Probably the most common defense in use today at the youth level is the 6-2-3 zone.

It has a number of variations, from wide tackle to tilted guards, but the one in every offensive coordinator's playbook is the one shown here. A system you might consider looking at is John Carbon's Jaws of Death defense, an early version of which is located here. This is a slightly different version of the standard sixty front that mixes two common variations of the 6-2 together. The JOD system combines the wide tackle 6-2 and the split-6 into a multiplefront look that challenges offenses and disrupts blocking. The main problem with this defensive front is that it doesn't fit the screwy rules that some leagues use. The system detailed on this page is not technically sound against certain offensive formations, but against the standard I-formation and Wing-T looks it should be effective enough.

Figure 1: Basic 6-2-3 alignments

Position

Alignment

Run Responsibility

Pass Responsibility

Sam

Strong DE

Strong DT

Strong DG

Weak DG

Weak DT

Weak DE

Willie

Head up on the strong side tackle, 3 yards "C" Gap deep. "D" Gap.Trail flow Outside shade of TE away through offensive backfield. Inside shade of strong side tackle if possible "B" Gap by rule. Inside shade of strong side guard if possible "A" Gap by rule. Inside shade of weak side guard if possible "A" Gap by rule. Inside shade of weak side tackle if possible "C" Gap by rule. "D" Gap. Trail flow Outside shade of TE, away through 1x1 outside tackle. offensive backfield. Head up on weak side tackle, three yards "C" Gap deep.

Strong side hook to curl

Rush passer with hands high

Rush passer with hands high

Rush passer with hands high

Rush passer with hands high

Rush passer with hands high

Rush passer with hands high

Weak side hook to curl

Free Safety

7-12 yards deep depending on down and distance, 5 1/2 players to side. Outside shade to

Read and respond to flow. Do not approach Deep zone, follow passer laterally, closer than five yards keep all receivers underneath. to LOS until the ball crosses the line. Zone pass coverage Deep 1/3 until ball crosses LOS Zone pass coverage Deep 1/3 until ball crosses LOS

Weak CB

Strong CB

Outside shade to widest receiver.

As you can probably tell, I'm not wonderfully fond of this defense. While it has the advantage of simplicity, it fails to garnish any great mechanical advantages for your players. Especially fearsome against it is the Wing-T buck sweep, which could possibly outnumber the defense 5:3 at the point of attack, depending on how the opposing coach runs his offense. Additionally, because the linebackers are nailed to one location on the field, the flats are impossible to cover adequately. A simple hard fade from the tight end (45 degree slant from the line of scrimmage) while the fullback runs parallel to the line of scrimmage would leave one of the two receivers open 100% of the time. The quarterback can simply roll out and make an either-or decision. If I were forced into a defense of this nature, I would prefer to run it more as a 4-4 with linebackers on the line rather than as a true 6-2. My defensive ends would be linebackers unless prevented from pass coverage by rules. They would have outside contain responsibilities, using the defensive tackles as pure pass rushers and run stoppers to the "C" gaps. I'd also consider shifting the line to strength, and possible adding a series of slants to keep the offensive line guessing. I hope this guide helps you out if you get stuck with this system. If you have run a 6-2 of any nature and been successful, I welcome any comments or an article about your program here. The Gap-8 was the original name of Jack Reed's Gap-Air-Mirror. It features an eight man defensive line, a single player in a middle linebacker/free safety position, and two corners.

Most youth coaches with little knowledge of the game will dismiss this defense as unrealistic. Even a few highly experienced coaches will make the mistake of laughing at this simple formation. Be warned, this is a mistake, and it's a large one. This defense works like a dream at the youth level. Even in high school I've dropped into it on occasion to give opposing offensive coordinators fits. The defense features six down linemen positioned in the gaps. Two additional players are outside linebackers that are head up to inside shade on the tight ends. The configuration is something like the 6-2, but trust me, the defenses are nothing alike. Pass defense is comprised of three parts: a strong, six man pass rush, bump and run coverage from the corners and the outside linebackers, and one free safety/middle linebacker in cover one zone. Typically, the free safety/middle linebacker is the defensive captain, however my personal choice is to make the Sam linebacker responsible for the captain's duties. Here is a brief description of the Gap-8's defensive lineup and responsibilities. The diagrams should give you an idea on how the defense changes to "mirror" the offensive formation.

Position

Alignment

Run Responsibility

Pass Responsibility

Sam

Strong DE Strong DT Power Tackle Strong Tackle

Inside shade of the TE. Stack behind SDT if "C" Gap no tight ends. "D" Gap.Trail flow 1x1 to "D" gap away through offensive backfield. "B" Gap Weak Side "A" Gap Strong Side "A" Gap "B" Gap "A" Gap "A" Gap

Bump and cover TE Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high

Weak DT

"B" Gap

"C" Gap "D" Gap. Trail flow away through offensive backfield.

Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high Bump and cover TE Deep zone, follow passer laterally, keep all receivers underneath.

Weak DE

1x1 to "D" gap

Willie

Free Safety

Inside shade of the TE. Stack behind WDT if "C" Gap no tight ends. Read and respond to 7-12 yards deep flow. Do not approach depending on down closer than five yards and distance, 5 1/2 to LOS until the ball players to side. crosses the line.

Weak CB

Strong CB

Bump and cover Inside shade to widest Man pass coverage widest receiver if split, receiver. Behind Willie until ball crosses LOS if running back, cover if no split ends. man-to-man Bump and cover Inside shade to widest Man pass coverage widest receiver if split, receiver. Behind Sam until ball crosses LOS if running back, cover if no split end. man-to-man

Figure 1 shows the basic alignment and penetration paths. At the lower levels of youth football the ends box to contain the edge, but at approximately the 11-14 year old level I would begin teaching the ends to contain using the upfield shoulder and hip to attack the ball carrier's upfield side. Using this "head across the bow" method of contain negates a speed advantage while still allowing the defensive end to use his inside shoulder to meet and deflect attempted kickout blocks.

Figure 1: Basic Gap-8 alignment and penetration paths. Notice from the penetration diagram that only the Power and Strong tackles (Defensive Guards) are allowed to penetrate deep and "search and destroy". Both Defensive tackles are only allowed to to penetrate one step into the offensive backfield to guard against the off-tackle play. More importantly, both defensive ends are required to run the "L" shaped route into the offensive backfield as deep as the ball. This technique of sweep stopping is called "Boxing". It has its usefulness in lower levels of football, but it is vulnerable to kickout blocks. Use other sweep defense techniques against higher level opponents. Also note the paths that Sam and Willie take to the backfield. Their number one priority is to plug the tight ends and prevent them from going out for passes. This defense uses bump and run coverage to prevent the quick, inside release. By reading the tight end's movement, they can discern the type of play (pass or run) and the point of attack (if the tight end tries to put his head on the inside, the play is going inside. If he fights to put his head on the outside, the play is going outside). This takes a number of reps, but is both possible and relatively easy to teach. Be warned! The description of the Gap-8 on this web site is meant to provide a rough idea of the defense for you. It will help you make an educated, informed decision as to whether or not this defensive system will work with your players and in your league. It will not show you how to attack every offensive formation. An attempt to do that would result in this web page taking eons to download. Figure 2 contains some basic alignment diagrams for the defense.

Figure 2: Basic Gap-8 alignments. Further information on the Gap-8 is available at Coach Jack Reed's web site. I strongly encourage you to purchase his book, The Gap-Air-Mirror Defense for Youth Football, if you are at all interested in the defense. You will find that Coach Reed's defense features slightly different alignments than mine. Wherever there is confusion, I suggest using Coach Reed's material over my own, since my modifications were made to take advantage of things I saw in my own football league, and the personnel I had available.

In my three years as a 7-10 year old Pee Wee football coach, I have experimented with several defenses recommended as youth football defenses. Last year as a 4th grade team, we used variations of three popular defenses for different situations. Our base defense was a 6-2 defense with various blitzes, stunts and line adjustments from the 6-2. Our most effective blitzing defense is a version of the old Eagle 7 Defense which we called BK, named after the two players that made this defense successful for us. If we knew a team was a passing team, we would move into a 5-3 Defense on passing downs. Because successful passing at this age group is so rare, we play man to man coverage. With my current defenses for this age group, I dare the offenses to beat me with the pass. In my base 6-2 defense, I ran many blitzes out of this formation. Safety blitz up the middle over the center gaps, single or double cornerback blitz, linebacker blitzes to various called gaps, and an all out blitz by everyone. We also played zone if we wanted to read the offense. See diagram below for 62 defense. In the diagram, Diamonds are Cornerbacks & Safeties, Triangles are Lineman and Diamonds with lines are the Linebackers.

Our main Blitzing defense to stop sweeps was our Pirate BK Defense which is a version of the 70 Eagle Defense. We moved the linebackers / blitzers around to a “Tango” outside blitz as shown below, to a “Maniac” double A gap blitz to “Double Whopper” double right / left outside blitz. Depending on the blitz the DT or Corner would have contain responsibility. The main play for this defense is the “Tango” blitz. The LBs are suppose to run the sweep lanes and hunt the ball. In practice, I have the two blitzing LBs run the sweep lanes and give each other a low five as they run past each other at the point where the QB would be standing in shotgun formation. I tell the LBs that no one should touch them as they blitz. Run around the blockers, juke the blockers, but DO NOT get tied up with a

blocker on the Tango blitz. This has been the most effective blitz for us. It also works well for off-tackle plays, if you tell the LBs to take a shallow sweep lane. Sometimes, we would move one the the safeties into a MLB position and go into a 7-1 if we needed more horsepower in the middle.

Our base pass defense is the 5-3. This defense works well for most situations, but for this age group it worked great for us as a passing defense, because most of the passes are within the reach of the linebackers.

We did not blitz out of the 5-3 defense. and watch for passes.

We read the defense

One defense which I read about this last year and have been playing around with on paper is John T Reed’s GAM Defense, Gap Air Mirror. I really like the GAP concept and the Mirroring concepts. I will test this defense out this year, especially in goal line situations. The GAM defense is a GAP 8 which most team play on goal line defenses. It looks pretty interesting.

This year, I am going to stick closer to my BK Defense and test out the GAM defense. I will continue to use a 5-3 variation against successful passing offenses. But, I doubt I will see many great 5th grade passing teams. Maybe next year. The Seven Diamond, or 7-D is an archaic defense from the dawn of football time. When our ancestors were small, hamster-like creatures trying not to get stepped on or eaten by the gigantic lizards around us, those lizards were using the 7-D to shut down the T-formation. Does that mean it's outlived its usefulness? Most definitely not. The 7-D is still an effective, simple and easily taught defense for youth football, or goalline/short yardage at higher levels. As you look at the diagrams, you'll notice a couple of things. First off, it's very similar to the Gap-8, and second, this is a run oriented defense. Since the offense is required to have at least seven men on the line of scrimmage the potential is there to play each man head up, and slant the defenders to a particular gap, Unfortunately, doing so with only a single linebacker means that against some formations the poor kid has to cover a gap six yards away. Instead I recommend only using the noseguard and middle linebacker in your stunts, as in Figure 1.

Figure 1: 7-D slants. I have never used the 7-D except front in goal line situations at has worked remarkably well. I am defense, and I've toyed with the "passing defense", from my Gap-8 to do so. as a changeup from a fifty the high school level, where it reasonably familiar with the idea of using the 7-D as a but never had the opportunity

By shifting out of the base front, a variety of different pass coverages and stunt schemes can be used. Figure 2 shows a few different possible looks from this same defense. Notice that the basic responsibilities have not changed, only the alignment of the defense.

Figure 2: Different 7-Diamond Fronts In the Eagle front, it's a good idea to shift the corners slightly inward to strengthen the off tackle gap. The basic assignments of the defense are very similar to the Gap-8:

Position

Alignment

Run Responsibility

Pass Responsibility

Sam

Strong DE Strong DT NT Weak DT

Inside shade of the TE. Stack behind SDT if "C" Gap no tight ends. "D" Gap.Trail flow 1x1 to "D" gap away through offensive backfield. "B" Gap Head up on center "B" Gap "B" Gap "A" Gap, Strong or Weak depending on call "B" Gap

Bump and cover TE Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high Rush passer with hands high

Willie

Inside Shade of TE. Stack behind WDT if no tight end. 1x1 to "D" gap

"C" Gap "D" Gap. Trail flow away through offensive backfield.

Bump and cover TE Rush passer with hands high

Weak DE

Strong CB

Free Safety

Weak CB

Mike

Bump and cover Inside shade to widest Man pass coverage widest receiver if split, receiver. Behind Sam until ball crosses LOS if running back, cover if no split ends man-to-man Read and respond to 7-12 yards deep Deep zone, follow flow. Do not approach depending on down passer laterally, keep closer than five yards and distance, 5 1/2 all receivers to LOS until the ball players to side. underneath. crosses the line. Bump and cover Inside shade to widest Man pass coverage widest receiver if split, receiver. Behind Willie until ball crosses LOS if running back, cover if no split ends. man-to-man Cover FB in man, 3 yards deep, stacked "A" Gap, opposite call short zone, or blitz, behind NT. to NT depending on call.

Another version of the 7-Diamond that is worth looking into is the 7-Box. Figure 3 shows the 7-Box.

Figure 3: The 7-Box In my opinion, the more effective pass defense would be the 7box, because of its ability to cover each of the eligible receivers man to man, and still leave two deep defenders in zone coverage. The only drawback is the pass rush has been reduced from the six rushers of the Gap-8, to a mere five rushers.

If you have the talent and the ability to coach it, the 7-Box also lends itself easily to the idea of zone pass defense. Treat Sam and Rover like corners and give them responsibility for the outermost passing zones. Mike and Will cover the short "hook" or "drop" zones, and use the free safety and strong safety in two deep pass coverage. The responsibilities of the defense are virtually identical to the original 7-D, and it would be quite possible to use this front as a situational change from the basic 7-D. With two safeties deep Willie and Mike can cover the first back out to their side. While this does leave the fullback uncovered, many youth level teams leave him in to protect the quarterback. Additionally, you could work with the defensive ends to drop into coverage on the FB if he comes to their side, a technique that coaches of the Buddy Ryan "46" will find familiar. The remaining defensive end rushes the quarterback as normal. The seventy front has many advantages for the youth game. While this system is very basic, it serves to demonstrate how effective the system can be with the right players. Linebacker qualities 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Identify and Attack ( Ball Carrier, Blocker) No Wasted Movement (Proper Footwork) Accelerate on Blockers and Shed (Quickly) Stay on Feet Tackling (be the best on the team) Running to the Ball

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