Pattern reading coverages have been the craze hear lately, especially witnessing Gary Patterson's adaptation of the age old Quarters coverage and Nick Saban's Rip/Liz/Mable concepts. One simple issue I think that's missing is how do these players communicate once the snap has occurred? In pattern reading coverages, this is essential to the success or failure of said coverage. I'm going to touch on a way that was recently described to me, that has opened up my eyes to the simplification process in post-snap communication by the defensive secondary. To start, let's look at some of the ways communication can be done.
Vocal Communication via Tags/Terms by Players Post-Snap
Easy enough, however many a defensive back (DB) has made a communication error leaving a defender wide open on a blown coverage. Why? Too many moving parts. I used to use this system, as recently as two seasons ago. In my pattern reading coverage (Cover Blue) the corner and safety worked in tandem to describe what they were seeing. I used basic terms such as "in" and "out", which is all the DB's really need to know once the play begins to develop. However, as all this communication is unfolding, the DB must first hear the communication from the other DB, then relay what he's seeing as well. This can become confusing and often times leads to the wide open six! Boo-ya...NOT pretty. So, how do we fix this, enter in one-way communication? For this article, the coverage used in the example, will be TCU's blue coverage, or better yet known as two read. This is not Quarters coverage, but is very similar.
Since most pattern reading coverages are predicated on what the number two receiver does, it is paramount that there be some sort of communication on what exactly this receiver is doing. In today's world of three, four and even five receiver sets, DB's must all be on the same page, or risk giving up the big play. So how do we do it? Let one player make all the reads. What???? Yes, let one player be designated as the communicator. This method, employs less moving parts and allows for smoother reads and transitions as receivers stem into their routes. So how is this done? First, the defender assigned to take all of the number two receiver vertical is a good person to have in charge of this communication. Why you ask? Because this players eyes are already on his key, which is the basis for the pattern reading scheme to begin with. This also allows your corners to play tighter to the number one receiver, which discourages quick throws to the flats, what most offensive coordinators (OC's) do to beat Quarters coverage. So, let's look at the "ins and outs" of what the communication process is based on.
First off, the reads I use for Blue coverage are as follows:
Corner- Man to man on number one anything over five yards. Number one not over five yards call "China" and zone your 1/4.
Safety- All of two vertical. Two not vertical and inside, rob curl to post of one. Two outside man one.
The number two receiver can only do four things, three of which are routes. The first thing the number two receiver can do is block. This issue is easily handled by utilizing no communication whatsoever. The corner in Quarters coverage need not be concerned with the run unless the number one receiver crack blocks.
Second, the number two receiver can go inside, to which the safety will make an "in" call (usually echoed three times). This tells the rest of the defenders their job/role in the coverage. If number two goes inside the corner knows, he has safety help and can play over the top of all routes by number one. He no longer has to worry about the out of number two and is essentially in man to man coverage with inside help. The curl player will now relate to the number one receiver and the hook player can now wall the crosser (number two).
Third, the number two receiver can go vertical. When this happens, the safety gives a "push" call alerting the defense that the number two receiver has blown the top off the coverage and the safety has to take this receiver vertical. The corner now knows, he has number one man to man based on his Blue coverage rules shown above. The curl player knows to expand immediately to the flat and look to relate to number one's route. The hook player can gain depth, and either relate to the back, or work under any deep inside route by number two. Again, the only player relaying anything to these other defenders is the safety. This is an age-old trick by good coaches coined "Multiplicity through simplicity".
Last, the number two receiver can run an outside breaking route. When this happens the safety gives and out call and knows he must now take all of number one. The corner hears the "out" call and comes off the route of one, and plays the out or out and up (swing deep) of number two. The flat player expands and looks for anything expanding to the curl from the backfield or from across the formation. The hook player also will gain depth and look to work under any inside cutting route, or carry a crosser across the formation to the curl player. As you can see, this is why in Blue coverage the corner can play tighter to the number one receiver because the safety is being his eyes and making his read for him. Now the corner discourages the quick throws to the flats by alignment, and adds some confusion to what the quarterback (QB) is seeing pre-snap (is it cover 2 is quarters etc.). Let's look at how this communication system handles some routes that commonly give Blue coverage some trouble.
When the number two receiver goes outside, it can present some problems when two players are allowed to read this route. The number one question I get about Blue coverage is what to do when number two does a deep out and number one is vertical. The answer, leave it in the hands of your safety. Your kids should know their abilities, probably better than you ever will, so they should be the ones making these reads. The safety, if he feels he can get to the vertical of one, will give the out call to the corner. This puts the corner on the out, and the safety on the vertical route by number one. However, if the safety does not feel he can get to the vertical of one, he makes no communication whatsoever and plays the out by number two. Either way, the secondary is right in this situation due to only one player making this read, and it is the player put in the most conflict by this route combination.
The main idea behind this post, is have one guy make your reads and calls. This keeps any miscommunication from happening as receivers are coming into their breaks. It also allows for your corners to play tighter than in previous versions of Quarters and Blue coverages. This technique is not limited to only Blue coverage. This method can easily be applied to other pattern reading coverages as well. The idea here is, have a system that allows for the person making the calls to recognize the pattern and then make a call that will relate all the defenders to that side of the defense to the receiver distribution.
To the guy who gave this to me, who WILL remain anonymous, thanks bro, this has really opened my eyes up to being able to simplify some of the post-snap communication issues I've had in the past!
Well, it's a rematch in the BCS National Championship Game...do we really need to see it again? I'm not in favor of the BCS, however, in this case it has done just what it's designed to do, pitted the number two team vs. the number one team in the country. Oh how the SEC haters will love this one! Happy Bowl Season, get that DVR ready!!!