Match Quarters: A Modern Guidebook to Split-Field Coverages

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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.


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.

Defense, in general, is uber-team oriented. There must be trust. Whether defending the Triple Option or a Trips set, everyone on defense must know their responsibility. This fact is why some defensive coaches tend to be micro-managers. This old school controlling style of coaching doesn’t work in the modern game. Players cannot turn to a coach in the heat of a battle and must be comfortable learning through failure. It is the “Tyson Principle,” everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face. In the heat of the battle, the kids can’t rely on the coach to make the play or call. He’s on the sideline. This principle is why teaching and player-coach relationships matter.

Saban puts it this way, great coaches reinforce positive behaviors during practice, but this can become a crutch if the coach tries to micro-manage every second. When players become dependent on the instant feedback, the coach can become muted or the player can subconsciously panic during a game. The coach is on the sideline. In an interview with, Saban explained how Belichick chewed him out one day for coaching too much. It was a revelation for the now-famous coach.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never had my butt chewed out before for coaching, teaching.’ But I have to say the same thing sometimes to our coaches now. Because there’s a time when you’ve just got to let the players play. Because in a game, they’ve got to know what to do, they’ve got to know how to do it.”

Saban would go on to explain that in a game situation, the players cannot rely on the coach to make the call. It is 100% on them. Formation recognition and tendencies have to be ingrained in them through the week. The coach can’t become the crutch. This is what is referred to as a dual-leadership model. The coach has control, but the player is responsible for his part autonomously. As Saban puts it, “Let the players play.” The coach’s aim is to arm the players with intent, plus explain to them what they are trying to accomplish. The rest is up to the player to make plays. This type of model functions well in a split-field Quarters defense because each side (and some levels) work independently from each other. There are few “blanket” calls.


In Fergus Connolly’s book Game Changer, he explains that the more coaches can model behaviors, the less is left to chance. This comes from film, meetings, walk-throughs, and drills. If it impacts the team, it is important. Many coaches are familiar with the belief that little things add up to big things. Players, in the heat of battle, will fall to the level of their fundamentals. Pedagogy of scheme and understanding the sport of football is crucial to success. It is the role of the coach to be as knowledgeable as they can. You owe it to the players.

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Author: MatchQuarters


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