Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mailbag Volume 1

Somebody say mail?

Alright, let's get this mailbag thing rolling here with the first issue!!!  We'll see how I do and keep working to improve from there.  Remember, email your questions to  Ask away, if I can answer, I will!  I'm not going to use names.  I was, but I'm going to keep it impersonal, that way I can answer the questions, and not have to worry about whether or not somebody wants them posted or not.  The questions are good, and if you have them, I'm sure that another person has them as well.

Question #1 Rip/Liz

What are the two outside safeties keying for their run/pass read, in the 4-2-5, when running Saban's Rip/Liz?  Also, can you tell me the alignment for the secondary?

Answer #1
When I ran Rip/Liz (R/L) from the 4-2, I had the OSS's key the EMOL for run/pass key.  This is tough in my opinion, but keying #2 makes them a bit late to the party in some cases due to their tighter alignment that if they were a deep safety (such as the way Saban actually ran R/L).

I'll take 1 high safety please...

To the second part, the OSS's are generally inside eye of the #2 receiver, but this can vary by game plan and ability.  The corners, use standard divider rules that can be found in any Cover 3 playbook.  Generally speaking, the split of the #1 receiver is what controls the alignment of the corners.  The FS will play in the middle of the #1's, or he can favor the QB's arm, or play more to the MOF when the ball is on the hash.  The FS can really be moved around according to game plan and what your opponent is trying to attack you with.  For more on defending the spread from an eight man front, go here.

Question #2 Midline Diagrams

Do you have any diagrams of midline vs. a 4-3?

No need to break out the pen and paper when you've already done it right?!  Go here to check out my old article on midline.  I will expound on this a bit, as I ran the greatest running play in all of football three different ways.

Midline blast, or what some would call midline lead involved both slots attacking the B gap area.  The play side slot would fold under and help seal off the scraping LB.  In the case of the 4-3 defense, this would be the MLB.  The backside slot would go in tail motion, and then lead the QB on the keeper (if the ball was pulled), by blocking OLB to near safety.  Blast was a great power and short yardage play.

Midline seal, was the base way I ran midline, which involved the backside slot going in tail motion and leading the play, with the play side slot, loading on the front side.  The key here was seeing how the defense would react.  The reason you we ran seal was teams we would see, would pinch their DL vs. a base block, and this would thereby spill the QB outside.  Well, if you're running Blast and the QB spills outside the B gap, there's nobody there to block for him.  Seal keeps this from happening, and gives the QB a lead blocker if the play has to hit a gap wider due to stunting defensive linemen.

Midline fold, was a way to run midline with twirl motion or no motion at all.  We would run this against teams that were blitzing a LB based on our motion, or slanting and stemming the DL based on motion.  Fold had the play side slot replace the backside slot on seal.  The backside slot simple went on a pitch course, as this was the beginnings of how we installed midline triple.

Midline is a great play, and is the number one constraint play a coach must install when running a triple option oriented offense.  For more information on the flexbone, go here.

Question #3 Quarters Questions

How do you handle a boot back to a safety that has a detached #2 receiver or a one back, double tight double flanker?  How do you handle sprintout pass to a slot trips set?

Answer #3
Although a bit vague, I'll try and answer these as best I can.  Without route combos, asking a question about how a pattern read coverage handles certain routes is a bit difficult to answer.  In the first part of the first question, I'm assuming some sort of high-low type concept where #2 may be running a whip route, while #1 is clearing the zone.  In the first example I've got drawn, that is what you'll see.  The safety is caught in a bit of "no man's land" in that the whip isn't really deep enough to grab his attention.  The LB is going to be held by the fake, but must expand immediately upon reading pass.  The LB will be inside and underneath the whip route.  The safety to the side of the boot will rob curl to post, but since #1 is vacating, more than likely he'll get a drag coming from the other side of the formation.  The MLB will carry the drag until he clears the edge of the tackle box, at which time he will come off and now attack the QB and contain him on the edge.  This is where the safety must pick up the drag route.  The safety away from boot action, should "melt" into the the middle third of the field looking to work underneath the backside post.   Of course, the corner's rule of staying on top of #1 would hold true and he would run with the vertical route on the boot side, and be on top of the backside post away from the boot.  Now, I have had some calls/reactions if we were really concerned with the backside drag that had the safety away from boot, jump the route and run with it across the formation.  This is good, so long as the team you're facing doesn't run any sort of throwback concept off boot action.  The big key with beating crossing routes, is that the underneath defenders need to get these receivers on the ground.  A receiver lying flat of his back can't threaten a defense very much!

One common high-low bootleg concept that has caught on around here is booting into smash.  Same concept, but what OC's like about it is that it pulls that robbing front side safety out of the mix, opening up the drag.  This is when we like to tag our quarters coverage with something that puts the backside safety on the drag, or really harp on our underneath players getting the receivers on the ground.

None of this really changes via formation, so much as it does against route concepts.  The reads are the same no matter the formation, so the Ace Double Pro look (double TE double flanker) doesn't really change anything for the safeties.  They will still read/react off what the #2 receiver is doing.  The good news about defending the TE drag is you can utilize some concepts such as the Jam concept by Michigan State to disrupt the release of the TE, compared to when the #2 receiver is split out in the slot position.  Again, this disruption keeps the drag route from getting to the LB's before they've had a chance to come off their run read on playaction.

To answer the second question is even tougher than the first!  Again, no route concepts were given, so I'll go with your standard trips sprint out flood, where you end up with three receivers on three different levels.  Now again, what coverage are you playing, because as we all know, Quarters takes on a bit different shape when it defends 3x1 formations.   The route concepts I'm used to seeing are shown below.  The #1 receiver clears the zone, while #2 runs an out cut to the back end of the flats and the #3 receiver runs an out cut to the front end, or shallow end of the flats.  Backside is usually a drag or post.  For general purposes, I'm going to show this out of my solo check, again, keeping in mind there are several ways to play 3x1 formations out of Quarters coverage.  Anyhow, the OLB/nickel to the trips side, will expand immediately and it's important that this player work for not only width, but depth too.  The safety, will more than likely run with the out route by #2, but will be behind it due to leverage (which is why a strong side X-out concept such as TCU's Special is such a good change up vs. 3x1 flood concepts).  The OLB keeps this throwing lane narrow by getting depth and width in their drop.  The corner, of course, stays on top of #1's vertical route.  The MLB is matching #3, and will widen on the snap seeing #3 expand AND seeing the sprint out by the QB.  Once clear of the tackle box, the MLB has to go contain the QB.  The weak safety is one that is really lost in all the shuffle, especially if the offense runs the backside #1 on a drag route.  The FS should melt to the deep middle 1/3 and mirror the QB's eyes since #3 didn't threaten him vertically.  Now, if the backside #1 runs the post, the safety can help the corner with this route as it crosses the field.  The weak corner is locked up man to man with the #1 receiver, so wherever he goes, the corner is going.  The LB, away from trips, is also locked in man, but upon seeing sprint action, can now work to the sprint side and help the corner with any shallow crossing routes by the weak #1 receiver.  One thing to keep in mind with the LB away from the action, is to keep his eyes on the back.  If the back DOES NOT go with action, he needs to sit for the throwback screen.

Again, a pretty vague question, I hope I was able to answer it clearly, and I hope the illustrations help.  Please, feel free to elaborate by emailing me at  Well, let's see how this goes, let me know what you think!