), two safeties, or a combo of LB and safety to blitz.  The 4-3 is a bit different in that you can blitz a combination of one, two or three LB's as well as the safeties.

Multiple Inside Linebacker Blitzes, and Overload Blitzes
Multiple inside LB blitzes are two LB's blitzing either an inside gap on one side of the center or on either side of the center.  An overload blitz is an inside blitz by one LB and an outside blitz by another LB.  Usually this is done with the MLB being the inside blitzer, and either the Sam or Will being the outside blitzer (although this past season we did this with the Will blitzing inside and the corner coming off the edge).  Combination blitzes in this defense are simply what gap names are called.  If I want double A gap pressure I simply call Abil-Wally.  Double B gap?  No problem, Baker-Wilbur.  Very simple.  I usually run these from our 42 front with two, two techniques so the offense doesn't know where the defensive tackles (DT's) and the LB's are going. 

A side note about the defense is that the MLB always replaces the LB out of the box when blitzing.  For us, the box is tackle to tackle.  This means that if a LB has to align in a nine technique, or is out of the box in coverage, then he cannot blitz.  The MLB always replaces whoever leaves the box.  So in the example above of Abil-Wally and Baker-Wilbur the MLB becomes the strong side blitzer.  

If I don't want to change both of the defensive linemen's (DL's) technique, then I can run something like Nose Mack Wilbur, or Nose Mack Wacko for instance.  These are both very good weak side overload blitzes.  

To the strong side a good two LB blitz is Pinch Strong Mack Dog, or Nose Mack Dog.  Either one of these get you a strong side overload. 

Multiple LB blitzes

Multiple LB Blitzes

Another side note about the defense is flare rule.  Flare rule is what some guys call "peel".  Our defensive ends are taught on any or our two LB blitzes that have a LB blitzing inside of them they have flare rule, meaning if the running back (RB) releases to their side they have to cover him.  It's a simple rule that we spend maybe five minutes per week early in the season working on.  Rarely if ever will I have a LB execute flare rule.  I want blitzers blitzing, not worrying about coverage.

I also rarely, if ever, read out of a blitz.  We are usually gap sound enough with our blitzes, and they are not so exotic where we have the need to read out.  I have taught how to read out, but reading out is not a basic skill we teach our players.  I figure I can cross that bridge when I need to during the season.

Outside Blitzes
The outside blitz in this defense is the home run hitter for us.  Our outside blitz is simply labeled "Outside Charge" (OSC).  OS Charge is our staple for the defense.  We feel we can run this and really get the tackle for loss (TFL) we are needing.  It is a blitz, that brings six, with the MLB being the free hitter in the middle.  We have a way to also run this as an overload blitz by the way we set the front.  Let me explain.

The initial way we teach this blitz is from our 42 front.  This has the DT's in two techniques, and they are responsible for the A gap (their normal assignment from a two technique).  The DE's are taught, on OSC  that if the gap inside is open, I take it.  So both DE's are going to stunt into the B gap (this stunt would be run "fast" if you remember from the Stunt Article earlier in the series). 

Outside Charge

To set this blitz up as an overload blitz, you need to run it with a three and five technique to the strong side.  Now, the DE, seeing that the gap inside him is occupied, will simply be a regular five technique.  This is great against turn back protection sprint out, slide protection or speed option (set the three technique to the back when doing this).  The defense is getting two outside rushers attacking the RB in both the sprint out and slide protection example.  Here the defenders simply split the back and whoever doesn't get blocked, sacks the QB.  Against speed option, the DE takes the QB and the OLB has the pitch.  

Outside Charge as an overload blitz
The part about this blitz that makes it so hard to defend is how the outside linebackers (OLB's) attack the line of scrimmage (LOS).  We teach this blitz, initially from the offense being in a 2x2 look with both OLB's out of the box looking like they are in their normal Cover Two alignment.  The LB is taught to come to the LOS and then run down it, at full speed reading the offensive tackle (OT).  On movement, the LB "spikes" upfield and attacks his aiming point in the backfield.  The aiming point if the QB is alone in the backfield (Empty or under center drop back) is the near shoulder of the QB.  If the QB is in the gun with a RB, then the LB to the RB side attacks behind the RB (for QB keep on Zone Read), and the opposite LB attacks in front of the QB (for the give on Zone Read).  The result is an OT that can't handle the speed coming off the edge coming at him and usually a TFL or a sack.  Even if the OLB aligns in the box vs. a certain look, we ask that he move outside and get a running start.  This blitz, run from a static look gets nowhere near the pressure it does as when run from full speed.  

A variant of this blitz, is one I call "Inside Charge" (IC).  IC can only be run from our 42 front, as the LB's are now assigned to blitz the B gap.  All that changes on IC to OSC is that the DE and LB switch assignments.  The LB's attack just like OSC, but go inside the DE once the ball is snapped.  The DE, bolts up the field and contains.  This is a great blitz against OT's that kick step really hard opening up the B gap.  The two techniques crash down inside, pulling the guards with them and the sprinting OLB's clean up the B gaps to either side.

Inside Charge
A seven man pressure that can be created by simply tagging OSC with "Abil" or "Mack" to bring the MLB.  This is a very risky blitz as there is nobody to account for the RB flare, and there's nobody to account for a missed tackle.  We did not run this blitz last season.  We tagged this blitz "sellout" as that's exactly what we are doing.  We've put all our chips in the middle of the table with the hopes that when the dealer turns the cards they are in our favor.


Secondary Blitzes
I blitz the secondary in the following manner:
  • The Strong Safety
  • The Free Safety
  • Boundary Corner
When I bring a safety I simply bring him off the edge.  The technique for the safeties is the exact same as the OLB when running our OSC blitz (see above).  Against two back teams bringing the weak or free safety (FS) on that weak side is a great way to overload weak side iso.  Against wing-t you can bring the strong safety (SS) to the wing side as well as the OLB and overwhelm buck sweep or keep pass. 

SS Blitz
FS Blitz

The blitz I really like, is that of the boundary corner.  Most spread teams will rarely but their formation into the sideline (FSL), so you usually end up against 3x1 teams with a corner in man or bracket coverage to the boundary.  Here I like to send that boundary corner.  It's a great change up and allows you to play a different style of coverage to the three receiver side if you like (we usually just play a coverage similar to TCU's Roll Coverage to the three receiver side when bringing a corner).  You can also bring the FS to this side to add another wrinkle to the mix.  Again the technique of the blitzer is to hit the line running at full speed rather than being static (exactly how we teach the OLB in our OSC blitz above).

Corner Blitz

We also have a call in our defense that brings a safety into the box as a LB and we can run him through all the blitzes mentioned above.  This allows us to get into a 5-3 or a 4-4 look.  The 5-3 is something very similar to what Charlie Strong ran at Florida under Urban Meyer (They packaged it with man free coverage and it made one heck of a run stopping defense). 


While blitzing is a part of what a defense does, I don't feel it should define a defense.  In my opinion blitzing just to blitz is not a good plan.  I had an old coach once tell me that if you can stay in your base defense and beat your opponent you really should just do that.  I tend to agree with that, but that doesn't mean I don't like me a good pressure every now and then.

Ok, so with my next post we'll discuss playing check defense and why this allows your players to play fast against sets they may not have practiced for that week.  Sorry it's taken so long, but with my workload the blog has taken a backseat these days.  I'll try to get better about getting these posts out faster.  Take care and be safe.