Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 4-2-5 and the Under, Meshing Two Great Defenses!

Some posts have been out there on the Huey board as to how to run an Under front look from the 4-2-5.  Well, I'm going to explain how I did it just this past season.  Now, my methods are NOT the end-all-be-all of how to do it, and are by no means the only way to do it.  I'm just giving you some insight as to what I went through trying to keep my old favorite the Under, and meshing it with my new favorite the 4-2-5.  Let's dive in...shall we???

First, most of us know the Under is an old staple, who's history I'm not going to delve into as I really no nothing of it.  I learned most of what I learned from the Huey board from the Under legend himself, the outlawjoseywales (OJW).  I first came across this defense when trying to figure out how I could eliminate the 3 linebacker (LB) bubbles of the standard 4-3 Over front when defensing the Wing-T offense.  I already had the Under in my defense, I just knew little about it, and/or how or when to use it.  The Under, as I have been taught, was an adaptation to the weakside of the old 50 defense.  The adaptation was to move the standard 4 or 4I technique into a 3 technique so he could better leverage the B gap, and reduce his chances of getting kicked out on weakside isolation runs (old 50 guys know this was the Achilles heel of the 50).  Anyhow, the standard Under front I was taught had a 3 technique and a 5 technique to the weak side.  The 3 technique was a down lineman, and the 5 technique was the old stand up end in the 50 (although some did play him down)  To the strong side, the defense had a 1 technique noseguard, and a 5 technique defensive tackle.  Again, both of these were down linemen.  The defensive end to the strong side, was usually in a stand up 9 technique.  As the 4-3 came into play, and turned the triple option world on it's ear, teams moved away from the wishbone to the standard "I" formation and began running the football with isolation runs and power off-tackle runs.  The Power "G" as it is called, or what I refer to as "G-lead" is the arch nemesis of the 4-3.  It really can be stressful on the 3 LB bubbles presented by the defense.  So what were 4-3 coaches to do?  As with most things in football, adaptation was needed.  So, the modern Under front was born (I know, I'm "skimming" to say the least)!  In the modern Under front, the 4-3 defense basically "kicked" 1 technique to the weakside.  This gave the standard 3/5 techniques to the weakside, however both of these were down linemen.  The strong side, to the old 50 guys, would look identical to what it looked like when the defense was originally conceived.  However, the 9 technique was no defensive end, he was the Sam or strongside LB (SLB) in the 4-3 defense walked up on the line of scrimmage (LOS).  The Mike or middle linebacker (MLB) would slide from over center, to over the strongside guard, and the Will or weakside linebacker (WLB) would slide over the weakside guard.  This removed 1 of the 3 bubbles the 4-3 defense presented itself, and reduced blocking angles on both sides of the ball.  Ok, enough history!

Over Front

Under Front

Power G vs. Over Front

Power G vs. Under

So, how did I come to run the Under out of the 4-2?  The first thing you have to look at is how I run the Under.  I was never a field/boundary declare guy until a year ago, when I made the switch to the 4-2.  So my Under front was always tied to the offense presenting a tight end (TE).  If there was a TE present we were in our standard shade/5/9 to the strong side, and 3/5 to the weakside.  If there was no TE, we still had the shade/and 5 technique, but our Sam backer would walk off to normal depth and either apex if there was a slot receiver to his side, or play in what we called a "hip" alignment (outside "hip" of the defensive end to his side).  How we did this was to basically "kick" our Nose, to the weakside 3 technique, the Tackle (normally in a 3 technique in the Over front) would go to the strong side 1 technique.  Our 9 technique defensive end would then move down and play a 5 technique.  This kept everything uniform for us up front.  In looking back I was making such a mistake by not being field/boundary more!  To live and learn though right?!

So on to the nuts and bolts, how do we get from the 4-2-5 to the Under?  It's not that hard, both defenses like to keep 6 in the box, which is great, the problems are with the 9 technique and the divorced coverage concept common to most 4-2-5's (although not all).  Another mistake I made was not divorcing the front/secondary either.  I had done this in the past with little to no success, and after finally making the switch this past season, I saw how awesome this concept can be.  However it really throws a monkey wrench into running the "true" Under front.  The other issue to be looked at is out of the Under front, the 9 technique is usually a stand up LB.  In the 4-2-5 this is going to have to be a safety-type hybrid.  Another consideration is adjustments.  How is the front going go adjust if the secondary is not attached to it?  How are you going to keep the 9 technique opposite the 3 technique's side and keep all of this straight in the high schooler's already cluttered mind?  Keep your pants on!  That's what I'm going to talk to you about now.

So, you first have to look at how do I get into the under front if my secondary is divorced from the front.  If you keep your secondary rules in place, then the front is going to have to call strength opposite the read call in the secondary so as to get the 3 technique set away from the strong safety (SS).  In the middle of the field (MOF) this can be an issue, especially if you already have built in rules for the front to declare strength.  There are going to be times that the front rules are going to conflict with the secondary rules, putting the defense in a bind alignment-wise.  This can be easily illustrated in the Twins Closed concept with the ball in the MOF.  The SS, by rule, is to go to the read side as determined in the 4-2 by the free safety (FS).  Now if you simply call strength away from the read side, you are presented with a problem.  You now have a 3/5 to the TE side of the offense, and no 9 technique!  The trick here, would be to build into your front rules for the defensive end away from the read side to move to a 9 technique and basically you are in an Over looking front.  Still, I don't like this idea, and it presents a lot of rules that are too confusing to deal with.  This is not quite as troublesome when the ball is on the hash and the SS goes to the field, but it still can put you in a bind, forcing your defense into numerous "if this-then that" rules, which are the "quick and easy path" to paralysis by analysis. 

To combat the rule problem, I built this simple tag into our defense.  Our base fronts were all called with a number that set the Nose and the Tackle.  We could call 13 (Nose in a 1, Tackle in a 3) or 31, or 33 and the front knew how to align.  The numerical system also alerted the secondary they were not a part of the front, and aligned by their normal rules (see here and here for more info.).  However, if the front called was a name (Over, Under, Stack, Bear), then the front and secondary were tied together.  This meant the secondary threw their rules to the wind in terms of alignment and listened for the front strength to be called as to where to align.  This allowed us to more effectively run the Under front.  Now, our SS could be set as the 9 technique by either field/boundary or TE, whichever we so chose to do.  It's not perfect, BUT it has less rules than if you keep the front divorced from the coverage.  Not saying it can't be done, but this way is much easier and "cleaner" way of running the Under front from the 4-2.

4-2-5 Under/Blue Coverage

The next issue to tackle is the stand up 9 technique.  This player has got to be a fairly good ball player, even in the 4-3 scheme to be able to play back at LB depth and up on the LOS.  This becomes a question mark in the 4-2 scheme because this player is the SS.  However, if you look at how TCU plays their SS, it's not a far cry from what the 9 technique LB has to do in the Under front.  In years past I have played a true 9 technique, I have played my Sam at 3x3 off the near hip of the TE, and even played my Sam back in 90 technique (outside shade of the TE) at LB depth.  This all depended on the ability of the Sam LB I had playing there.  What I found in the 4-2, was most of our SS's were good enough to play 3x3 to 2x2 off the EMOL.  Sometimes we even tightened them down to 1x1, but never in a true 9 technique.  Keeping in the spirit of Patterson's alignment principles with the SS, we had the SS turn inside and look down the LOS reading the TE's near hip.  This is not that much different than what Patterson has his SS do vs. the 2 back run game, which is really where the Under front is at home.  Also, the SS is usually one of the best, if not the best athlete/defender in your secondary (at least the most versatile), so he should be able to perform these duties with little difficulty.

The SS is now free to work his normal adjustments as well from this look too.  If there is no TE he can walk out and apex the #1 WR to get a good release to the flats.  He's in a great position to force vs. nub sets as well, and is in an excellent position to blitz off the edge.  This idea of attaching the front to the coverage goes against most of the 4-2-5 rules/posts/articles you read out there, but if you are dead set on running both, this is a very simplistic way of getting the most out of both fronts.

So what coverages do you run with it?  You can run pretty much anything you want with it really!  You can run quarters, cover 2 (squat halves), robber, you name it.  I preferred to run 2 read out of it.  This keeps in line with the base coverage we teach so we felt it was important to keep that philosophy.  The area where this is weak, is against offenses that have the receiving strength away from passing strength, such as closed or nub sets.  A good adjustment here is to go corner over.  I'm a big corners over guy, so again, this "fit" into what we taught our guys to do.  Against 2x2, if they had a TE, we called the strength to the TE and kept our normal 2 read rules (TCU's blue coverage).  Against 3x1, we had to make sure the front strength was set to the receiving strength so we could play Solo and Special coverages and make sure the SS was on the correct side.  This is not a difficult adjustment to make, however.  Same thing against empty 3x2 and empty 4x1 you still had to make sure the SS got set to receiving strength so he would be set away from the 3 technique.  Again, not a huge issue. 

Corners Over

Under with Robber Coverage

Under with "Special" Coverage vs. Trips Open

Adapting the 4-2-5 to the Under front was not a huge ordeal, you just had to work out the details and the rest was very simplistic.  The Under front is one of the best 2 or 3 back defenses you will find out there in my opinion.  If you want to learn more, jgordon on Coach Huey's board and the outlawjoseywales (OJW) are by far some of the best Under coaches I have talked to on the "net".  These guys have given me TONS of insight on the Under defense and no matter what personnel I base out of, whether it be the odd or even front, I would make 100% sure I had the Under built into my defense!

Better yet, buy this book and end all of your Under front questions!