USC 4-3 Under Blitz Schemes
By Pete Carroll Head Football Coach University of Southern California Thank you. I am really excited to be here. I want to start by thanking Nike for putting on these clinics. It gives us a chance to exchange ideas, have some fun, and talk about the game we love. I was asked to speak about defense today. I’ll try to give you some general thoughts that might help you on this topic. I’m not trying to get you to change your defense, but I’ll show you what we are doing. In order to be successful on defense you need to develop a philosophy. You have to know what you want to do, how you want it to look, and how you want it to feel. A philosophy is like a railroad track. You have a clear cut direction in which you are going. If you start to get off track it becomes real obvious to you. If you don’t know what you want and what you are about you won’t know when you are off course. If you do realize you are off course you won’t know how to fix the problems you are having without a philosophy. If you can’t write down your philosophy then you still have some work to do. If you don’t have a clear view of your philosophy you will be floundering all over the place. It you win, it will be pure luck. One year you will win, it will be pure luck. One year you will run a 34 defense and the next year you will run a 4-3 based defense. You will never get zeroed in on what is important. I am an example of a person who got zeroed into a philosophy early. I went to Arkansas many years ago to work for Lou Holtz. Monte Kiffin was his defensive coordinator. He had just come over from Nebraska to take that job. He is now of course the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is one of the best coaches that has ever lived. Under Monte I was a part time coach in the secondary at Arkansas. Monte ran what is known in coaching circles as the 4-3 under defense. That was his base defense that he had developed and perfected at Nebraska as a gap control defense to stop the run and pressure the passer. That was the first time I started to get hold of something that had a philosophy to it. I started to grow with this defense. After all the years I’ve been in football I’ve never coached anything but the 4-3 under defense. So I know this defense inside and out. I know the good side of the defense and I know the problems and weaknesses of this defense. I run it with one gap principles but can also make it work with some two gap principles. What I can give you today is a real basic understanding of this defense. I am not trying to sell this to you as being the best defense. What I am saying is that for me this is the
etc. The 4-3 under defense has evolved over the years and adjusted over time. The way we play him on base defense is as an inside-foot to outside-foot alignment or a 1 technique on the center to the strong side of the alignment. He was one of the great pass rush specialists that has ever been. In principle we want to give our players a chance to know exactly what they have to defend. We want to attack into the gap at the snap. I want to start out explaining the basic front end coverage. He can never get reach blocked by the tight end in this position. We have put him right in the A gap. You have to have the ability to maintain relative spacing between your players. The reason I run this as a base defense is that I know how to fix any problems that may be created. Monte Kiffin was there and we got together with another coach named Floyd Peters. We have done a number of things with this position based upon the opposition at times. When I went to the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. and as needed we have even played him in a direct shade technique right over the center at times. we have cocked him on the center at times. Then we’ll go over some of the more basic blitzes we run from this coverage. The defensive end to the tight end side is responsible for controlling the C gap. He was from the Northern California area. The nose tackle plays in the A gap to the tight end side of the field in our defense. He is in an inside-foot to outside-foot alignment on the tight end or what most coaches call a 9 technique spot. aggressive football team. For starters the Sam linebacker controls the D gap to his side of the field. We want to be an attacking. If the tackle blocks inside then the defensive end has to close down with him in keep relative control of the C gap. When we talk about this front all gaps are lettered to give us a reference point. The presentation that I am going to give today is the “one-gap” approach. The big problem with any “one-gap” approach however is that it allows a ball carrier to get into the secondary if one guy makes a mistake. He believed as well that the 4-3 under was the best overall front to use to rush the passer. D. He played for the Cleveland Browns and had coached all over the NFL. He is an inside-foot to outside-foot alignment on the offensive tackle he is lining up against. He is the force player for everything run to his side of the field and turns everything back inside to the pursuit. C. We letter the gaps on each side of the center as A. We don’t want to sit and read the play like you often have to with “two-gap” principles of play.
.defense that I know best and can make work. We do this for the strong side and the weak side. No matter how aggressive the defense is there is a great amount of discipline that goes with this defense. get off the ball to play on their side of the field and get after the quarterback. We also want to give them an attitude in which to do that. There are some different ways to do things from it. You have to be very strict about your positioning and the placement of your players. B.
This alignment leaves open the strong side B Gap and the weak side A gap which are played by the Mike and Will linebackers. We often align him wider than this in order to give him a better angle of attack and allow him to play in space. If we are playing Cover 3 behind him the Strong Safety is going to have the middle of the secondary behind him but also fills off the linebacker’s side as needed depending upon the play.The prime spot on the defense to the weak side is the B gap player. but that is because there was a breakdown at the point of attack in our scheme. That puts him on the quarterback’s blind side and makes him a C gap player in this defense. The Free Safety works off of the Defensive End and fills where he is needed on run plays for example. The whole scheme of this defense is predicated upon not getting hooked. The Will linebacker is aligned against the offensive guard to his side of the field. He has B gap control but he can’t get reached or hooked by the defense due to the way we align him. He is an inside-foot to outside-foot alignment on the offensive guard to his side. If the Sam linebacker does get hooked for example the Strong Safety will then have to come up and make the play. He is a 3 technique player. The Free Safety is the force player to the open side or weak side of the ball. The have to keep everything on their inside shoulder. The only thing we can’t allow to happen is for them to get hooked or reached by the defender. The two Safeties are both fill where needed sort of players. He has to be able to close down however if the tackle blocks down on him. We align him a yard outside of the offensive tackle most of the time. He works off the defensive end’s play. All the players in this defense have to keep the blocks in their inside shoulder and force the ball carrier back inside to the next player. He has to play C gap run support but at the same time he is rushing the passer like it is third and ten. Here is an example of our base alignment against a pro set backfield with wide receivers split to either side. The Defensive End works for leverage and force. The best pass rusher on the team is usually the defensive end to the open side of the field. 4-3 UNDER DEFENSE VERSUS PRO SET
. He has to control his weak-side A gap and play relative to the Mike linebacker and the Free Safety. He is basically a protected player in this alignment and should make a lot of tackles. The offense will obviously gain a chunk of yardage on the play. The front five players I mentioned are playing aggressive defense with their outside arms free. The Mike linebacker is in an inside-foot to outside foot alignment on the offensive guard on his side of the field.
He has him anywhere he goes for this defensive call. The Sam Linebacker has the tight end in man to man in coverage. The Free Safety or flex side safety is down on run support. The gives us a man in the hole in the short middle area of the field. If we call a cover one flex. The Free Safety plays the first back out of the back field to the weak side. This is a stop the run first type of defense. we are man to man on the corners with the strong safety moving into the middle of the field. We call this particular alignment of the front an “under” and the coverage “flex” in our language. Those are our terms for the tight end side and the split end side of the formation. We want to outnumber the offense to either side of the ball.If you look at this front it is basically an eight man front against the run as we’ll bring the Free Safety down hard in run situations. The defense is a man to man coverage scheme for the corners in this example. The open side of the alignment is the flex side and the tight end side is the strong or solid side. He never switches if we are in this coverage and will go with him if the tight end does go in motion. The Will linebacker plays the short middle. The Mike Linebacker plays the first back out of the back field to the strong side. If we get a full flow by the backs to the strong side the Mike linebacker takes the first back and
Before we go any further. We want an athletic player who can move around. The Mike linebacker has help in the middle from the short hole player. If it is a full flow weak side play the Free Safety has the first back and the Will linebacker has the second man to the weak side. However. There are no adjustments to be made. he can’t allow himself to get beat in the flat. the basic core of the defense stays the same. scramble by the quarterback. The Mike linebacker becomes the short hole player. That is a critical aspect you have to practice. let’s talk about personnel. The play action pass is a problem for this defense. The defenders take their men in coverage regardless of where they line up. They can help on the draw play. In theory the middle hole player helps with the tight end but in reality he is the second line of defense against any breakdown in the pass rush. or screen passes that they can see developing. That is an area on which you really have to focus on reads and execution. The open side Defensive End has to be one of your best football players.
. You want to get your best players on the field. Size does not matter as much. If the offense comes out in a different look such as a Twins look to one side.the Will linebacker takes the second back out of the backfield. The Free Safety becomes the short middle player.
Teach your younger players to play the deep middle and forget about all the confusing rules. The thing that kills and breaks down a defense is a ball being thrown over the defender’s head for a touchdown. He is going to get doubled a lot on the run and pass and is going to get down blocked a lot. He may be the guy with the most experience or the best feel for the game. He has to play the C gap and stop the run. He does not have to be a big time pass rusher. The defensive end to the tight end side needs to be a defensive player that can play the run. He has to have a feel for the everything and understand the big picture. The Sam linebacker has to be a good containment player. We want our fastest linebacker at this position. The Free Safety is another player who makes a lot of tackles for us. He has to be a tough player. All you want him to do most plays is flow and chase the football. If you have a million reads for your secondary you are crazy. The defensive backs that are the best run defenders are our safeties. However if a defender can play the post and the seam route then they can learn to play at that level. This guy can be a short and stubby type of player.At Nose Tackle you have to find a player who likes to mix it up. They don’t need that even at our level. We want a big guy in there who likes to get down and dirty. If they don’t run fast then you can still play with them. The Will linebacker can be a smaller player. He wants to split the relationship with anyone who can get down the middle. You don’t have to coach this player too much.
. He has to be big and strong enough to play on the edge of the tight end. He is generally protected in the defensive schemes and will not see as many blocks. Your asking them to do something they can not do and they’ll get beat deep. He has to be able to run in pass coverage also. He has to have good instincts. We want our safety to play in the middle of the two receivers that can run the post route. He is going to get a lot of one on one blocks as it is hard to double team him because of where he lines up. The guy who is playing in the middle of the field has to figure out who can get into the middle. The Mike linebacker is a traditional middle linebacker. The corners have to run fast if you plan on playing bump and run. At the highest level in the NFL the pass game is as complex as you can imagine. He is instinctive and makes a lot of calls for the defense. All they need to know is their primary responsibility and then secondary. He is what we call a natural player. It is a race when you play bump and run and if you can’t win the race don’t play bump and run. But if your corners are not faster than the wide receivers you are facing don’t play bump and run. The other defensive tackle the 3 technique player should be your premier interior pass rusher.
If the back goes in motion to leave an empty backfield set the linebacker to the side of the motion takes him. Everyone is playing their gap control and support schemes. If he goes to the strong side the Mike linebacker takes him. Everything else in the defense stays the same. The Mike and Will linebackers take the back out of the backfield.
If the offense spreads out a bit into a double set to one side we don’t make any adjustment except to match up better with the safeties. The Free Safety adjusts down to take the second tight end. Everything else on the defense remains the same. The remaining linebacker bumps over to the middle to balance the defense and plays
. Against spread offenses we back them off more.When we play pass defense with our corners we play as tight was we can for the match up. The linebacker that is not involved in coverage drops into the short middle hole on pass coverage. If we get a one back or an Ace set the safeties are going to take care of it. If he goes to the weak side the Will linebacker takes him.
Or if one is a better cover person that the
.football. Trips to the other side would flop the role of the safeties. The Free Safety moves to the middle third of the field and plays the middle third.
If the offense comes out in a triples set the adjustment is made by the safeties. In this case pictured the Strong Safety goes out to cover the third receiver to the strong side. Everyone else stays the same with the linebackers playing the remaining back the same way.
The weak side Defense End and Strong Safety are the outside defenders to each side. I want it to be multiple so that the defense doesn’t know who is coming and from where. They are playing seam coverage with the
. We slant our strong side defensive end. We are going to use the strong side linebacker and middle linebackers to rush the passer. The first blitz that I am going to show you is what we simply refer to as “Sam and Mike”. nose guard. and 3 technique to the open side of their formation away from their normal rush gaps. The alignment is the same as before.other you can protect accordingly.
For a base defense to hold up you have to have some things that you can use to complement it. The weak side defensive end is going to drop into pass coverage on this play. The Free Safety is playing a deep middle. When you play USC every single one of my players is going to have a blitz pattern. The offense will have to account for every player on our side of the ball in their pass protection scheme. The Corners are line up in tight coverage but are going to bail out and play a three deep zone coverage with the Free Safety. The Corners will play outside leverage on this blitz and force everything inside. The next thing that I am going to show you are some of the most basic combinations of pass rushes that we use with the under defensive front.
That means he is finding the third receiver and covering him if he comes out on a hot route. To give us a change up we bring the Sam linebacker underneath the tight ends block. We have to find the hot receivers on this blitz and identify them. If the tight end comes down the middle seam the Strong Safety collapses on him. and make the play for a short gain. The Defensive End does the same thing with the back out of the backfield. The formation doesn’t matter much.Will linebacker in the middle seam. That changes the landmark for the offensive lineman and gives the defensive lineman an advantage in his pass rush. The defensive line is now slanting away from where they have been playing the entire game. Another advantage the defense has in these types of stunts is the change up of the line. Once the quarterback sees the blitz he’ll often throw to these short areas to his designated hot receiver. The Strong Safety and weak side Defensive End play what we call the hot receivers to their side. This stunt can also be used in run defense. We want good spacing in our coverage people so we can react by changing up. We can also let the Sam linebacker play under
. The defense has to have counter moves to the keep the offense off balance. When we overload on the rush the ball with be thrown quickly.
The Will linebacker is playing the hot receiver to the middle of the field.
The open side Defensive End comes off in coverage and everything else is the same. On this stunt we are blitzing with both the Sam and the Free Safety. The defensive line is slanting away from his blitz. Another way to get five man pressure on the quarterback is our Under Safety blitz. On this stunt we are bringing the Free Safety from the outside. The Sam and Will linebackers have the first two hot receivers and the Mike with have the hot third receiver. The Mike linebacker and the drop end have the first two hot receivers and the Will
. The corners are playing their same bail coverage and the Strong Safety is going to the deep middle. Those are changes we add to the base defense to keep the offense off balance.
A very effective stunt from this defense is called “Sam and Safety”. The defense line slants to the Free Safety side.all the blocks and bounce plays to the outside.
We like to bring the Corner on a blitz as a change up from time to time. The rush end and the 3 technique rush the A
One of the problems we have when we drop the Defensive End in coverage is containment to his side. The Corner aligns in a bump and run technique. When we drop the end it means the 3 Technique tackle has to work hard to contain outside.linebacker has the third. The Free Safety cheats back and covers the deep outside third. The Strong Safety is covering the middle third and the strong side corner in this case is taking the outside third to his side. We also like to bring the defensive backs in the blitz scheme. That is not a good situation but we work hard to make it work. If they can disguise the stunt they can get there in a hurry. On the snap of the ball however he comes hard off the corner.
The Sam. You can game plan the match ups the way you want with other combinations as well. It has been a pleasure. and Will linebackers play the hot zones on this play. The corner comes off the edge. This simplistic blitz scheme lets you bring pressure from a number of different areas. You can mix up your blitzes according to your needs. It is extremely important to have a philosophy that can guide you to the success you are looking for.
. The important thing in this blitz pattern is that we are not changing anything in our basic schemes underneath. I hope I have given you something you can take home with you today. Mike. Thank you. That is all the time I have.gap and the B gap.