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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Five Spoke Secondary Part II

In the first installment of the Five Spoke Secondary, we learned about what type of player to look for at
the three safety positions. We also took a look at the overall philosophy of "why" you would want to
run or consider running a three safety defense. In this segment, we will talk about alignments of the
three safeties and how this dictates run support based on coverage. We will talk a bit about coverages,
but nothing in-depth as the main focus here is the flexibility and adaptability of the three safety

Aligning the Defense

TCU, generally speaking, sets the coverage to the multiple receiver side. When this is balanced, then
they will set the coverage to the "most dangerous" side. This could be the twins side of a Pro Twins
formation, or to the quarterback's (QB's) arm in a Doubles formation. Also, if balanced, and both
threats are equal, they may set the coverage to the wide side of the field.

For the Strong Safety (SS), he will align to the strength of the formation when the ball is in the middle of
the field (MOF), and will align to the wide side of the field when the ball is on a hash. The Weak Safety's
(WS) rules are pretty simple, align away from the SS. The Free Safety (FS) is the guy that has to
distinguish where he needs to be in the coverage setup. In zone, as mentioned above, the FS will set the
passing strength, or what Gary Patterson refers to as the "Read Side" to the most dangerous side of the
offensive formation.

For example, as shown below is a Pro formation (two backs, one tight-end, and two receivers). In this
particular example, the offense has three immediate vertical threats, the two receivers, and the tight
end. Numerically, the offense has a two-by-one vertical threat alignment. The FS would set the read
side to the most dangerous side, which in this case would be the pro side of the formation, or to the
tight end.

Against a one back, 11 personnel look, that I refer to as Pro Twins, the FS has to know where he is on the
football field as to where to set the passing strength. If the ball is in the MOF, then by base rule, the FS
would look at which side of the offense is the most "dangerous". The base rule for "most dangerous" is
that the FS should look at where the speed threats are in the offense. Since two receivers in a twins set
is generally faster and more athletic than a pro side, the FS would set the strength to the twins
side. However, the flexibility of the defense, allows you, the coach, to predetermine if that is where you
want the FS reading or not. For instance, let's say your opponent has a TE that is a poor match up for
either of the outside safetys (OSS's), but is a good match up for your FS. Well, when they come out in
Pro Twins, you can set the read side of the coverage to the pro side. Herein lies the beauty in the
system is that the offense can no longer dictate to you who and how you cover them. You can always
get the best players in the right spot to defend what an offense is attempting to do to your defense.

Pro Twins. read side set to Twins .

or an underneath defender thinks he's got deep help. but they have the ability to align however they need to based on what they want to take away from the offense. Manipulating the System for High School Football I get this all the time as well. They may have their base rules. I bet that has to be the number one question I get on a week-in. it could easily result in six points. but he doesn't. a good friend of mine. Aligning the back end of the defense is extremely important because if somebody's left uncovered. I will elaborate on the basic rules. who runs this defense has a very good way to set the Five Spoke Secondary up for high school football. . Listen. not being on YOUR staff and seeing exactly what it is your seeing makes questions like these very difficult to answer. "How should I play it?". week-out basis. To be honest. I will say this. Pro Twins read side set to most dangerous player I literally get an email a week about what somebody saw TCU do. Just because their base rule tells the SS to go to "the strength of the formation when the ball is in the middle of the field" that they can't tell him to go away from the strength of the formation. and how this doesn't fit their rules etc. these guys are game planning every week to stop what another offense does. The idea here is that you have a hard and fast rule players can hang their hat on when the bullets are flying (like Baylor running a bazillion plays at you 90 miles to nothing) and still be sound against both the run and the pass.

the call side Tackle ("T"). End (E). This is the chess piece you put where you feel. Opposite of this call is the Nose (N). two ends. your opponent is wanting to run or throw the football. but by the middle of the season. this makes absolutely perfect sense. labled "S" in the diagrams. With the SS being more LB in nature. by game plan. let's face it. and that's run the football. as shown below. The call side end. early in the year. the Mike ("M") and the SS will all travel to the call based on the run strength of the formation. most teams run the football. So. a read side LB and an away side LB to along with the two OSS's that present a balanced eight man front. the SS is one of your best pure "football players" you have on your defense. and WS that will travel opposite of the call. In high school though. most OC's have figured out. Will. but they have been known to align this way. Sure. and in some regards you are right. . you have two tackles. Remember. He's the old Monster in the 50. you better run the damn ball if you want to move the chains and score some points. many suffer from a disease called "Summer Seven-on-Seven Disease" where everyone thinks they can chuck the pigskin all over the gridiron. Now many will argue that this isn't the way TCU does it. the theory behind aligning the SS to the run strength is geared towards doing what most high school teams do.In the defense.

If the FS is away from me.  Corner. If the FS is away from me and I have one back and two immediate vertical threats. but will generally be in Robber or Quarters to the read side (to which he'll announce this to the Corner and SS by calling the direction he's reading as well as the coverage). The idea behind Bronco coverage is to have a way for the defense to defend two immediate vertical threats away from the FS. 5.Man-to-man coverage on the number one receiver. Any of the above work. The coverage is not ideal vs. The FS will set the coverage based on receiver structure or game plan. If we are blitzing.Will take the number two receiver man to man on anything other than shallow drag. play the "sky" technique. play "sky" technique. However.Now I know what many are thinking and that is there are several formations that you can get the SS away from the FS. 2. 3. based on the above criteria is the following: 1. Without going too much into depth. play Bronco. . The SS only needs to know the following: 1. by rule there could be some situations where the FS will not be with the SS and the SS will be asked to now play a Robber technique. many will say. I've talked with many coaches who simply "man up" on that side. and I'm not involved. it is one back and my vertical threat is in the backfield. The basic rules are simple:  SS. Now. Bronco has been discussed at length on the Huey board as well as in other blog posts around the Internet. other than "sky" and man that the SS must master is that of Bronco coverage. I cover the number two receiver outside the tackles. but the SS shouldn't be setting the coverage. The other coverage. or put just the corner in man. Well. he'll announce motion. but it will work. so long as vertical routes by both the number one and number two receivers are handled. here is a breakdown of what coverage each of the three safeties needs to master in order to play in the defense. If the FS is away from me and I have two backs. Setting the Pieces For the most part. 4. play the "sky" technique". If the FS is to me. or may call out some game plan key. Sure. What the SS will hear. So now we can see some of the brilliance in the system taking shape. Remember the SS is not really one of the communicators in the secondary. but in reality the SS gets told what to do by the FS. the SS will be coupled with the FS and will be playing a "sky" technique where he is a flat dropper and will be asked to carry the third receiver through the zone on a wheel route. dang that's a lot. that's where some of our coverage nuances and adjustments come into play. that is the role of the FS and the WS. two quick receivers (Twins).

Where it tends to get a bit more complicated is on the away side. I couldn't have these guys playing a myriad of coverages and checks etc. . this is the reason why the WS needs to be the most intelligent member of the secondary. Just remember. the FS gives his removal call (I've heard some coaches use "I'm gone". The FS doesn't communicate much to the SS when blitzing. 4. the FS will give his removal call. When the FS is coming to him. 5. It's the FS's job to cover for the blitzer. then tell the SS and corner what coverage to play. 3. and then set the coverage to "Bronco" because of the two immediate vertical threats. then believe me. is back in 2013 I played. athletic young man. (Note: the number above correspond with the number for the SS) The WS's job is basically two-fold as sometimes he's going to be like the SS and have the FS to his side. This is pretty easy because it all relates to the number of vertical threats these players are getting. he is going to be taught that he is setting the coverage. One reason I say this. He did a very good job setting us up in the proper coverages that we needed to be in. whereas other times. Bronco and Man). When the FS is away from him. Only one vertical threat. The system really sounds more intimidating than it really is. When the FS goes away he must give the SS a call that lets him know this. This one is the same as number two. I do not know what TCU tells their FS to call this) and will set the coverage to "sky". the WS does not set the coverage. he's going to have the FS away from him. or be the free dropper. YOYO for Your On Your Own. We didn't run that many on the away side (we ran Quarters. Quarters to the read side. I had a SS and FS that combined may have scored a 15 on the ACT. but he was able to manage these choices very well. but now must listen to what coverage the FS is setting his side to. Again. The WS I had in 2013 was a very intelligent. That could easily be setup for a separate post all of its own. almost exclusively. and "Adios" to name a few. it's not complicated. If these guys were able to understand the system. I will not go into the coverage options that the WS has to set his side to in these posts. 2. and fortunately. Halves.

unless otherwise dictated by game plan. . If setting the SS to the run strength.. Two Back Offenses Two back offenses don't have much they can align in that really threatens the players mentally as it does physically. Use the rules as they are laid out to set up your defensive structure. These are basic formations! I couldn't possibly have the time to discuss every formation and adjustment.. This post is meant as a basic guide to aligning the Five Spoke Secondary. Yes. then the SS will generally follow the TE. I will start with two back sets and work our way to empty sets. even this guy could play SS. Now that we understand how the verticals are handled by basic coverages let's look at alignments.

The FS gives the call letting the SS know he's no longer there. but halves. Robber is shown. the SS travels with the run strength set to the TE. quarters. There are any number of reasons for this. The next illustration only switches the SS and the WS. Where the differences in alignment and coverage come into play are against twins sets. while the WS aligns away. the FS will set the coverage to the most dangerous side. the base rule here would be "sky". nothing would change in the above diagram. If the SS is called to be set to the passing strength. To the read side. man free. you name it can be played to this side. In that case. These coverages are man. In this case. I have seen twins teams that actually run more to the twins side than they do the nub side.As shown above. the defense can play any number of coverages. Bronco (zone/man combo) or zone (sky). you . the away side coverage can be game planned to whatever it is that the SS can play. None of this matters to the WS or SS because the SS is set to the run strength. Against most two back teams. In the above example.

to the away side. not much changes. when the offense sets the run strength to the field.better have the flexibility in your defense to set your key player (the SS) where you need him. the SS will be set to the wide side of the field. Again. neither run nor pass strength dictate where the SS aligns. Again. In this case. Again. the same as if this was the SS. the WS can set the coverage by himself. It is when the offense attempts to put the run (or pass) strength into the boundary in an attempt to isolate and run (or pass) away from one of your best defenders. This is also a good way to handle up-tempo offenses. Another option to keep in mind is that of playing the SS fixed to one side of the field or the other. but really whatever it is you need to play over there you can. then go formation to the sideline (FSL) to get this player away from the wide side and then run to the wide side. as it creates less moving parts for the defense to attempt to handle. the coverages presented to either side are a laundry list of what is that you want/need to defend? Obviously Robber or Quarters is the standard answer to the twins side. for many. This is a great way for those teams that try to get slick and figure out where your SS is being set. . He has some options at his disposal. but the base rule would be to play "sky". By setting the SS to the field.

In many cases. they are playing right into your hands. and plays whatever coverage the FS has called. The SS . Lots of two back teams I see set twins into the boundary to get the coverage rolled away from the field so that they can run Power O. The WS sets the coverage based on game plan and plays into the boundary as shown below. he can play "sky" coverage. quarter. Many will even motion to this look. Since the SS doesn't have an immediate vertical threat to deal with. the flexibility of the system allows for none of these attempts at mis-aligning the defense to work. The SS simply aligns to the twins set. though. If the offense checks to a play away from your SS. half. and running (or passing) the ball into the 12th man. the sideline. Twins to the field doesn't change much either. or cover 3. You can read into the boundary if need be.Now we see that the offense has put the formation to the sideline (FSL). or Toss Sweep to the field. Again. teams will not read into the boundary due to the constricted space and will generally check to some generic zone coverage such as quarter. but it's not a necessity.

If the defense doesn't adjust. where they align Twins to one side. run strength. The defense can still put it's players where they are needed. isn't really an issue. As you can see the defense is protected from toss sweep and lead option to the offset back. The SS can be set to pass strength. One beauty. as shown below. In the case of setting the SS to the running strength. but set the passing strength and put the FS where he is needed. or fixed to the field or boundary. The FS can either read into the boundary or can check to some generic zone coverage. and is treated pretty much the same as Twins. this offset back may be the key for you. I see plenty of teams do this. Twins Open. then it can easily find itself a man down to one side or the other. but play an over shifted backfield (think offset I) on the opposite side.plays to the nub side and will play whatever coverage he has been instructed to by game plan (generally "sky"). While it may not seem like much. whereas . this gives the offense a numerical advantage when they do this by having a player align off the midline. as illustrated below is with over shifted backfield sets.

11 personnel can really stress an offense because of the varying nature of the offense's personnel. or they don't throw to the TE particularly well. To one side. then setting the SS to the running strength is a great way to limit your opponent's run game out of 11 personnel. To the opposite side you have a passing side with two quick receivers. Also. is in great position here to help on the run. where the fullback (FB) leaks into the flat is easily handled by the SS. if setting the SS to the run strength.they are also three-over-two on the twins side by having both the SS and FS over there to handle an Twins route combinations. you have a run side with a TE and flanker. if the FB decides to convert this route into a wheel route. However. as well as help in the passing game. If this isn't a mismatch. . Obviously. care will be need to be taken to insure that the match up between the SS and the TE isn't a mismatch. The same can be said for an offset back into a Twins set. and should be a decent match up. boot away from the twins side. The SS. One Back Offenses I honestly think where the real beauty of the Five Spoke Secondary comes into play is against 11 personnel. These sets are ones that power run game teams like to run power pass flood into. through film study and game planning you will be able to decipher what it is that you want to take away from your opponent.

the coverages can remain the same whether it's the SS or WS set to the run strength. To the read side. Again. where the beauty can be seen is when "fixing" the SS to the field or boundary. Once again. the SS makes no calls. Again.Some sort of man or match up zone coverage will need to be employed on the away side to keep the offense from hurting the defense with four verticals. . Again. coverage to the read side is unlimited based on what it is that you're defending. but listens to see if he's given the signal that he's alone. or is the FS to my side. no matter who the defender. Coverages are completely based on game plan. All the SS has to know is am I alone. again. the coverage is totally up to the end user in what it is you are trying to defend. Now you have your chess piece to where your opponent is likely to attack.

can be played to the read side. the FS will set the read side to the field (due to the offense being balanced. or 2x2). if defending the run is your thing. or a version of Palms (2 read) would be fine. Robber. the WS can then play Palms. Into the boundary. A bit more care needs to be exercised to the away side of the coverage. I would recommend man or Bronco. indicating he will be reading in that direction. once again. Quarters. regardless of where they are on the field. The WS must play a coverage that accounts for both of these verticals.In both cases. . If given a Pro side. but the 4-2-5 does a good job of being able to handle these formations out of 11 personnel. Three-by-one (3x1) sets can be tricky. Palms. or Quarters to that side. If given Twins to his side. why it is so important to play a smarter defender at the WS position. the WS cannot play "sky" because of the two immediate vertical threats. Quarters. Robber etc. however if playing to the field. then setting the SS to where your opponent wants to run the ball is critical. Since Pro Twins is a two-by-two (2x2) set. this means there are four potential vertical threats. Here we see. Again.

the pass. but is also allocated in the TE side run game fit. . The ideal coverage here is quarter-quarter- half. or cover three to the read side. Choosing which method is critical in setting up the defense for success. because the WS is a better deep zone defender than the SS. now the SS is set to the pass strength. One of the major weaknesses of the second version is that of being weak to the run to the nub side of the formation. The WS's job becomes much tougher if he's designated as defending a player vertical on the trips side. allows the defense to handle four verticals. There are many coverages you can utilize to gain the WS in the trips-side coverage. since there is only one immediate vertical threat. now you cannot handle three verticals to the trips side of the formation very well. In the second example. the coverage should be "sky". To the away side. you have one of your best ball players set there. this is good vs. the pro's of the setup are that if your opponent likes to run the ball to the TE side of the formation. since you only have three dedicated deep zone defenders (the FS and the two corners).In the above example. the run. This move. The cons are. but not so solid vs. Like I stated.

If you over rotate your coverage to passing strength. the run. Not an ideal match up. . a WR. you could be soft to the field vs. by keeping the SS to the field. However. Against 10 personnel the defense is just as strong as ever. the offense is balanced and the SS can be set in the manner I have discussed earlier. then the alignment are pretty much the same. The problem with 10 personnel is that you don't want the FS to be set away from the SS if you can help it. Trips to the field allows you to attack the offense with a myriad of coverages that can handle four vertical threats. The reason for this is the match up that is presented with the more linebacker type player of the SS vs. you could play it this way. the run and are sound vs. you are strong vs. The SS is also in great position to play the bubble screen or wide runs to the field.If you are setting the SS to the field. Where Trips closed hurts some defenses is when it goes FSL and puts the passing strength into the boundary and the run strength to the field. but if your SS is good enough. any sort of passing game the offense might employ into the boundary. Against Doubles (2x2).

The ideal way of setting the coverage is to keep the FS with the SS vs. Whatever you do. Again. the WS's job is tough. If you are in a coverage. This is not hard to do. so having him. and can be done easier by just keeping the SS to the field. but in some cases you may want your SS to the run strength. in that he must account for number three vertical. Trips Open is no different than Doubles. The WS is adept in covering WR's. However. but you get the basic principles being applied here. I'm not going to delve into that part of the defense. but also be the primary force player on the . there are some times when it's better to have the SS travel with the run strength to be sound vs. these sets. the running game. There are many teams that will set the Trips side away from the RB in the shotgun in order to run speed option at a soft flank. coverage options are limitless here. I'd make sure the SS traveled exclusively with the FS against these types of formations. in that you really need to have the SS travel with the FS if you can. such as Solo. the away side linebacker (AB) and the weak corner (WC) to a twins side (that would generally be into the boundary) is not a bad setup.

One downfall of setting the defense like the above illustration is that of not being able to handle four vertical threats. with a vertical release by the number three receiver is something I have seen. Again. Speed Option.away side. other coverage options are worth exploring. and easy way to stop this is setting the SS to the side of the RB as shown below. This puts the defense in a better position to handle the four vertical threats presented by the offense. or QB sweep to the away side. the "ideal" way to handle Trips open is to let the FS travel with the SS. and can really stress your WS. One thing teams will do with trips is either motion out of 2x2 to 3x1 and create FSL or simply align with trips into the boundary (as shown below). this comes down to film study. Of course. . This may not be the adjustment you need. As shown above. and you may need to handle the issue with coverage instead of alignment. but if the offense is really hurting you. I've seen many teams do this and then try to run to the field. and knowing your opponent.

or away from the motion. Obviously. there really isn't much adjusting that needs to be done. Empty Backfield Offenses . you are somewhat weak here in coverage. your opponent. you can eliminate such headaches of not having your best player into the boundary. but get four verticals out from the boundary is not an ideal thing most offensive coordinators (OC's) want to do. By setting the SS to the field. or motions from 2x2 to 3x1 with the Trips to the field. other than getting the defense into whatever Trips check coverage you might want to play vs. If the offense does what most do and sets the passing strength to the field.

However. which for many is also the run strength. and then the defense just plays whatever your Empty check coverage is. despite having your SS aligned where they are attacking. it "can" be done. he will be somewhat passive in that the only real check to me made to that side is some sort of man. It is not ideal. meaning the SS will have to at least "peak" at the number 2 receiver. First. This is a fairly easy adjustment. you aren't as protected against three verticals coming off of the Trips side (the only real check you can make over there is Quarter. It keeps the defense . Half or Cover Three). or match up man coverage. This will make him a bit less aggressive in stopping the run. the easy adjustment is just set the SS to the passing strength. This is why the SS MUST learn Bronco coverage. for whatever reason. your defense gets misaligned. Quarter. I don't recommend setting the defense up this way.Against Empty sets. for two reasons. there still able to play somewhat sound defense. if your opponent likes to run weak or attack weak out of Empty sets you "could" set the SS to the Twins side if you like. Secondly. Now. since they are not predominately known as running sets. The main theme here though is that if for some reason.

all the while allowing the defensive coordinator (DC) align his chess pieces where he needs them.sound in situations like the one shown above. The same situation is presented if setting the SS to the wide side of the field. though not great. the defense. easy way to keep the defense sound. it's motion that can make life tough on the defense. this is not ideal. while some are not . Again. If a team aligns or motions out of Empty sets to present FSL. By having the automatic Bronco check built in. As you can see the 4-2-5 has a very simple. is still sound. the only coverage I can play is some sort of man or match up man. That is not an ideal situation at all. your defense needs to be able to handle this. but it is manageable because even if your SS misaligns. You don't want your SS chasing motion across the formation and then having to have the WS run to the opposite side of the field with an uncovered number two receiver standing there. you can do that. such as TCU's Bronco coverage. by rule he will know if I have two quicks. Aligning to FSL is easy if you simply want a check to put the SS to the pass strength. Sure.

It's up to you.ideal. What I will say is however you choose to set up your defense. Duece Posted by Duece at 10:45 AM . and many of it's general. Next. The defense is a very flexible defense. I'm not planning on coverage discussion in these articles. as I think I've covered that ad nauseum on the blog. generic. we'll look at how the Five Spoke Secondary handles blitzing by using TCU's Cover 0 and Cover 0 Free to keep things simple. to choose what is right for your situation. the above scenarios are a great. place to start. underlying principles can be passed on to other defenses. all defenses have their weaknesses. the end user.