Monday, December 12, 2011

Automatic Coverage Check (ACC)

Playing off of an old article by Brophy about having an Automatic Front Check (AFC), I'm looking more at the automatic coverage check.  I think any defensive coordinator (DC) worth his salt will teach his players a base way to handle various receiving structures that they will face throughout the course of a ball game.  How many times have you gone into a game knowing you were going to see 21 or 20 personnel and the next thing you know the opponent comes out in 10 personnel and starts throwing the ball all over the place?  It's happened enough to me, that I developed an Automatic Coverage Check (ACC) for things we had not practiced on that week.  When I switched to the 4-2 and split field coverage, this idea did not change.  I'm not saying you do this against every opponent, as careful scouting by your opponent will lend you to be out schemed, however by teaching a base method to alignment and assignment vs. various passing sets this will allow your kids a "fail-safe" way of getting into the right coverage for that "odd situation"( as mentioned above). 

The split field secondary makes the ACC just that much less complicated as you are only dealing with half of the offensive formation.  I will talk in TCU terms, as we all know, I'm a TCU buff (if you are interested in some good 4-2 links, go here).  Anyhow, looking at the split field concept, with the ball in the MOF, the read side, or strong side of the secondary can only see the following:

  1. Nub (single TE)
  2. Single (single WR)
  3. Pro (TE and flanker)
  4. Twins (2 receivers)
  5. Trips (3 receivers)
  6. Quads (4 receivers)
To add to that, the away side, or weak side of the coverage will only see the following:

  1. Nub
  2. Single
  3. Pro
  4. Twins

Nub sides

3 backs open-"single" to both sides

Away side reads

So, now that we know what we are going to see to each side, let's see how the free safety (FS) and the weak safety (WS) will set the coverage to their respective sides.

Read Side
To the read side, if the ball is in the MOF, and the FS gets a nub side, then he knows, there are three backs.  In this case, the defense checks into cover 0 Power.  Power is also the front.  The defensive tackles move to 2I's and the DE's move to 5 techniques while the OSS's move into "up" alignments on the LOS and the LB's move their toes to the heels of the DL in their respective B gaps.  The corners take the number one receiver to either side, the OSS's peel blitz the near shoulder of the near back and the FS takes the final number three receiver.  This is my automatic check to any three back offense.  This allows your defense to get plenty of players around the football and still be in sound coverage.  This check also works if the FS sees a single side as well.

If the FS gets a pro side, then he plays "Blue" coverage to that side, however the SS makes a "me" call and this puts the FS inside the number two receiver and we are playing traditional "robber" coverage.  Robber is very simple and to the read side the rules are as follows:

SS- Curl/flat/swing deep of 2.
FS- All of 2 vertical, 2 not vertical rob curl to post of 1.
Corner- Deep 1/2, all of 1 vertical.

Very simple, and we've been over a lot of this before.  The "me" call allows the FS to stay inside the tackle box and fill the alley on outside runs, and play cutback on inside runs.  I speak a lot about the "plus one" player on defense, and this is the player who is not accounted for in the offenses' blocking scheme.  With the FS in the box, yet deep, he is not accounted for in most blocking schemes, so he is free to attack the ball, so long as he does not read pass.  Again, a simple system to put your guys in the right coverage for what they are seeing.

Now, twins is very easy, I tell my guys, no matter the side, we play blue to all twins sets.  Now we will game plan some Bronco coverage in to the away side, and will usually check bronco on the away side when the ball is in the MOF, but to the read side, we are going to play Blue.  There's not much out there that hurts Blue coverage, so this is a very sound check to all twins sets.  Go here to read more about TCU's Blue coverage.

What about twins????

Ok, so now the read side gets three receivers to a side.  Does not matter if it's trips or trey or trio, the FS does not care, all he knows is he has three to his side.  As a base rule, my guys are going to check into Special on the read side.  This puts the corner, man to man on the number one receiver with the SS and FS playing blue to the number two and number three receivers.  Again, this is just a "base" rule, we can game plan for anything, but if we do not expect trips, and we get them, we now have a way for our guys to line up and play, without being confused.

Solo is also another option vs. trips, just not the "base" rule...

The odd "quads" front does pop up every now and then, although, to be honest I see it less and less each year.  Does not matter, you need to prepare you guys for being able to handle this four receiver look.  The idea here though is simple, the read side will play Special to the numbers one, two and three receivers with the WS taking the number four receiver in Solo coverage (away side coverage checks are next). 

There, that's all the read side will see!  As you can see, reducing the field down to only half, allows the defense to set the coverage quicker and get lined up rather than one DB trying to grasp the whole picture of what the offense is doing.  This is one huge benefit to the split field concept.

Away Side
To the away side, things are just as simple.  The WS only has one other job than that of the FS, and that is, he must look at the backfield to determine what he is going to see, and how he is going to set the coverage.  The reason for this is any formation to the sideline (FSL) checks must come through the WS, so he needs to know if the formation is in to the boundary or not, and the backfield will give this away.  Again, for the purpose of this discussion, I'm talking about the ball in the MOF.

Cloud to a nub side

If the WS sees three backs in the backfield, he knows he can see only one of two things, a nub side, or a single side.  Both of these as a base check would be checked into "Sky" coverage, which has the WS as the curl/flat/swing deep of 2 defender and the away side corner as the deep 1/2/all of one vertical player.

To a nub side, the WS checks "flop" and he and the corner will switch assignments.  I do this as a base rule because most of the time my safeties are better tacklers and more aggressive than my corners.  If this is not the case in your defense, then you can leave your corner low and play "Cloud" coverage to that side. 

If the WS gets a pro set to his side, he must play Blue.  This is one area where the read side and away side differ and it's simply because without the SS there is no way that the WS could be inside the number two receiver.  The WS must force, so he has to have outside leverage on the number two receiver.  The automatic check here is to play Blue coverage to any pro set to the away side.

If the WS sees twins to his side, he knows his twins rule states he play Blue coverage.  Again, if the ball is in the MOF and we expect twins to the away side we are probably going to play Bronco, but as a base rule when facing twins, we want the WS to check us into Blue coverage.

Again, these checks can easily be altered with a game plan adjustment.  If a team is coming out in trips and doing something to you that solo would handle better, then simply make that adjustment during a timeout, or at halftime.  Don't let your rules and adjustments handcuff you, build in automatics, and then build your game plan rules to break those automatics.  The automatic checks give your players a fail-safe way to get in the best coverage for the situation that's being presented to them at that particular moment.  This will allow you to still be sound why you and your staff are figuring adjustments on the sideline.

To those that won themselves a district, region, or state championship, I say congratulations!  I'm still searching for that elusive ring, but as they always say, it's not whether you get knocked down, it's what you do when you get back up...

"C'mon kid...get back up and get in that ring!"

Happy Holidays coaches,