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we only won one game, I don\u2019t think any- one wanted to even be around us for fear that it would be contagious. Fortunately, we\u2019ve been able to turn it around.
When a program has some success, people think that you might have some special information to share that could be a key factor in winning. In our last 10 games we\u2019ve been able to win nine times. I wish we could tell you that coaching or schemes were the key factor. It helped a little bit, we hope, but the real factor has been players. We\u2019ve got great kids who work extremely hard and truly care about their football life. We\u2019re lucky to have a pretty good talent level, but most importantly, we\u2019ve got great kids. Our size defensively is below-aver- age, our speed level is competitive but our strength level is outstanding. Our players have worked extremely hard in the off-sea- son. We can\u2019t control size, we have limited control over speed, but we believe that we have total control of our strength level.
With these factors in mind \u2014 limited size and competitive speed \u2014 we were looking for something that would help us pressure the quarterback but allow us to stay primarily zone in concept in our coverage package.
Many programs have been generous in sharing their ideas and concepts with us. What we came up with is compilations of ideas that we used to fit our personnel. Tommy Gilmore, the defensive coordinator at Dartmouth, Don Brown, the defensive coordinator at UMass, and Chris Magendantz, the defensive coordi- nator at Northeastern have been just great resources for us. Thank you men.
Dan Bauer, our defensive coordinator, John Casey, our defensive line coach and Mike Daly our linebackers coach have done a fantastic job. In half of our games this year, we gave up seven or less points. Dan will give you a little bit of our zone pressure package.
Adding a few simple zone blitzes to our nickel package improved our ability to pres- sure the quarterback. Compared to the pre- vious season, we doubled the amount of quarterback pressures and pass break- ups. Additionally, our defense almost dou- bled the number of sacks.
The basic philosophy of our nickel sys- tem is to be as simple as possible. Considerable time is spent with other com- ponents of our defensive package, so we
wanted to improve the nickel package with- out a lot of added learning. Simplicity is key, because we wanted to compliment our stunt package, while keeping adjustments to a minimum. Our players are comfortable with the nickel package because it is easy to learn and understand. They executed with confidence, turning it loose each time a nickel stunt was called.
Our nickel system gives the defensive front one alignment rule. Declaration of this front is based upon the alignment of the nick- el back. He will align to the field when the ball is on the hash. The nickel back will align to the formation if the ball is off the hash. Our shades are constant once the nickel back declares. The end to the declaration aligns in a six tech. He will slant into the C gap, gain- ing ground up field. The tackle to the nickel back aligns in a three shade. The tackle away from the call aligns in a two-I, while the end away aligns in a five shade. Since we do not flip front personnel, our ends and tackles only have two alignments in our nickel package. Unless they are involved in coverage, the defensive linemen will automatically rush the passer on the snap when they hear nickel in the huddle call.
Formation adjustments are made by the linebackers and secondary. Once the front is installed, week-to-week adjustments are easy.
We primarily use a three-deep coverage scheme, aligning in a shell look. We can roll or invert the coverage to fit our needs. The coverage call tag will indicate where the strong safety aligns and where the cov- erage will invert. The free safety will align opposite the strong safety and is responsi- ble for the deep middle third of the field. Our safeties will be moving as the ball is snapped. In our base nickel front, and stunts not involving our nickel back, we invert away from the field or formation.
of the blitz. This was fine if the blitz came from the boundary. Giving up the boundary curl/flat zone was not a problem. A problem was blitzing from the field while playing zone coverage. If two or three split receivers showed to the wide side of the field, we checked out of the blitz. To keep a field/formation blitz from being checked, man coverage was used. We are a zone coverage team in principle with the majority of our time practicing zone coverage tech- niques. Unless we were sending at least six in a blitz, we would rather be in zone coverage. Adding a \u201chot\u201d tag allowed us to stretch the underneath zones with three defenders.
The outside hot players split their vision to the No. 2 receiver. We want these players to wall off the No. 2 receiver, forcing this threat to release outside. If No. 2 releases vertical- ly, we use inside leverage to collision and carry No. 2 to the free safety. After the colli- sion, they will react late to the flat if needed. If the No. 2 receiver releases quickly inside or outside, they look to the outside receiver for a quick throw in the seam. Hanging in the seam as long as possible will force the quar- terback to throw outside; this allows us to react to a longer throw into the flat area. Patience is important because we do not want a completion in the seam. Also, if the quarterback cannot go to his hot read, he will take more time to get rid of the ball. This gives our blitz a better chance.
We teach our strong safety to cheat from 12-to-10 yards in depth before the ball is snapped to get him closer to the No. 2 receiver. Once the ball is snapped, he creeps to seven-to-eight yards in depth while hanging in the seam. His feet will bounce as he gets his read.
The Mike linebacker will split his vision to key the No. 3 receiver. He will gain depth in his pass drop once a quick threat of the No. 3 receiver clears. We coach the Mike to work high to low in his drop.
The hot concept was very effective. In fact, we added the hot tag to other zone blitzes with equal success.
Our nickel blitzes are basic. We send five rushers in these blitzes. The players in the blitz must go like wildmen! They must have an attitude that they will sack the quarterback. There can be no hesitation. We must get pressure on the quarterback because we have only three defenders covering the underneath zones.
Field situations are considered when calling our blitzes involving the nickel back. We call nickel storm, thunder, lightning and blizzard from the hash. Our coverage will invert to the field \u2014 invert field is the hud- dle call. A great feature is the simplicity of adjustments. If two or three receivers show to the side of the blitz, the blitz is still on. If two split receivers show away from the invert, our Will linebacker will slide to the No. 2 receiver. We disguise these stunts with the nickel man moving around before the ball is snapped.
Diagram 8 incorporates a nickel back and Mike linebacker in a blitz. This sends four men to the field side. The cop call will be explained later, but this enables a lineman to take the Mike linebacker\u2019s pass drop.
away from the nickel back \u2014 invert bench. We know the nickel back will play the field or formation seam. The first blitz, nickel W pop cop, sends the linebackers to the B gaps.
Our other middle blitz is termed nickel cross cop, which is an A gap blitz for the Mike and Will. Though it is an easy stunt to install, timing is critical for its success. It is important that the Mike linebacker hits the opposite A gap first, with the Will linebacker crossing to the other A gap. To avoid hav- ing two players in the same gap, the tackle aligns heavier on the guard. cop technique will help the Mike and Will clear before the tackle begins his drop.
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