Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Developing a High School Defense-Stunts and Movements

In this installment of the posts on developing a high school defense I'll discuss stunts and movements.  A movement, to me, is a run stunt.  Stunts are pass rush stunts to me.  I separate these into two categories because I teach these differently.  Stunts and movements are essential to any defense.  They are a means for the defensive coordinator (DC) to move his chess pieces around to do the following:

  • Create different fronts on the run (think the 3-3 philosophy)
  • Force the ball in the run game to either cut back or bounce to an unblocked defender
  • Force the quarterback (QB) to step up into, or flush into unblocked rushers
Stunts and movements are "games" DC's play with their defenders to gain an advantage over the offense.  These line games can leave offensive linemen (OL) guessing and create confusion and havoc, all the while keeping second level defenders free of blockers to make tackles.  It is very important in the development of a defense to have both stunts and movements.  A defense without either is like a car without any wheels.  You aren't going to get anywhere very quickly without them.

Two Types of Stunts and Movements
I teach two ways of running our defensive line (DL) games.  First, if we tag a stunt "fast", that means we are running the stunt or movement no matter what blocking scheme we get.  If we do not tag the stunt or movement with "fast", then the DL have to read the blocking scheme.  In the example below I show our Pirate stunt.  If we were to tag this stunt Fast Pirate, then the DL knows they are running this stunt no matter what.  However, if I just call Pirate, then the DL know they are only running the stunt if they get a pass read.

This keeps the defensive coordinator out of bad situations.  We all know that zone against the stunt shown (Pirate) could get vertical in a hurry.  If your players read it though, they won't be wrong.  

Fast also tells us how to play our movements as well.  Normally when we do a movement, we are engaging the blocking and changing our fit.  For instance, if we call the movement "Bite", which tells the defensive end (DE) to fit inside his alignment by one shade, then he is going to engage his blocker, read the block and fit accordingly.  Reading keeps the defender from getting washed down and creating huge run lanes.  In the Bite example, the DE, let's say aligned in a 5 technique will still read the near hip of the offensive tackle (OT) he aligns over.  If the DE gets a base block, he attacks his normal landmarks, but then redirects his fit from a 5 technique to a 4I technique post-read.  Had we tagged this stunt "fast", the DE, on the snap, would dip his outside shoulder and cross the face of the OT trying to get into the B gap as quickly as possible looking to create penetration.  There is a time and place for both types of stunts.  Reading and fitting is very similar to the posts I have on TGOG.  This type of movement slowly redirects the ball to bounce or cut back (based on the movement) so that the second level defenders have time to react and fit accordingly.  Tagging the movement fast is designed to make the ball cut back or bounce RIGHT NOW.  

Back to the example of our bite movement, here are the reactions we expect our DE to do if the movement isn't tagged.

  • Vs. base block- fight outside, then fit inside the blocker
  • Vs. reach block- same as base
  • Vs. down block- normal reaction, squeeze and spill
  • Vs. pass block- work upfield and then come across face once a rush lane has opened (vs. slide DE treats it like a down block if OT slides away)
Now, had the movement been tagged fast, the DE's number one concern is getting into the B gap.  If he gets a down block, he's coming down hard, which has the potential to get him washed if it's a down scheme.  This "washing down" of the DE usually creates a short edge and the ball can get to the edge quicker than the second level defenders can get to their assignments, thereby creating huge rush lanes.  

Fast movements have their purpose though.  They can be excellent in short yardage situations.  Having a DL stunt hard inside can eliminate inside run lanes in a goalline situation as well.  There is a time and place for both types of movements.

A Fast Stunt vs. a Read Stunt

Creating Movements-Single Defender Movements
Any good defense must have a way to move each of its pieces independently of the others.  Single movements for us are just that.  They are independent movements for each position along the defensive line and are both listed and depicted below.

  • Pinch- tells weak DT to attack one shade inside his alignment
  • Pinch Strong- tells strong DT to Pinch
  • Bite- Tells DE to attack one shade inside his alignment
  • EAT- Tells DE to attack the TE from a 5 technique (EAT = End at TE)

Pinch and Bite have a variety of ways they can bet set.  I can set these by strong/weak, or field/boundary.  We can also run them either to or away from the offset running back (RB).  This flexibility allows you to creatively defend your opponent in a myriad of ways.  These movements can also be doubled, meaning either both DT's or both DE's run the stunt.  For example if I call Double Bite, then both DE's are running the Bite movement.  The flexibility is even there for a four man movement utilizing Double Pinch Double Bite (great call in goalline and short yardage situations).  

Multiple Defender Movements
Being able to move pairs of linemen or the entire DL is also a very important factor when developing a high school defense.  As mentioned above the use of the word "double" can get us into two-man stunts.  Another two man, directional movement I utilize is Angle.  Angle tells both DT's to stunt in the direction of the call.  I can Angle either strong or weak, field or boundary and I can also run the movement to or away from the offset RB.  Again, this flexibility allows the DC to force the football to be run where he wants it to, NOT the offensive coordinator (OC).

Slant is a multiple player movement involving the entire DL.  When slanting the entire DL attacks in the direction of the call.  Calls can be strong, weak, field or boundary as well as to or away from the RB.

Another multiple DL stunt is Tackle Blast.  In Blast we align both tackles, or stem both tackles to shades on the center.  On the snap the DT's attack their 1/2 of the center and drive him backwards.  This is one of the players favorites.  They love teeing off on the center.  Tackle Blast is also a great goalline or short yardage call, especially if you stem to it.

Tackle Blast

Stunts, as mentioned earlier, are pass rush schemes for me.  They involve one defender inviting or enticing a blocker to block him and then redirecting once he does.  We utilize several pass rush stunts.  The first is what we call X and Strong X and is between the DT's.

X/Strong X
X tells the weak DT he is going first in the stunt.  We run this from a weak shade with a strong three technique.  The shade will attack the regular aiming point of the center and if he reads pass he crosses face into the strong A gap.  The strong DT will attack the guard and hold him until the shade clears.  Once the shade clears, he then crosses face of the center into the weak A gap.  What usually happens is the shade ends up pinning both the center and the strong guard that allows the strong tackle to loop into the opening creating by the stunting shade.   A good idea on this stunt is to have one of the LB's walk into the weak B gap to hold the offensive guard (OG) on the weak side from blocking down inside.  You can also have the weak DE align in a 4I and stem presnap if you'd like.

X Stunt (Shade goes 1st)

Strong X just reverses the stunt with the strong DT attacking 1st.  He will attack the normal aiming point on the strong guard, and once he reads pass will knife inside into the strong A gap.  The shade holds the center until the strong DT clears and then he loops around into the strong B gap.

Strong X (3 tech goes 1st)

A key coaching point on the X stunt is that whoever is the first defender to run the stunt should hold the blocker he initially attacked, and drag him into the other blocker.  This keeps the OL from popping off and blocking the twist.  If we tag this call "fast" then they don't read it and have the initial stunt lineman "ram" into the other blocker.  So on Strong X, for instance, the three technique would attack, or ram into the center, pulling the guard with him, thereby opening up the B gap for the shade.

TGO (pronouned Tee Go)
This is a stunt between the DE and the DT.  It can be run to either side of the defense and utilizes a technique called "containing through the B gap".  The idea with this stunt is for the DT to create the pocket in the B gap rather than a traditional rush doing so via the C or D gaps.  The idea here is to get the QB to step up into the pocket (you'll see why when I discuss what the DE does).  The DT, will align on the guard and attack his normal aiming point, once he reads pass, he attack the near hip off the OT to his side and get vertical.  This technique is similar, in effect, to the "ramming" technique mentioned above in the X stunt.  The DE will attack upfield to his normal aiming point, but looks to hold the OT until the DT clears.  Once the DT executes the "ram", the DE loops inside to the A gap and looks to sack the QB stepping up in the pocket.

This is also a good stunt vs. the run.  I tag it with "fast" to get the DL to execute the stunt without reading it if we want to defend the run with it.  The DT rams the OT immediately and works upfield.  The DE loops around to the open A gap.  What this does, especially vs. zone runs, if run to the opposite side of the RB (in gun) is force a cutback right into the unblocked DE.

Fast TGO vs. Inside Zone

EGO (pronounced Eee Go)
The EGO stunt is similar to TGO, but the DE is the one initiating the stunt instead of the DT.  The DE attacks the OT as he would normally and upon reading pass, he will come underneath the tackle into the B gap.  The DT will attack the guard and hold the guard until the DE clears, at which time the DT loops around to contain.  The idea behind this stunt is to flush the QB to one side or the other.  The DE crossing face is very difficult for the OT to handle.  This immediate, in-your-face pressure forces the QB to roll out, rather than step us as the pressure is coming from the inside.


If we run the stunt "fast", then the DE automatically slams down inside on the snap into the B gap.  The DT also loops immediately to the outside for contain.  Fast EGO is a great stunt to run to the RB side against Zone Read.  The DE slamming down inside forces a pull read and the looping DT is unblocked wrapping around to the side the QB is keeping the ball to.  Fast EGO is also a great way of making a mess out of double iso teams.  Double Iso is where a team uses a 20 or 21 personnel look and uses both backs to lead block for the QB.  20 personnel can especially displace LB's from the box and make matching the numbers very difficult for the defense if the DC wants to stay in zone coverage.  This stunt, alters run lanes and forces the ball outside to where the help is.

Fast EGO vs. Zone Read

TGO and EGO can be run strong, weak, field, boundary, as well as to or away from the RB.  These stunts can also be run with a double call getting the stunt run to both sides of the defense.  Another way I run it is TGO/EGO weak where the TGO is run on the strong side, and the EGO is run on the weak side of the DL.

The last pass rush stunt we have is our Pirate stunt.  This stunt is a three man stunt involving the DE to the call side and both DT's.  This stunt is illustrated above.  To the strong side both the DE and the DT will attack and read their respective OL.  When they read pass, they both cross face and come inside the blocker.  The shade, on the weak side, holds the center, and once the DT clears he loops to the strong side, similar to how he did in the Strong X stunt.  However, instead of looping tight, like in the X stunt, he loops flatter and down the LOS.  The shade is looking to contain to the strong side.  This stunt is designed to flush a QB in one direction and have the shade make the sack.

If the shade can't get there, we can send the middle linebacker (MLB) instead.  In this case the shade stays at home and rushes his normal A gap rush.  Pirate can be run "fast" as well and is a good stunt to force run plays to bounce immediately since both the A and B gaps close quickly.

Some Notes About Stunts
One main thing when running DL movements is don't guess.  You, as the coordinator, need to have a good idea what you're getting into when you start moving DL.  Some coaches live in "stunt mode" and this can be good for awhile, but if an offensive coordinator (OC) gets a tendency on you, it can be deadly.  Film study and careful game planning is the only way to call stunts.  Guessing will get you beat.

Secondly, as I've touched on, I firmly believe you need to have two ways to run your stunts and movements.  Having the ability of the DL to read the blocking scheme gives your players the advantage.  This way they are guaranteed to not be in a bad call.  Certainly there are times where you don't want the DL reading, and you need to get them going.  Hence the use of the term "fast" in my stunts.  This allows our guys to run stunts that are aggressive in nature when we want to be, as well as running stunts that change our fit based on what blocking scheme we are getting.

Drilling of stunts is very easy.  I get many questions on how the DL is supposed to react and read their blockers when running the read stunts.  This is accomplished with the use of ground agility bags.  I run this drill at least twice a week early on and at least once a week up until late in the season.  The drill setup is this.  Set the ground agility dummies up in the manner shown in the illustration below.  You can start with one DL if you want or multiple, it does not matter.  I like to start with single movements first.  Prior to starting the DL are told the OL are pass blocking.  In the drill the DL has to fire off and run down their 1/2 of the bag.  They need to be low, and play with proper leverage.  Once they reach the far end of the bag, then they can run their stunt.  This imitates them getting off the ball and reading the pass set of the OL.  As you progress you can work two DL in tandem to work the X, TGO, and EGO stunts.  We initially start teaching our stunts "fast" and then work to the players reading them.  In this drill we will occasionally run a stunt with a "fast" call just to make sure they know what to do.  You can progress the drill further and add live blockers with live blocking situations.  I recommend only adding live players and blocks after the DL have mastered all their stunts against bags.

Stunt Drill

Lastly, we talk to our guys about performance alignment.  An example of this would be in our TGO stunt.  To the weak side, the tackle is usually playing a shade for us.  Performance alignment tells the shade that despite the call telling him to be in a shade, the stunt means he needs to align in a technique where he can get the job done.  He can stem to this alignment if he chooses, but he needs to be in an alignment where when the ball is snapped he can do his job.  Performance aligning allows us to look like our base defense presnap, then quickly move into an alignment that allows us to attack our aiming points just before the snap.  In the TGO example we try to get the shade to be in at least a one technique (inside shade of the guard) before running the stunt.  It is better if he's in a two technique but it can be run from a one.  We also tell them that if they get caught in the stem, run the stunt immediately.  This helps to keep them from getting washed on a quick snap count.

In the end stunts and movements can be a very effective tool for any defense.  Relying on them too much can make you vulnerable to the big play.  However, by utilizing them at the right time, with proper film study, stunts and movements can lead to negative plays for the offense.  In our next installment we will look into building an effective blitz package and how coupling blitzes with stunts can create major problems for OC's.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Developing a High School Defense-Fronts

Next to coverages fronts are the most important element of any defense.  This is how you are going to align and defend your opponent.  Most people (and I've been guilty of this too) marry themselves to a front or a defense predicated one front only.  Once I realized I wasn't married to any front, my defensive prowess grew exponentially.  Several years back I had always been a 4-4/4-3 guy and there was one season we simply could not stop the bleeding.  Our defensive line (DL) just was not very good and quite frankly I wasn't a good enough coach to figure out how to get them better in a very short period of time.  So we started running the 46 defense or what some folks call the bear (you can see some of my old 46 posts here).  Now to say I was a 46 purist is not a true statement whatsoever.  However, I was a coach in need of help and the 46 was our answer to stop the bleeding.  Needless to say, my focus after that was on how I could be multiple in my defense without crippling it.  Over the next several years I developed ways to get into various fronts from my base 4-3.  I will share my thoughts on this matter in this article.

Play Defense Not Defenses

No truer statement has been uttered, but to take this at face value is to lose the meaning of the phrase.  I think what is implied by this axiom is that don't try to stray too far from what you are teaching out of your base looks to the point that your players are confused.  That is why when I start teaching our players the basics of defense we teach them multiple ways to defend what they are seeing.  Now I know you're thinking I'm talking out of two sides of my mouth, but hear me out.  I teach our players to take on blocks in one of three ways.  Box, spill and two-gap.  I've written countless articles on the Two Gap/One Gap (TGOG) scheme in football, so I won't delve too much into that topic in this article, but it is important to note this is one of the three techniques we teach.  The progression I teach is to learn to spill first, as it is probably the least natural of the three.  Once we learn to spill then we learn to box and from there advance to TGOG.  What this does is allow you, the defensive coordinator (DC) to dictate where the ball is run vs. certain run schemes.  This is very important when it comes to getting the ball to be run at your better athletes.  I will dive into this topic more later, but as a note, we play a lot of looks but the philosophy doesn't change.  We are going to alter where our opponent wants to run the ball and get them to run into the "teeth" of our defense.

Multiplicity by Simplicity

First and foremost we are a 4-3 team.  That is, we employ four down defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs.  In my early years I tried to make my outside linebackers (OLB's) mirror images of one another, but now I simply try to have what I call a "box backer" and a "cover backer".  This is an adaptation to my time running the 4-2-5, which is really just the 4-3's cousin.  I don't get too caught up in the "who's" of the defense.  Basically put I need four guys that can cover, four that can eat up gaps and blocks and three that can do both.  Easier said than done in high school football, but I will elaborate more on how we can hide weaker players within our scheme.  It is tougher to hide players on defense, and as a DC you need to stand firm if you're platooning that at the very least you get good guys in the secondary.  In today's game a weak secondary can light up the scoreboard in a hurry.  Ideally on teams I've been on that platooned, defense gets the pick of the litter, so to speak.

So, how are we multiple and simple?  There in lies the crux to the entire equation.  It comes down to what you can do and how much practice time you are allowed.  This past season we went to a modified two platoon system and our kids flourished in it on the defensive side of the football.  Why?  Because they were getting two solid hours of defensive teaching.  From meetings to video, to actual on the field practice they were getting way more repetitions than had they been when they were two way players.  By platooning you can also teach guys multiple defensive positions.  For instance, it's not that big of a stretch for a linebacker to learn safety, or defensive end.  The same can be said of a corner learning to play safety.  My staff and I cross-train as much as we can and in this manner we actually develop some of the "hybrids" many folks talk about these days (I damn sure don't have any of these "hybrids" walking the halls here, they have to be made).  Our cross-training deal with alignments and assignments as well as how to take on blocks and who and where to cover.  Those facets are the basics of any defense, so again, being able to hone those skills every day over a two or two-and-a-half hour practice is huge. 

Another item that helps with being multiple is terminology.  Don't use two words to describe one thing.  Don't use coverage names that the kids don't know.  For instance our code word for man free is single.  I don't say Cover One, or man free, we call it what it is to our kids...single coverage.  If you get one coach calling it man free, and two more calling it Cover One, and you, the DC calling it single, you can see where the teenage mind can easily run off a cliff quite quickly trying to follow all the terminology.  This takes dedication by the staff, and by the DC holding the staff accountable.  Don't let terminology slip!  Terminology is one of the most underrated items within any organization, your defense is no different.  They way your staff and your players communicate can reduce confusion, thereby leading you to be able to do more and execute better.

Calling Fronts an Opinion Only

In my years I've called fronts a variety of ways, by names, numbers and both.  The latter, in my opinion is far superior.  In the current system I use we call out certain techniques and have certain rules for what the numbers mean.  To start we must learn our techniques.  For me, the head up techniques are even numbers (as shown below).  Outside shades being with an outside shade on the center we simply call a "shade".  The illustration below shows all the various shades we use in our defense. The numbering system is the most difficult for players to understand, so it is reviewed continuously early on in the season.

For our fronts we have a two digit call.  The first digit in the call is the number of down lineman the front has.  For instance, if we call "42" then our players automatically know there will be four down linemen.  Since all of our teaching starts from a 4-3, we start with all of our 40 fronts. 

The second digit signifies the techniques we want to adjust.  Numbers one through three speak to the defensive tackles (DT's).  This number tells the tackles where to align.  If the call were 41, both DT's would be inside shades on the offensive guards.  42 would be head up and 43 out be outside shades.  The defensive ends (DE's) have a rule that if the call is 45 or less they align in five techniques.  Years ago I adopted names similar to that of which TCU uses.  For 41 it would've been Indian, for 42 it was Heads and for 43 it was Outlaw.  I find that you are adding a step in the learning process when you convert from numbers to names.  If a player learns what a 2 technique is, and then in no other process in your front calls do you use that number it's significance is virtually nullified.  You basically force the player into learning two things.  First you make them learn the number and then you have them learn to associate that number with a word.  In a numerical system, the numbers mean something; i.e. they matter.  When I teach my DT's a two technique, they can associate the number "42" to that specific technique quicker than they can the term "Heads".  While you may scoff at this opinion, I urge you to try it, as stated earlier, I've done both and found the numerical method to be quite easier (not to mention quicker to call in the heat of battle).  To further the two digit system, if a call, is 45 or higher (46, 47 or 49) then the call speaks directly to the DE's.  The DE's will now align in the signified call.  Our EMOL rule states that if you cannot find the technique you are to align in, simply align in an outside shade on the EMOL.  For the interior DL, if they hear a number 45 or higher, they align in a three technique to the call side, and a one technique to the opposite side.  Very simple.  A note about our techniques and what gap they have.  If you are aligned in a head up technique and are not stunting you are responsible for your inside gap.  Therefore, a two technique would be an A gap player, a four technique a B gap player and a six would have the C gap.  I am not a two gap purist, so in those regards even our head up shades will know what gap they have.

We have the use of tags to adjust the front as well.  Some tags we use are Shade, Base, Over and Nose.  Shade puts the weak side DT in a weak shade.  Nose puts the weak side shade in a zero technique (he still has weak A gap).  Base tells us to call the front to the offset RB.  Over tells our players to align in the under front.  I'm a word association guy and I can tell you this, probably less than 10 percent of your players know what the under front is.  So calling it "under" may make you look cool in the clinic circles, it's going to get blank stares from your players on the gridiron.  The "O" in Over is associated with "opposite" (I don't use the word opposite as it is lengthy).  This tells the strong side tackle to align in a one technique and the weak DT to align in a three technique.  If you want the under front with a shaded nose, then simply call Over Shade (the actual call would 45 Over Shade).  I also use field and boundary tags as well to set the front to the wide or short side of the field.

Now, to get into a three man front, we work very similarly but have rules about who becomes, what I call, our "Backer" position (3-4 purists would call this the "Buck").  For our three down look, we can slide the front either weak or strong depending on the ability of the DE that has to play the Backer position.  Our base rule is to slide the front weak to where the weak DE is the Backer, the weak DT becomes, what the 3-4 guys would call their DE.  The strong DT becomes the Nose and the strong DE, is still just that, the strong DE.  I've done three down fronts as both a sub package where a DE or DT came off the field or I've simply stayed with the regular 11 I started the game with.  This is a personal preference for me, and is based on what I have at each position, year to year.  I like consistency, so I try to stay with the same 11, but I'm also not one to put a round peg into a square hole.

We can vary our 30 fronts by simply calling "30", which tells our front guys to align shaded if there is a tight end(five strong, shade strong, 4I weak), or in a 5,0,5 look if there is no tight end (TE).  If we want to set our guys, we do it similar to our 40 fronts.  Available calls are 33, 34, 34I, and 35.  When called, the DL who is the nose, will align in a zero technique, unless otherwise instructed via the game plan.  These front variations are illustrated below.

My 50 fronts are also very similar in nature in that we either slide the DL one direction or the other and have a linebacker walk up to make the fifth DL.  If we slide strong, the strong DE is the stand up nine, the strong DT and weak DE become the DT's, and the weak tackle is the nose.  Our rule is the linebackers will always move opposite the DL.  So if the line slid strong to make the 50, the linebackers move weak.  This means the Will linebacker will walk up and play the weak nine, while our other two linebackers will align according to the open gaps (more on that in a moment).  If the front were to slide weak, then the weak DE becomes the nine technique weak, while the Sam linebacker is the strong nine.  The strong DE and the weak DT are the tackles and the strong DT is now the nose (see the illustrations below). 

4-3 DL slid strong to make 50

4-3 slid weak to make 50

I also use some special fronts, that I won't dive into here, since this isn't necessarily a playbook article.  Some of these other fronts are Okie Dog Pinch, the 46 Bear, and a gapped out goal line look.  Remember, your fronts are no different than your toolbox.  Don't use a wrench when you need a screwdriver.  If a hammer isn't right for the job and you need a mallet, you go get one.  Your fronts are no different.  Be flexible enough to use whatever front is necessary to get the job done.

Have an Easy way to Align Second Level Defenders

I alluded to this earlier, about linebackers aligning in open gaps.  From day one we teach our linebackers to align in the open gaps.  This coupled with our head up rule and our uncovered TE rule insure that there are no gaps left open in the defense, even if the DL misaligns.  This is important because we all know you're going to have that sophomore DT that will invariably screw this up.  If your linebackers hold to their rules, you'll have bodies in all the gaps.  The idea here is the that Mike, or Middle linebacker  will align in the first open gap to the strong side of the front.  The Sam aligns in the second, while the Will linebacker aligns in the first open gap weak.  If there is an uncovered TE, created by a front, and this is the second gap to the strong side, then that linebacker walks up and plays a nine technique.  For fronts that have defensive linemen in head up shades, the linebackers will stack these DL.  For instance, in the diagram below, the front call is "42".  Hearing the number two puts both DT's in head up alignments on the guards, or two techniques.  By rule, the call is 45 or less, so the DE's are automatically in five techniques.  Against a  pro set, as shown, this has both A gaps open, both B gaps open and the D gap strong is uncovered.  The DT's automatically have their inside gap (see rule above), so the middle linebacker would then have the first open gap strong, which is the B gap.  Since the DT is head up, the middle linebacker stacks behind him with his alignment.  The same thing works for the weak side of the defense since both sides are mirrored.  To the strong side, there is an uncovered TE, and no other gap for the Sam to get into but the D gap.  By rule, he would walk up and become a nine technique on the strong side of the defense.

All of the above is a base rule for aligning quickly.  Do we change or alter this?  Of course, not all alignments fit all opponents.  However, the rules above give our players a solid, steadfast, sound rule that if the bullets are flying in the heat of battle they can resort to these and still be sound.  In today's hyper-fast, no-huddle world, having sound, concrete rules can help a defense from misaligning. 

When to use What Front

This is not an easy topic to discuss.  As I spoke of earlier, your tools in your toolbox aren't always needed, and there will be sometimes when two or three of your tools could be used to complete the same task.  It is up to the coordinator to find out which tool is best for the task at hand.  For instance, this past season we played a very odd hybrid single wing offense predicated around the jet sweep and running the quarterback (QB) on Powers and Counters.  I've been torched the past few times by this team in a four man front.  Their passing game does not lend itself to being one high in coverage, so you cannot always drop a safety into the box to help.  I needed to be in some sort of three down look to get more people off the ball in pursuit of the sweep, while still leaving enough weak side for QB counter.  We aligned in a 3-4 look, utilized two gapping DE's coupled with a squat corner version of Cover 3 to hold our opponent to 15 points and force four turnovers.  My previous best against this team was giving up 28 points.  My first encounter against them, I gave up 55!  Again, those older encounters I was holding true to my four down roots and tried to stay within the bounds of my "base" defense, and it cost me. 

Not an easy task...

This past season we ran the following fronts:

  • 3-4 once
  • 4-3 three times
  • 4-4 three times
  • 50- two times
  • 3-3/3-5 once
In several games we would run variants as well.  There were several games we were in both the 4-3 and the 4-2.  Since these two defenses are so close to one another, that's not hard to do.  The idea here is that we were able to get into these defenses very easily due to the keys mentioned above.  Clear concise teaching and terminology coupled with significant practice time allows you to do this.  If you are not platooning, you will not be able to do this, as your players will have to absorb way too much information to be effective come game day.

So in closing, I highly recommend platooning.  Do not tell me you can't because of numbers.  At one point this season we had 15 healthy players for 11 available slots.  Now, mind you we are modified platoon, so we do have some offensive players than learn defensive positions, and as the season wore on and some injuries mounted, we did have to utilize these players.  Because our system is so flexible we were able to insert these offensive players into our ranks with little to no down turn in production.  Lastly I cannot stress enough about communicating and keeping terminology consistent among teachers and students.  This requires discipline, but once done, will allow the multiplicity to thrive within your defense.  Up next we discuss stunts and blitzes!


PS- a note about front usage that came to me once I was done with this article I wanted to share.  Since it is clinic season, one thing overlooked is what you should be doing at clinics.  While most DC's want to to go to the latest tackling drill seminar, or flock to the hottest DC's in college football, one thing goes unnoticed in all clinics.  We are rubbing elbows with the enemy and they don't care.  What I mean is, at most clinics there are offensive and defensive topics.  I try to split my time at a clinic and go to both offense and defense.  Have an offense that gave you trouble this past season?  Go sit in on their seminar.  What better way to find out how to defend an offense than by learning how they implement said offense?  In this manner, you can see what fronts, or coverages give the offense more trouble than others (hell, I've even asked!).  These clinics allow you inside the mind of your opponent.  Don't waste it on some tackling drill, or learning some coverage your kids probably can't even run.  Be the wolf in the hen house!  You'll learn more that way.  Just my two pennies on the matter.