KISS Defense with the Power of Positive Thinking

Shap Boyd Defensive Coordinator Jacksonville University Jacksonville, Fla.

t is a tremendous honor to represent Jacksonville University in the AFCA Summer Manual. On behalf of our head coach Steve Gilbert and our defensive staff — Rick Humphreys (linebackers), Shawn Trent (defensive line), and David Martin (defensive backs) — I appreciate the opportunity to share our ideas with you and hope that you may gain some useful information. I wish I could tell you that we’ve reinvented the wheel and are running some new-fangled defense, but that wouldn’t be the truth. As a defensive staff, we took over about a month before the 2000 season started and barely had time to learn each other’s names. Without the benefit of spring football to install our package, we needed to develop a comprehensive package that would handle the many different offensive systems that we face. We also needed to keep it simple (KISS), so that the players and coaches were on the same page. As coaches, we believe that the better our players understand our schemes, the more successful we will be. After all, it is not what we know as coaches, it’s our ability to convey that knowledge to our players. Having said this, let me clarify one thing: I am not hung up on any particular defensive scheme. The scheme must suit your personnel and defensive philosophy. If you don’t have the knowledge to make the necessary adjustments in your package, you’re probably in the wrong defense. Run what you know and what you believe in. Don’t try to copy a scheme with which you are not familiar. At JU, we base out of the 4-3 because of the various offenses that we see. We run quarters coverage with all of its checks along with man coverage. We believe the versatility of our package gives us the ability to handle all of the different offensive systems we face without deviating from our base. Our three base fronts consist of stack (Diagram 1), G (Diagram 2), and opposite (Diagram 3). Stack: Stack is our base package, playing cover 4 behind it. We want the ability to get into a 9-man front if people are going to get into a 2-back set and try to run the ball (Diagrams 4 and 5). G: Is a front that we used more frequently as the season progressed. In this front we bump our nose guard over to the weak guard and walk our linebackers up in their respective gaps. What we gain is the ability to give the offense a new front with-


Diagram 1: Stack

Diagram 2: G

Diagram 3: Opposite

Diagram 4: Stack Cover 4

Diagram 5: Stack Cover 4

out changing our gap responsibilities. With our linebackers up in the gaps, the offensive line is forced to respect their presence. This allows our defensive line to get more one-on-one situations. We force the offense to anticipate pressure, which again forces more one-on-one blocks up front. Any time we limit the potential for a double team, we gain an advantage.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

Coaching Point: When our linebackers walk up, they stay on the heels of the defensive linemen so that they have the ability to scrape. We don’t want to get caught up in the legs of our defensive linemen. Opposite: Is a front that we use as a change-up so that the offense cannot settle in and get comfortable knowing where our three technique and nose guard are going to be positioned. The offense can show you a formation to get certain defensive techniques in certain positions and we do not want to let the offense dictate where we position our players. We want to have the ability to position our players, as we deem necessary. In opposite, we align our nose guard and defensive end to the tight end side, which would normally be our tackle and stud side. Our defensive calls are opposite from what they would normally be, thus the name opposite.

each of these respective fronts, we install our line movements. In teaching this to our players we refer to our movements as gap exchanges. We have single-man line movements as well as tandem movements. We also have whole line movements. The first thing that our linebackers must know is when a movement affects their gap or when they have a gap exchange.

Nail: Is a tandem movement for our nose guard and our defensive end. We have a gap exchange for both our nose guard and Mike as well as our end and Will. We would run this stunt to fortify our strongside and help control the cutback lanes.

Diagram 11: Hammer (Strong)

Diagram 8: Echo

Diagram 6: Stack Opposite

Echo: Is a gap exchange for our defensive end and our Will linebacker. We like to run this line movement to help with strongside runs. We feel that we have a chance to get an extra player to the strong side of the ball. We will also run this to help on any strong side isolation that might cut back to the weak side. It can also be effective against the weak isolation play by forcing it to bounce outside.

Hammer: Is a tandem movement for our tackle and our stud. We run this stunt to help with the weakside run game and to disrupt offensive blocking schemes. These are our main defensive line movements. We have two additional line movements that we like to employ. These become whole line movements:

Diagram 12: Over

Diagram 9: FB Diagram 7: Stack Opposite
Over: Is whole line movement that is a gap exchange for all of our linebackers. This gives us the ability to slant into an eagle front on the snap of the ball as opposed to lining up in an eagle front. We can also bring our Will linebacker off the edge with this movement. This movement has been effective against both run and pass.

The advantage we gain by using these fronts is the ability to show multiple looks without changing players’ responsibilities. This method is absolutely consistent with our KISS philosophy. Our linebackers’ gap responsibilities remain the same in “flow to” and “flow away”, for all of these defensive fronts. We have a limited amount of time in a practice to work on our linebacker fits, so we keep as much continuity from one front to the next to allow for carryover with increased repetitions. Our linebackers are coached to understand who their first threat is based on flow. Pre-snap the linebackers must know how they are going to attack their respective blocker based on their fill responsibility. Once our players understand their fits in

FB: Is a gap exchange between our Stud and our Sam linebacker. We like to run this to help defend against the strong off-tackle run game whether it is an isolation or power game. We also feel this helps against the weak side run. We now have a chance to get an extra player to the point of attack. In particular this helps with the weak isolation play that wants to cut back to the strong “A” gap.

Diagram 13: Under

Diagram 10: Nail (Weak)

Under: Is a whole line movement that is a gap exchange for all of our linebackers. This is another way to slant our line to the weak side while also giving us the ability to bring our Sam linebacker off the edge. Again this has been effective against both the run game and pass.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

Coaching Point: On all of these line movements it is important that our linemen take a flat step and get a hard rip up field so that they do not get washed down. This is crucial if you are going to utilize movement in your defensive front. One constant concern for 4-3 teams is how to handle the two tight end formation. We have three ways that we handle the two tight end formation. The first is to check to a “Loose” call. This is one of our base adjustments and has been a good adjustment for us. We prefer this adjustment to walking our Will linebacker up on the line of scrimmage. Two additional checks that we employ are our buster check, and our buster double “I” check. These last two checks help us remove one or more of the bubbles that offenses try to create. All three checks have been valuable and have served their intended purposes. The most important component to our defense is the power of positive thinking. There is absolutely nothing more important to success than believing in what you are doing. If you demonstrate that belief daily,

Diagram 14: Loose

Diagram 16: Buster

Diagram 15: Buster

your players will believe in what you are doing. It all starts with YOU, and how you present your package to your players. Be passionate and clear about the system that you are teaching and your players will also become passionate and confident. If you are “wishy-washy” your players will be

“wishy-washy.” It all begins with a belief, if you believe they will believe. Players will give you exactly what you expect, nothing more, nothing less. Make sure you expect enough!! Again, on behalf of our head coach Steve Gilbert and the rest of the Jacksonville University football staff, we would like to thank the AFCAfor the opportunity to contribute to this year’s Summer Manual. On a personal note, I would like to thank all of the coaches I have worked with in the past. If not for their expertise and years of tutelage, I might not have had this opportunity. We hope this article will be of some benefit to you and your program, and good luck in the 2001 season.

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• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •