Monday, June 6, 2011

The 4-3 Scream and Splatter

I came across this defense, by sheer accident (which you may download here) several years ago while helping a friend.  I had a phone call one evening from an old college friend who was the head coach (HC) and offensive coordinator (OC) at a small school in Southwest Florida (SWFL) and was facing a team that had an ultra-aggressive 4-3 defense.  He sent me some film on them, and was trying to figure out how to attack them with the split-back veer.  After watching several films on this opponent I was very intrigued to see the radicalness of the defense.  The interior tackles sat in 2I's most of the time, and the defensive ends (DE's) were in a radical tilt, almost ninety degrees to the traditional way of aligning.  The DE's looked right down the line of scrimmage (LOS) to the ball.  The outside linebackers (OLB's) were stacked right behind these ends at about four to five yards off the LOS.  The middle linebacker (MLB) was the same depth and directly over the center.  The DE's were the kicker though, they came off the LOS like missiles, and simple put, wrecked everything in their path.  It was quite astonishing to watch, and I could see why my friend was calling, as they were a very rambuncious bunch to try and move the football against.  The secondary seemed to be playing some sort of two deep man under coverage, maybe even a version of quarters.  The corners appeared to be in man with the safeties twelve to fifteen yards deep, and rocking back on the snap.  They would rotate the secondary into cover 3 when they got trips or twins, they never broke the box, always keeping their 4-3 intact.  The defense was aggressive and attacking in nature and they, simply put, got after your ass! 

The conversation, and films led me to try and research the defense, however, information was not easily obtained.  One day when posting on the Huey board, I had a coach, from Wisconsin respond to me and tell me about a "tilted 4-3" in their area that was similar to the defense I had been describing in my posts.  He told me to check out Lancaster High School, in Lancaster WI.  So I gave their head coach a call, and he directed me to their defensive coordinator (DC) who was very helpful.  He sent me information on the defense, and told me they got it from somebody out in California.  He did not elaborate but we spoke several times about his defense, the pros, the cons etc.  Over the years, from my first post about the defense, people have contacted me and asked me about it.  I wanted to put a post out here that some may use, to get a first-hand look at this defense.  I want to preface, I did not run this defense, I merely took some things out of it, that I will discuss later.  I am going to break down the defense from the ground up, and then go into what I used out of each section.  Hopefully this will shed light on a very aggressive and attacking 4-3, that some have never seen.  Shall we?

Defensive Line
In the Scream and Splatter (S&S) defense, all 4 of the down linemen are tilted at a forty-five degree angle to the LOS.  The basic shades are your standard over front shades with a one and five techniques to the weakside, and a three and nine technique to the strong side.  The defense I saw on film, did not do this, they had 2I's in the interior, and the strong end played a seven technique (inside shade of the tight end).  The reasoning behind the tilt is to better facilitate our old friend, block down, step down (BDSD).  The author of the defense explains that this allows them to execute the "splatter" technique against gap blocking schemes.  As far as defensive line manuals go, this one is not much different except for the tilt.  I got some film on Lancaster, and they are not your "war-daddy's" by any means, but they do get after it.  The main reason is the simplicity in the teaching of the defensive linemen (DL).  They key their "trigger" as it is called and react from there.  After that, they have the normal reactions to the blocking schemes that you see most four man front defenses doing these days. 

The other key for the DL is the actual "splatter" technique.  This is practiced daily, and there is a diagram in the packet they sent me of how to set up the splatter drill.  The interesting thing is they do not talk about depth or angle, they simply talk about getting off the ball, and coming down the LOS and attacking the upfield armpit of the blocker.  The diagrams basically speak for themselves, so I will not elaborate further.

I did not tilt all four of our linemen, the number one reason is that we were seeing so many zone teams, I felt it would allow our inside guys to be reached too easily.  I did tilt our DE's, but not radically like the SWFL team mentioned earlier.  We simply put our inside had down, and then turned our body inside enough to see the football.  I actually changed our term wrong arm to Lancaster's term splatter and it's quite a funny story.  In my first year as a DC at my last gig we were teaching kids the wrong arm technique when I overheard one young player tell another "why are we learning this, if it's the wrong way to do it".  Ahh, the teenage mind!  So, after that, we decided to call our wrong arm, the splatter.  The kids liked it, it made sense to them, and the rest is history!

"Gnarly dude"

The linebacker play in the S&S defense is what really caught my attention.  The way they taught it, seems overly aggressive, yet there was an effectiveness to it, that I bought in to.  All three linebackers (LB's) read the fullback, or near back in offset backfield sets.  The LB's had but one read, intersect the path of the FB.  That's it!  All they had to do, was to intersect that path, and leave the rest to the safeties behind them (we'll talk of that later).  This made for a defense that looked as though it was blitzing every down.  The LB's seemed almost a step ahead of the opposing offenses on film.  It was quite a sight to watch.  Now, I know what you are thinking, "Why not just run counter?".  You would be right, but the safety play behind it, made this nearly impossible.  The LB section shows the drill on how to teach the LB's to intersect the path of the fullback.  They set up trash cans and ran through all the various series of plays, and how the LB's should react to these (they called it the "Barrel Drill").  The other interesting thing is that they involved the safeties in this drill as well.  As you will see in their run fit section, this safety involvement is critical to the defense.

We took the basics of this read system and used it, however we added a few other things to it to help us with the counter runs and bootlegs.  Our MLB, had these exact reads, but our OLB's had a few other things added to it.  I also started using our safeties in run fit drills, and in inside run drill.  This payed huge dividends as it allowed the safeties to see just where they should fit, with out having to worry about the pass threatening them. 

Defensive Backs
The safeties were the crux of the S&S defense.  They were the "clean up" guys.  Basically, they made the LB's underneath of them "right" by fitting where needed.  Now, the S&S isn't for the faint of heart, as they sit in cover 0 all the time.  Yep, that's it, one coverage!   As you can see, they wanted to keep things simple.  So, back to the safeties and how they "fit" into the defense.  The safety on the action side of a run play, was no different than your quarters or 2 read safety in that he was the force player.  The backside safety was the kicker, he had to clean up all counter, bootleg, and reverses.  The backside safety made the LB furthest away from action, be able to "scream" to the football without fear of the cutback or the counter.  This was important because it led to the defense outnumbering the offense at the point of attack (POA).  This is exactly how I played it out of my 2 read/Blue coverage scheme as we've read before (go here if you haven't already). 

The corners in this defense are primarily man to man guys.  In the playbook you can see that they gave the corner 6 basic reads and worked those to death.  I've often had this philosophy myself, corners have a tough enough job, no need in worrying them about the run.  Well, the S&S is perfect for your cover corner. 

The S&S in Recent Years
I have not had the luxury of talking to Lancaster's coaches in over 3 years now, however the last time I talked to them, they were having some problems with spread formations, most notably 2x2 teams that ran zone read.  I have no doubt that they have come up with  a scheme to defeat these offensive tactics in the recent years, as many on the Huey board have said they still remain an elite team in Wisconsin. 

In Florida, my buddy tells me nobody runs the defense that got my interest started all those years ago.  It's a shame, as the coach that ran it, according to my friend had a very impressive record to go along with his defense.  Nonetheless, the defense has gone the way of the Dodo bird in that particular area.

I hope this was insightful to those who have been asking about the defense.  I think the S&S has excellent merits, and is a sound system that seems very simple to install.  I know it caught my eye when I first saw it, and I definitely stole all I could from the information I gathered on the S&S.  Please feel free to email me about this topic, however, please remember I did not run this defense in its entirety, only select portions.  Here is some footage I got from Lancaster, sorry about the cutup quality, I had to cut it myself.  Enjoy!

Other Happenings
Coach Hoover has a GREAT article on "How Much to Install".  He's a man after my own heart, especially linking to the great Tony DeMeo.

Football-Defense has a very good article on the basics of Turning a Program Around.  Very good read, and a very good site, I must say.

Over signing won't ruin the SEC, writes Chris Low in his ESPN blog.  Something tells me he's right, and I love Steve Spurrier's quote at the end of the article.  The Ol' Ball Coach is still a hoot!