Defending a spread offense’s 3×1 package run game from a two-high shell.
When developing a defense it is important to start with the front and work back. Lining up correctly to formations, understanding keys, and developing a plan to stop the run all starts with the front seven. In a 4-3/4-2-5 (or 3-4 Hybrid) defense, the secondary players become the adjusters. Playing a single-gap defense and using formations to dictate alignments allow defensive players to see the formation quicker and align correctly. Each player in a defense is anchored to one another in some way. Understanding these anchor points, and how they change depending on formations, is crucial to the success of any defensive unit.
The Spread’s utilization of space has put aligning correctly every play at a premium. It is easy to align to a simple 2×2 formation, but when offenses utilize 3×1 formations (primarily Trips Open) the defense must understand how it adjusts will dictate their areas of weakness. Offenses make use of Trips formations because it forces the defense to give something up. To gain a six-man box a defense must spin, either to the Trips or away. Continue reading “How Do You Play Trips? Pt. 3 – Defending the Run”
Three ideas on defending the spread’s most even set.
One question I get on a regular basis is how does a Pistol backfield change the way a defense adjusts to the spread. When utilized with even formations (2×2), the Pistol can create hesitation in how a defense traditionally sets up against the spread. If setting the front formationally, a defense can align quickly and efficiently to most formations. For most four-down defenses, the front is set to a TE (Over Front) or away from Trips (Under Front) to allow maximum cover downs. The main issues arise when offenses employ the Pistol from a 2×2 or Doubles formation. Like Ace and Diamond, 10 personnel 2×2 Pistol forces the defense to choose where to set the front by field or boundary. If the offense aligns in the middle of the field (MOF), the defense has to make a choice between right or left. Because of the Pistol’s unique backfield alignment, the offense can identify the conflict player and attack, leaving the defense vulnerable.
In traditional “gun” formations the offense has put the back on one side of the formation. Teams can run same-side zones and gap plays (pulling runs), but many utilize the offset running back to read the defensive end or conflict player to that side of the back. There are three main front adjustments for defenses when defending 2×2 gun: 1) set the front to the back (Over), 2) set the front away from the back (Under), or 3) set the front to the field. The later becomes difficult in the MOF. I suggest in my book that a defense should, at the least, set the front to the back to maximize Sam’s cover down and deter read side RPOs. Versus a true even set like 2×2 Pistol, this can be impossible to determine if in the MOF.
Versus a 2×2 gun formation, the defense is broken into two parts, the read side (back’s side) and the fold side. Against a team the sets their back in the Pistol alignment the offense can easily establish where the conflict player is located and attack. This two-way-go can make it difficult for defensive coordinators to game plan against teams that run Pistol. Establishing front rules against a “gun” team is relatively easy, but to understand how to set the front versus 2×2 Pistol a defensive coordinator must first understand the formation. Continue reading “Defending 10 pers. 2×2 Pistol”
Description: As the spread becomes more of the norm in all regions of this country it is important for coaches everywhere to have a resource for defending the modern spread offense. Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football is that resource for coaches. The schemes described in this book are tried and true methods for defending some of the best offenses this country has ever seen.
Starting with “The Why” and ending with “The How.” Cautious Aggression gives coaches a defensive philosophy they can trust. Using diagrams and concise explanations, the book lays out a formula for success for coaches to utilize in their own schemes. Below are the chapters:
Argument for Two-High
Defending the Modern Spread Offense
Defending Run/Pass Options
Systematic Creativity of a Quarters Defense
The Art of Match Quarters
All About the Cover Down
Designing a Modern Defense
Setting the Strength
Defending Formations into the Boundary
Coaching at the lower levels of football bring its own issues to the table that many Division I football teams do not face. Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football is written for all coaches. The experiences Coach Alexander gained while coaching for Baylor Football combined with his experiences at the high school level has given him a unique perspective on defensive football. Many of the concepts and theories in this book have been adjusted to fit the needs of high school and small college coaches around the country. Come learn “The Art of X.”
Thank you to all that support the site, this book would not be possible without you.
Teach the LBs to read their anchor points & play assignment football.
Without moving the front on a line stunt, a defensive coordinator can set up the fits to create gap exchanges and stay sound against zone read teams. Even if a team is running a simple inside zone scheme, teaching gap exchanges between the front seven can allow the front to “cut-off” the runningback’s path and force a cutback to free hitting linebacker. Understanding the structure of a front is key for any defense to be successful. Teaching the LBs to read their “anchor points” can allow the defense to be fluid against zone schemes. Defensive lineman must know their gap assignments just as well as the LBs. In the age of spread, it is important for the front seven to understand how each gap is going to be fit and how each player’s movements effects the link behind them (DL-LB-Secondary). All great defenses start with a solid technical structure.
Spread offenses want to attack the open “B” gap and the conflicted LB. The zone read is nothing more than a modified Dive Option. Add a bubble route (or any receiver screen) and the offense is running a modern version of the Triple Option (the offense can use orbit motion to create the same look too). Even if the offense is aligned in a spread set, option structure is still there. As a DC starts to game plan and create a defense to defend a spread attack, he must look at a zone-read heavy offense as though he was attacking a Triple Option attack. Someone has to take the dive, the QB, and the pitch. How a DC chooses to set the front will determine who carries the ball versus a zone read/option team. In the diagram to the left, the defense is set up in an Over Front to a 10 personnel 2×2 set. The Sam can cover down to the slot because he does not have a box fit. The Mike and Will each have a gap to hold versus a run. Since the front is set to the RB (5 and 3 technique), the most likely scenario versus a zone read is a handoff (dive), the Will folds into his box position and the Sam takes the bubble (pitch) away from the play. By setting the front to the back, the DC has created a predictable situation in which the QB will hand the ball off to the RB. Just on alignment alone, a DC can force the offense’s hand. Defending zone-read heavy teams is all about cover downs and changing the “B” gap. The most important decision a DC can make versus spread teams that run read/option plays is to decide who is the worst ball carrier, and force that player to carry the load. Continue reading “Teaching Gap Exchanges & Defending the Zone Read”
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 email me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).
Make sure to bookmark this page which is updated after each article.
The best option on the first play of a drive against most offenses is to line up in your base and see how the offense is planning on attacking the defense for that series. The objective for any defense is to stay ahead of the chains on 1st down and make the offense work for the rest. It is amazing to think how hard it is to get just ten yards. Calling a defense is easy when the offense has its back against the wall on 3rd and long. It is the in-between downs (2nd/3rd and medium), that a defensive coordinator earns their title.
The medium downs are truly the “gray area” of football. Blitzing on these downs is crucial to staying ahead of the chains. Get too aggressive and the defense can give up a big play through the air, or missed gap assignment, stay too passive and a defense can watch as the offense slowly trots down the field. Like anything, there has to be a happy medium. All blitzes are not designed the same. There is a blitz for every situation, and it is the role of a defensive coordinator to call them at the correct time. The focus of this #FMT – Friday Morning Tempo is to highlight three run-down stop calls every DC must have on their call sheet. Continue reading “3 Run Down Stop Calls”
Transition seamlessly from defending the spread to stopping power football.
There is not a more difficult time than the present to be a defensive coordinator. The amount of offensive formations, schemes, and alignments has never been greater. Present day defensive coaches can see an offense that bases from an empty set (3×2/4×1) one week to a power set (2×1 with two backs) the next. When changes in the scheme are so drastic it is easy for a defensive coordinator to find himself changing his base every week. With the advent of spread offenses, the power sets (2×1 with a tight end and H/fullback) are becoming less prevalent. It is difficult for a 4-2-5 team to play a wide open spread team one week, only to turn around the next week and face a smash mouth power/counter team. With a good set of base rules, a defensive coordinator can seamlessly maneuver the nuances of defending any formation thrown his team’s way.
The power read is one of the spread’s hardest plays to defend because it stresses the techniques taught by most defensive coaches, and stretches the field horizontally. Any time an offense can attack both planes it is going to stress the defenses’ core principles. Unlike a QB power, where the RB blocks out on the end and guard pulls for the ILB, the power read plays on the flow read of the ILB. The RB takes a stretch path and heads for the edge. Instead of reading the backside end like the zone read, the power read uses the front side end as the read man and attacks his fit. Below is a live look at the power read.
The game of football is a constant pendulum. As defenses move to hybrid players to combat the spread attacks proliferating through all levels of football, offenses are turning to tight end sets and a more traditional run game (power and counter). An easy way for spread teams to create an extra gap and keep their spread principles is to add a tight end to their sets. More and more, if a team has access to a tight end, or “H-back” they are opting for a pro-style spread look, basing out of 2×2 (pro twin) and 3×1 (trey) tight end sets, even running pro style two-back sets. This can stress a 4-2-5 defense because the hybrid Sam, or a true nickel, can be exposed to a larger, stronger tight end. Offenses can even run sets that force the player into the box (formation into boundary), creating an advantage for power run teams.
Oregon has used TE sets with devastating effect, and even the typically receiver happy offenses of Baylor have opted to add more 11 personnel sets to their arsenal over the past few years. Take a look at how Bret Bielema, a constant critic of the spread, recruits running backs against spread teams across the country. He is not the only one in his corner.
Football, unlike any other sport, is a constant chess match. The fluidity of the game from tight sets to spread sets and back again puts stress on 4-2-5 defensive coaches. It is important to have a plan when facing teams with TEs or H-backs. In a perfect world, defenses could insert a traditional linebacker against tight sets, and substitute the traditional player for a hybrid/nickel against spread sets. With the advent of the spread, even the TE position is changing into a hybrid player, one that can flex out, play fullback, or line up and block in the box. As defensive coaches have found out, subbing against tempo teams can be impossible. It is also not realistic. In order to be great at something, a team must have consistency. Constantly subbing players in and out, while trying to teach box techniques and coverage skills can be a daunting task, and many times unrealistic. It is important for a defensive coach to have a set of rules and a plan against any formation. When an offense goes from a spread set to a pro-style set, the defense must react quickly and decisively with no hangover. Continue reading “Tight End Sets vs. Match Quarters”
Football is upon us. For some states, high school football starts today, for others next week. Regardless, it is never too late to look for innovative ideas to stop RPOs. The game is changing on a weekly basis, offensive coaches are finding interesting ways to combine plays, all while simplifying the playbook. It is amazing to think that one simple read-arc play can have four different outcomes. Defensive coordinators now have to prepare for all four when deciding how to attack a formation. Add tempo into the mix, and to the untrained eye, it looks like the offense is running multiple plays. As I tell my players – D.F.O. (Don’t Freak Out), MatchQuarters has you covered. Three RPOs and three stop calls.
Don’t have the line depth, but like a 4 down? Run an Okie Front.
Last year Baylor’s defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, ran into a serious issue, lack of defensive line depth. Anyone who has watched Baylor under Bennett’s tenure knows that they base heavily out of a four-down, but faced with little depth and injuries to key players, he turned to a three-down front. The transition, for the most part, was smooth. How was Baylor able to keep a steady hand on the defense while, to an outsider, completely change the playbook? They just switch to an under front, replaced the boundary end with an outside linebacker (Taylor Young), and kept their run fits. Continue reading “Not So “Odd” Front: The 3-4 Okie Front”
The power run game is not dead. As spread offenses proliferate through all divisions of football, the “Power” play is still a staple of many offenses. Defenses must be able to adapt to any formation without subbing players because of the tempo being thrown at them. This can cause a dilemma when a defense’s base scheme is a 4-2-5. When teams insert an “H”, or fullback, a defense does not have to spin to a single-high in order to gain an extra man in the box. Instead, use the natural structure of the 4-2-5/4-3 Hybrid to the defense’s advantage.