The Evolution of the Odd Dime: Baylor vs Oklahoma Pt. 2 – Fronts and Fits (2019)

In Part 2 of MQ’s Baylor Defensive series, we take a look at how Baylor fit the run & used their fronts.

Dave Aranda, the newly appointed Baylor Head Coach made an interesting comment during his appearance at 2020’s Lone Start Clinic in College Station, TX. When speaking about his new job, Aranda pointed out that he was interested to watch 2019 Baylor because they lived in a 505 front. If you are new to Aranda, he is considered one of the Tite Front gurus.

The Tite Front (4i/0/4i) and it’s Saban counterpart Mint, have become all the rage in college football when stopping the Spread from a 3-4. In terms of Odd Stack defenses, Iowa State is the obvious starting point. Baylor is different from the Cyclones in the fact they lived in the 505 look regardless of the offensive personnel on the field. Iowa State usually aligns depending on the backfield or personnel on the field:

  • 10p = Back Front – Set the 4i to the RB and the 5 technique away
  • 11p/20p = 505
  • Empty = Tite Front

As Aranda pointed out, Baylor had tremendous success from the 505, or what I refer to as the Buck Front. Like Iowa State, Baylor would “heavy” the 5 techniques and allow them to crash down on the offensive line. Aranda and the Cyclones call this a “fist” technique (I call it “heavy). This allows the LBs to be patient and read their Guards through to the ball carrier. The two 5 techniques also allow the Bears to create natural walls on the edge of the box. Below is a typical look the Bears showed versus a Y-off formation.

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 12.49.39 PM

One issue with the Tite Front and the use of 4i’s is the lack of a natural edge setter. The 505 solves this issue but opens up a gap in the interior. In the clip below, Baylor is ripping both of their 5 techniques into the “B” gaps. The addition of the Twirl motion pulls the Sam LB away from the box. The Mike LB steps inside, even though the Nose is “lagging” or falling off into his “A” gap. This allows the TE to seal the edge and the MOF Safety is the stop-gap six yards down the field.

Though this is from the 505 perspective, the Tite Front would fit the same. The Mike has to understand that he is a free player and all his help is to his left. By working into the box, he inhibits his ability to rock out. Had he of been patient and sat on the “B” gap, he would have been able to cross-face with the TE and hold his contain.

When utilizing heavy 5 techniques those interior gaps get squeezed shut. Add a Safety in the middle of the field (MOF) and the LBs are allowed to roam free. This combination made Baylor’s defense one of the best in the country in terms of efficiency (8th). Rushing wise, Baylor was middle of the road, 49th in Total Rushing (143 per game) and 27th in average rush per attempt (3.66 – 1st in the Big 12). Though not elite on the ground, many around the country took a pause and are interested in how Phil Snow fit the run. In the second part of MQ’s series on Baylor’s Odd Stack defense, we take a look at the fits and fronts Baylor used to create a historic 2019 season. Continue reading “The Evolution of the Odd Dime: Baylor vs Oklahoma Pt. 2 – Fronts and Fits (2019)”

CoachTube Course: Breaking Down an Opponent eClinic with Kenny Simpson & Cody Alexander

Coach Simpson shows how he breaks down an opponent each week from a Head Coach perspective. Learning how to act as a “funnel” and get information to the correct places and coaches. Simpson details how to use your staff, what is and is not important, and more.

Coach Alexander shows you how to wade through the convoluted mess that can be breaking down an opponent. First Coach A. takes you through his thought process then shows you how to use that information on Hudl. Finally, Coach A. demonstrates how to create a Hit Chart using your data.

The entire 2-hour eClinic is wrapped up by a question and answer from the audience.

The eClinic is broken into five parts:

  1. Introductions & Coach Simpson: Breakdowns From a HC Perspective
  2. Coach Alexander: Fundamentals of Breaking Down an Opponent
  3. Coach Alexander: Hudl How To
  4. Coach Alexander: Creating Hit Charts
  5. Final Q&A

Get the course HERE!

© 2020 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy.

MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

CoachTube Course: MatchQuarters Guide to the Belly-Key Technique for Linebackers

In this course Coach Alexander discusses the difference between the “Stack-Track-Fall Back” technique used in 3-Down defenses to a Belly-Key. The clinic goes through both techniques explaining the difference in the two while showing you how the Belly-Key can give you an advantage against Spread offenses. Coach A. goes through the technique in a 4-down, 3-down, and uses whiteboard and film to demonstrate the technique. With five sections, Coach clearly defines the technique and gives you examples to work off. Just remember, live in your 6″ steps!

Lessons are broken into:

  1. Intro to Belly-Key & Stack-Track-Fall Back
  2. What is a Belly-Key?
  3. Belly-Key in a 3-Down
  4. Belly-Key vs Gap Schemes
  5. Film Study

Click the link HERE

 

© 2020 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy.

MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

The Evolution of the Odd Dime: Baylor vs Oklahoma Pt. 1 – Coverages (2019)

The Big 12 is the land of the Odd Dime ushered in by the Cyclones. Baylor took it one step further to in 2019.

What a decade the Baylor Football program has had. From “the season that no one talks about” (RGIII knee injury in 2009), to a Heisman and the first 10 win season since 1980, to the back-to-back Big 12 Championships of ’13-’14 under former Head Coach Art Briles. Then there was the scandal that burned the program down, the limp to a 7-6 record capped with a win over Boise, the hiring of Matt Rhule, and the one-win season. Life was breathed back into the program in 2018 with a 7-6 finish, but no one saw the meteoric rise of 2019, capped with an 11 win season, a spot in the Big 12 Championship game, and a Sugar Bowl appearance versus Georgia. The roller-coaster ride that has been the past decade of Baylor football cannot be understated.

When I stepped foot on Baylor’s campus in the Summer of 2011, the 2009 season where Robert Griffin tore his ACL in a blowout victory over Northwestern St. (LA) had the same reverence as the uttering of “Voldermort” in Harry Potter. You just didn’t talk about it. 2009 was supposed to be “the year” that Baylor made its assertion into relevancy. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The Bears would finish 4-8, going 1-7 after their victory over Kent State in early October.

Once Art Briles decided to make a change on defense after an average 2010, and a concerted effort to commit to the ultra-spread in 2011, the rise was real. RGIII would win the Heisman in ’11 on the back of stellar performances against Oklahoma and Texas in the latter part of the season. Though 2012 saw a step back in terms of wins (they did lose a generational talent at QB), the Bears solidified their spot atop the Big 12 in ’13 and ’14, as they won back-to-back championships. The ascension, as we all know too well, was short-lived.

2016 is the season the wheels came off. The program was rocked with multiple sexual assault accusations. Briles, the school president, and the AD were all let go. Former Wake Forest Head Coach Jim Grobe was brought in to calm the waters and steer the program out of the storm as Baylor searched for its next Head Coach. At the conclusion of the ’16 season, Baylor settled with Temple’s Matt Rhule who had just taken the Owls from a 2-10 record to 10-4 in only three short seasons.

Baylor took a chance on Rhule who had an NFL pedigree and a knack for turning programs around. Rhule instantly instilled a degree of discipline and toughness that the Bears desperately needed following the tumultuous roller-coaster ride that was the 2016 season (remember the famous “bull-in-the-ring pre-game routine?). The results of 2017 were predictably grim, as the Bears finished 1-11. People around college football started to question if Baylor could ever get back to prominence in the Big 12 again?


Where Baylor was known for their offense under Briles, Rhule shifted the focus to defense. the 2019 Baylor Bears were one of the best defensive units in America, finishing eighth in Defensive Efficiency. There is always a learning curve when entering the Big 12. It takes time to understand the nuances within the conference and adjust the defense accordingly. Iowa St. starting in 2016, began aligning in the now-famous Odd Dime. With so many Air Raid offenses in the conference, HC Matt Campbell and DC Jon Heacock shifted to a modified 3-3-5 (below). Following the 2018 season, many in the Big 12 followed suit. The Odd Dime essentially became the de-facto “Big 12 Defense.”

ISU vs OU (2019) Continue reading “The Evolution of the Odd Dime: Baylor vs Oklahoma Pt. 1 – Coverages (2019)”

Lone Star Clinic 2020 – Dave Aranda, Baylor HC

Thoughts on Base Defense

  • 11 pers. = Is the TE in the core or out?
  • Don’t like Mint vs 3×1 Y-off (especially 4×1) – Check “Eagle” (Nose to Shade)

01 Eagle Front

  • LBs are in 30s – Key the “Y”
  • Read the depth of the “Y”
    • Highway = Tight to the OT (think Zone Load)
    • Relay = Deep alignment (think Split Zone, Counter, Insert)
  • Ni is 5×1 inside of #2 (“pat” feet, read mesh/”feel” #2)
  • Coverages:
    • Hammer Coverage = Quarters
    • Nail = 2-Read
  • Backside Safety reads the “Y” (Poach away/Vert to “Fox the Post” if to)
    • Poach = If vertical take it
    • TE blocks = Work through the Post (help double the Slot) – “Fox”
  • RPO’s away from the RB are “gifts” & based on alignment (leverage read)
  • Try to gauge the depth of the TE and RB
  • Develop a plan according to what side of the ball the offense is attacking?
    • Same-Side (Gap schemes)
    • Away (Zone schemes)
  • 3-4 run fits are similar to vision coverage (see the ball – get the ball)
  • 5 tech = FIST (Heavy tech.) – rub to “B” with a base block
  • “Cinco” call tells the DE to become a “heavy” 5 tech.
    • Keeps Tite look, but gain a 5 tech. versus gap schemes
    • Good versus diagonal looks (TE and RB on different sides)

02 Slide Front

Continue reading “Lone Star Clinic 2020 – Dave Aranda, Baylor HC”

CoachTube Course: Designing Pressures from a Two-High Structure

In this course, Coach Alexander shows you how to develop coverages to assist in keeping a two-high structure. One issue when spinning to single-high when you base out of Quarters is that you give yourself up, especially versus “check-with-me” offenses. Coach A. gives you a strategy to hold your two-high shell, cut down the teaching when running pressures, and keep your basic coverages even when sending pressure. The key to all of this is the Half-Field Zone scheme Coach A. depicts in this course.

The lessons are broken into:

  1. The What & Why of Half-Field Zone
  2. How it Works (Whiteboard)
  3. Film Breakdown of HR Zone Pressures

Bonus Material Includes:

  1. 3 Playbook Diagrams of HF Zone Pressures
  2. Free Clinic Video on “What’s the difference between a pressure and a blitz?

The course includes a presentation, whiteboard talk, & film. Along with PDF versions of three pressures (& their adjustments to other formations).

Click the link below to purchase the course ($30):

https://coachtube.com/course/football/designing-pressures-from-a-two-high-structure/11264040?track=12b5d9c374ef5c46cd94331c6345ebee

 

© 2020 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy.

MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

MQ Quick Hits Ep. 21 – 3rd Down Fronts

Come learn the #ArtofX.

In this installment of MQ Quick Hits, Coach Alexander takes you through the process of designing, personneling, and implementing two “problem” fronts for offenses. Two fronts, in particular, Overload and Bear, are discussed. Regardless if you are a 3- or 4- down defense, Coach A. shows you how to create issues with your front. The video includes two pressures along with whiteboard and video. For more clinics like these checkout MatchQuarters’ YouTube page or head over to MatchQuarters.com.


 

 


Find more clinics like this on MQ’s YouTube channel.

 

Want more resources? Check out these related articles from MQ:

 

© 2020 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy.

MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

MQ Quick Hits Episode 20 – Creating Simulated Pressures

Come learn the #ArtofX

In the latest episode of Quick Hits from MatchQuarters.com, Coach Alexander discusses how to build simulated (Sim) pressures from the pressures that are already built into your system. Coach A. goes through 3 basic pressures you probably already have in your playbook and shows you how to make them into Sims. No need to reinvent the wheel. The blitz paths are already there.


 

 


Find more clinics like this on MQ’s YouTube channel.

 

Need more Sim resources? MQ has you covered.

 

© 2020 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy.

MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

Attacking Empty – A Case Study (Indiana vs Tennessee 2020)

MQ takes a look at the Vols defense versus Indiana’s Empty sets from this years Gator Bowl.

Having a detailed plan of attack for Empty is something all defensive coordinators need to carry when going into a game versus a Spread team. An Empty formation stresses the defense in many ways by placing three WRs to one side and aligning two the other direction. This 3×2 set “zeros” the box, meaning it forces the defense to cover down to every wide WR. Regardless, if the defense leaves a linebacker(s) in the box, the offense has created an advantageous situation where the defense must run blitz or “max” coverage to overwhelm the offensive front.

Most defenses will carry three types of schemes versus Empty: Cold, Warm, and Hot pressures. In a “Cold” pressure the defense will use line stunts to create one-on-ones for the defensive line while dropping eight (or seven if a four-down) into coverage. This type of thought process maxes out the coverage ability and bets on the front to win with games. “Warm” pressures create man blocking upfront with five-man pressures. By sending five defenders the DC has guaranteed the offensive line must account for every defender.

The man-blocking creates one-on-ones for the defenders. Win one of those and the defense can get to the QB. Coverage wise, the defense can either run man to the pressure and zone away or run single-high coverages with no “Rat” or hole player in the middle (This is Cover 0 in Saban). Finally, “Hot” pressures sound exactly like their name, the defense is sending the maximum number of defenders, creating a man free somewhere along the line. Blitz coverage (or man) is ran behind it with the assumption that the ball is coming out HOT!

When defending a team the runs a good amount of Empty, a DC must understand what the offense is trying to do out of the formation conceptually, but more importantly, how are they protecting with the offensive line. Max pressure will almost always trigger slide protection. Offenses can slide either way, usually to the best pass rusher. This ensures that the one player is free off the edge (below). By knowing this, the secondary can tighten up and trigger on short routes. Any long developing route will lead to pressure. Pressing in this situation is probably not the best because the offense can hit a quick-strike Fade route with no help deep. Better play off-man or Bail (look like press then work deep).

Hot Pressure (Slide) Continue reading “Attacking Empty – A Case Study (Indiana vs Tennessee 2020)”

Attacking 3rd Down With Multiple Fronts

Using packages & “problem” fronts to attack the Spread on 3rd Down.

Though 3rd Down is probably one of the more overrated downs in football (in terms of importance), being able to get off the field is an important concept for any defensive coach (yes, I’m being dense). Any series is won on 1st Down. Win that down and now the offense becomes more predictable on each subsequent play. By winning 2nd Down and forcing the offense into an obvious passing situation, the defense can now attack the offense. This is why looking at efficiency stats are important.

Looking at BCfToys.com’s DEff, you will only find two teams in the Top 25 with losing records against FBS teams, Northwestern and Miami (N’western’s OEff is 124 and Miami’s is #76 which explains their 6-6 record). Winning early downs is key to winning 3rd. That being said, defenses need to have a plan for 3rd Down and it’s variations (short, medium, long). The ultimate goal is to get off the field. Understanding how your opponent attacks 3rd should reflect your gameplan too. If a DC regularly goes to the same pool for 3rd Down, an OC will learn your rules and beat you at your own game.

Predictability in football is the holy grail. It is why coaches spend hours diagnosing film and coming up with a plan. Wining the base downs (1st and 2nd) is key to a successful defense. 3rd Down efficiency is a decent metric and does, to an extent, help with win probability. T. Tony Russell of Blue Stampede wrote an interesting article on the topic of 3rd Downs and win probability. Russell found that “3-and-Outs” doesn’t necessarily correlate to win probability. Yes, defensive coaches love to get off the field, especially if you have a dominant offense, but this stat over time doesn’t directly correlate to wins.

As Russell explains, the use of 3rd Down Efficiency (the percent of 3rd downs that a team is able to convert into a first down) ignores about 71% of all other plays. 1st Down conversion rate or just passing down efficiency are better stats to use when looking at win probability. So what does this have to do with winning 3rd and Long?

First, there is always a point at which a team chooses to pass at a high rate. This means a defense needs to win its passing downs. In the NFL, any yardage mark is a throwing down, but generally, if the yards to gain is around 4+, most NFL teams are throwing. In College, that mark moves to around 6+, which is probably similar at the High School level. Second, defensive coaches need a plan for passing downs, especially on 3rd Down. Finally, not all schemes are created equal when it comes to pressuring the QB. A defense needs options. A DC needs to consider several things:

  • Is the QB a runner? Is he a thrower?
  • Do they have a dominant WR?
  • Do they slide, Big-on-Big, or Combo their pass-pro?
  • What is the RB doing, or who is he responsible for?

All these questions need to be answered as a plan for 3rd Down is developed. This particular article gives you several ideas and ways to attack an offense in obvious passing downs, especially 3rd Down. As Russell pointed, winning passing downs is a better metric for win probability. Win your passing downs, or get a sack/turnover, and you have a higher chance of winning the game, which at the end of the day, is the only thing that matters.


1) The Overload Front

1 Overload

One of my favorite ways to attack an offense on 3rd Down is the Overload Front. In an Overload Front, the defense will put all its numbers to one side. This front mainly runs from a four-down look, otherwise, you have something completely different. Above, the Georgia Bulldogs align three linemen to one side. The boundary side only has a DE and a LB that is responsible for the “B” gap and RB. Versus a nub-set, as shown above, the CB will be over there as well.

Continue reading “Attacking 3rd Down With Multiple Fronts”

Manipulating The Cover Down

Versus Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, Oklahoma’s DC, Alex Grinch, showed the versatility of a modern Nickelback.

Most people are familiar with Lincoln Riley’s offensive genius. Since arriving at Oklahoma Riley’s offenses have been at the top of the charts in college football. He has had three different QBs, all of which either won the Heisman (Mayfield/Murray) or went to the ceremony (Hurts). The one thing that has been the thorn in Riley’s side at OU has been the defense.

After Bob Stoops resigned Riley was given a defensive staff that needed to be dealt with. One major issue was that Stoops’ brother (Mike) was the Defensive Coordinator. After two abysmal years, Riley pulled the trigger and made a change. In steps, Alex Grinch, who was seen as a rising star in the defensive community. Grinch had solid defenses at Washington St., and there is your connection to Riley. Everyone knows Riley is a Leach disciple.

Grinch was able to work alongside a powerful offensive mind (Leach) and still be able to keep the hands on the wheel. Wazzu was consistently in the top half of Defensive Efficiency ranking 13th in Grinch’s final year in Pullman. The job Grinch did in Pullman put him on the map. After his stint at Wazzu Grinch moved to Columbus, OH as the co-DC for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. There, Grinch would hold down the secondary while Greg Schiano called the defense. Grinch’s success, pedigree, and connection to Leach made it easy for Riley to pull the trigger. He had all the intangibles: a young intelligent coach who had worked under offensive-minded coaches yet was able to show high-quality results.


It is amazing what a year can do. In 2019, Grinch brought a calmness and discipline to the Sooner defense that had been lacking for a long time. In contrast, 2018 would be a year of opposites as the offense was stellar and the defense was one of the worst in the country. The 2018 defense would finish 114th in total defense. Surrendering 6.13 per play (102nd in the nation) while being on the field for over 1036 total plays (2nd in the nation behind Houston). Finally, Points Per Drive (PPD), which factors in the total amount of series played divided by points, was 112th overall at 2.88. That’s almost a field goal a drive! Needless to say, something had to give. Continue reading “Manipulating The Cover Down”

Sacking the Longhorns – OU vs Texas (2019)

The Sooners had a record 9 sacks against the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. MQ details three.

Nine. That is how many sacks the Sooners would end the day with against Texas in the 2019 edition of the Red River Rivalry. This would tie a school record and put Texas QB Sam Ehlinger in the negative for rushing (23 for -9). In college, the sack yards come from the rushing, whereas in the NFL, the sacks come from the QB’s passing stats. Ehlinger’s -9 yards on the ground would be his lowest output since his October 21st outing against Oklahoma St. back in 2017. According to ESPN, Ehlinger would end with a measly 46.4 QBR, which is his lowest output since his freshman year (Baylor would rack up an even lower one at 45.7).

Needless to say, the Sooners executed their gameplan to near perfection when it came to rushing the passer and limiting the Texas passing game. Until the matchup with the Sooners, the Longhorn QB had been averaging 3+ TDs through the air a game. Though Ehlinger didn’t throw an interception or have a terrible game through the air numbers-wise (26/38 210), the sacks did the job of disrupting the Longhorns offense, putting them in long-yardage situations all day.

On paper, the game looked to be a shootout with Texas’ and Oklahoma’s offenses in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and both defenses around the middle of the road (OU would finish 3rd and 70th in O & D Eff. while Texas ended up 17th and 60th). There was no indication that the Sooners would dominate the Texas offensive line the way they did. Though, you could’ve seen cracks in the armor versus LSU (5 sack game). Prior to the matchup in Dallas, the Longhorns had given up nine sacks total in five games. Though some of the sacks were scheme related (we will talk about three), most were due to Ehlinger holding on to the ball too long on perimeter screens (x2) or the Longhorn O-line getting out-manned at the point of attack (below).

The Sooners’ Defensive Coordinator, Alex Grinch, arrived in Norman with much fanfare. Though the results so far are not to the elite standard set by the offense, the defense has risen to “respectability.” In 2018, the Sooners were scraping the bottom of the FBS barrel in defense (#104 in DEff according to BCfToys). In little time at all, Grinch has found a way to at least calm the waters in Norman relatively quickly.

Only once prior to the contest with Texas have the Sooners given up more than 30 points in a game (vs Houston – 31 points). In 2018 the Sooners had similar results, with the defense falling apart towards the end of the season, giving up 40+ points a game in the month of November. Only time will tell if Grinch can get the Sooners back to being elite on defense, but one thing is for sure, nine sacks is a lot and definitely something to build on. Continue reading “Sacking the Longhorns – OU vs Texas (2019)”

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

Get the latest book from MatchQuarters.

Split-field coverages are nothing new. Many coaches around the country run them at all levels of play, but there are not many resources on how to teach them. In Cody Alexander’s third book, he breaks down how to teach the many varieties of Quarters coverage.

From simple match Quarters to defending Empty and Quads formations, Coach Alexander breaks it down and simplifies the concepts for any coach. Xs and Os are great, but the players must still execute and the coach must know when to use each scheme.

Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages, allows anyone interested in football to have a deeper understanding of the game itself and why each coverage is used. Along with the basics, Coach Alexander gives you multiple tags and variations within each family (Cover 4 and Cover 2).

Come learn the Art of X.

zCover.png


Excerpt from Chapter 2 (We Talkin’ ‘Bout Practice!):

Great Quarters coverage starts with teaching. Each level of the defense must understand how they will relate to one another in each different coverage or “tag” within a coverage group. This translates into run fits or any other aspect of a defensive structure. The secondary must know who is in the intermediate zone and the LB’s must understand push routes/motions and Split versus Load flow. This sounds like a lot to teach, but in the end, it comes down to can you count to three? If you can, you can play Quarters.
Though Quarters is front-loaded in pedagogy, once a baseline has been established, weekly or yearly tweaks can be made with little re-teaching or learning. The ability to run what seems like a complex system is truly in word association and the ability of the coach to teach the concepts. Language and the development of meaning are crucial to the success of a Quarters defense, or any defense. Communication is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. It is a priority on defense.
Football is the consummate team sport and is built on 11 players going in the same direction. There is no one player better than the team. Sure, there are elite players that transcend that game and if lost, the team would be dead in the water, but it still takes a total team effort. This concept must be fostered in a Quarters scheme because there are so many related parts and it only takes one open WR or missed gap assignment for a successful offensive play. Each piece relying on the other to do their job.

Continue reading “Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages”

Master Class – Michigan St. Part 2 – Coverages & Pressures (2018)

In part 2 of this series on Sparty’s D, MQ discusses their top pressures and coverage distributions.

In Part 1 of MQ’s series on Michigan State, we discussed how the Spartans have adjusted over time to develop a base that can adapt to the Spread’s evolution to downfield RPOs and TE formations. The primary set being used in the game today is the Y-off formation group. Many times, the TE is in a slotted position (outside the tackle), either to the two-speed (3×1) or away (2×2). This is similar to the H-back offenses made popular by Gus Malzahn’s Slot-T scheme that uses 20 and 21 personnel formations from the “gun.”

The Big 10 is home to some heavy hitters in Ohio St. (Urban Meyer with Rich Rodriguez made the Gun Option a national staple), Michigan who has used Y-off formations more prevalently with a running QB, Penn State behind the dual-threat McSorley, and Nebraska with Frost’s adoption of the Chip Kelly system. Needless to say, the Spartans are well versed in the modern Spread game. The first part of this series focused on the foundational schemes within the Spartan defense. In part two, MQ dives into some game plan adjustments, pressures, and coverages that established the Spartans as one of 2018’s best defenses in the country.


Pass Distribution

Michigan St. bases out of a Press Quarters scheme. The CBs are pressed and responsible for the outside WRs. The Safeties are responsible for #2 with help from the overhangs (Star/Ni to the field and the Will to the boundary). One concept that the Spartans use consistently to combat 3×1 formations is Solo coverage. This is called a “safe” kick coverage because the backside Safety will kick to the front side depending on the release of the #3 WR.

In a 2×2 formation, that would be the Mike. In a 3×1 formation, the Mike will relate to the bottom of #3, but the Will must take the RB. If the RB were to push to the field or boundary, the LB to that side would take him. The ‘backers take the RB and the second takes the receiving threats. Unlike other two-high schemes that will drop in the backside Safety so the LB to the #3 WR can take him man-to-man, the Spartans opt to keep the Safety in coverage.

Below is a prime example of Solo coverage (also referred to as Poach). Nebraska is aligned in a Trips Slot Open formation (3×1). This particular Y-off set is a favorite for modern Spread attacks because the TE can stress the defense horizontally (Split Zone/Arc Option) and vertically (Y-pop/Arc Option) in any direction. The main issue versus this formation is who takes the TE vertically? If the defense sinks in the backside Safety, the Mike LB must now match-up man-to-man. This also gives away the intentions of the defense because the Mike must now cover down to the TE (most defenses are still setting the 3 tech. to the TE – Over). In the clip below, the Mike is in a 10 (“A” gap). There is little the Mike can do if the TE arcs vertically. This is where Solo comes in.

Continue reading “Master Class – Michigan St. Part 2 – Coverages & Pressures (2018)”

Solving the McVay Offense (SB LIII)

MQ looks back to one the most dominant Super Bowl performances ever & explains why it killed the McVay system.

Three points. That is all the Patriots’ defense allowed the high-octane Rams to score in last season’s Super Bowl. Historically it was only the second time a team allowed only three points (’71 Dallas over Miami 24-3) and no one has yet pitched a shutout in a Super Bowl. During the regular season, the Rams were averaging right under 33 points per game. Only the Chiefs and their 565 points were higher than the Rams 527. In terms of margin of victory, the Rams were third at 8.9 (Saints 9.4 and the Chiefs 9.0).

According to Football Outsiders DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) which ranks defenses according to efficiency (explanation), the Patriots were smack in the middle of the league at 16th. More glaringly, the run defense was 19th overall in that efficiency stat during the 2018 season. Before the Super Bowl, the Patriots had given up 28 points to the Chargers and won a 37-31 shoot out with the Chiefs. The 13-3 Super Bowl result was a stark difference for the perceived results (the over/under was set at 57!).

LA coming into the game having the #2 offense DVOA and the #1 rushing attack in the league. According to ESPN’s analysis, the 13 points scored by the Patriots in the Super Bowl would have netted the Patriots a 1-17 record against the Rams during the 2018 season. For many, this Super Bowl would rely heavily on the Patriots’ ability to stop the run. After the game, Belichick confirmed what everyone agreed on. In a post-game interview with Steve Young Belichick stated the obvious:

“We had to put together something that would neutralize the running game and their big play-action passes on early downs… We felt like if we could make them drive it and earn it… we would have a chance to get them off the field on third down.”

Belichick devised a simple, yet ingenious idea to counter the Rams offense. Sean McVay bases his offense out of an 11 pers. look. His use of the different zones is well documented and uses formations, shifts, and quick motions to gain leverage on opponents. As shown in his quote, Belichick knew he had to slow down the run game. To do this, Belichick used a goal-line defense in the middle of the field. In a quote for ESPN, LA Rams’ LT Andrew Whitworth explains:

They played six on the line all day, which kind of limited the space to get the runs in there… They played an open-field 6-2 almost, but with one guy in the middle… And they played a lot more zone than they played all season, so that kind of shook it up a little bit.

Belichick basically rolled out a 6-1 two-high shell and defended one of the NFL’s hottest offense. The scheme was very basic and the execution was flawless. The front the Patriots ran basically choked out the Rams’ zone run game, especially the Wide Zone that had killed many opponents before. RB Todd Gurly would end the night with 10 carries and 35 yards with a long of 16. CJ Anderson would end the day with 7 carries and 22 yards. Needless to say, the Patriots forced the Rams QB Jared Goff to win the game. As I noted this summer doing research for my podcast interview with The Ringer NFL Show, Belichick dared the Rams to pass and they did with little success.

Continue reading “Solving the McVay Offense (SB LIII)”

Georgia’s Mint Package

How Georgia and other Saban-ites strucutre their base Nickel defense.

The Tite Front has made a tremendous impact within defensive coaching circles the past couple of years. Since I first wrote about the front in October of 2016, it has become a top scheme across the football landscape with many defenses moving to the front as their base. The Tite Front plays on the Spread’s reliance on the open “B” gap “bubble” found in most four-down defenses.

The open gap is called a “bubble” because there is a natural opening in the four-man front and the conflict player is usually located there. Conflict players, which are usually the overhangs, are the ‘backers most offenses read when designing RPOs or packaged plays. The Tite Front is great against Spread teams that utilize Zone heavy run schemes to attack a defense because it gaps out the interior of the box (meaning everything is clogged up).

Gapping out the interior gaps with the Tite Front allows a defense to plug both “B” gaps by placing defensive linemen in them, mainly in what is referred to as a 4i technique (the Defensive End will align on the inside shoulder of the Offensive Tackle while reading the Guard). Many times in the Tite Front, the Nose will “lag” or attack the Center from a “zero” (head-up alignment) and “fall back” to the “A” gap to the RB’s side. This technique combined with the Tite Front blocks the natural cut-back lane found in Zone runs.


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The diagram below illustrates how the Tite Front forces a typical Zone to go East and West. Depending on the read for the QB (overhang or Mike) the result is still very similar. In a typical Tite defense, the Ni will be completely removed from the fit, allowing him to cover down and negate the Bubble or assist in pass coverage (more offenses are using play-action with pass routes behind them for their RPOs). If the QB is reading “Pass” or “Give,” the hanging Ni should force the handoff. The lagging Nose closes the natural cutback lane for the RB and forces him to bounce front side to a plugged “A” (Will) or an edge setting Jack. The Mike is a bonus in the fit because he is reading flow/mesh.

Tite vs ZN RD (Bub)

If the QB is reading the Ni and sees him hang, he may feel there is a soft edge and pull the ball. If this is the case, the Mike will collect him at the LOS with support from the Ni who will trigger if the QB pulls the ball (each player on half the QB). Either running result ends in an East-West movement or drastic cutback. All of these are a bonus for the defense.

As shown, versus the Tite Front a typical Zone is made to go horizontal (East-West). The RB is forced to hit the run in the opposite “A” gap where a LB is ready to insert. This goes against what many want out of the Zone, a clean cutback. When the RB bounces the zone all the way out the front door, there is an overhang presence that is not typically being read for an RPO pass. The defense has pinched every gap in the box and has forced the offense outside to free hitting players. The basic run fits are shown below.

01 Base Tite Fits

Georgia, in particular, uses the Tite Front as their base defense with two hybrids for OLBs (DE/OLB). The Bulldogs refer to their Nickel-based Tite Front defense as Mint. It is a unique package that has a plethora of adjustments off it. The Bulldogs can run most of their coverages and blitz packages from this personnel grouping.

Kirby Smart, Georgia’s Head Coach, mainly uses the Tite Front versus 11 or 10 personnel offenses. The modern offense has quickly been moving to the use of a hybrid TE/H/WR types that can align outside in the slot, on the line versus three-down defenses, or in the backfield as an extra blocker versus four-down defenses. To counteract the multiplicity of the modern “big” WR, the Bulldogs turn to their Mint package. Continue reading “Georgia’s Mint Package”

Master Class – Michigan St. Part 1 (2018)

Sparty is known for its Press Quarters coverage & stingy defense. MQ reviews one of the best 4-3 Quarters defenses around.

When running a Quarters system, the Michigan St. Spartans are a go-to when looking for quality ideas. On the surface, the Spartans defense looks simplistic but has had major carryover throughout the years. Outside of the 2016 anomaly (#104 in Defensive Efficiency and 2-10), the Spartans have fielded one of the better defensive units in the country. The high water mark coming in 2018 when they finished #3 overall in DEff. Head Coach Mark Dantonio has kept the defense as one of the better units in the country even without his long-time side-kick in Pat Narduzzi (Pitt. HC and former Spartan DC) and losing another long-time assistant in Harlon Barnett (current Florida St. DC).

Narduzzi, on the other hand, has not fared as well as Dantonio. The Panther defenses fielded by Pitt have consistently been in the bottom half of all defenses in the country. Pitt’s four-year high water mark came in 2018 with a DEff finishing #65 (the previous three years? ’15 – 74th, ’16 – 97th, and ’17 – 74th). Narduzzi has yet to find the same recipe he had in East Lansing. The jury is still out on Barnett, who’s inaugural Florida St. defense finished 50th in DEff.

One major issue with the scheme Dantonio has been running forever is the overhang defender. In a traditional 4-3 defense, the field overhang (Sam) is most likely not going to be a Nickle type body, but rather a true LB. Although probably the most athletic LB and paying to the field, he is not going to be responsible for carrying the vertical of #2. The bigger body actually works in the Spartans’ advantage. Most defenses are trying to get “smaller” at that position and put a true cover man to the passing strength. Like any modern defense, the Spartans have the ability to put a true Ni at Sam, but Dantonio opts to stay with the bigger body near the box. Leading up to their 2015 Cotton Bowl match-up, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban detailed the difficulty of defending a bigger body on the perimeter:

…we could not block the guy, couldn’t block the linebacker because he was a bigger guy than what we were used to seeing. We need to be able to make those kinds of blocks this year because when a guy cheats in the box, you need to throw the ball out there so that he has to get out there and he can’t cheat in the box because you can’t block them all if you allow them to do that.” – Saban, AL.com

Continue reading “Master Class – Michigan St. Part 1 (2018)”

MQ Quick Hits Ep. 19 – Blitzing From the Tite Front

How do you blitz from the Tite Front? MQ answers.

In this episode of Quick Hits, Coach A. discusses an oft-asked question, “What are some good blitzes from the Tite Front?”

MQ answers with 3 pressures to think about. The main theme? Find a way to get to a Bear Front. Coach A. walks you through each blitz, even giving you details on how to teach your coverages (with several options).

 

 

Find more clinics like this on MatchQuarters YouTube Channel.

 

Want more Tite Front resources? MQ has you covered:

  1. The Tite Front (303/404)
  2. How Offenses Attack the Tite Front (2017/2018 Texas Longhorns)
  3. The Modern Bear Front (Georgia vs Notre Dame – 2017)

© 2019 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy. MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

MQ Quick Hits Ep. 18 – LB Pass Distributions

MQ details a simple way to teach underneath coverage.

In this episode of Quick Hits, Coach Alexander details how to simplify underneath coverage for you LBs.

The key? Find #3!

 

Find more clinics like this on MatchQuarters YouTube Channel.

 

© 2019 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.


Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy. MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football

Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).

Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).

– Coach A. | #ArtofX

Desert Heat: The Air Raid Invades the NFL – Pt. 2

Part 1 talked roster building. Part 2 talks scheme. What will this look like in the NFL?

In the first part of this series, we explored the Cardinals’ roster, which is the most important part of this Air Raid-to-NFL experiment. There are pieces in place to make the transition to running the Air Raid scheme go relatively smooth in the desert. One main factor will be the initial success of Kyler Murray and keeping continuity along the O-line (something the Cardinals lacked in ’18). The roster is a blend of players that have come from Air Raid schemes or fit the mold of a player needed for the offense to find success.

Many will turn to the lack of success by Chip Kelly and his “spread-to-run” tempo attack. Arizona Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is a little different. Kingsbury will tempo the ball as much as he can, but it isn’t the focal point of his offense. His pass-first mentality is something of the norm in a QB led league that focuses on breaking down coverages and blitz schemes. The run game will obviously need to become more robust than it was in the Big 12, but the key parts are there. In short, the roster, at least on the offensive side, is built for early success if everyone stays healthy and the young players progress. Again, and this cannot be stressed enough, Kyler Murray has to stay healthy and find success.

Behind Kingsbury is a wealth of success from his Air Raid “family.” You could say, Kingsbury, is the first to get his NFL “shot.” Former Mike Leach QB, Graham Harrell, played four years in the NFL, three under Aaron Rodgers and current Arizona Cardinal Passing Game Coordinator/QB Coach Tom Clements, and replaced Kingsbury’s short tenure as USC’s Offensive Coordinator. The hiring of Clements, who worked 11 seasons in Green Bay, gives a legitimate voice in the meeting room and a proven QB coach.

Washington St. Head Coach Mike Leach has always clamored about the NFL being too stuck-up to run the scheme. In a recent interview for KJR-AM in Seattle, Leach was very clear about his system having success in the league, Any notion that ‘anything you can run in college, you can’t run in the NFL,’ that’s just NFL arrogance and lunacy.” Though Kingsbury is his own man when it comes to ownership of his scheme, there are a lot of eyes around the country betting on Kingsbury to succeed.

Maybe the most important relationship of all will be between QB1 Kyler Murray and Kingsbury himself. The exchanging of ideas will be crucial because Murray also has ties to another elite Air Raid guru from the same tree, Oklahoma Sooner Head Coach Lincoln Riley. In Part 1 I alluded to the meshing of concepts from Riley’s high-powered Sooner attack and Kingsbury’s bombs-away offense. Especially the use (and addition) of TEs into Kingsbury’s scheme. In his last season at Tech, Kingsbury began using more TEs and H-backs for run support in his offense. At the NFL level, he will need to rely on this heavily. It is rare to see a true 10 pers. formation outside of long-yardage or obvious pass situations.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would argue Lincoln Riley’s offensive schematics not working in the NFL. Many will argue if Kingsbury has instant success, many in the NFL will be knocking down Riley’s door in 2020. Where Kingsbury is an Air Raid purest, choosing to base out of four WR sets, Riley has transitioned into a 12 pers. based Air Raid onslaught with a power running game to boot. Not ironically though, Kingsbury’s first snap as an NFL Head Coach in practice came from a four-wide 10 pers. set (see below).

Continue reading “Desert Heat: The Air Raid Invades the NFL – Pt. 2”