Multiplicity But Simplicity: Why the 4-2-5 Defense

by Gary Patterson, Defensive Coordinator University of New Mexico Albuquerque, New Mexico 1997 AFCA Summer Manual
In this day and age of college football, offenses have become very explosive and complex in the number of formations and plays used in a game. To combat this problem, defenses must have enough flexibility in their scheme to limit offenses in their play selection, but be simple enough to be good at what they do. During a game we must look like we do a lot, but only do enough to take away what offenses do best. This leads me to our philosophy of, “ Multiplicity but simplicity.” With every good idea, there has to be a sense of purpose to stand behind it. The purpose behind the 4-2 front, five spoke secondary is to give less-talented defensive units the flexibility to compete. There is no more helpless feeling than to play “ bend but don’ break” defense, have the opposition turn up the level of play and have no answer to it. The other thought t process is that the better the athlete we have, the more an offense must contend with our individual ability, plus the multiplicity of the scheme. We want offenses to guess what they should spend most of their time working on. Our job is to find out what their answer is and then use other phases of our package to cause new problems. At the University of New Mexico, we have five goals to playing great defense: 1. Out hit the opponent. 2. Stop the run. 3. Create takeaways. 4. Eliminate big plays. 5. Don’ flinch. t To accomplish these five goals, we use five basic principles within the 4-2-5 to give our players a chance to succeed: 1. Create offensive confusion at the line of scrimmage. 2. Play with great leverage. 3. Establish the eight man front. 4. Establish a pressure package. 5. The five spoke secondary.

Create Offensive Confusion at the Line of Scrimmage To create confusion at the line of scrimmage we must direct our energy at the pre-snap read. Offenses, as we all know, do a great job of exploiting weaknesses. As a defensive unit, we do not want to allow offenses this advantage if possible. For us, the 4-2 front, five spoke secondary gives us great disguise capabilities, plus movement from all 11 players independently. This movement all happens because the front and coverage before the snap can work separately from each other. The three safety system is the main reason all this can happen, because of the natural alignments in leverage positions, this allows the other eight players to move freely. The first answer offenses use to combat our movement disguise is to use the quick count. We feel this gives us an advantage because we are now playing the offensive coordinator not the quarterback. We also feel this limits the size of their game plan because we have taken away the audible possibilities at the line of scrimmage. The main coaching point needed to make all our movement possible is we must be able to carry out our assignments from where we end up. If not, you must first do your job!

That phrase is: “ inside and in front. If fewer players are needed to stop the run. Natural alignments to play assignment option football. if they keep the ball inside and in front of them. Remember. This split allows the safety coach to work on leverage as a priority along with coverage. Establish the Eight Man Front To be great at anything. The reason for using the eight man front is that we believe you must stop the run first. . We have one key phrase which sums up what leverage means to our players at the University of New Mexico. this tells everyone of our 11 players that no matter where they are on the field. 2. The corners can just work on playing coverage. Great angles to help eliminate the big play. good things will happen. What this does is cause a net effect to surround ball carriers. They have been taught to not get beat deep and be safe. 3. The first people on your defensive staff that must buy into stopping the run first are your defensive back coaches. we can play with nine players up. If needed. 1. but you must know what you are possibly giving up. The natural leverage of the 4-2-5 allows five points to give us a better chance to play great defense. These alignments are made possible by the three safety system. When we first became interested in the 4-2-5 defense.Play with Great Leverage Every good defensive team that I have ever watched play had one distinct characteristic about them. nothing else matters. this will help us to achieve the goal of eliminating the big play. Both thoughts are still important rules to go by. To make the system work properly. Great leverage tackling angles. it is important how we teach it. 4. If you can’ do that. we must do a smart job of using the multiplicity part of the eight man front to our advantage. Another way to present the theory behind playing great leverage is telling your players once the ball declares inside or outside of you. We decided to divide the defensive secondary differently than other teams do. you have to have a great belief in what you do. As a staff. they played with great leverage. never allow it to cross back across your face. Establishing the eight man front 5. but as a staff we must free up as many secondary players as are needed to secure leverage and give run support. Great alignments to run to the football. What we have hung our hat on at the University of New Mexico is establishing the eight man front.” In basic terms. with a corner coach and a safety coach teaching all three safeties. the reason we went to the eight man front is that we do not believe we will play with the same level of personnel as others do year in and year out. The 4-2-5 front allows us the multiplicity to always try to have one t more player at the point of attack than the offense. the first obvious characteristic was the natural leverage alignments.

3. The outside blitz position by our safeties makes offenses account for them on all run and pass plays. The second reason we like this system is for disguise purposes. the more pressure that can be applied. We believe that you recruit corners who might be safeties and better athletic safeties who grow into linebackers. Our blitz package must be simple enough to handle all the different formations used in a game. they all must move together. we can be consistent and successful. This thought process makes an offense account for all eight players on all run and pass plays. By following this philosophy we end up with an overall faster. can’ assume that we will line up with better athletes. All coverage packages have their positives. we would like to cause offenses to change from what they like to do best on game day. Natural alignment positions. If possible. The Five Spoke Secondary Who. Usually. This philosophy allows us to recruit a certain body type athlete. Establish a Pressure Package Establishing a pressure package may be the most important principle for us to accomplish within our philosophy. We. What we must do is find ways to bring t more players to create mismatches. The simplicity of naming personnel (Mirrored players). because once one of their secondary players moves. we are able to move our front six around without risking leverage problems. Each player can basically work independently from the other four players. and how. Yet. The third reason is the natural leverage and blitz alignments that the three safety system gives us. The safeties’leverage allows us to stunt or slant any way we need to control the line of scrimmage. The possibility must exist that we can bring five to eight defensive players on any given down. as a defense. because of the leverage positions of the safeties. we want to limit how much game plan they are putting in. athletic defensive unit. but there are always certain personnel groups that cause four man secondaries disguise problems. this gives us the possibility of nine players playing the run against a two-back set. . We feel as a staff that the threat of the blitz to an offense is oftentimes worse than the blitz itself. With the addition of the three safeties. With the five spoke secondary. we must be multiple enough to take advantage of an opponent’ weakness. Because of the fifth secondary player in our scheme. Many staffs do a great job with pressure within their schemes. the disguise factor is already built into the system. This is the only way. This allows our disguise movement to be totally independent from four man coverage alignments. This principle alone sets up the disguise movement thought process that we need for multiplicity. which gives us a chance to pinpoint speed as a priority. This allows our linebackers to show in their gaps without worrying about being an overlap player. Below are a few of the major reasons: 1. Coverage simplicity Mirror Alignment: Simple count system for the free safety versus the variety of formations we play against. year in and year out. s There are many reasons that we like using the 4-2-5 scheme to blitz. we can actually show blitz to one side and zone to the other side without losing continuity. As we have continually discussed throughout this article. 2. The easy alignment against two-back or no-back sets (seven off-the-line coverage players).The philosophy behind being able to play the run with only six in the box is that we want the ball to get pushed to the outside safeties. we recruit is the first big reason we have changed to the five defensive back system. This part of our package is designed to frustrate offenses and make them use their audible game plan. the better the athlete. Again.

then we go to half zone and follow this up with full pass skeleton. just like we do in practice. corners and David Bailiff.The fourth and final reason for using the five defensive back system is the mirrored teaching in practice. success would be impossible. Again. We believe this gives our coverage players a higher confidence level because they are only in charge of their half of the field! On behalf of Head Coach Dennis Franchione and the rest of the University of New Mexico football program. but must be a group effort. through the years. the reason this is able to happen is the fifth safety. we would like to thank the AFCA for inviting us to contribute to this year’ Summer Manual. have helped us grow in this profession. . defensive line. The reason there is better overlap teaching is the mirrored look of the safeties and linebackers. We start out with individual. We break down teaching pass coverage like we have always taught run progression. Being good teachers and believing in each other as a staff helps in achieving this goal. The free safety allows us to be able to teach half the field coverage in a ball game. Success can not be accomplished alone. We would also like to thank all those coaches s who. linebackers. Without the wisdom of Coach Franchione and the abilities of our defensive staff: Mark Parks. Kasey Dunn.