Friday, September 23, 2011

Melting Pot-The 46 Nickel and Nickel Tracer

Mmmm...bringing heat...that's tasty!

For those that don't already know, I'm a junior high defensive coordinator (DC) now, and I have found this job to be quite challenging.  I am coaching a team that a good 80 to 85 percent have never seen a football field, much less know what the "A" gap is, or a strong safety is.  So, the quest for keeping it simple has been paramount in my quest to have a good defense.  However, this has led to us being very "vanilla" and only being able to run 1 coverage and a few stunts in our first two games. dawned on me!  I was rereading some of my older posts and came across this one on the University of Florida's Nickel Tracer blitz.  I got to looking, and the light went off in my head!  What's funny about this story is how I came about meshing these two defensive ideas, and so I thought I'd share.

Now I'm not trying to be "innovative" or cutting edge here, I'm just a guy trying to bring some pressure and get a bunch of kids to have a little fun.  I'm a big believer that your punt return unit should be your starting defense, possibly minus one player you sub in for a good returner.  Anyhow, so I put in our punt return/block team about three weeks ago and we've done fairly well with it.  We call the front "Bronco" and we use colors to described what we want to do with it.  Red is return, and basically we block the man we align over and the returner picks a lane and runs with it.  Blue is block left and brown is block right.  I'm not going to go much further than that, but I will show you the alignment.  As you can see, we keep the standard Bear 3, 0, 3 up front.  The Mike and Whip safety will walk up over the offensive tackles to their side in a four technique.  Our Sam and Rush linebackers maintain their one yard outside the EMOL, standard Bear alignment.  The free safety will walk down and stack right behind the nose.  We jump in to it right before the snap so the punt team has no clue who to pick up, or if we are even coming yet or not.  We haven't blocked one yet, but we've been VERY close a couple of times.

Bronco alignment

Anyhow, like I was saying, the other day I was figuring out what blitzes I wanted to install and was having a hard time picking what I wanted to do.  I wanted something to get everybody involved, as about two weeks ago we put in the "single" blitzes (most Bear guys know what these are, but basically they are one LB or one safety blitzing a called gap) and have only been able to get one of these installed.  Anyhow, I wanted something simple, and I wanted something that we could easily get in to, with very little adjustments.  Then it hit me...Nickel Tracer!

The Tracer blitz (or "Fire" as we call it), is very simple (you can go here to read more about how UF did it).  Basically if you have a man to cover, cover him.  If you don't, or your man is in the backfield...blitz.  Now that's the kind of simplicity I need.  So, I lined us up exactly the way we rush punts and all the pieces fell in to place.  Let's look at the basic alignment and then go from there and talk about adjustments.

So, vs. the standard pro set we get our 3, 0, 3 alignment, with both the Mike and Whip (weak safety) in four techniques.  The Spur (strong safety) is in his standard seven technique alignment and is covering the tight end (TE) man to man.  The Sam and Rush LB's are in their base alignment and are "peel rushing".  The peel rush for us is to rush at the near shoulder of the near back and if he attempts to release on a pass route, cover him man to man.  The FS will walk down and stack right behind the nose.  Now we call our version of the blitz strong or weak to tell the Nose where to go.  The FS will blitz the opposite A gap of the Nose.  The defensive ends (DE's) will rush their assigned gap and the Mike and Whip bull rush the offensive tackles and take the C gap.  I have them bull rush so they can't kick out on our OLB's.  The corners will cover the number one receiver to their side respectively.  If you read the old post on the Tracer blitz you will see the running backs (RB's) are handled by the peel coverage of the outside rushers and the inside rushers will grab and run with any RB they encounter on their way to the QB.  The simplicity of the blitz, is that we utilize all our standard adjustments that we do out of our normal Bear front.  Again, this goes back to the basis of the Tracer blitz, if you are covering, cover, if not, rush.  Very simple.  Now let's look at some of these standard adjustments and how they effect the blitz.

Bronco front vs. Pro Alignment

Fire with a "weak" call.
 Twins and twin open sets are a breeze.  Against twins we just get in our "flip" alignment (corners over) and everybody aligns and gets after it.  Both receivers and the TE are accounted for and the offense has eight potential blockers and we are sending eight.  Pro sets are not the best to run the blitz against because the numbers are even (eight on eight), however at my level of play, you find that the FS in the A gap is almost NEVER picked up.  Since he's our best tackler, he gets a lot of tackles for a loss in this scheme.

Looking at 11 personnel, we see that vs. the Ace set, both the strong and weak safeties must play the 7 techniques to their side and cover the TE man to man.  The Mike can still rush, as can the FS.  This allows us to bring seven to the offenses six, so the defense still wins.  When they go 2x2 with one of the receivers being a slot, then the weak safety moves out to cover him, just as he would in our regular Bear front (I know some of you use the Jayhawk adjustment vs. this look, I however do not).  Again, this keeps the rules and adjustments simple.  When they go Trey or Trips closed, the opposite corner must come over and cover the remaining receiver that's left over, still allowing the blitz to outnumber the offense.

Now on to 10 personnel.  Against the 2x2 looks both the weak safety and the strong safety go out to cover the number two receiver to their respective sides.  This puts the defense rushing seven to the offenses six potential blockers.  If the offense moves into a 3x1 look, then the weak safety moves over and covers the number three receiver to the trips side. 

Empty poses a little adjustment that you have to work on, but it is nothing major.  In my standard cover one scheme, when we get empty we check to cover 0 anyway, so that's not a big issue.  The FS will follow his rule by covering the number three receiver to the strong side.  The only thing different is he tells the Mike LB "I'm gone" and this puts the Mike back where the FS was and the Mike replaces the FS in the blitz scheme.  Again, the defense is sending six to the offenses five, so the numbers do not lie. 

The key portion to this blitz is to show it, and back out at the last minute.  In our last game, I ran the blitz six times and ran the show look nine times.  The last defensive play of the game was an interception by our FS when they tried to hit a slot in the seam because they saw no FS back deep.  The offense even audibled at the line to change the play to four verticals because of the pre snap look we gave them.  I have our guys go ahead and show the blitz and then bail out at the snap and just play our standard 46 front with cover 1 behind it.  As you can see, this is a blitz that echoes the "simplicity through multiplicity" theory in football (thanks to Coach Tony DeMeo for that line). 

Like I said, not trying to toot my own horn, but I thought I would share this with some of the 46 coaches that have emailed me here recently to show you a very good way to get pressure that is easy and simple to install.  I literally installed this blitz in a ten minute classroom setting and a 20 minute on the field presentation (this was with both the starters and the backups).  I hope this helps someone in the future, it is a very good blitz scheme that's very simple to install.  Good luck!