The GRIDIRON Coach Defensive Package © 2003 Gridiron Publications Company

The GRIDIRON Coach Defensive Package

“It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up.” -Vince Lombardi

HE FOLLOWING IS A COLLECTION containing twenty one of our readers’ all-time favorite defensive articles reprinted from various archived issues of GRIDIRON Coach Magazine. The articles and the accompanying diagrams have been recreated from the original publishing format for easier reading and referencing. Whether you are a longtime reader of GRIDIRON Coach or new to the magazine, we hope that you will find the assembled information in this collection helpful. As always, thanks for your continued support of GRIDIRON Coach.

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Contents

Clipping The Wings Of The Wing-T (1.1.3) ........................................... 2 Putting Pressure On The QB (1.2.1) ..................................................... 6 Honing Your Players Tackling Fundamentals (1.3.2) ............................ 9 Stance And Movement Drills For The LB (1.3.3) ..................................11 El Camino’s Wildcat Defensive Package (1.4.1) .................................14 In Pursuit Of Excellence (2.4.1) ........................................................19 Maximum Pursuit - Bulldog Style (4.1.4) ...........................................22 Defending The Wing-T (4.1.5) ..........................................................24 Secondary Adjustments In The Eight Man Front Scheme (7.2.2) .......................................................................27 “My Grandmother Tackles Better Than Us!” (8.5.5) ............................29 Don’t Get Beat By One Receiver! (8.6.1) ............................................34 Building A Great Defense (6.3.2) ......................................................36 An Attacking Cover 2 (8.5.3) ............................................................40 Defensive Game Preparation At Canisius College (8.7.5) ....................41 Defending The Two Tight End Set (6.3.5) ...........................................43 The Wide Tackle Six: The No-Nonsense Defense (7.5.3) ....................45 Limit Florida State’s Offense (4.3.4) ..................................................47 From Reading To Attacking: Merging The 4-4 And The Bear 4-6 (7.1.2) ........................................52 Adapting The Master Defense To An Even Alignment (9.2.1) ...............54 A Secondary Blueprint For Success: How We Adapted Three Coaching Philosophies Into A Successful Defensive Scheme (8.7.3) ................................................................57 The String Drill (9.4) ........................................................................60

All rights reserved. No part of this package may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording without the written permission of Gridiron Publications Company (the copyright holder). Gridiron Publications Company assumes no responsibility for unsolicited editorial or graphic materials. All information herein is believed to be accurate however, we cannot assume responsibility. Contributed articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily those of the Publisher. GRIDIRON Coach Magazine is published six times a year by Gridiron Publications Company, 7 Hansbrinker Court, Liberty Township, OH 45044; telephone (866) 326-2327, www.gridironpublications.com Email: Editor@Gridironpublications.com. ISSN 1071-1902. GRIDIRON Coach © 2003 Gridiron Publications Company.

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Clipping The Wings Of The Wing-T
“...The most effective component of the wing-t is its built in play-action passing threat sometimes referred to as the wings of the wing-t..”

By Stephen Spagnuolo
Defensive Coordinator The University of Connecticut

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the wing-t can be one of most difficult offenses to defend against because it poses multiple threats. It’s misdirection backfield actions, down-down-kickout blocking schemes, and its deceptive quarterback ball handling are all of immediate concern to a coach preparing his defense to take on the wing-t.

HEN EXECUTED PROPERLY,

ment of the QB. All waggle boot pass patterns generally attack the following five coverage areas: • Front side flat • Deep outside flat • Deep middle or middle hook (depending on coverage) • Deep throwback • Backside flat (throwback) Stress to your coverage personnel that some receiver will attack each of these five areas on the waggle boot, regardless of the offensive formation. Examples of typical patterns are illustrated in diagram one.

But while its ground game may provide the foundation, the most effective component of the wing-t is its built in play-action passing threat sometimes referred to as the wings of the wing-t. To clip those wings and slow down this high powered pass offense, four areas are critical: • Making good reads • Recognizing keys • Maintaining good defensive technique • Development of appropriate coverage schemes

Counter Boot Pass
The counter boot pass is run off of the counter trap action. The QB again attacks the flank with a run/pass option. However, he loses one of his pass receivers who becomes part of the pass protection (diagram two).

Pass Coverage vs. Wing-T
Because of the complexities in educating your defense on the wing-t, it’s important to stay basic in your game plan and coverages. At UCONN, we stay with two basic coverages a basic cover three scheme (three-deep) and a two-deep look that we call cover five inside (diagram three). A very important concept that we stress to all pass defenders is that versus any boot pass both of these coverages become “match up zone” coverages (very similar to basketball match-up zones). In other words, we instruct our coverage personnel to play man-to-man versus the receiver threat in each area. We instruct our players to ‘hug up” the receiver in each area and deny the ball. This is a very aggressive style of man within a zone principle.

Educating Your Players on the Wing-T
When preparing to face wing-t offenses, the initial step is to familiarize your players with what is coming. The wing-t passing attack can be broken down into four categories: boot passes, option passes, sprintout passes and drop back passes. In this article, we will concentrate specifically on defending the traditional wing-t boot passes (play action pass where the QB brings the ball opposite the backfield flow and attacks the flank). The two types of boot passes employed by the wing-t are the waggle (boot) pass and the counter (boot) pass.

Cover Three Reads The Waggle Boot Pass
The waggle pass comes off the buck sweep action. As with all of the wing-t play action passes, the QB is told to attack the flank and look to run first and pass second. Therefore, the first priority of the upfront defensive people is containKeys by position vs. Boot Inside linebackers (H and B) versus the wing-t, your inside linebackers should read the offensive guards for direction. Instruct your inside linebackers that if they see the QB and guard pulling in the same direction to think boot and drive for depth.

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Diagram One - A

Diagram Three - A
Contain Contain

Throwback (Flat)

D S/S E B F/S C H T Flat C

Flat

Flat

Deep Flat Read Route

Deep Throwback

1/3

1/3

COVER 3

1/3

Diagram One - B

Diagram Three - B
Contain Contain

Throwback (Flat)

D S/S
Flat

E B H

T

C

Flat

F/S
Deep Flat Read Route Deep Throwback

C 1/2 Cover 5 Inside 1/2

Diagram Two

Diagram Four - A

Throwback (Flat) Flat

B

H

Deep Flat

Read Route

The playside linebacker should drive for the frontside curl area positioning himself over the top of the flat threat (fullback). The backside linebacker must read boot direction and drive for a position directly over the ball. He must wheel back and find his pass threat (the read route) coming from the backside. He should position himself at a depth dependent upon the depth of the read route and “hug up” to that receiver (match up). Versus a three-deep coverage, with a free saftey in the deep middle, the read route will convert to a hook. We do not give the linebackers a designated depth in terms of yards. Their depth is determined by the receivers route (diagram four).

Frontside flat defender (S/S or D) have varying basic responsibilities depending on the offensive formation.
Against the TE/Wing Formation The flat defender reads through the TE/wing for his run/ pass read. If wing pick-up motion occurs, then read TE to FB. If FB at you, assume waggle boot and drive for depth, eyeing the TE for deep outside route. Work to a point under the route and over the top of the FB flat route. We incorporate a “push” call between the deep outside 1/3 defender and the flat defender. When the third defender has the deep route covered he gives a “push” call to the flat defender releasing him up to the FB route (diagram five). Communication is very important in defending any pass scheme.
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Against the Slot formation The S/S must read through the slot and see the offensive tackle for run/pass read. If slot pick-up motion occurs, he must focus on the offensive tackle for pass set and locate the FB coming at him. Shuffle for depth. Width is important versus a split reciever to get underneath the deep outside route. Drive for depth and width. Get under deep outcut and stay over the top of the FB flat route. Listen for “push” call. Drive to FB on “push” call (diagram six).

Diagram Four - B

B

H

Middle 1/3 Defender (free safety) versus all traditional wing-t formations: instruct your free safety to read the FB first and pick up the guard to the FB direction (i.e. If FB goes right, then read right guard). If the guard is pulling with the FB, the free Saftey should think waggle boot pass. If the guard pulls opposite the FB direction, then the free saftey thinks buck sweep. Versus a waggle boot read, the free safety is coached to mirror shuffle with the guard and then drive for depth, looking backside for the middle 1/3 pass threat. The read route will generally hook up if he sees a middle defender. The free saftey should continue for depth adjusting with QB action and always staying deeper than the deepest receiver. The only threat possible is a backside post-seam route by the deep throwback threat (see diagram seven). Playside Deep 1/3 Defender (corner): Both corners in cover 3 must be disciplined and always play pass first and run second. Like the strong saftey position, the corner’s basic responsibilities vary depending on the offensive formation.
Against the TE/Wing Formation The corner must read through the TE/Wing for his run/ pass read. When wing pick-up motion occurs, his focus should turn to the tight end and fullback. Versus boot read, the TE will Inside release and run a flag route. Instruct your corner to “marry the tight end” meaning that he should play behind the TE in a very aggressive way. When the TE is covered, the corner must give a “push” call to the flat defender (diagram five).

Diagram Five

D C "Push"

Diagram Six
C

S/S

"Push"

C

The corner must think depth only versus the TE flag route. He must let the TE drift to him. Working for immediate width will create a pass lane for QB to the TE.
Against the Slot Formation The corner reads through the slot and offensive tackle. When pick-up motion occurs the focus should go to offensive tackle for pass set. Corner see FB at him. With this

read, the corner should immediately focus on split receiver, expecting the out-cut. He plays the wide receiver through the outside shoulder to protect against the out and up pattern. The corner should “hug up” to the out-cut, be aggressive and communicate the push call (diagram six). Backside Flat Defender (strong saftey or drop end): Anytime the waggle boot pass goes away from a flat defender he is instructed to first wall off a possible throwback lane and

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once this is eliminated he should settle up and look to shallow throwback threat to the backside halfback in the flat area (see diagram eight). Backside Deep 1/3 Defender (Corner): Anytime waggle goes away from the corner, he focuses on the backside #1 receiver only. Match-up zone principle is employed. The corner is instructed not to overplay the post throwback due to the threat of post flag cut but he must be aggressive (diagram eight).

Diagram Seven

F/S

Conclusion
The most important ingredient needed in defending the wing-t pass is educating your players as to what they will see. Breaking the scheme down into its basic parts and presenting it to the coverage personnel will help you tremendously. In addition, selling the match-up zone concept is vital. Completely clipping the wings of the versatile wing-t is difficult but by employing some of the techniques mentioned in this article you can ruffle its feathers some. n
Diagram Eight

S/S

C

Throwback

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Putting Pressure On The Quarterback
“Encourage your players to find tip-offs. They like looking for the “edge” and can sometimes see or hear things from close range

By George O’Leary
Defensive Coordinator Georgia Tech University

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UCCESSFUL PASS DEFENSE STARTS

with an aggressive and persistent pass rush. At Georgia Tech, we achieve quarterback pressure by varying our fronts and by using linebacker and secondary pressure.

These tactics require opposing linemen to make quick changes in blockthat the coach can’t.” ing responsibilities and helps to keep them off-balance. But even after a sound defensive strategy has been devised, it won’t mean much if the individual rusher doesn’t have the ability and knowledge to defeat his blocker. The one-on-one or individual pass rush can be broken down into five fundamental areas of concentration: 1. Pre-read 2. Acceleration 3. Block Control 4. Quarterback Control 5. Pursuit Each of these areas can be emphasized and evaluated separately during practice using drills that focus on each aspect. The overall rush, combining all five aspects, can then be developed through one-on-one rush drills and scrimmages.

courage your players to find tip-offs. They like looking for the “edge” and can sometimes see or hear things from close range that the coach can’t. When keys indicate a pass play is likely, let the rusher narrow his stance and increase his stagger. The player must have a technique in mind before the snap on passing downs to allow a quicker transition into his rush technique. In passing situations, he should try to see the ball rather than just the hand or head of the offensive lineman for his movement key. If the blocker is a little slow setting up and your rusher can surge more quickly by seeing ball movement—he can make the offense pay with a sack. Film analysis allows you to know how they will block on their favorite pass plays. The rusher will react with more confidence (and therefore be quicker) if he sees a familiar blocking scheme that tips off a draw or bootleg play. Finally, make sure the rusher is absolutely sure of his proper pass rush lane versus each type of blocking scheme.

Acceleration
The biggest advantage the rusher has over the blocker in a passing situation is that the rusher is surging forward while the blocker is moving backwards. There is not a big difference in speed at these close quarters, but the rusher can maximize this difference by getting great explosion at the first movement of the ball. “The first step should be longer (12" - 16" rather than the 3" step you encourage in normal reading of defenses). Instruct your pass rusher to get into the blocker before he is ready to block. Tell him to look through the blocker and focus on the quarterback. Remind him that he is rushing the passer and not the blocker. Repetitions in practice will allow the rusher to feel the blocker while watching the quarterback for roll outs, draws and scrambles.

The Pre-Read
Before the ball is ever snapped, there are a number of things a pass rusher can exploit that will greatly enhance his chances of pursuing the quarterback. The first is to be aware of the down and distance—an obvious point but one that is sometimes overlooked by players even at the college level. Players need to “practice” checking the down and distance during practice. Utilize the chains and down marker in practice whenever possible. By film analysis, try to identify tip-offs in your opponent’s stance and alignments of blockers (including backs) that alert you to the likelihood of a pass play. EnGRIDIRON 6
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Block Control
Successful rushing techniques are performed “on the move” with the rusher constantly pushing up field into the blocker. The blocker regains any advantage lost to the quick start and surge of the pass rusher if he stops moving up field to look for the quarterback or to put on a move.

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Once he has exploded off the ball, the pass rusher needs to use a rushing technique to defeat the blocker. There are a number of good techniques. So many in fact, that I recommend having each individual rusher perfect only the two or three moves which they perform most effectively. To simplify teaching, group your techniques into two systems— the drive system and the grab-and-jerk system. The drive system is two types of rushes: The power rush and the race. All rushers learn the power rush first as it is the foundation for all other rushes. Emphasize leading with the shoulder pads and not the hands into the chest of the blocker. The rusher should strike the blocker with an upward blow (“hit on the rise”) and then drive his hands upward into his chest. He should then grab the blocker’s chest plate on his shoulder pads with his thumbs up; fingers out. The second biggest advantage your pass rushers have over the blocker is that they can legally hold him. They must exploit this advantage. The blocker will try to hold the rusher as well, but risks a penalty if his hands are outside of the rusher’s. Instruct the rusher to roll his hips under him and press the blocker up and out while driving hard with his legs. He should drive the blocker straight back to the quarterback, and remember to be inside his hands. To those rushers involved in cage responsibility, teach the race technique. Unlike the power rush, where the rusher tries to get inside the blocker before he sets, the race technique emphasizes getting the rusher’s hips past the blocker before he sets. To employ this technique, the rusher starts with a three-point stance and aligns himself slightly wider from the blocker than normal. He should aim for a spot seven yards up field straight in front of him. The rusher must explode off the ball, lower his inside shoulder and rip the inside arm under and through the blocker as he surges upfield. By the third step, the rusher will know whether or not he has beaten the blocker. If his hips get past the blocker, the rusher should then push inside to squeeze the cage on the quarterback. If the blocker sets up quickly and gets his outside shoulder and leg back to defeat the race, teach your rushers to redirect into him—work their hands inside his—and change to a power rush. Remember, the more an offensive lineman overplays the power rush, the more susceptible he is to inside moves. The grab-and-jerk system is also two moves: the graband-swim and the grab-and-rip. Both moves work best

when the blocker braces to defeat the power rush, so use the power rush to set these moves up. In the grab-andswim, the rusher again leads with his shoulder into the blocker’s chest. As the offensive lineman braces, the rusher pulls his near shoulder down and across his body as far as possible. He then quickly swims over the blocker’s shoulder with a high, swimming motion, stepping through deeply with the inside leg. Getting his hip past the blocker’s hip is the key, so emphasize it during drill work. The pull is easiest when the blocker is overextended so drill this move until the rusher can “feel” the blocker shift his weight forward. Blockers who carry their hands or elbows low when they block are susceptible to the swim technique so look for this characteristic during film analysis. Don’t restrict this move only to taller pass rushers. Height helps, but blocker overextension, timing, a strong pull and quick feet make the move work. The grab-and-rip is the move of choice against blockers who set deep and like to bring their hands high into the rusher’s upper chest or throat area to neutralize his charge. Again, the keys for the rusher are to lead with his shoulders, and get into the blocker’s chest before he is ready to strike and grab cloth. The rusher must twist the blocker, pushing and lifting his near shoulder while pulling the far one toward you. Then the rusher can rip his shoulder and arm under and across his body. If done correctly, the rusher’s near shoulder will be lifting high under the blocker’s armpit. Both moves in the grab-and-jerk system emphasize: • Grabbing cloth and pulling hard • Getting your hips past the blocker’s • Accelerating past the blocker as you perform the move.

Quarterback Control
The rusher can control the quarterback in three ways. First, he must maintain the correct rush lane. This prevents scrambling and draw lanes from opening up as well as obstructing the field of vision of the quarterback. Through repetition versus the various blocking schemes the rusher will learn to take the proper lane rather than the path of least resistance. Second, he should not raise his hands until he sees the ball go up and the face of the quarterback. He should keep his hands on the blocker or down as long as possible to allow better acceleration to the quarterback. The rusher shouldn’t bother to raise his arms at all if the quarterback is facing the other way—just accelerate through him until the ball is away. Finally, the rusher should tackle from the top down to pin the quarterback’s arms. The

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rusher should also work on a clubbing or downward rip to try and cause a fumble when the quarterback holds the ball in a vulnerable position.

Pursuit
The final aspect of successful pass rush is pursuit to the ball and if the quarterback manages to get rid of it before you get to him. This requires great second effort but is a common characteristic of a great pass rush. A pursuing defender can make four things happen on a down field pass. 1. He can possibly make the tackle, especially if the receiver dodges one or two defenders. 2. He can strip the ball from the receiver as he approaches a pile. 3. He can recover a loose ball if it is knocked loose by a great hit. 4. And he can be a blocker on an interception return. When the ball leaves the quarterback you don’t know what will happen so always instruct your rushers to turn and sprint to the ball. He should make sharp, quick turns (not wide “747” turns) and put his “head to the ground” as he accelerates down field. There are a number of ways to pursue the screen pass. Our base method is for the outside rushers to continue to the quarterback and force him to throw higher and quicker

than he wants to throw. Our inside rushers break off and sprint along the line of scrimmage to the screen. Help will be out there (hopefully) forcing the receiver back to the inside. The rusher will be in a good position to meet him when this happens. Alert your rushers to be wary of the draw. When the draw is being run, the blocker will usually exaggerate his blocking to give the defensive lineman a rush lane. The rusher should look for the offensive lineman to turn his tail and shoulder perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. Show your player the differences in technique and schemes between pass and draw on film. When the rusher reads draw, he should retrace his steps straight back to the line of scrimmage and look for the runner when he makes his cuts to elude tacklers. While there are a number of ways to scheme a pass rusher past a blocker, the player’s success generally depends on his ability to perform the five aspects of individual pass rush. By dividing the overall rush into the five components I have outlined: The Pre-read, Acceleration, Block Control, Quarterback Control, and Pursuit, and then drilling the player on each aspect while emphasizing the reasons why each aspect is important, the coach will find the complex art of rushing the passer can be made manageable and teachable at any level of football. n

Diagram One: The Power Rush
QB

Diagram One: The Power Rush

Using the power rush, the rusher takes a route straight towards the quarterback and drives the blocker straight back to the quarterback

To employ the race technique, the rusher lines up slightly wider from the blocker than normal. He then aims for a spot seven yards upfield and on the snap of the ball, attempts to explode by the blocker.

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Honing Your Players Tackling Fundamentals
I believe that tackling is more than just desire, but even if desire accounts for 99% of success in tackling, we as coaches must work the other one percent to the fullest.
HE GREAT VINCE LOMBARDI once said that football is simply blocking and tackling. Obviously he was making a general comment about the game. But there is much validity in his statement. With regard to defense, there is very little value in sophisticated defensive game plans and strategies if your players can’t tackle.

By Bobby April
Assistant Coach The Atlanta Falcons

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the most important thing you can ever tell a young man playing football. I use several drills that I have found to be effective in teaching tackling. Before getting into the specific drills, I’d like to make a point with regard to coaching philosophy. This is a technique I learned as a player at Nicholls State University under coach Bill Clements. Coach Clements would always without fail, tell us the importance and purpose of each drill. As a player, it allowed me to focus on improving that part of my game. I never felt that anything we did on the field was a void filler. This is due to the competence of Bill Clements as a coach. I suggest that you use this method. I know that it gets results.

It has been my experience that we, as coaches, spend very little time on tackling fundamentals. And yet I would be hard pressed to find any coaches who do not agree that it is vitally important. Tackling usually gets “lip service” from most of us. I have found myself in this category many times and have had to face this fact after watching a poor tackling performance. Houston Oiler coach Bum Phillips said “the reason for missed tackles is that players either try too hard or they are afraid, and the Oilers have no cowards.” Phillips sentiments had an effect on me and made me believe less in the old axiom that “tackling is all desire.” I believe that tackling is more than just desire, but even if desire accounts for 99% of success in tackling, we as coaches must work the other one percent to the fullest. In my first players’ meeting of the season, I start out talking about tackling. It is important that you impress upon your players that the number one objective for a defensive player is to become a great tackler. In the meeting I stress two things: 1. The importance of tackling 2. Proper technique of the hit Proper technique encompasses our most effective methods and more importantly demonstrates safety features that the players must constantly be made aware of. Coaching points on safety and proper placement of the head gear is

Elements of Tackling
There are four elements that are essential to all types of tackles. They re consistent in every situation. Mastering these elements will improve the tackling of your players immensely. 1. Eyes. A tackler’s eyes should concentrate on the number area of the ball carrier. A tackler’s body control is greatly affected by what the eyes see. Concentration on the belt buckle has tendency to cause overextension. 2. Contact surface. This is the part of the tackler’s body that makes initial contact with the ball carrier. The tackler’s shoulders should end up parallel with hips and perpendicular to his toes. All movement and punch is through the ball carrier’s center of gravity. The tackler should lead with is chest. 3. Standing broad jump. Attacker’s arms and his hips should be in the leverage and explosive mode of a standing broad jump. His chest should be extended with the head up. 4. Feet. A tackler’s feet are essential in driving the ball carrier backwards following initial contact. The ability to move his feet through the ball carrier is fundamental.

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Drills
With these four elements of tackling in mind, the following are some of the more effective drills that I have used throughout my coaching career.

Punch and Drive
Equipment required: Rogers sled Procedure: Player stands two yards from sled in a breakdown position. On “hit” commands, he attacks sled and executes a form tackle. He then will execute the elements previously described. The coach should insure that there is an acceleration of the feet before blowing the whistle to stop his effort. In the purpose section of the drill that follows, other coaching points will be mentioned. Purpose of Drill: • To make a face up tackle • To get as much body contact on runner as possible • Bend in the legs, not back • Balanced and controlled body position • Hip roll • Acceleration of feet on contact • Arm wrap

Purpose of Drill: • To execute an all out hit on a live ball carrier • To sprint and close as fast as possible on ball carrier • To run through the ball carrier on contact • To deny the ball carrier any upfield movement • Execute the ingredients previously mentioned that make up great tackling

Capers Drill (named for Saints DB coach)
Equipment Required: Five cones, three balls Procedure: Players are 20 yards apart, using a 20 yard square. On “hit” command the ball carrier will run at an 80% pace. The defensive back will sprint to close the separation (see diagram). He should sprint five to six yards before widening his feet and coming under control. At this point, the ball carrier is one yard from cone E and should burst to cone C or D. The defensive back will then close at proper angle to make an open field angle tackle. He will execute all fundamentals essential to good tackling without full aggression. This contact is of the Form-Up nature. Purpose of Drill: • Teaching defensive back to accelerate and close a large area between himself and the ball carrier. • To position body for a sure open field tackle • To have control of body to make a sure open field tackle • To close at proper angle in the open field • To get proper contact with chest on ball carrier’s center of gravity

Diamond Tackling
Equipment Required: Four cones and three balls Procedure: Using a five yard by four yard diamond shaped area (see diagram) a ball carrier will line up on point A with a defensive back on point B. On “hit” command, the ball carrier will sprint to a point one yard outside of cone C or D. He will try to stay on that angle through out contact from defensive back. The defensive back will sprint and close on ball carrier. He will execute a full speed tackle with the exception of taking the ball carrier to the ground. Contact must be in the number area of the jersey.
Diagram One
Ball carrier

I hope in some way this article can help you as coaches to maximize your players’ performance and help them to be successful. n

Diagram Two
Ball carrier

A A E B
20 yards

C

D C D
Defensive back

Defensive back

B

Distance between A and B is 5 yards Distance between C and D is 4 yards

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Stance and Movement Drills for the Linebacker
“All linebackers must be agile as well as physical. I make it a point to spend time every day on some type of agility drill with our

By Mark Harriman
Defensive Coordinator Princeton University

heel for football coaches, it is that we can become overly concerned with developing the perfect offensive or defensive scheme at the expense of perfecting our players’ fundamental skills. The very skills that ultimately win football games.
F THERE IS ONE GREAT ACHILLES

I

with you some of the drills that I utilize to sharpen these skills.

Linebacker Stance
Like all football positions, the linebacker must start with a functional stance. A linebacker’s stance must allow him to move in every direction as quickly as possible. Give your linebackers certain checkpoints to follow so that they can develop a good functional stance. The width of the feet is the starting point. The feet should be shoulder width apart and parallel. This enables the linebacker to move with quickness and explosiveness. Next, instruct your linebackers to roll up on the balls of their feet. Being up on the balls of their feet will allow your linebackers, who are run defenders first, to have body-lean toward the ball carrier. Have your linebackers bend their

An example of this at the linebacker position is key reaction. You can give your linebackers several excellent keys to react to. But that knowledge will help them very little if they cannot move in a position that allows them to take on blocks and make tackles. In my opinion, correct stance and movement are the foundations for sound linebacker play. With that in mind, I will share
linebackers.”

Diagram One

Diagram Two
X X X X

25

X

X

X

X
X X X X X

30

X

X Coach

X

X

X

Coach

Diagram Three
20 X

Diagram Four
20 X

25

25

30

X Coach

30

X Coach

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knees and touch the outside of their knees with their hands. This serves two purposes. First, it lowers their shoulders to a good hitting position. We refer to this as “pad level.” Secondly, it places the hands in position to fend off low blocks. To set up this stance progression, position your linebackers on two yard lines across the field, as shown (see diagram one). The yard line serves a dual purpose. By placing toes on the line, it assures a parallel stance. The lines also serve as a starting point to return to as you begin the movement drill. After aligning on the yard line, instruct your players to assume a stance and maintain it. You now have an opportunity to adjust an individual player’s stance if need be. Once all corrections have been made, you can perform a two step drill. On your command, instruct your players to step forward with their foot, followed by a recovery step (two steps). This drill ensures that an individual’s stance is functional and allows you to make immediate corrections if necessary. The linebackers will always return to their starting point and stance before the next step. Each step, listed below, is performed twice: 1. right foot forward 2. left foot forward 3. right foot to right side 4. left to left side 5. right foot back 6. left foot back

Diagram Five
20 X

25

30

X

Diagram Six
Shuffle
Back Pedal

Carioca

X X X X X X

Diagram Seven
Shuffle Pivot

Movement From Stance
Once a functional stance is developed you can progress to movement out of the stance. A common error of linebackers is to raise up out of their stance (raise pad level) as they move. Raising the pad level takes the linebacker out of a good hitting position causing change of direction difficulties as well as being susceptible to various blocks. In all these movement drills, emphasize movement with consistent pad level. There are two types of movement for a linebacker: the shuffle technique and the lateral run. The shuffle consists of keeping the shoulders square, not crossing the feet and moving forward at a 45 degree angle. I do not advise teaching a flat shuffle, because I want my linebackers to always be pressing the line of scrimmage and attacking the football! The shuffle is used whenever the ball is from tackle to tackle, i.e. there is a chance of cutback. Any time the ball goes outside the tackle, instruct your backers to lateral run. This technique is similar to the shuffle, except that the player now may cross over with his
GRIDIRON 12
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Sprint

Pivot

X X X X X X Shuffle

Diagram Eight
#2 #1

X X X X X X #3 #4

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feet for additional speed to the ball. In order to drill these techniques, use the yardlines as was explained for the stance drills. On your command, the linebackers shuffle to their right for five yards (see diagram two). Special attention should be given to knee bend and constant pad level. Have your players return to their starting point and repeat the shuffle. Then shuffle twice to the left. Next, incorporate change of direction. Instruct your linebackers to begin the drill by shuffling forward. Then change their direction with a hand signal. The repetitions are the same as we discussed in the first drill. This series of drills is repeated utilizing the lateral run. After these drills are initially introduced, they can be completed in about five minutes. I believe the time is well spent.

The final drill in this set has the linebackers shuffling to the cone and then mirroring the left man’s movement back to the sideline. Everyone switches lines after their turn (see diagram five). The next set of drills is an adaptation of the square drill. Four cones are placed in a square ten yards apart. In these drills we emphasize full speed bursts to the cones and gathering themselves at the cones as they change direction. This simulates full speed movement and proper body position in order to change directions. We instruct the linebackers to “breakdown” at each cone to emphasize sharp changes of direction. 1. Sprint to the first cone. Shuffle to the next cone. Back-pedal to the third cone and carioca (crossover) through the final cone. The next man goes as the man in front reaches the first cone (see diagram six). 2. Sprint to the first cone. Pivot inside and shuffle to the next cone. Sprint to the third cone, pivot inside and shuffle through the final cone (see diagram seven). 3. Sprint to first cone. Turn at a 45 degree angle and sprint to the third cone. Sprint to the second cone. Turn at a 45 degree angle and sprint through the fourth cone. The next man in line goes as the man in front reaches cone number two (see diagram eight). The final set of drills are bag drills utilizing six bags (see diagram nine).

Developing Agility
All linebackers must be agile as well as physical. I make it a point to spend time every day on some type of agility drill with our linebackers. Following are a few specific drills which I have found to be especially effective. The first is an extension of our movement drills. We begin with the linebackers on the sideline in two groups ten yards apart. On command, the linebackers shuffle forward to a cone placed on the numbers. Upon reaching the cone, they lateral run to the hash. This is repeated, working back to the sideline (see diagram three). A variation of this drill involves having your linebackers hit the ground when they reach the cone and then sprinting through the hash. The next drill involves two bags placed in each linebacker’s path. The drill is similar to the first, except the linebackers shuffle over the bags (see diagram four).

Summary
In closing, I would like to emphasize that linebackers must spend a great deal of time on block protection, tackling and key reaction. However, in order to be truly successful, a linebacker must be able to perform all of these tasks in a good hitting position. The drills which I have outlined have proven to be valuable in helping our linebackers to maintain good position and to perform up to their potential. I hope they prove to be helpful to you. n

Diagram Nine
1. Stride Through (one foot each hole) x x x

Directions Players Face

2. High Step (two feet each hole)

x x x

3. Shuffle (over bags)

x x x

4. Lateral Run (shoulders square)

x x x

5. Weave (45º cuts)

x x x

Shuffle

Backpedal

x x x

Sprint

6. In and Out (up and back)

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El Camino’s Wildcat Defensive Package
“...To be a consistent winner, and win championships, you must be strong on defense.”

By Herb Meyer
Head Football Coach El Camino High School Oceanside, California

WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. We believe that every coach, or coaching staff, must have a fundamental philosophy about how they are going to approach the game. Basically, it boils down to those who are offensively oriented, believing that they will win every game by “out scoring their opponent”; or those that employ a defensive philosophy believing that “if they can’t score they can’t beat you.”
EFENSE

D

We believe in a four-deep secondary • want to be in man coverage, but with a free safety • able to use zone coverage; zone field, not formation • must be able to vary alignments • must be easily adjustable to meet close formation or deployment • permit heavy rush or flood coverage for pass defense. In the fifteen years that El Camino High School has been in existence, we have usually had a lot of quickness and not a great deal of size. As a result, quickness along with toughness have become the keys to our “Winning Edge.” In order to take advantage of our perceived edge, we have evolved into the type of defensive strategy that we believe gives us the best chance to be successful.

Here at El Camino, we have always felt very strongly that to be a consistent winner, and win championships, you must be strong on defense. Thus, over the years the trademark of our football teams has always been one of an aggressive, hard hitting defensive team; characterized by quick defenders with great pursuit and excellent tackling ability. Our staff philosophy on defense includes the following. • We believe that defense is the most important phase of the game • We believe in position, not possession • We believe strongly in the importance of the kicking game This philosophy dictates that our basic offense must be ball control, in which we stress the running game. It also dictates that we put our best players on defense. Our defense stresses the following: • a seven-man front, • assigned areas of responsibility, • controlling the LOS, and maintaining maximum pursuit, • must be able to vary alignments; • easily convert to odd or even, • easily adjust to eight-man front • ability to vary charges • allow for maximum use of individual, group or team stunts.

A Timeline of Change
When we first opened in 1976, our defensive coordinator, Ed Downey, implemented a 5 - 2, three-deep monster plan, which was primarily a zone concept. However, he began to utilize more stunting because or our lack of size up front. In 1980, our defensive back coach, Tom Haman, took over the coordinator’s job and began to implement more man coverage and, by 1982 we had evolved into a bump and run secondary. Then our current coordinator, Bill Kovacevich, who took over in 1987 changed some of our front alignments and developed a more coordinated stunting package between all the fronts. Today we are a full fledged pressure defense, and we plan to attack the offense on virtually every down. It is our intention to “make something happen” and force the offense to react to us on every snap. We are in some type of stunt about 90% of the time, and as a result we obviously play man pass coverage about 85% of the time. About 75% of our man cover is Bump and Run Man. We stunt, not only to pressure the quarterback on the pass, but also to stop the run. Like most modern defenses, our front is a gap control front, the difference being that we hit the gaps on the move.

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Diagram One: Basic 5-2

Diagram Two: Split 5

C

B M

T B

N B R

T

B

C

C

B M

T

N B B

T

B R

C

This is our basic alignment; 5-2, man free

This is our gap alignment; Split 5, 2-deep zone or man

Diagram One-A: 5-2, 1 Stunt

Diagram Two-A: Split 5, 1 Stunt

Diagram One-B: 5-2, Tackle Weak

Diagram Two-B: Split 5, Tackle Weak

B

T B

N B

T

B

B

T

N B B

T

B

B

T B

N B

T

B

B

T

N B B

T

B

Diag. 1A and 2A show 1 stunt which is nose guard right with ILB cross

Above: A tackle pinch with ILB cross – can be called weak or strong

Diagram One-C: 5-2, Double Thunder

Diagram Two-C: Split 5, Banjo

Diagram One-D: 5-2, Tiger Strong

Diagram Two-D: Split 5, Tiger Weak

B

T B

N B

T

B

B

T

N B B

T

B

B

T B

N B

T

B

B

T

N B B

T

B

Double thunder, a hard pinch charge by both outside linebackers, which automatically puts the two ILB men on the running backs

The banjo stunt sends both ILB and puts both OLB men on the running backs

Tiger Stunt: 1D is strong side and 2D is weak side. We use the tiger stunt to combat strong off-tackle running and/or sprint out passing.

Since we put a premium on good pursuit, it is important that our players are taught “how to play under control.” When stunting, we do not want our players to go charging off wildly into space and over- penetrate. They must attack their assigned gap, square up and break down so that they can “read on the run” analyzing the blocking patterns so that they DO NOT penetrate more than one yard beyond the LOS before flattening out and getting into pursuit. We feel that in order to have a “good team pattern” of defensive football at all times; we must teach a containing type of defense and then expand into a “go get ‘em” or

blitzing type of defense. This is necessary in order to insure that we properly teach the fundamental techniques at each position. Don't allow your players to think that stunts and blitzes will take the place of being fundamentally sound. Likewise, it is extremely important to spend a great deal of time working on recognition; and making adjustments on the move to offensive shifts and/or motion. There are situations which will force us into a 4-man with no free safety, but we will do everything we can to avoid this. This means that our outside linebackers must be able to cover inside

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Diagram Three: Strong Side

Diagram Four: Weak Side

B

T

N B

T B

B

B B

T B

N

T B

This is an even alignment; Strong side

Even; Weak side

Diagram Three-A: Strong Side, 1 Stunt

Diagram Four-A: Weak Side, 1 Stunt

B

T

N B

T B

B

B B

T B

N

T B

receivers man to man. For this reason, our outside backers must be excellent athletes — they must be able to execute the blitz and still be able to cover a man. In each of the last two years, one of our outside backers has been the defensive player of the year in our league and named to the all-state squad. Before going into some specifics about our defensive structure, lets try to establish a little credibility for what we are doing. In the fifteen year history of our school, we have been in the playoffs thirteen times - twice to the semifinals and six times to the championship finals, winning five California Interscholastic Federation Championships. During that fifteen year period we have played 178 games and allowed an average of 86.9 yards per game rushing. At the same time, we have allowed our opponents a pass completion percentage of just 34.5%. Given our situation, and the types of players that we have to work with we know that what we are doing works. It goes without saying that you must have good athletes, who can RUN at corners — for us, these are 4.7 types. We will sacrifice speed at the safety positions for hitting ability since these people are important to our run support. As I mentioned above, our linebackers must be able to run, and we will sacrifice size for quickness and speed at all four spots. They are either going to be stunting, or covering man to man 80 to 90% of the time; NOT just taking people on.

Diagram Three-B: Strong Side, Nose Out

Diagram Four-B: Weak Side, Nose Out

B

T

N B

T B

B

B B

T B

N

T B

Diagram Three-C: Strong Side, Tackle Cross

Diagram Four-C: Weak Side, Blow

B

T

N B

T B

B

B B

T B

N

T B

This is a line cross - tackle is called so that he will go first, and the NG crosses behind

The weak OLB is coming inside with the nose and tackle slanting out in a blow stunt

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we believe strongly in putting our best people of defense. At the end or our two-a-days, we rank all of our players by their athletic ability — as evaluated by all members of the coaching staff — and then hold a draft prior to our inter-school scrimmage. To this point, ALL of our players have been practicing at both an offensive and a defensive position.

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Diagram Five: Option Responsibilities

Diagram Six: Man Free

T C
pitch

B QB M

T

dive dive

B

N

dive dive

B

T R

B QB

T C
pitch

C
#1

B #3

T M
#2

B
#3

N

B
#2

T

B #2

C
#1

R
free

Basic option responsibilities from the 5-2 with a two-deep zone

Basic man free alignment with the coverage responsibilities: corners always have #1; monster (SS) has #2 to the two receiver side; OLB or ILB (depending on the stunt called) has #2 to the one receiver side; and OLB or ILB has #3 to the two receiver side.

Diagram Seven: Strong Zone

Diagram Eight: Man, Rover Fire

Flat

C
1/3

B M

B

B R
1/3

B
Flat
#1

C

#3

B

T M
#2

B

N

B R

T

#2

B

#1

C

C
1/3

This illustrates our three-deep strong zone coverage

A rover (FS) fire from our man free coverage; obviously, we have just given up our free safety

Diagram Nine: Five Under Zone

Diagram Ten: Five Under Man

C

B

B

B
1/2 R

B

C

C
#1

B #2 M
1/2

B
#3

B
#2

T

B C
#1

M 1/2

R
1/2

This illustrates our two-deep, five under zone

A two-deep, five under man

Diagram Eleven: Weak Corner Fire

Diagram Twelve: Monster Fire

C
#1

B #3 M
#2

T

B

N

B R
#1

T

B #2

C

C
#1

B #3 M

T

B

N

B R
#2

T

B
#2

C
#1

Two more secondary stunts are shown in diagrams 11 and 12 - weak corner fire and monster fire; again in both cases we lose our free safety since he must adjust to pick up the firing DBs man

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In the draft, the head coach selects a Center, Quarterback, Tailback and Wide Receiver; Then the defensive staff takes whoever they want to man the defensive platoon. After the defense is finished, the offensive coaches then complete the offensive platoon from the players who are not on defense. During our three pre-season games, we then play two platoon as we continually evaluate personnel. When our league play begins, if we feel that some players

must go both ways in order for us to be successful, then they will - but by now we have established some depth for substitutions. The accompanying diagrams illustrate our four basic front alignments, and how we try to keep stunt calls similar, from different front alignments. It is difficult to show out entire defensive scheme in the context of this brief article, especially all of the adjustments to various sets and motion. However I hope that I have been able to give you a basic overview of what we are attempting to do within our philosophy of pressure defense. We have been fortunate to have enjoyed success with this style of play and our players thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to attack the offense.

Diagram Thirteen: Nickel

C
#1

B
#3

T M
#2

N

B

T

B
#3

NB
#2

C

R
Nickel coverage against a spread alignment - we replace an ILB with our Nickel back

We face pro sets, run and shoot, wishbone, wing-t, double slot, I-formations and full house formations during the course of a season and attack them all, obviously with some modifications for each, but we refuse to back off until the offense can force us to do so. n

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In Pursuit of Excellence

By Mark Harriman
Defensive Coordinator Princeton University

“Simply stated, we want all eleven defenders to execute their technique, defeat any blocking threat and run to the ball!.”

T PRINCETON UNIVERSITY we spend a great deal of time teaching fundamentals. Positionally we stress learning proper techniques and then integrating this into our defensive unit as a whole. One portion of these unit fundamentals is proper pursuit to the ball – regardless of play run. We expect each defender to take pride in “getting to the ball” on every play.

A

carrier compared to the defenders speed and the possibility of someone being hung up on a block and not getting to their assigned area are two factors that can come into play. Once the ball turns the corner, our players will not run behind the same colored jersey. If this occurs, they must adjust downfield. This gives us good distribution down the field. After we have walked through this drill, we will run it versus various plays. These drills require a spacing tape, a backfield, and two shields.
1. Toss/Sweep In diagram two, the QB (coach) turns and tosses the ball to a back who turns the corner and runs 35 yards downfield. The force man will attack the shield while the remaining defenders run to the sideline. We will then progress to a cutback. 2. Option The QB (coach) will run an option in either direction. He will either give, keep or pitch. The ball carrier will continue downfield as shown in diagram three. • Dive: 10 yards • Keep: 20 yards • Pitch: 35 yards 3. Reverse Next we will incorporate a reverse off either the sweep or the option (see diagram four). Variation A variation of this drill is what we call “find a way to the ball”. This drill emphasizes full speed pursuit along with a bit of competition. Ten bags, two footballs, and a receiver (on the sideline) are needed for this drill.

Two keys to great defensive pursuit are the proper body position and the ability to know where your fellow defenders are. We explain these concepts to our players in the following manner. Whenever the ball is in front of our primary run defenders (front eight) they move laterally with their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage in the bent knee position. By shutting off the point of attack and moving in this fashion, we effectively limit the options available to the ball carrier. The ball carrier is forced to either bounce the ball outside or cut back into the squared shoulders of his pursuers. Only when the ball is past a defender will he turn his shoulders to the line of scrimmage.

Drills: The First Series
When teaching proper and aggressive pursuit of the ball, we utilize a variety of drills. The first series deal with run plays versus a particular front and coverage. For simplicity sake, all of these drills will involve a base eight man front and a three-deep coverage. When introducing these drills, we will walk through, and talk through all eleven defender’s responsibilities — including the force angles for the primary force defender as well as pursuit angles for the rest of the defense. Diagram one illustrates our strongside responsibilities and pursuit angles. We do not assign our defenders specific intervals down the field (i.e. cones placed on the sidelines) because of the variables involved. The speed of the ball

One bag is placed five yards by five yards from the tight end’s position in the offensive backfield. The remaining bags are placed on the sideline at five yard intervals. On the snap, the coach will lateral wave the defense in three direc

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Diagram One

Diagram Two
shield
5 yards

shield
5 yards

E SS C

T B FS

T B

cutback

E

C
5 yards 5 yards

OLB

E SS C

T B FS

T B

E OLB

primary force

reverse

C save a
alley

touchdown

C

Diagram Three

Diagram Four

C E
pitch

C T B E OLB C C FS C SS E T B T B E OLB

T
dive

SS

QB

B
dive

C

FS
alley

Diagram Five: “Find A Way To The Ball”
R
5 yds.

Diagram Six

SS C

tions – left, right, left. All eleven defenders will then hit the ground. As they recover, the coach will throw the ball to the receiver. The force defender will attack the bag stationed in the offensive backfield. The remaining defenders will run to the bags on the sideline and tackle them. Obviously, the last man there does not have a bag to tackle. He performs 15 push ups for being last. Proper pursuit angle must be taken by all defenders or the drill is repeated (see diagram five).
GRIDIRON 20
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5 yards

C
5 yards

C T B E OLB C C SS
coach

E

T B FS

E

T B FS

T B

E OLB C
coach

coach

Drills: The Second Series
This series of drills emphasizes the pass game. The defense aligns as in the run drills.
1. Pass On the snap, the QB (coach) drops back and the front four will rush the passer. The linebackers and secondary will drop to their respective zones. The QB (coach) will throw the ball to the receiver (coach) positioned in various zones. Everyone must sprint and break down around the coach

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Diagram Seven

Diagram Eight

C E SS C T B FS T B E OLB C C SS E T B

C T B
inside cage

E OLB
outside cage

FS

C

who catches the ball. A simple variation of this drill is to throw the ball to a defender and concentrate on the interception returns (see diagram six). We then add a draw play along with the pass (see diagram seven). This is a good way to develop proper reaction from the coverage personnel as well as the pass rushers. We would like to squeeze the ball outside in at the point of attack forcing the ball to the sideline. Pursuit from pass rushers is extremely important. When they recognize draw, they must replace themselves through their rush lanes. This along with the converging coverage personnel will effectively cage the ball carrier.

Next we progress to the addition of a screen play. With this addition, we want to teach recognition of a screen as well as pursuit after the ball is thrown. We stress taking on two blockers at the point of attack and making sure we have an inside and outside cage man to contain the ball (diagram eight). As with any play we want to force the ball back into our pursuit.

Summary
Great defensive pursuit and swarming defense are integral factors in the success of a defense. By developing the aforementioned techniques through these simple drills, we feel that our players are able to move to the ball with speed as well as the correct position to make the play when they get there. n

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Maximum Pursuit: Bulldog Style
11 To The Ball - In A Bad Mood
“All successful football programs are based upon sound philosophies... It’s the

By Jeff Tomlin
Defensive Coordinator Alliance High School Alliance, Nebraska

E

starts with a solid idea and thorough planning. This is true in all aspects of life, including football.
VERY SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME

All successful football programs are based upon sound philosophies. There the Xs and Os.” are countless offensive and defensive strategies that have proven to be successful, but when one explores the reasons for success, much of it can be attributed to the winning philosophy and attitude implemented by the coaching staff. It’s the philosophy that drives the Xs and Os.
philosophy that drives

What is “11 to the ball–in a bad mood?” More than an eye-catching phrase, it’s an attitude of total hustle. We set a goal to achieve maximum pursuit on every single play (11 to the ball), while reemphasizing our tradition of being great hitters (in a bad mood). This new attitude caught on with the team and turned out to be the edge we needed.
How did we implement our plan and measure its success? 1. We sold our team on the fact that we would cause more turnovers and give up fewer scores and big plays.

In the off season while thinking of drills, techniques, and tactical changes that would improve our defense, I came up with a few useful ideas, but no major changes that would be worth implementing. After all, we were coming off of a very successful season and still had the nucleus of that team returning. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Right? I guess, like most coaches, I still wasn’t satisfied. How could we transform a good defense into an exceptional defense? After tinkering with all of our schemes for the remainder of the off season, I finally figured out that what we needed wasn’t a new drill, scheme or strategy. Our defensive schemes were sound and we were solid fundamentally. What we needed was a new philosophy. In studying films from the previous season, I felt that the one area we needed to stress to improve defensively, was pursuit. We constantly stressed technique and fundamentals but we lacked the swarming pursuit—characteristic of a Miami or Alabama defense. Pursuit would be the difference between being good and outstanding. Once we as a staff zeroed in on pursuit as our new focus, we went about trying to figure out a way to sell it to our team. Just telling the players to swarm to the ball would not be good enough. To make the players believers, we pinned a name on our philosophy and our defense took on a new identity. “11 to the ball–in a bad mood!”

2. We emphasized the fact that it (11 to the ball) was a team goal and each individual had to do his part. The number of times we achieved our goal, of 11 to the ball, soon became our most important statistic. 3. In practice, we demanded that all 11 defenders be around the ball when the whistle blows. Of course, the first area stressed is that each player carry out his responsibility in our scheme, and then swarm to the ball. Our players adapted quickly and enthusiastically. This philosophy has also created more competition and intensity in practice because everyone knows we’re looking for hustlers and scrappers on defense. 4. We as coaches reinforced our philosophy by wearing Tshirts that had “11 to the ball–in a bad mood” printed on them. The enthusiasm shown by the coaching staff was key to helping the philosophy catch on. It wasn’t unusual to see coaches swarming the ball right along with the players. 5. We determine the number of times we achieve 11 to the ball, by analyzing game film. We want 11 defenders in the video frame, at the end of the play, as many times as possible. This statistic is very important because it determines our overall success defensively. (We recognize that there are situations in which it is impossible for all 11 defenders, especially defensive back’s, to swarm to the ball. Our opponent’s offensive philosophy will dictate how quickly our secondary can pursue.) We set a team record of 28 times –11 to the ball.

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What has this philosophy done for our team? 1. Our work ethic, discipline, and attention to detail has improved. We out hustle our opponents.

2. Our conditioning has improved because of the extra effort and the extra running we do in practice. 3. By swarming to the ball, we’ve forced more turnovers. Our defense forced 30 turnovers in ten games last year. Every loose ball is ours and our players believe it. 4. The coordinated aggression that this philosophy has created tends to wear down and frustrate opponents. 5. Since “11 to the ball” is a team goal, our players have become more focused on team rather than individual achievement. Our defense tries to set a new record every week. 6. Our defense finished the season rated as the fifth best team defensively in Nebraska Class A football. 7. This philosophy has given our defense an identity and has started a tradition of excellence at Alliance High School. Formulating a philosophy that one can build a program around is a crucial element in success. 11 To The Ball—In A Bad Mood: A simple concept that has taken our defense to another level.

Bulldog Pursuit Drill As a way to condition our players while drilling proper pursuit angles, we end every defensive practice with our pursuit drill. Every defender carries out his assignment, in our base defense, and then sprints at a great pursuit angle and tags the running back or receiver. After tagging the ball carrier, each defender drops and does 11 push-ups and then sprints to the coach standing in the middle of the field.

We end the drill with all 11 defenders sprinting to the coach, to reinforce our “11 to the ball” philosophy. The offensive players in the drill can run toss, option and reverse to either side or the quarterback can throw to any of the four receivers. n

Bulldog Pursuit Drill: Example of a Toss
RB QB E LB C
REC

REC

REC

T LB

T LB

E LB C

C
S
REC

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Defending The Wing-T: A Response to You Call The Play
The following article was originally submitted as a response to the popular GRIDIRON Coach feature entitled “You Call The Play.” In this section, coaches were asked to respond to game situations with a play of their own.

By Brad Livingston
Head Football Coach Central York High School York, Pennsylvania

T CENTRAL YORK HIGH SCHOOL, we play a base 4-4, three-deep alignment. During the league season, we have to defend at least three pure wing-t offenses. Our starting point is as follows.

A

To The Wing
“It is the final game of the season. You are playing the top offensive team in the region which is averaging 35 points a game. They have a big 6' 1” 220 , pound fullback and a fast scatback type tailback who are tough runners. The quarterback is a good high school player who can press the corner well on the rollout plays. He is an equally effective passer and runner with 600+ rushing yards and 1000+ passing yards afer nine games. They operate their offensive attack from the Wing-T set. You must beat this team to win the district championship!” – Bill Renner, GC Volume 3 • Issue 4 You Call The Play 1. DT will align outside shoulder on SG. • He is a “B” gap player who must control the OT on any down blocks. • DT will rip across the face of the down block in order to go down the LOS to ball. 2. DE will align nose up on TE and be aware of wing. • Since the backs are set away his “C” gap responsibility is not immediately threatened. • DE must secure “C “ gap upfield cut lane while most likely fighting a down block by the wing. He rips any down block and controls “C” gap leverage while going down LOS to ball. • Before securing “C” gap he must prevent the TE from releasing inside off the snap to block our inside LB. 3. OLB will align on the LOS on the outside shoulder of the wing. • Key wing and control any inside release. • Close the “D” gap and stuff any perimeter blocker with your inside arm/flipper.

Situation Three
Defend the basic buck sweep series of the Wing-T. Align your defense and detail the responsiblities of each defender. Who defends (1) the fullback trap, who defends (2) the buck sweep and who defends (3) the quarterback rollout or waggle play. How do you defend the buck sweep play? Do you bounce it to the corner or do you try to keep it inside the offtackle area? Why?
Situation Three
YOU CALL THE PLAY!
1

Base 44 - Three Deep

C

B C

E

T B B S

T

E B C

2 3

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• Do not penetrate past heels of the offensive line. Make the ball carrier bounce.

To the SE or Backs with SE Side:
1. DT will vary his align by D/D, however, for generic purposes we will put him in a nose up alignment that is ever so slightly outside eye. We want to create scheme indecisions - can the OT make his down block? • Key is OG a.) pull across ball should be hippocketed or ripped with down LOS pursuit, b.) Pull outside - check OT down block = bootleg or if no down block, look inside and play trap. We say “trap the trapper”. • Gap responsibility is basically “B” gap, but you must squeeze “A” gap on trap and on waggle get an up field charge through the OT’s down block. 2. DE will squeeze the stance of the OT’s outside shoulder. Invite the OT or HB to reach you, but keep leverage on “C” gap. • Key OT to HB/inside a.) when OT down blocks look for the SE side OG to either log you or cross block you and kickout, b.) Rip upfield through the log block and contain the QB’s bootleg. Force him to set up! If kickout scheme develops, squeeze the “B” gap area and stuff the OG in the hole. Squeeze any inside/out scheme with your inside arm/flipper etc. OK to bounce it. Should the HB attack you, play him on your inside and bounce the ball deeper. 3. OLB will align normally in our hideaway alignment. This alignment is 2 x 2 from our defensive end. However, we can do many things with his alignment that neutralize both waggle, wing sweep, and belly. He is very conscious of the SE in crack position and the FB on waggle. • Key is the near back–NB goes away we play waggle, reverse, counters, etc. Find the FB as you drop under the skinny post, then pick up the FB as he comes to you. Near back comes to–we think belly,

keeper, option, wing sweep, etc. In our league, this is the easiest, simplest key on the defense year after year. • OLB responsibility is basically FB on waggle and squeeze “D” gap versus run. If HB goes away, pass first, run second.

Inside Linebackers
We have used pure guard keys, cross keys, etc. However, I have come to believe that a “split” key works best in our league. • ILB alignment = 3 yards to 4 1/2 yards deep on the inside eye of the offensive guard. • Keys and responsibility LB to wing—we concern ourselves with 3 basic keys. 1. Style. The frontside (wing) LB is allowed to run through in order to make the play as long as he is outside the “B” gap when he does so. He may go over or under the OT/TE depending on their course. If he runs through he must make the play or running through is incorrect. 2. We know that we will probably lose him in pass coverage unless we “slow” key him or play D/D. We feel this is ok. We want to stop the run first. 3. His fourth possible situation is a straight “A” gap plug if the SG’s head doesn’t disappear on the snap.

LB To Wing Sweep Key: Get over
top DT and flow to ball

LB To Wing Trap Key: Get over top OC
and get leverage on Backside A

T B

T B

LB to SE/backfield side: we concern ourselves with three basic keys. 1. Style. The backside (SE/Backs) LB is primarily concerned with “A” gap control and belly in this set. He must help the DT’s and split side end control frontside “B” to split side “B”. 2. On an option or split side sweep key he may run through, but over the top is much safer in the event of option. 3. His base keys are very functional versus the passing game when D/D and tendencies are involved. If we lose him on coverage due to play action, we’ll live with that. However, we usually can get him involved: LB To Wing • Sweep Key = collision FB C Gap Key: Must get or lock on FB man/man leverage on OT (frees OLB to pick up TE on diagonal). • Option/SE Sweep Key = could be keep pass. Lock on FB man to man or T drop to curl area as OLB B covers HB/Flat. • Belly Key = collision HB period the end!
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LB To SE - Backfield Sweep Key: Get into Frontside
A by going through /over the OC. If OG goes HB, think waggle

Option/Sweep to SE Key: Get over top DT and
flow to ball

Belly Key: If HB dives inside, plug the course of the HB as in ISO

HB Trap

opposite direction means pass

B

T

E

B

T

E

B

T

E

B

T

4. A fourth possible situation is HB trap (see diagram 4). We hope that his plug key (OG head doesn’t disappear) will generate an “A” gap plug that will effectively control this play.

Secondary Play - Three-Deep Alignments
• We have a very flexible secondary system and can game plan a lot of things. • Within our 3 deep we can roll strong or weak to take away vertical stretch.

• We could show cover 3 and go 2 deep man under with S either locked on TE or playing a “robber” in a certain route. • We sometimes incorporate man and man - FS in order to pressure certain situations. • The bottom line is that our coverages should be strictly D/D and tendency oriented. The safety can check us out of poor formation match-ups. n

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Secondary Adjustments In The Eight Man Front Scheme
-MAN FRONT DEFENSIVE SCHEMES have always included a locked in 3-deep coverage with four the football, the system underneath as the primary coverage. must be simple and This coverage was sound, simple, and effective. In recent years at the high sound allowing players school level, there has been an exploto fully maximize their sion of the passing game in both the one-back and two-back set. It has talents while staying become apparent to the 8-man front within the system.” defensive coaches that we needed to answer the advancement of the passing game. In this article, I will focus on defending the twoback offense. Within this system, there are two situations to consider. The first is field location (hash mark or middle) and secondly, the formation.
on the defensive side of “To be successful

By Joe Hamstra
Offensive Coordinator Lake Highland Prep School Orlando, Florida

8

Boundary Corner. Five yards from sideline, 8-10 yards deep. Responsible for deep third. Free Safety. Aligns two yards inside hashmark 10-12 yards deep. Responsible for deep middle third. He is secondary support on run either way. Field Corner. Aligns 8-10 yards deep, keeping outside leverage on number one unless he splits three or more yards outside the hash. Boundary OLB. Aligns in a 3 x 3 outside the TE. Responsible for flat. Gain depth if nothing shows.

Diagram One Cover-4
FS C B 3 3 2 E W S E B 8 C

The Hashmark Situation
Since the football is snapped from the hashmark approximately 78% of the time, we will teach ball position first. A hashmark situation for us in anytime the ball is on or within four yards of the hash. Once the ball has been determined to be a hashmark call, we then adjust our coverage according to the formation. From the sidelines, a coach will signal the frontal adjustments along with a “zone” or “man” call. While the focus of this article is on the “zone” call, I will cover man coverage briefly. In a zone call, the number of receivers to the field will determine whether we play a cover 3 (3-deep) or a cover 4 (quarter/quarter/half ). If two receivers are to the field, we will play a cover-4 by rotating the secondary to the field (diagram one). The boundary corner will play 8-10 yards deep with an inside shade of the TE, with deep half responsibilities. The boundary OLB will play flats in a 3 x 3 alignment on the TE. The field corner will play a 2 x 8 on number one. His responsibility is outside quarter. The field OLB will align in the triangle with the TE and number one (or with number 2 and the split tackle as shown in diagram two). He will work to the flats, gaining depth if nothing shows in his zone. The free safety plays middle of the field, always aligning inside of the number two receiver. If two receivers align into the boundary, the zone call becomes a cover-3 (3-deep). The alignment is shown in diagram three.
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Diagram Two
FS 5 C 8 H S W B 2 C 8

E

E

Diagram Three
FS C B 3 3 2 E S W E B 8 C

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Diagram Four
2

Diagram Five
FS C B
3

B
1

C W E S E B

S E

B
4

B B

5

B

Field OLB. As long as the DE is in a 5 technique, with outside leverage on the split tackle, the OLB will get in an alignment that will take away the slant and the hitch by alignment. This versatility in the zone call allows us the flexibility to still defend the field while being sound with the alignments in respect to the formation. This coverage is an excellent alternative to the locked 3-deep package. It provides help to the field and allows the sidelines to be a benefit to the defense.

4. Squeeze. Is an adjustment that was developed to take away the TE game and/or allow the OLB to come off the edge and create havoc. 5. Regular. If nothing is called, the OLB aligns in a 3 x 3 and plays football from there. We do not alter our alignment because we think the opponent can throw a certain route. So many times I think we give other teams/coaches too much credit. We get all worked up over something the offense might do. Make them run it effectively before you defend it. That is not to say that you don’t prepare for it during the week. We like to start in “hip.” If the offense can throw the slant, fade, or hitch, then they will throw it early. If they do not throw it early, then they do not feel like they can be successful in that area. Therefore, we will exploit them with the pressure of the OLB coming off the edge.

OLB Play
The OLB position is the most important position on the field because of its versatility. The better the athlete, the more things you can do to frustrate the offense. The OLB provides the defense with a multiple of alignments to best accomplish this purpose. We basically play the OLB in five positions described as follows. 1. Hip. This places the OLB to the TE side, aligns with his inside foot stacked behind the DE’s outside foot. This allows him to help on the off-tackle play. He is in good position to play the counter, and this is his alignment on the twist stunt. It is also wide enough to maintain outside leverage on perimeter plays. 2. Triangle. This allows the OLB to help the cornerback by getting under all slants, posts, and curl route from number one quickly. Triangle is automatic versus a twins look. 3. Press. We use press for one reason: to disrupt timing routes and get physical with their receivers. The OLB knows he has help over the top from the cornerback so he can afford to be aggressive without worrying about getting beat deep.

Change-Ups
We run man coverage as a change-up to the zone call. The key to man coverage (diagram five) is that it is the same alignment as a zone coverage. As the QB gets under the center, the OLB will creep to the LOS and run some short of stunt off the edge. The cornerback will move into an inside leverage alignment on number one. The free safety will get over number two 7-8 yards off the LOS. The beauty of the coverage is that it looks identical to the cover4. This makes both coverages all the more effective when the pre-snap read is the same.

Summary
I hope this article provided some insight that may be included within your defensive scheme. To be successful on the defensive side of the football, the system must be simple and sound. Allowing players to fully maximize their talents while staying within the system. This package is developed with that thought in mind. n

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“My Grandmother Tackles Better Than Us!”
I remember uttering these words during one of my first years as a head coach which I am sure many coaches can relate to. As coaches, we have all come out of film sessions asking ourselves, “How can we become better tacklers?” We are all looking for the most efficient way to teach tackling at full speed and without getting our players injured at practice. I believe the way we approach tackling at Racine Horlick High School addresses both these concerns.

George A. Machado
Head Football Coach, Racine Horlick High School, North Chelmsford, MA

W

e have improved our tackling and have become a more consistent and fundamentally sound defensive football team since implementing our tackling circuit. We have also significantly reduced the number of times the opposing teams’ band plays their fight song. We initially sought out some of the most outstanding defensive coaches in the game to find out how they were teaching the skill of tackling. Our Six Station Tackling Circuit is the direct result of our research. For the past twelve years, we have utilized a tackling circuit that consists of six skill stations. We perform the tackling circuit every day at the start of the season, then reduce this to three times a week at mid-season and then to two days a week toward the end of the season. The entire tackling circuit normally takes between 12 to 15 minutes to complete. For reasons of organization and instruction, the tackling circuit will require more time to complete earlier in the season. However, it can be easily made to fit into any practice structure depending on your individual objectives.

approach is 3 yards), 2) not taking athletes to the ground, 3) incorporating hand shields and crash pads to absorb impact, 4) utilizing a “quick whistle”, and 5) close supervision and instruction by the coaching staff. The great thing here is, that in our attempt to control impact and reduce the injury factor, we have not taken away our players’ aggressiveness. In fact, we have found just the opposite to be true. Our defensive people have become very aggressive and much more willing to attack the ball carrier. In addition, the tackling circuit is a very positive and safe learning environment in which to introduce hitting to the neophyte player. As coaches, we have all seen athletes shy away from the game because of their baptism into contact football. The tackling circuit allows you to reduce the fear of hitting resulting from a bad initial experience.

Organization and Teaching
In organizing our practice plans, it was decided to place our tackling circuit period at the front end of practice right after our agility and quick cal periods. To sell our players on the importance of tackling, we decided to place it high up on our daily list of things to accomplish. We follow the adage “If you believe it, teach it. If you believe it vital, teach it early and often.” Once we decided what to teach, when to teach it, the duration of each station, and how often we would perform the circuit each week, we then set out to assign individual coaching responsibilities. We found that by keeping a coach at a specific station or stations for the entire year, he became very efficient, knowledgeable, able to notice and correct mistakes, and found the “little ways” to do the job better. I tell my coaches that I want them to be the best teachers of tackling in the country. That’s our goal! The next organizational task needed to perform is the grouping of your athletes into their respective skill groups. Things to consider in grouping your players should be 1) similar size, 2) similar skill level, 3) experience, and 4) strength. We attempt to avoid any obvious mismatch. We would further recommend the designation of a group leader and co-leader to act in the capacity of an additional coach on the field. This has really helped in the areas of organization, motivation and leadership.
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The six skill stations that comprise our tackling circuit are: 1) The Form Tackling Station, 2) The Angle Tackling Station (shields optional), 3) The Open Field Tackling Station, 4) The Sideline Tackling Station (with crash pad), 5) The Tackle-Back Tackling Station, and 6) The Eye Opener Tackling Station (with hand shields). It is important to note here that with the exception of the form tackling station, all the tackling drills are done at fullspeed. However, the term full-speed contact, to us, is not the same as live contact. We have shown our athletes that we are able to control impact, and thus, reduce the risk of injury by 1) compressing the size of the skill area (the longest full-speed

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As far as the actual skill areas themselves, cones and field marking paint should be utilized to designate the specific locations and dimensions of the tackling drill stations. Players need to know the full-speed contact zone at each station. Following our agility period, our coaches immediately report to their tackling stations. Players then go to their designated station coach to begin the tackling circuit. A manager or assistant coach utilizes an air horn to indicate rotation times. We have found that a great deal of skill repetition takes place in a 3 to 4 minute period. Also, the greater the organization and familiarity with the drills, the greater the repetitions. As coaches, we all realize that repetition is the mother of learning. This being the case, the tackling circuit is one of learning’s favorite sons!

The Rebel Six Station Tackling Circuit
In describing the six stations of the tackling circuit, each skill period will be broken down into 4 specific categories: 1) the objective of the station, 2) the skill area, 3) players’ organization and the position of the coach, and 4) coaching points.

Diagram One Form Tackle Station

C 5 yards

15 yards

B. Skill Area: Utilize 4 cones to block off an area 5 yards wide by 15 yards in length. Your field yard lines can be used to designate 5 yard dimension. C. Player Organization – Position of Coach: Players should pair up with one group placing their toes on the line and his partner 3 yards away facing him. There should be at least 2 to 3 yards between each pair of athletes. The coach is positioned at one end of the paired athletes for the most beneficial observation and instruction location. (Diagram 1) D. Coaching Points: The coach will indicate the start of the skill station with the verbal command “breakdown”. The athlete being tackled will brace himself and tuck his chin, placing the bottom of his face mask on his breast plate. This is done to protect the athlete’s chin. The tackler will, at the same time, assume his power base hitting position. On the next command of “approach”, the tackler will take a step-by-step robotic approach into his partner until he reaches the point of contact. Next, the coach will instruct the athlete to “tackle”. At this point, the tackler will punch his arms and clinched fists through his partner’s arms, attacking an imaginary football. He will “grab cloth”, “roll hips”, and bring his partner into a “controlled grasp”. We like to pop the athlete being tackled slightly off the ground to insure the proper roll of the hips, hitting on the rise and the desired explosive contact. A quick whistle will end the repetition and corrections will be made by the coach. The skill is repeated in the same direction 3 times and then roles are reversed and three more repetitions are performed. This continues until the air horn sounds for rotation to the next skill station.
Diagram Two Angle Tackle Station

Station I: Form Tackling A. Objective of Station: To physically place the athlete into the proper step-by-step hitting position, controlled approach, point of contact position, execution of tackle, and follow through.
Symbol Key:
Defense Offense Screen door Cone
C

C 5 yards

Crash pad

Coach Direction of movement Flat bottom dummies

Width Length Yard line

5 yards

Station II: Angle Tackling A. Objective of Station: To teach the athlete to 1) drive his head across the front torso of the ball carrier, 2) to

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wrap arms following “punch technique”, “roll hips”, “grab cloth”, and place the ball carrier in a controlled grasp, and 3) to work the tackler’s hips upfield. B. Skill Area: Utilize 4 cones to create a box 5 yards wide by 5 yards in length. C. Player Organization – Position of Coach: Players to be tackled will line up behind top left cone of 5 yard box with either a hand shield or football (early in the season we utilize hand shields — on days we want to emphasize stripping the ball and later in the season we will utilize a football). The tacklers will line up behind the bottom left cone of the 5 yard box. (Diagram 2) D. Coaching Points: On the coach’s verbal command of “breakdown”, the tackler will assume the proper power base hitting position and the runner will ready hand shield and focus on running a path to the lower right cone of box. On the “set” command, both athletes will perform a foot fire technique (rapid in-place running motion). On the command of “go”, the runner will begin his path to the designated cone. The tackler will contact the runner at the mid-point of the tackling box and will perform the proper angle tackling techniques. At the angle tackling station, we really want to emphasize keeping the tackler’s head up, his eyes focused on the shield or ball, attacking under control, and the working of his hips back up the field. We again utilize a “quick whistle”, but will require the athlete to redirect his hips upfield before we end the drill. After several repetitions from the left side of the box, both lines move to the right side of the box and perform angle tackling in this direction. Station III: Tackle Back Sled A. Objective of Station: To teach the athlete to 1) attack the sled at full speed, emphasizing vicious contact, 2) to maintain proper hitting base while driving feet, 3) using proper roll of hips and striking pad on upward angle, and 4) using proper head and neck squeeze to control pad and drive sled into the tackled position on ground. B. Skill Area: The tackle back sled station requires a larger area than any of the other drills. We have found that approximately 20 yards by 50 yards is more than adequate. We specifically utilize the tackle back sled from World Sporting Goods because of its pop-back-up feature. This saves a great deal of time and allows for more repetitions. However, any one-man tackling sled can be utilized. C. Player Organization – Position of Coach: Because the tackle back is driven in an assortment of directions and distances, we simply tell our athletes to keep the line moving in conjunction with the direction of the sled. D. Coaching Points: We begin this station with the verbal

command “breakdown”. On this command, the athlete will assume the proper hitting position 3 yards from the sled with his shoulders square to the tackling pad. On the next command of “set”, the athlete begins his quick foot fire technique. On hearing the “go” command, the athlete fires into the pad and performs the tackle. Once the sled is taken down and returns to the upright position, the next tackler positions himself in readiness for the next “breakdown” command. At this station, we want to emphasize explosive and vicious contact with the contact again being performed in an upward direction (“hit on the rise”). This is where we want our kids to really let it all hang out!
Diagram Three Open Field Tackling Station

10 yards

C 10 yards

Station IV: Open Field Tackling A. Objective of Station: To teach the athlete to 1) stay square with the ball carrier, 2) maintain good power base with quick foot movement, 3) focus in on ball carrier’s belt buckle, 4) avoid lunging and becoming overextended, and 5) let ball carrier commit before attacking. B. Skill Area: Utilize 4 cones to establish a 10 yard by 10 yard box. C. Player Organization – Position of Coach: The ball carrier lines up between the top two cones, with those waiting to go in a single file line behind. The tackler lines up between the two bottom cones with those waiting to go in a single file line behind him. The coach positions himself behind the tackler holding on to the player’s belt. This is done to make sure the tackler does not leave too soon. (Diagram 3) D. Coaching Points: On the “breakdown” command, the tackler assumes the proper hitting position while the ball carrier properly positions the ball and decides what type of move he will make on the tackler. We allow the ball carrier one move before he commits to one direcGRIDIRON
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tion or the other. On the “set” command, both athletes begin their foot fire technique. On the “go” command, the ball carrier runs forward and attempts to feint the tackler. The tackler, once released, stays square, keeps his feet moving, and attacks the ball carrier who has committed to his path of direction. Sometimes we have placed a 5th cone in the exact middle of the box (resembling the five on a die) to indicate the point we want our running back to make his cut off of.
Diagram Four Sideline Tackling Station
10 yards 2 feet

his path down the running chute and the tackler performs the proper sideline tackling technique and drives the ball carrier into the crash pad. By eliminating the athlete’s contact with the ground, we have found that the tackling impact is very explosive as a rule. Our players also have a lot of fun taking each other into the pad. It’s a lot like rough housing with your brothers on mom and dad’s king-size bed. The crash pad has supplied us with both safety and motivation. NOTE: Having the coach control the tackler’s release point guarantees that the tackle is made at the mid-point of the pad.

Diagram Five Eye Opener Tackling Station

3 yards

C C

3 yards

Station V: Sideline Tackling with Crash Pad A. Objective of Station: To teach the athlete to 1) drive his helmet across the front torso of the ball carrier, 2) maintain control of the runner with a backside arm wrap, 3) utilize sideline as an additional defender, 4) utilize momentum to drive ball carrier into the crash pad, and 5) keep head up while avoiding any lunge or over extension. B. Skill Area: Utilize 2 cones and painted sideline to create a 3 yard wide by 10 yard long running lane. We then place a crash pad (from track or physical education) at the mid-point of the running chute, 2 feet outside of the sideline. (Diagram 4) C. Player Organization - Position of Coach: The ball carriers are lined up at one end of the running chute ready to sprint toward the opposite end parallel to the sideline and crash pad. The tacklers are positioned 3/4 of the way down the running chute approximately 3 yards from the sideline facing the crash pad. The coach is positioned behind the tackler making sure he does not leave until the proper moment. D. Coaching Points: On the verbal command of ‘breakdown”, the tackler assumes the proper hitting position while the ball carrier readies the ball in his outside arm. On the “set” command, both players perform foot fire technique. On the “go” command, the runner begins
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Station VI: Eye Opener Station A. Objective of Station: To teach the athlete the proper technique of 1) maintaining square shoulders to the line of scrimmage, 2) maintaining consistent hitting position while shuffling into proper attack point, 3) keeping the proper leverage on the ball carrier to avoid over-running the ball, and 4) making the quick reaction necessary to tackle the ball carrier once he has chosen his running hole. B. Skill Area: Utilize 2 cones to mark starting spots for ball carrier and tackler. Place 3 or 4 flat bottom dummies 1 yard apart to create the desired number of running lanes. It is recommended that only 2 running lanes (3 flat bottom dummies) be incorporated during the early part of the season. The cones should be located 1 yard outside and 1 yard deep from the first flat bottom dummy. (Diagram 5) C. Player Organization – Position of Coach: The ball carrier and tackler should face each other just inside his designated cone, approximately 3 yards apart. The coach positions himself at the opposite end of the flat bottom dummies to insure best location for observation and instruction. D. Coaching Points: On the coach’s command of “breakdown”, the tackler assumes the proper hitting position and the ball carrier readies his hand shield in front of his upper torso and mentally determines which hole he

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will attack. On the “set” command, both players perform their foot fire technique. On the “go” signal, the running back runs to the chosen hole while the tackler scallops parallel to the flat bottom dummies maintaining a slight backside leverage position on the football. Once the ball carrier commits to his running path, the tackler performs his tackle by attacking the hand shield. The tackler and ball carrier then switch lines. We again utilize a quick whistle to protect our players and insure a maximum number of repetitions.

plemental drills would be the “Screen Door” tackling station. This is where we utilize a 4 foot by 8 foot blind to disguise the running back’s intent until the last second. This requires our tackler to maintain focus, concentration and proper peripheral vision. (Diagram 6) Over the years, we have found the Rebel Six Station Tackling Circuit to be the most efficient way in which to teach the desired skills and techniques of tackling. Players become motivated as they see themselves become better tacklers and more aggressive defensive players. Since its implementation, my grandmother has been sent to the showers and our players have stepped up to become better tacklers! n
Diagram Six Screen Door Tackling Station

Conclusion
The tackling circuit is an excellent tool to utilize in teaching the skills and techniques of tackling. It incorporates the full speed contact, player aggressiveness, skill variety, repetition, and competition necessary to bring about player improvement. Additional factors such as safety precautions, consistent vocabulary, precision, familiarity and a willingness to emphasize the importance of this drill period has been essential in improving our defense. The tackling circuit is also a teaching environment that allows for ingenuity as well as creativity. On many of the drills, footballs can replace shields or “air” on days we want to stress stripping or recovery techniques. We also have some additional tackling drills in reserve that we can incorporate into our circuit for a change of pace or to emphasize a specific technique. An example of one of our sup-

C

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Don’t Get Beat By One Receiver!

By Jerome Learman
Defensive Coordinator, Dansville High School, Dansville, MI

t the high school level, nothing is more frustrating than losing to a across a team that has lesser team because of their quara good quarterback and terback and receiver combination. At one good receiver. Dansville High School we came across Certain quarterback and two such combinations this past season, and we had fairly good success against receiver combinations them. We limited one receiver to one are famous due to their catch on a busted play when the quartersuccess: Montana to back scrambled and the receiver came Rice, Bradshaw to back for the ball. We limited the other receiver to three catches, two on screen Swan, Starr to Dollar, passes and the other when the defensive Namath to Berry, and back fell down. This paper will cover our the list goes on and on. base defense, the adjustments that we make when opposing a good receiver, what the adjustments work well against, possible problems with these adjustments, and coaching points.
Every coach has come

A

receiver is only good, then the corners will stay on their normal side and the man coverage will usually be enough to throw the receiver off. This is generally determined by scouting, but an adjustment can be made during the game. Because one person is manned up, the zones must be adjusted slightly (Diagram 2). Because the corner usually has flats, the outside linebacker to that side becomes a hook to flat player. That is, he goes as wide as the widest guy, not counting the receiver that is manned up. The middle linebacker also must adjust from a middle of the field drop to one that is over the tackle to the side of the receiver. We will let all coverage people know which side the receiver is on by calling Ralph (right) or Louie (left). The alternate wording prevents confusion with the strength call which is strong right or strong left.
Diagram Two

The base defense we play at Dansville High School is an over front with a two deep secondary (Diagram 1). We will play man-to-man and cover two from this look. Often we like to line the cornerbacks up in bump and run and play two deep, or vice versa. Because we see two tight ends or a pro formations 95% of the time, we do not play cover three very often.
Diagram One

FS CB W RE M RT LT

SS S LE CB

FS CB W RE M RT LT

SS S LE CB

Against a good receiver, our primary adjustment is to man him up with our cornerback and play cover two everywhere else. If the receiver is “great”, we will take our best corner and have him follow the receiver the whole game and have the other corner switch sides accordingly. If we feel that the
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These adjustments with this combination of man and zone coverage have been very good for us against teams that only throw in third and long and in other passing situations. It has been effective against both short passes in the flat and deep passes. Often, quarterbacks are not accustom to throwing to other receivers and the receivers are not used to catching the ball in game situations. This will lead to dropped or tipped passes. In cases where the manned up receiver goes deep he will be double teamed by the cornerback that is covering him and the safety playing the deep zone. When a quarterback forces a pass to the receiver in this situation, it often leads to an interception.

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Two situations occur where this coverage has problems. One is when the better receiver is a flanker and the opposing team runs a flood pattern to that side, leaving us under manned (Diagram 3). What we will do to counter act this is play man to man underneath and two deep with the safeties in passing situations (Diagram 4). The man to man underneath scheme has the cornerbacks take the first receiver to their side, the outside linebacker takes the second receiver, and the middle linebacker takes the third receiver if one exists. The other is when teams run toss or option to the manned up receiver’s side (Diagram 5). Against teams that do this, we will have the safety on that side of the field fill hard on any kind of run action to that side (Diagram 6). We have not faced any teams that do a play action pass from a toss or option look. There are some key coaching points that one should consider when implementing this into your defense. 1. Other than the cornerback that is manned-up, the key to running this coverage is the outside backers. They must be able to cover the flat area when they are needed. Otherwise, if a flanker goes deep and the tight end releases to the flat, the tight end will be wide open. 2. Try to deterDiagram Five mine in what situations that FS the oppoCB W nent likes to RE pass and run. There is no reason to have a cornerback chasing a receiver all
Diagram Six Diagram Four

Diagram Three

FS CB W RE M RT LT

SS S LE CB

FS CB W RE

CB = #1 OLB = #2 MLB = #3

SS M RT LT S LE

FS CB W RE M RT LT

SS S LE CB

over the field on a run play. Play the percentages. 3. Make sure that the player SS responsible for M S containment on RT LT LE CB the side of the receiver that is manned up knows that no one is there to bail him out and he must protect containment at all times. 4. Make sure that your cornerback can play man to man, whether you want him to play bump and run or just run with the guy. If he can not play man to man, do something else like drop an CB additional defender, such as the defensive end, to the side that the “great” receiver is on. 5. If you feel the only way your opponent will beat you is with this receiver, then you can use this coverage all game long. If there are other concerns, use your scouting and call it when the situation dictates it. 6. Do not abandon this coverage too soon just because the opponent busted one big play. But at the same time, if your cornerback simply is getting outplayed be prepared to do something else. I hope this article has been helpful for all of you coaches out there. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me. Good luck this season.
Jerome Learman is the Defensive Coordinator at Dansville High School, in Dansville, Michigan. He can be reached at 952 Trafalger St., East Lansing, MI 48823. n

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Building a Great Defense

By Sal Cintorino
Head Football Coach Central Connecticut State University

All great defenses begin by building a solid foundation. Regardless of the scheme that you plan to utilize, the foundation that you build your defense on will be the cornerstone of your success.

you will need to have a teaching philosophy that is universal to your staff and players. Regardless of the age of your athletes, you must utilize terminology and a teaching progression that makes it easy for everyone to learn. Terminology for alignments and gap responsibility is the first area that should be covered when you are teaching a scheme. All eleven players need to be specifically aligned with a gap assignment, by a descriptive term, in order to teach and learn effectively.

T

O BUILD A SOLID FOUNDATION

In both diagram A and B, all gaps have been identified with a letter. Each player is responsible for securing at least one of these gaps on every play. Demand that your players secure these gaps so that you can build a defensive wall without any holes. When a player vacates his gap before securing it, your defense begins to break down. In order for your players to successfully secure their gaps, first properly align them in a specific location that is complemented and not occupied by another defensive player. The alignments for the down linemen are identified by single digit numbers. The alignments for the linebackers are identified by double digit numbers. All of the even numbers identify a head up location (one that does not favor either side of the offensive player). All of the odd numbers and letters represent shades (an alignment that favors the inside or outside shoulder of an offensive player).

Diagram A

D

C

B

A

A

B

C

D

Gap responsibilities for down lineman

The (A) gap is the area between the Center and Guard
(A) (A)

9 7 6

5 4

4i

3 1 2

S 0

S

1 3 2

4i 5 4

7 6

9

Alignments for down lineman

The (B) gap is the area between the Guard and Tackle
(B) (B)

Diagram B

The (C) gap is the area between the Tackles and End
(C) (C)

D

C

B

A

A

B

C

D

Gap responsibilities for Backers

90 70 50 40i 60 40

3 010 SS 20 S0

SS

10 30 20

40i 50 40

70 90 60

Alignments for Linebackers

The (D) gap is the area outside the Tight End
(D) (D)

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Diagram C: even alignments
6 4 2 0 2 4 6

Base 500

E

T LB

N LB

T

NE

Diagram D: odd alignments
9 7 5 4i 3 1 S S 1 3 4i 5 7 9

SS

500 Loop

Even Alignments
Alignments are also referred to as techniques. The even techniques that we have illustrated in diagram C are as follows: “O”technique is head up on the Center “2” technique is head up on the Guard “4” technique is head up on the Tackle “6” technique is head up on the Tight End
E T LB E LB T E

500 Slant
E T LB N LB T E

Odd Alignments
The odd techniques that are illustrated in diagram D are as follows: “S” is a shade on the shoulder of the Center “1” technique is a shade on the inside shoulder of the Guard “3” technique is a shade on the outside shoulder of the Guard “4i”is a shade on the inside shoulder of the Tackle “5” technique is a shade on the outside shoulder of the Tackle “7” technique is a shade on the inside shoulder of the Tight End “9” technique is a shade on the outside shoulder of the Tight End By identifying gaps and alignments with descriptive terms, you enable your staff and players to clearly learn multiple fronts and schemes. The associated diagrams are basic illustrations of two different schemes with various gap responsibilities and alignments for lineman and inside linebackers.
Odd 400

E SS LB

T

N LB

T (DE)

Base 500
In a Base 500 we align all the down linemen in head up (even techniques). The nose is in a “0” technique working dual A gaps, the tackles are in “4” techniques working C gaps and the ends are in a “6” technique working D gaps.

The DE is the drop end, if there was only one TE he would be in a walk away which would align him the same as the strong safety (SS), three yards wide and three yards deep off the ghost TE (ghost where the tight end would have been lined up if he were there). The linebackers are both in a “30” technique working B gaps. This defensive front has a number of favorable variables. The purpose for using head up alignments is for creating multiple gap responsibilities based on stunts. In contrast to Base 500, 500 Loop looks the same but now the linebackers loop to the C gaps and the tackles step inside and secure the B gaps. Versus 500 Slant, both the tackles and ends work inside to the B and C gaps respectively, and the linebacker scrapes to the D gap.
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This one simple alignment creates three different looks for the offense to block. These three defenses are all gap controlled. You should place your best defensive lineman at the nose position because he is the only two gap player (dual A). All of these defensive fronts can be combined with a number of coverages. When you change your front from a Base 500 to a shade package, you clearly identify to the offense what gap a player is responsible for prior to the snap of the ball. We all know that twisting stunts are still capable from these shade alignments but unless you have exceptional athletes, most players never complete the stunt because they are at least two alignments removed. If your linebackers are disciplined and you don’t have a great nose guard, you may prefer a shaded defense because your down linemen are aligned directly in their gap of responsibility. The diagram illustrated to the left will be referred to as an Odd 400 defense. The left end is in a “9” technique securing a D gap, the left tackle is in a “3” technique securing the B gap, the nose is in a “1” technique securing the A gap, the right tackle is in a “5” technique securing the C gap. The stand up players include the two inside linebackers, strong safety and drop end who would be in a “9” technique verses double tight. The left linebacker is in a “50” technique securing the C gap, the right linebacker is in a “20” technique. He has a two gap responsibility: flow to him – he has a front side B gap; flow away from him – he scrapes to the back side A gap. Because the nose is in a “1” technique, the center should not be able to cut the right linebacker off when he scrapes to the backside A gap on flow away from him. The Odd 400 utilizes stunts that likely originate on the perimeter, usually with your DE and your SS. Three examples would include the Odd 400 Lightning, Odd 400 Smash and a combination of Odd 400 Lightning Smash. I have illustrated seven different frontage schemes without even incorporating the various coverage’s such as cover 2, cover 3, and man coverage. At the youth level, you can build your entire defense from these two simple fronts but you need a teaching system to make the whole package work. Once the players understand alignments and gap responsibility, you have to get them to also line up on the appropriate side of the ball contingent on the formation. If you just have them play a right side or a left side, they have to learn a great deal more than learning a set position that flips sides dependent on the formation. I have found great success from the following teaching system. I give each of the down linemen a specific name and each of the stand up players receive a name and number.
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Odd 400 Lightning

The DE is blitzing from the perimeter

E SS LB

T

N LB

T DE

Odd 400 Smash

The SS is blitzing from the perimeter

E SS LB

T

N LB

T DE

Odd 400 Lightning Smash

E SS LB

T

N LB

T DE

Diagram E - 500
RAM EE SS ET SLB N WLB AT DEVIL

OR
RAM 9 3 ET 5 N 6 AT 8

Diagram F

AT LION 8 6

N 5

ET

9 3

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The ET, EE “9”, SS “3” and SLB “5” will always line up together on either the right or left side. The AT, WLB “6” and devil “8” will also always line up together on the right or left side. This will be organized by the devil. He will make a ram (right) or lion (left) call on every play as the offense breaks the huddle. For the two defenses I have illustrated, the call (ram, lion) is identified as a split call. A split call means that the devil wants his group to line up on the split end side. If the split end is on his right, he calls ram . His even family (AT, 6, and 8) will go to the right. The odd family (3, 5, 9 and ET) will go opposite the call – in this case verses a ram, call the odd family goes left as illustrated in (diagram E). In diagram F the split end is on the left so the devil makes a lion call. Verse lion, the even family is on the left side and the odd family is opposite on the right side. By alternating sides based on ram and lion calls, you cut the amount of alignments that your linemen and backers need to learn in half. The final segment in teaching these fundamental schemes entails utilizing cognitive signals. Signals that can easily be interpreted and performed will make your defense a great success. This final segment is what makes the entire package materialize. I use a digit system to call all of our plays. The first digit is the front, the second digit is the coverage and the digits that follow [the second digit] are all additional rushers to your initial down lineman. This digit system is the reason that we number all of the stand up people. Without getting into the details of our coverage in this article you need to understand that our 3-deep coverage is referred to as “30”, 2-deep “20” and man coverage is “10”. An example of some base defensive calls would be 539, 536 LOOP, 439, and 423. Lets first look at the first two. In 539, we have a 500 front, 30 coverage (3-deep) and EE “9” is rushing. Verses 536 LOOP, we are still in a 500 front – we are still in cover 3 but now 6 is rushing on a loop stunt with the AT. The AT knows that he is looping because he is in the “even call side family” and 6 had his number called. The EE “9” did not have his number called so he will become a drop end. Remember that all of the stand up players can have their number signaled and they become a rusher. Any player who has been designated with a number will play the coverage called unless his number is called Now lets look at 439 and 423. In 439 we are in a 400 front with 3-deep coverage and 9 is rushing. In 423 we are still in a 400 front but with 2-deep coverage and 3 is rush-

539
Ram Call 9 3 C(1) FS(2) ET 5 N 6 AT 8 C(4)

536 Loop
Ram Call 9 3 C(1) FS(2) ET 5 N 6 AT 8 C(4)

439
Ram Call 9 3 1 2 5 ET N 6 AT 8 4

423
Lion Call AT 4 8 2 N 6 1 ET 5 9 3

ing. Since 3 was the last digit called, 9 will drop into coverage with all of the other stand up players. The combination of calls that can be developed by using this system is simple yet numerous. I know that the athletes that I have worked with quickly respond to this teaching approach. I believe that the most important aspect of coaching begins with the foundation that you set to build your program. You must be able to translate your ideas into a scheme that is simple and understandable to your athletes. n

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An Attacking Cover 2

By Jerry Vallotton
Assistant Coach, Foothill High School, Redding, CA

A rolling quarterback can be a real frustrating thing to defend. If the quarterback has a chance to roll beyond the tackles he can put most defenses in an awkward position. Many times it means the quarterback has rolled beyond any pressure sent by the defensive line or blitzing linebackers. It also means he is a viable threat to run which means you either play

e have discovered that by rolling toward the quarterback’s roll we can have the best of both worlds. We bring great pressure off the edge and have ample coverage to cover the routes.

W

weak outside linebacker (Rover) will float the back side flat. The two inside linebackers (Mike and Whip) cover the inside hook-curl zones. Instead of sitting back and giving the QB time to pick us apart we felt we could go right at him, disrupt his timing and roll-up to the crossing routes that follow his roll. We create sacks by having the QB pull-up which buys time for our inside rushers to get to him. Even if he does get the pass off he often has to throw off balance. This helps to create turnovers (interceptions) or at least incomplete passes. This coverage allows us to play aggressively, but also to continue to have sound coverage.
Jerry Vallotton has had fourteen years of coaching experience as a head coach, an offensive and a defensive coordinator. Coach Vallotton is also the author of “The Toss” a book about the double wing offense (carried in our bookstore as GCB 152, $29.95) For more information call Coach Vallotton at 530/246-1700. n

We are a 4–4 base, but actually we are in a 4–2 (Diagram One) because we place our outside linebackers so far out. As you can see, it becomes very difficult to get outside on us. Our base coverage is Cover 3 (3 deep with 4 under). When we come up against an offense that has a roll-out scheme we call “Base 3 – Cloud to Q.” Which means we are going to run our base 4–4 Cover 3 if the QB drops straight back (Diagram Two.) But if he rolls-out in either direction we are going to attack his roll with our “Cloud (corner) to the QB’s roll (Diagram Three.)

Diagram Two Cover 3

The strong outside linebacker (Sam in this case) will attack outside-in. His goal is to disrupt the roll. We want to the perimeter and give make the QB pull up short or at least up some flat coverage. “hurry” his pass. The strong corner (CB) Neither of these are will come up quickly looking to jump the flat. He is usually looking for #1 or sound options. #2 running an outside route. The strong safety (S) will drive to the near has marks and look to jump the deep clearing route. The halfback (HB) will drive to the other has and look to cover the deep half (usually a post route). The
soft and mirror him or you send pressure off

L

T M

N W
Hook/curl

E R H

Flat
C

S
Hook/curl

Flat

$

1/3

1/3

1/3

Diagram Three 2 Cloud to QB

Diagram One 4-4 Base
L T M
Hook/curl

N W
Hook/curl

E R H

Flat
C

S

Flat

$

L S C

T M $

N W

E R 1/2 H 1/2

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Defensive Game Preparation at Canisius College
At Canisius College we have many of the same challenges that other small college programs and some high school programs share with regard to the preparation that goes into defensive game planning. With a staff that has part time personnel mixed with full-time assistant coaches, time management is a vital

By H. Glen Graham
Defensive Coordinator, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY

efensive game preparation begins on Sunday. The players are given the day off. The head coach schedules a general staff meeting which usually last one hour or less and then the offensive and defensive coaches proceed to separate to begin the weeks work. Each defensive assistant evaluates Saturday’s game on their own. Videotape dubbing equipment can be shared with other programs that are not currently in season (ex: basketball and football might share two video decks) so as to allow coaches to copy tapes to be viewed as homework Sunday night so each position coach can provide players with a written evaluation during Mondays unit meetings.

D

3. Red Zone Defense 4. Pressures/Blitz Coverage 5. Personnel Packages 6. Pass Defense 7. 2 Minute Drill/Victory Defense 8. Special Plays B. Defensive Line Coach 1. Inside Run/Off-tackle Run 2. Draw 3. Pass Protection/Rush vs. Protection Schemes 4. Short Yardage C. Linebacker Coach 1. Outside Run 2. Run Support 3. Under Coverage(s) 4. Screens/Draws
Jason: Defensive Line • down/dist • pass/run • fronts • pressures • best runs • pass pro schemes • handout prep • scripts: • Interior • Run play cards Mark: Linebackers • pressures • LB alignment • and run fits • formations • assist Jason • w/handout • LB run fits • assist with • interior script • signal fronts • during team Art: Defensive Assistant • bench control • substitution • special teams • quality control • special plays • 2 point offense • quote for handout • run scout offense • organize play • cards

The defensive part of our program. coaches proceed to finalize the breakdown of the previous days game for the upcoming opponent. Our conference has a video exchange protocol. Video scouting allows for a more complete evaluation of your opponents tendencies and any idiosyncrasies. Once we complete the current film we should have at least four films on our opponent including our game with them from the previous season. During film review each coach is cognizant of their preassigned area of emphasis. Each coach must be able to summarize for the entire staff what they have observed with regard to the philosophy of the upcoming opponent and how we plan to attack them. Areas of emphasis include: A. Defensive Coord./Secondary Coach (Def. Asst. shares duties) 1. Goaline / 2 pt Defense 2. Coming Out Defense

Coach and Position Game Analysis

Glen: Defensive Coordinator All situations

Scouting Report

• game plan outline • formation • tendencies • best passes • scripts: • Team • 7 on 7 • Group • Pass play • cards • play calling • coordinate 2nd • 1/2 adjustments • address unit • address secondary • equipment • concerns (road)

Practice Prep

Game Duties Halftime Duties

• call sheets • defensive call • tendencies • front adjustments • meet w/DL • equipment • concerns

• POA hit chart • pass hit chart • D/D and P/R • ratios • suggest LB • adjustments • meet w/LBs • equipment • concerns

• signal defenses • suggest • adjustments • meet where • needed • equipment • concerns • road Chaplain

Supplemental Duties

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Any video broken down prior to receiving the opponent’s most recent game must be completed by Friday morning to allow for analysis on Sunday. The Friday morning deadline also allows the staff to travel and prepare for the upcoming game without distraction. The areas of emphasis for analysis of an opponent with regard to tendencies is an integral part of game plan development. Defensively it is imperative that you are aware of any and all tendencies with regard to the following areas: 1. Down and Distance 5. Pass Concepts 2. Vertical Field Position 6. Goaline 3. Formation/Shifts/Motion 7. Short Yardage 4. Run Concepts 8. Special Plays Our typical Sunday schedule encompasses the aforementioned points of emphasis and should follow this schedule: Sunday Schedule 1. Finalize Film Breakdown 2. Finalize 2 Deep Chart 3. Prep Goaline 4. Prep Short Yardage 5. Prep +20 Defense 6. Prep Pressures 7. Prep 2 Minute Defense 8. Prep 2 Point Defense Create Fronts for Situations 1. 1-10 drive start 7. 2. 1-10 3. 1-11 plus 8. 4. 2-1-2 9. 5. 2-3-6 10. 6. 2-7-10

2-10 and 2-10 after an incompletion on first down 2-10+ 3-7-10 3-3-6

The rest of the week’s preparation is nearly complete by Monday night. Our Monday practice which includes team and unit meetings, special teams walk through and defensive walk through. After this practice the scouting report is completed and play cards and scripts are constructed for Tuesday’s practice. The Game Plan is finalized by Wednesday after practice. Thursday’s practice is for review and special situations. The assigned weekly duties of each coach are highlighted by Diagram 1 which also includes game day responsibilities. At Canisius College we believe that proper organization and time management allows for each defensive football player to be well prepared and properly motivated for the upcoming opponent.
Coach Graham is currently the Defensive Coordinator at Canisius College. Additionally, he serves as the secondary coach. He coached high school football for 10 years before joining the Canisius staff. He can be reached at (716) 888-2966. n

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Defending the Two-Tight End Set

By Jon Schultheis Head Football Coach Keansburg High School Keansburg, New Jersey

Coaches are constantly looking for ways to gain the upper hand for their teams. Football is a game of adjustment and readjustment of advantage and the scramble to negate that advantage.

VERY SEASON ONE SIDE of the ball seems to exploit some new concept that sends opposing coordinators back to the drawing board to figure out how to defend or attack this new scheme.

E

Although there are endless possibilities for this formation, these are the four primary reasons for using the twotight end set we have encountered. The five formations presented are variations of two-tight end sets. Each of these fits into one or more offensive philosophies.

One of the concepts that has been gaining popularity is the use of twotight ends. As defensive coordinators search for successful ways to defend the two-tight end formation, it is first necessary to determine the philosophy of the offense when using this set.

Defensive Strategies Versus the Two-Tight End Set
There are two possibilities in defending the two-tight end set: 1. Assign certain players a two-gap assignment. This strategy is possible versus all formations. 2. Place more defenders at the LOS so as to maintain single-gap responsibility. This responsibility is not always an option depending on the formation, front and coverage. There are certain teams whose defensive philosophies have been imitated by defenses around the country on all levels. These include the University of Miami, Michigan State, the University of Washington and the Minnesota Vikings. We have had the opportunity to hear their thoughts on defending the two-tight end set. All of them incorporate the previously mentioned strategy of using twogap players or putting more defenders at the LOS. Here are some of their thoughts on defending two-tight ends. The Hurricanes have been one of the most consistent defensive teams in recent time. They are blessed with outstanding athletes and make very few adjustments. From their basic “canes” set they will adjust the weak side of the defensive front out to the second tight end. Thus, their linebackers become two-gap players. George Perles, coordinator of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense in Pittsburgh during the 70’s, made the titled nose one of the most striking features of defensive football. He and his staff have several answers to the set in question. Most simply, they will run the “up” defense to place more men at the LOS than the TE on either side.

Offensive Philosophy of the Two-Tight End Set
My coaching staff and I have determined four philosophies that we have encountered as reasons coaches use the two tight end set. 1. The offense creates more gaps at the line of scrimmage (LOS). This technique is particularly effective in the running game.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

2. The two-tight end set places more blockers in the core of the formation. 3. The threat of another receiver aligned on the LOS (as opposed to a back out of the backfield). 4. It forces the defense to balance its front instead of determining strength to one tight end.

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Another option is to play their base defense and run a blitz. This strategy forces one of the running backs to block the blitzing player neutralizing the offense’s numbers advantage and protecting the middle linebacker from the lead play. If the offense is only using one running back, the blitz is not necessary because there is no lead blocker in the backfield. The Huskies attacking defense, in effect, brought the 44 back into big time college football. The eight-man front needed no adjustment to two tight ends. The inside linebackers are two gap players.
Diagram One: 2 TEs, 2 RBs, 1 WR

The Vikings had one of the best rushing defenses in NFL history. Out of their base “under” defense they like to switch to gap responsibilities to confuse the offense’s blocking schemes. I hope some of these philosophies will assist you in your thinking and enable you to defend your opponents more effectively. Our players did a great job this year defensively, giving up 51 points in 11 games and winning the state sectional championship. Dialogue is the best way to learn and share ideas. I would appreciate other ideas and/or questions on this matter. n

Diagram Five: Spread - 2 TEs, 3 WRs

Diagram Nine

B

E B

T

T

E SS

B

Diagram Two: Ace - 2 TEs, 1 RB, 2 WRs

Two-Gap Assignment

Diagram Ten

B

E

T

B

T

E

B SS B E B T T E B

Diagram Three: Fullhouse - 2 TEs, 3 BRs

Diagram Seven

Diagram Eleven
B E B T T E B

B

E

T

B

B

T

E

B

Diagram Twelve
E SS T B T B E B

E

B

T

B

T

B

E

C

Diagram Four: Tight - 3 TEs, 2 RBs

Diagram Eight

Diagram Thirteen
“Stack”

E B

T B

T

E B

B

E

B

T

T

B

E

“Lion”
E B T B T E B B E B T T B E

All backers have two-gap responsibilities

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The Wide Tackle Six: A No-Nonsense Defense
“Combining an attack-style six man front with a dynamic and versatile stunt and coverage package, the wide tackle six defense will give you the tools to control the line of scrimmage and slow down even the most high powered offenses.”

By Kelly Richardson
Assistant Football Coach Stone Mountain High School Stone Mountain, Georgia

H

IGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL HAS

changed over the years, but one dynamic has remained constant. That is that the team that can control the line of scrimmage has a decided advantage over it’s opponent. An offensive team that can run the ball effectively throughout a football game is nearly unstoppable. Conversely, a defensive squad that can consistently stuff its opponent’s running plays has almost assured its team of a victory.

port to stop the play. The secondary is a vital part of the runstopping personnel in the wide tackle six.

Stunt package
With a six man front, offensive opponents must be very careful when they prepare a pass blocking scheme. The wide tackle six allows the defensive personnel to run a variety of simple twists and stunts and put a great amount of pressure on the quarterback. You can run twists that change the gap responsibility of the linemen. You also have the option of stunting the linebacker through any gap without compromising an uncovered area. Often times, you can turn your ends loose to rush from the outside. Since they are still responsible for contain, ends are taught to rush to the outside shoulder of the last man in the backfield to keep from getting pinned under. Add all this to an occasional comer or safety blitz, and you have an impressive package of quarterback pressure.

In many of your games, your defense lines up against offenses that have a feature tailback. That running back will probably carry the ball twenty to thirty times during the game. It makes sense for you to help your defense improve its odds of success. The wide tackle six allows you to match man-power up front as well as keep tabs on the pass.

Coverages
Cover three is the base coverage with the wide tackle six defense. However, cover two, man, and man-free are all possibilities. In certain situations, it is possible to have your strong end drop with a tight end release so that you can achieve a five underneath look. There are numerous possibilities when changing and/or disguising coverages. Base coverages are illustrated in diagrams three, four, and five.
DIAGRAMS CONTINUED ON PAGE

Base Alignment
The base alignment of the wide tackle six is shown in diagram one. The entire wide tackle defensive scheme hinges around six down lineman and a middle linebacker. Defensive alignments are set according to the strength of the offense with the linebacker making a strong right or left call. The nose tackles are always in an inside eye alignment over the guards (a one technique). With a strong left call, the strong tackle is aligned head up on the offensive tackle. The quick (or backside) tackle is aligned on the inside eye of the tackle to the backside. The strong end lines up on the outside eye of the tight end. The quick end is uncovered allowing some freedom in assigning his responsibilities. The middle linebacker is head up on the center about seven yards deep. This depth allows for maximum scrape angles and ease in getting into pass drops. This is a gap control defense, and each member of the front seven has a gap responsibility. Diagram two shows gap assignments. Linemen should be taught to penetrate no more than one yard into the backfield in base play. The object of the wide tackle six defense is to plug up the gaps, take away the inside game, and allow the middle linebacker and secondary run sup-

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Diagram One: Base Alignment
FS C B E T N N T SS E C

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THE WIDE TACKLE SIX: A NO-NONSENSE DEFENSE

Diagram Two: Base Defense
FS C B E T N N T SS C E

Diagram Three: Base 60 - Cover 3

FS SS C B E T N N T E C

Diagram Four: Base 60 - Cover 2

FS C B E T N N T

SS C E

Diagram Five: Base 60 - Man
FS C B E T N N T SS C E

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Situation Four
“In most championship game circumstances there is a dominant offensive player on the team you must beat to win. To stop him you must do a great job of adjusting your defensive scheme to take somethings away from him but allow him to do a few other things because you cannot stop him altogether. This year in college football, Charlie Ward was the man to stop on the Florida State Seminoles football team—he was probably the best college football player in 1993. He can run, pass, and create a great deal of havoc on the field. How would you defend FSU and Charlie Ward? The following are some things to be considered. • Do you stunt your defensive lineman or play a contain/read front? • What kind of blitz pressure will you use: DBs, LBs, or a combo of both? • How will you cover the four wide sets–man or zone? • Who will play the QB running attack–draw, sprint series, ect. • How will you defend the one running back—is he dynamite too? • Will you replace LBs for DBs? • Do you cover the short routes and defend the big play or vice versa? • What do you do best on defense and how will you make that work against this football team and great offensive player? Only one team was capable of solving this problem will enough to win, Notre Dame. Here’s your chance to use your skill like some of the best college coaches did during the 1993 season. Remember, who ever has the chalk last wins–you cannot loose.” Bill Renner GC Vol. 4/Issue 1 You Call The Play
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Limiting Foia lrd State’s Offense
A “You Call The Play” Special Submission: Situation Four

HAVE DECIDED TO APPROACH this situation with the attitude of limiting the offense of the Florida State Seminoles rather than trying to shut it down. In 1993, the Seminoles were a great offensive football team led by the nation’s top football player, and since the fewest points they scored in any one game last season was 18, it is pointless to talk about completely shutting them down.

I

I am a Florida State fan living in what is known as “ACC Country”. I’m familiar with FSU’s offense and with what their opponents must hope to do in order to limit them. The following are some keys to devising a game plan against FSU’s offense–things we must do as a team. • Keep their offense off of the field by controlling the ball—no three downs and out; Charlie Ward can’t hurt us if he’s not on the field. • Win the field position battle; even if we don’t score when we have the ball we must make a couple of first downs and punt the ball well to insure that they will have to go long distances in order to score on us. Obviously, this also takes into account that we cannot turn the ball over. • If at all possible we must get the lead and force them to play catchup. Hopefully, if we can maintain the lead they will completely abandon the running game and reduce the number of things we must think about and defend. • We must make sure tackles and not allow yards after the catch by the talented Seminole wide receivers and backs. Ward completed 70% of his passes, a total which indicates that many of them were short throws, but his receivers have the potential to take any short throw all the way with the help of just one missed tackle. We must punish them after each catch and when Ward decides to run upfield we
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By John Lilly Assistant Coach, Northwest Guilford HS Greensboro, North Carolina

Situation Four – Formations to Defend
Trips
WR WR WR TB QB X

Spread
WR FB QB TB X Z

Doubles
WR WR QB TB X WR

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must be very physical. Nothing dirty–everything between the whistles, but very physical. North Carolina utilized this style in the first half of its game with FSU and created three turnovers. Next, there are a couple of things which the Seminoles do which will actually help us defensively: • They do not really use very much motion, so for the most part what you see when they break the huddle is what you’re going to get. When they do go motion it will be with their backs and not with their receivers. This fact should limit the adjustments we will have to make while Ward calls the cadence.

Pressure on the Quarterback

Trips

C
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S S

4

1

4

Spread

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• We are going to sit in some fronts and coverages that we hope 1 will take away the 3 pass, but they will still try to pass the ball against them. Why? Doubles Because they have the We will on occasion premier player in the substitute linebackers for college game at ends (more quickness and quarterback and they perhaps better pressure) E T T E C want the ball in his and defensive backs for B B C B hands. He threw for linebackers (better pass S S 27 touchdowns with coverage against the inonly 4 interceptions side receivers and backs and was sacked only out of the backfield; lim1 1 2 2 10 times in 12 regular its mismatches). We will season games. With sit predominantly in zone that type of success coverages with some difeven when other teams ferent variations. We will were trying to take away the pass you know that they are blitz some and play some man-to-man, but only in select situagoing to stay with it, especially when you’ve got the most tions. Florida, if I remember correctly, often tried man coverages supremely confident and most unflappable quarterback in early and got whipped pretty badly. You’ve got to remember that the game pulling the trigger. the Florida State receivers go up against some of the premier defensive backs in the nation every day in practice, so they have With those things said, I will concentrate on the questions honed their skills against top man defenders. We do not want to brought up in Situation Four and at my specific game plan for limiting the Florida State offense.
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Several of the questions you mentioned pointed toward how to get pressure on Charlie Ward. First of all, we will play a contain/read front Diagram One with each defensive lineman in our basic 4-3 set responsible basically for a small area around the line of scrimmage. What we would really like to do E T T E with our defensive ends is B B C to charge hard up the field to contain Ward from getS ting outside, then come back underneath the of1 2 fensive tackles to get to Ward. FSU does not leave backs in to protect against the rush of the defensive line so they depend solely on their linemen for that. Also, if we can get some E T T E good pressure out of our B B C line we may be able to go to only a three man front S S and drop eight into coverage. Notre Dame did this 1 1 some and was still able to 3 3 get to Ward with just the front three.

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give up the big play (either on a short throw and missed tackle or on a deep ball) and this could very easily happen in man. Additionally, the Seminole receivers have built in adjustments if Ward begins to scramble and if you are in a man and you get caught looking at Ward and wondering if you should go help make a tackle on him, he will throw it over your head to your man, much like he did to Matt Frier in the Miami game. Therefore, our philosophy will be primarily to sit in the zone, give up the short throws, make sure and hard tackles, put pressure on Ward with our linemen, and force FSU to use a lot of plays in moving the ball down the field. The more plays they must run, the greater the chance that they will make a mistake we can take advantage of. Remember, they are a highly penalized team. I will get more into the specific coverages and the blitzes we will use in a moment. Finally, how can we cover the running game? Remember, as I said earlier, FSU really doesn’t want to run because it takes the ball out of the hands of their most dangerous offensive weapon. In their loss to Notre Dame the Seminoles ran only 27 times for 96 yards and they threw 50 times. Against Nebraska in another close game they rushed 24 times for 47 yards and Ward put the ball in the air 43 times. With our basic alignment and our linebackers at different times faking or showing blitz and dropping into coverage we will be able to neutralize any rushing attack they show us. Their basic running plays (the fullback dive, the lead, the sweep, and even the direct snap from the center to the lone back) will not hurt us as long as the game is tight and they don’t have us off balance. We can now look a little more closely at the various schemes we will use against their basic formations in order to limit the Seminoles offensively.

Diagram Two

E C B S
1 4 1

N B

B

E C

B

S
4 1

2

Trips
Trips. Basically against this formation we are looking at having four defenders underneath and three deep with the three deep players responsible for quarter/quarter/half coverage. Our best coverage backer will be responsible for the strong side flat while the weak corner must funnel the backside receiver (to help the safety) and then play the flats. He may have an opportunity to help deep since from this formation FSU shows no threat of the back leaking out to his side for a pass. The other two backers must be very alert for two types of routes - the hook/curl at about 10 yards and the crossing route. Communication is vital if we are going to play a lot of zone coverages and these players especially must constantly have their heads on a swivel while taking their drops. This is not a big rushing formation for FSU so we will probably not respect the run very much, but we must be aware of it, particularly at the linebacker positions. If they show us this formation a lot we may go to our three man front more often. With this look we could basically play five underneath and three deep, which could really cause FSU some problems because of their affection for the short throw. Again, a lot of this hinges on being able to get at least a little bit of pressure out of the front three. We may also go to some

man coverage here and utilize a blitz such as this.

Spread
Spread. Here we are looking at a threedeep secondary with the strong side safety jumping up into the hook/curl area where FSU so often likes to go. With this type of action we may be able to confuse Ward momentarily and force some bad throws. Obviously we will not be in this cover exclusively. We will at times rotate our secondary to the strength so that the corner becomes the flat defender and the strong side safety plays the deep third. As much as Ward likes to throw the quick five yard out we would like to have the corner in somewhat of a position to pick this off or make a good solid tackle on the man making the reception. We may play some man underneath here because we would still have two deep safeties to help out. That would not be the case if we blitzed, which we may do occasionally but the backers on the outside, if they were going, would have to be very aware of where the running backs are. If the backs run the flare routes FSU likes, then out backers would be forced to break off their rush and pick up the backs. This formation scares me the most as for the Seminole rushing attack is concerned because they’ve got two running backs in there plus Ward. They like to
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establish the lead across the formation (with the weak side runner leading the strong side back through the guard/tackle gap) and then fake this and roll Ward out. That thought in itself is almost enough to keep me in my base alignment and just let my players react, but I don’t want to limit their aggressiveness by never blitzing or taking some intelligent chances.

Doubles
Doubles. Florida State has not shown the propensity for sending all four receivers vertical, so we feel pretty comfortable going two-deep in the secondary. We want our backers, particularly the weak backer to at least show blitz on just about every play just so the FSU linemen will have to look at him, the receivers may make some type of “hot” adjustment, and Ward may be fooled into a mistake. It may also limit the activity of the back in the passing game. If we come it will be with the weak backer or perhaps even with the weak side corner. Either way it will be from Ward’s backside and away from the lone running back who is probably checking only his side for pass blocking responsibilities. With the weak backer inside showing blitz quite often it also gives us the look of having six men in “the box” so FSU will have only five to block us with and therefore may shy away from the running game. We would like to use this basic approach versus any formation they give us. Diagrams x, x, and x illustrate a couple of blitz looks, although I am not too excited about going after them with no safety free to help out in any trouble spots. That concludes for the most part my brief analysis of how to limit FSU’s offensive unit in 1993. I would like to comment, though, on one area you neglected to mention in the situation which I feel is a real key to having a chance against FSU— goal-line defense. The Seminoles are going to move the football no matter what kind of scheme you have, but if you can
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limit them to field goal attempts rather than touchdowns (like Nebraska did) then you can stay within striking distance. Once they cross the 20 yard line and enter the “red zone” I would stay with my basic defenses until they moved inside the 10. If they were inside the 10 but outside the 5, I would go to more of a gambling, blitzing package to force Ward to hurry or to hang up the fade or corner to Kevin Knox or Kez McCorvey. Let your best man defenders do their thing and coach them to use the sideline

Diagram Three

E C B S B B

N

B

E C

S
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Diagram Four

E B C S

T B

T

E B C S

as their teammate. Remember, a pass caught out of bounds is as good as an incompletion. FSU will help us do this because, despite their love of the quick short pass, they do not run the traditional slant route often and that is without a doubt the most difficult pattern to defend in man coverage and particularly on the goal line. If they do move inside the 5 yard line they will probably tighten the formation and we will do the same. Fullback William Floyd made a living off of short touchdown runs on the dive play. From the I formation, they may go to the sweep and let Floyd do what he is better at than any fullback in the country at—throwing the crushing lead block. With a player like Ward at quarterback, the option would be a difficult play to defend on the goal line or anywhere else on the field for that matter, but FSU wouldn’t dare run it and risk an injury to its top player. If we can stop them or hold them to only a field goal, it would be obviously a tremendous boost for our team. In my brief coaching career I have been involved in only one championship game. We allowed only 159 total yards, but we turned the ball over and lost the field position battle with our special teams and wound up getting beat 28-19. If my mythical team which I have created here was to do battle with Florida State we would not expect to shut them down entirely or shut them out. That, I believe, is impossible. However, by keeping in mind the simple keys I wrote

about at the beginning and by playing a lot of soft zone coverages and mixing in some effective blitz packages and thus forcing FSU to work very hard for all of its points I think we could limit them to the point where we could be in it at the end and probably win it with a field goal at the final gun.
John Lilly, a true fan of the FSU Seminoles, is the Assistant Coach at Northwest Guillford H.S. in Greensboro, North Carolina. If you have any questions regarding this article, Coach Lilly can be reached by calling (919) 668-2124. n

(FREE)

Diagram Five

E C B S
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T B

T B

E S C

Diagram Six

E C B S
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T B

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From Reading to Attacking:
Merging The 4-4 and The Bear 4-6
“We emphasize speed in our off-season program and will sacrifice size for speed in the placement of our personnel. Remember though, that speed is relative. We need to be as fast or faster than the people we play.”
VER THE COURSE OF MY coaching career, I have been associated with some form of an odd reading front. About five years ago, I was confronted with three problems defensively.

By Ron Flowers Head Football Coach Southwest State University Marshall, Minnesota

O

• Keep adjustments and assignments simple to allow our players to turn it loose and use their athletic abilities • Bring back the aggressive, emotional, and fun part of playing defense. What we settled on was a merger between the 4-4 and the Bear 4-6. These two fronts and our ability to alternate from one to the other have proven to be very effective. There are several key factors in the successful execution of an attacking defense.
Our defensive lineman crowd the ball. Their primary responsibility is to re-establish the line of scrimmage in the backfield. We do not “read and react”, we “attack and act.” While they are responsible for the gap they are aligned on, they are not responsible for protecting linebackers. Flexibility in alignment. Both schemes give us the ability to place eight players in what we call the “attack zone.” Our linebackers play at the heels of the defensive line and always present the offense with the heat of a LB run through. With the addition of a “up” call, we can align ten and sometimes eleven players on the LOS. Easy to disguise. Our coverage package is simple and built around the base coverages that resemble one another. This makes it easy for us to disguise our intentions. Our coverages consist of a robber scheme, 3-deep zone, man free, and a “0” or blitz coverage. We emphasize stemming and moving. By stemming we are referring to the individual movements of all 11 players. Because the scheme is simple, after our players understand their basic responsibilities they are encouraged to move around on their own. For example, while our LBs have split gap responsibilities based on backfield flow, they do not have a fixed alignment. They are taught their basic responsibilities and then given the latitude to vary their alignment. Because the defensive concepts are

Number one: Given the wide open offense that we were running the old “bend but don’t break” philosophy was not getting the job done. We were not getting the big plays to stop drives. Thus, our high powered offense was spending too much time on the sidelines.

Number two: Working in a small program, we have to rely on a significant number of young players and JC transfers. With the multiple formations we were facing, we were spending more and more of our time teaching alignments and adjustments than techniques and tendencies. Number three: With all the adjusting we were doing, our players were suffering from “paralysis by analysis.” The bottom line was that our players were performing like robots rather than turning it lose like the athletes we had recruited—they were not having fun! Each week we ran a pass under pressure blitz period versus our own offense. I became convinced that a change was in order when I noticed the tremendous increase in our players’ enthusiasm during this blitz period. They were having fun: “you’ve got him, you’ve got him and the rest of us are turning it loose!” In looking for a change, we focused on a defensive scheme that would: • Attack and disrupt the flow of an offense • Create the big plays and turnovers allowing our offense more possessions • Create confusion and on-the-field decision making by the offense and thus impact offensive execution • Cause preparation problems by utilizing a scheme that was unique for our opponents to prepare for
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Diagram One: Base Front

Diagram Two: Up Base

Diagram Three: Move Bear “Away from Whip”

E R C S

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E W

C C

R

E

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Bear Front

Up Bear

Move Base “To Whip”

E

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C C

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FS

simple, we are able to focus on the offense while much of our stemming and alignment variation is determined by the offenses’ formation or tendencies, etc. By moving we are referring to a coordinated movement of the entire defense from one package to the other. The combination of stemming and moving make audibles difficult and creates offensive confusion that leads to misexecution.
Emphasize pursuit and speed. To play this package, you must be able to play man coverage. Without the ability to play man you cannot utilize a blitz/pressure system. We emphasize speed in our off-season program and will sacrifice size for speed in the placement of our personnel. Remember though, that speed is relative. We need to be as fast or faster than the people we play. While NFL speed would be nice, it is not necessary.

Diagram Four: Pressure Schemes Crash

size some aspect of running to the football. Our players are preached to that if on the last snap of practice if they are not spent they have not run to the football the way they must—it is game day everyday when it comes to pursuit! The following diagrams illustrate our Base Front and Bear Front. Our move is always determined by the location of our weak OLB or Whip. We either slide to or away from the Whip. With a move call in the huddle we will line up in the opposite defense and move to the defense called. The diagram below illustrates how we do this. I can honestly say that, if for no other reason than our kids have fun playing defense, I am glad we no longer “read” and now “attack.” The results speak for themselves.
C

E C R S

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Dog

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Mike

E
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Sam

While all defenses talk about purE suit, we must “bleed” it. A big play T S R C defense can just as fast become a big FS play for the offense if pursuit is not emphasized. We talk it, we walk it and we drill pursuit like nobody’s business. What might be unusual is that we do not do a lot of “extra” conditioning after practice. However, in every phase of practice, from individual, group and team work, we empha-

Since adopting this concept, we have finished no lower than second in our conference in all defensive categories. In addition, we have led the W conference in minus yardage and N E M C sacks. We now average eighteen tackles for a loss per game (not including sacks, which we average 3.5 per game) and have had as many as twenty-five tackles for a loss in one game. Can you imagine one third or more of your opponent’s plays resulting in negative yardage! So much for the bend but don’t break philosophy. n

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Adapting the Master Defense to an Even Alignment

By Donald J. Nimphius
Defensive Coordinator, Shoreham Wading River High School, Long Island, NY

I

n the ’60’s Bob Troppman, published, “FOOTBALL’S MASTER DEFENSE GUIDE.” At the time it was one of the most useful publications around dealing with defensive alignments and adjustments. A revised edition, “THE NEW MASTER DEFENSE GUIDE 2,” published in the ’80’s, added additional ideas relating to pass coverages and the defense of the option. The theme of both books was to develop a system of calls to enable a coach to adjust to any offensive set he may face. The calls were based on a numbering system established by the techniques or alignments of the defensive tackles and the nose. The numbering system was organized by using even numbers for head up alignments and odd numbers for shaded alignments. (See Diagrams One and Two.)
Diagram One Even Numbers
8 6 4 2 0 2 4 6 8

Over, etc. These words determined the technique of the Nose in relation to the strength of the formation, or to the tight end to the left side of the defense. (See Diagram Three a–e.) To establish such techniques to the opposite or quick side, away from a right tight end the words were preceded by the word, Under. Example: Under Shade, Under Slide, etc. Backside end responsibilities, also described by words, Away, Out, Eagle, etc. are the last part of the defense called and are included in Chart I and several diagrams.
Diagram Three Alignment of the Nose
a. 0–Stay Technique N b. 0–Shade Technique N c. 1–Slide Technique N d. 2–Technique (over-under technique) e. 3–Slam Technique N N

Diagram Two Odd Numbers
9 75 3 1 1 3 57 9

T

N

N

N

Chart I
*0 – Head up on the center. *2 – Head up on the guard. *4 – Head up on the tackle. *6 – Head up on the end. *8 – Two yds. Outside the end. *8 – Contain: 2 to 3 feet outside *8 – the tackle to the S.E. side. *8 – Designed to defend the option. *8 – Away – A walk off position. *8 – Out – Head up on the S.E. *8 – Stack – Stacked behind the *8 – tackle to the S.E. side. *1 – Inside shade of the guard. *3 – Outside shade of the guard. *5 – Outside shade of the tackle. *7 – Inside shade of the end. *9 – Outside of the tight end. #5 – Eagle: An end technique, #5 – outside of the tackle as close #5 – close to the L.O.S. as possible.

A. The linebackers align themselves accordingly. 1. If the down tackles align to the right, move right, the backers move left. 2. If the tackles move left, the backers align right. (See Diagram Five.)
Diagram Four
a. 60 b. 70 50 30 10 10 30 50 70 40 20 0 20 40 60

A series of words were used to provide a variety of additional adjustments. The most significant of these referred to the Nose and Backside End. Words for the Nose were: Stay, Shade, Slide,
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B. Secondary calls, in the Master Defense are determined by a color call system (see Chart II).

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Chart II
1. RED CALL: Strong Safety support to the two receiver side. 2. WHITE CALL: A two deep alignment with five (5) underneath the zone. 3. BLUE CALL: A four across secondary. a. Blue Cloud: corners up. b. Blue Sky: safeties up. 4. GREEN CALL: Man to Man with a free safety. 5. BLACK CALL: The same as White except Man coverage underneath. 6. ORANGE CALL: A check call against a slot formation.

a. A pro 4-3 or 6-1 traditional. b. A 6-2, split 6 (4-4) traditional. Once these decisions have been made the following MUST be done to adapt the MASTER DEFENSE to even configuration. After the substituting an additional down lineman, Nose, for whomever the word EVEN must be added to the call. EVEN, meaning there are now two nose guards in the game and that they are to align as determined by the call. Additionally, the word SLAM is added to the Nose techniques to enable a simple call to align with an EVEN front. Since two Nose Guards are now in the game it might be wise to proceed the Nose alignment words with the word Double. Ex. Double Slide, Double Over, etc. (See Diagrams Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine.) The Nose guard(s) techniques would then be: Chart III
0 – Stay 0 – Shade/Under Shade 0 – **3 – Slam/Under Slam 1 – Slide/Under Slide 2 – Over/Under 0 – ** A new alignment

Of course, any additional calls may be added as you see fit. • Ex. SILVER CALL: A traditional three (3) deep secondary. C. To set the defense the basic principal is determined by calling; 1. The secondary by color: RED, WHITE, BLUE, etc. 2. The alignment of the tackles by numbers: 55, 35, 53, etc. 3. The alignment of the Nose(s): by word: Stay, Shade, Slide, etc. 4. And last the alignment of the backside end also by word: Away, Out, Eagle, etc. Thus an odd call, 5 – 2, with strong safety support, would be: RED / 55 / STAY / AWAY (See Diagram Five)
Diagram Five Red / 55 / Stay / Away

The 3 Slam/Under Slam technique has already been included in the tackle techniques. (See Diagrams One and Two, and Chart I.) All calls will still be determined by the system of: 1. Secondary Color: 2. Tackle technique: 3. Nose alignment: 4. Backside end position:

SS C

E 9

T 5

N B 20 F B 20

T 5

E (away) C

Examples of several defensive calls are as follows: 1. A pro 6–1 traditional, vs. a pro set, becomes a: WHITE / 55 / EVEN / SLAM / UNDER SLAM (Double Slam) / AWAY
Diagram Six White/55/Even/Slam/Under Slam (Double Slam)/Away
9 C 5 S L A M SS U N D E R S L A M 5 AWAY C FS

The entire system was based on an odd front alignment. Although comments were made about how to adapt even configurations they were not complete. D. To adapt the MASTER DEFENSE to an Even alignment demands that three (3) decisions be made. 1. Determine if one of the secondary people, backers or defensive backs can effectively play someplace in the front. Usually you can find a backer who can play as a Nose, a Down Tackle or an End. 2. Determine if you have a substitute who can play down better than any of the backers or defensive backs. 3. Are you willing to play with one (1) linebacker and/or a three (3) deep secondary with run support via a rotation?

2. A pro 4-3 traditional, vs. a pro set, becomes a: RED / 95 / EVEN / SLAM / UNDER SLAM (Double Slam) / AWAY Note: The aligned tackle, an end technique.
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Diagram Seven Red/95/Even/Slam/Under Slam (Double Slam)/Away
9 C SS B S L A M U N D E R S L A M

Diagram Ten Red/95/Even/Slam/Under Slam (Double Slam)/Away
9 S L A B M U N B D E R S L A M

B

AWAY C C

SS

AWAY C

C FS

F

3. A pro 6–2 traditional, becomes a: **SILVER / 55 / EVEN / SLIDE / UNDER SLIDE (Double Slide) / AWAY
Diagram Eight Silver/55/Even/Slide/Under Slide (Double Slide)/Away
9 C C S 5 B S L I D E U N D E R S L I D E 5 AWAY C

B

The MASTER DEFENSE has been very effectively used as a system of calls and adjustments under game conditions. Thus, it has simplified game plans. However, it is an excellent practice tool. From summer camps to the preparations for championships it gives a coach the opportunity to inject complete flexibility into his defensive program. With the addition of the EVEN adaptation there is no reason why it cannot succeed from youth league, at least, through high school. Scout teams will be able to easily align in an opponents defense and perform effectively, thus helping the offense. Whatever defensive alignment you are committed to it should be completely adaptable to this system of calls. It is not necessary for you to change one bit of your philosophy. It will also provide an increased confidence in the performance of your players. They will have regularly practiced every technique they will ever need, No surprises! Footnotes 1. New Master Defense Guide – page 25 2. New Master Defense Guide – pages 26–31 3. New Master Defense Guide – pages 53 & 54 4. New Master Defense Guide – pages 20–27 Bibliography: New Master Defense Guide. Bob Troppmann. Parker Publishing Company, Inc. 1983. West Nyack, N.Y.
Coach Nimphius has been coaching football since 1960, most of the time as an assistant coach. He has also been a football official for 16 years. He retired from teaching in 1987. He developed most of his concepts of line play from practical applications. He would enjoy speaking to you on any defensive topic. He can be reached at 10 Tree Road, Miller Place, NY 11764, or by telephone at 516/473-0369. n

4. A traditional Split – 6, becomes a: **SILVER / 55 / EVEN / SLAM / UNDER SLAM (Double Slam) / AWAY Note: Double Slam in place of Slam/Under Slam Note: No provision was ever made for a traditional three (3) deep secondary. Add SILVER, as a three deep zone, corners and the safety each cover 1/3.
Diagram Nine Silver/55/Even/Slam/Under Slam (Double Slam)/Away
9 B C S L A M U N D E R S L A M

B

AWAY C

S

5. A traditional 4–4, would become a: RED / 95 / EVEN / SLAM / UNDER SLAM (Double Slam) / AWAY Note: 9 aligned tackle, an end technique.

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A Secondary Blueprint for Success:
How We Adapted Three Coaching Philosophies Into A Successful Defensive Scheme

By I.J. Gorman & Kevin Macdonald
Receiver and Secondary Coach and Head Coach, Milton Academy, Milton, Massachusetts

There are many keys that work together for the success of any team. For a team to succeed you have to have the athletes, coaches and the support of your administration and families. We have certainly been blessed

Our Secondary Philosophy
Because of the academic pressures of our school and the general inexperience of most of our athletes, we have unique teaching needs and time limitations that have to mold our coaching philosophy. These two issues may philosophically set us apart from other programs. In the last couple of years, we have combined two contrasting coaching approaches to working with the secondary that have paid big dividends.

front to use in any particular situation. A technician is the person that stresses how to open your hips on your drop in man coverage or how to use your hands when redirecting a receiver. He is the one constantly thinking of drills that work on gamespecific player situations. In a perfect world we would say that we need to be both types and that is certainly true! However, we still believe we are either one or the other at heart. We knew right away that we believed deeply in vastly different styles of front and secondary play, but because we are both at heart technique coaches, we were less concerned with what defensive fronts and coverages we were in. What we were mainly concerned about was how our kids were going to make reads and what techniques they were going to employ when they reacted to each particular play. We have always felt that the techniques and read-drills that we have used and believed in for years were the most important aspects in helping our athletes to be successful. The strategic differences that we all shared were not something that we were going to lose sleep over! In this article we will share the twists that we have employed in adapting these three contrasting coverage philosophies and a few of our favorite practice read-drills.

Before joining Milton Academy as a receiver and secondary coach, Coach Gorman spent several years coaching in the NFL and at the College level. He has always preferred a four deep zone coverage for run and pass. After over 10 years leading a very successful local parochial school program, Coach Macdonald preferred the 3 deep monster coverage. The defensive coordinator for the last several years, Geordie Dunnington, had always used a 4-4 front with a 3 deep zone.
in each of these areas!

There is only one constant in life and that is change! Because of this, we as coaches need to be constantly adjusting and blending our philosophies with those with whom we work. In 1995 our school celebrated its first undefeated season in exactly 50 years. The team also increased its 1995 interceptions total from 3 to 12 over the previous year in a primarily run-oriented conference. In 1996 our interceptions rose from 12 to 20 and we were again undefeated and came out on top in the Class C New England Title game, beating a strong Thayer Academy squad. What we are about to say is dangerous because no one likes to be categorized. We believe that most coaches fall into two “teaching” categories. They are either strategists or technicians. A strategist is an X and O’s type of coach, a person that loves to argue what coverage or

Practice Schedules
We have an unusually limited amount of time to work with our athletes. We usually have only about one hour a day after warm-ups and conditioning. Because of this we are usually able to do each drill only once a week. While we share some zone read-drills, we want to stress that even in zone coverage we believe that tight zone ends up being a form of “man” coverage. This is without as much fear connected with starting out in man. We also like to play in combo coverage whenever we can, i.e., we play man coverage underneath and have free-safety zone support on top. So even though we really just play zone, most of our work is based on reading a specific man and coverage techniques accordGRIDIRON
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ingly. The athletes also find it easier to read their man and enjoy playing in a tighter one-on-one situation in practice.

align at a depth of 8-yards off and one yard inside. The coach stands facing the receivers but behind the cornerbacks. The coach communicates the reads through predetermined hand Multi-Level Key-Reading Program signals to the We have tried various keys to give out defensive backs effective receivers. run/pass keys. This is especially important in our defensive Diagram One scheme where cornerbacks often have contain responsibilities. In the stalk WR Stalk squeeze Others who need to learn these reads are our strong safeties in block, see diaLOS the 5-2 as well as our outside linebackers in the 4-4. This is so gram 1, the stalk block they can fill quickly on run plays. receiver will execute a vertical Many secondary players initially key an uncovered lineman, release and the CB reading pass if the lineman sets up and run if he fires out. coach will yell “option” However, this key is misleading on play-action passes where the option to simulinemen fire out before recoiling and setting up to pass protect. late the safeties’ Instead, we teach our cornerbacks to initially key on the numcall of the play. The corner will back pedal until recognition of ber one or widest receiver. Our strong safeties key on the the play and will then break upfield keeping his outside shoulnumber two receivers (counting from the outside in). The secder free thus maintaining his contain responsibility. He should ondary should then refocus in the offensive backfield breakdown one step over the to get its confirming read. Our free safeties read, line of scrimmage and squeeze Diagram Two however, is completely different. His only run the play inside. (Another helpWR Crack responsibility is delayed fill. Because he is our last ful read to the stalk block is if squeeze LOS line of defense he must momentarily delay any fill to the WR is looking at the DB. crack block guard against the halfback pass and flea-flickers. WR’s usually don’t look at the DB if he is doing a pass Both our corners and free safeties are taught to route.) back pedal as they read their keys. The first priority CB “crack” is to never allow a receiver to get behind them. On In the Crack back, see diathe other hand, our strong safeties are taught to hold gram 2, the CV will backpedal their ground until they determine their read, as their until he reads the crack then first responsibility is to fill on the run. will break upfield maintaining his containment all the time yelling “crack” to his teammates inside. Again, he will get to Drills one stop over the line of scrimmage squeezing the play inside. We have found that a simple drill practices 5 minutes a day, In the pass pattern, see diagram 3, the three times a week allows our receiver usually avoids eye contract and tries to Diagram Three secondary, particularly our coreither get into his pattern as quickly as possible or WR Pass nerbacks, to read their keys he tries to close down on the DB’s cushion to LOS quickly and effectively and break off into his predetermined or read pattern. pass deliver the minimum number of Either way we are dropping to our zone and release reps for us to be successful. Their yelling pass. reads are learned by rote and CB thus become second nature. Part 2 - We read Wing Backs (WB) and “pass” Tight Ends (TE) The Cornerback (CB) drill is In the second portion of the drill, the CB aligns 7twofold. yards deep and 2-yards outside the TE or WB. We tell our DB’s that there are only three things that a playside TE/ Part 1 - We read Flankers (FL) and Wide Receivers (WR) WB will do: (1) hook block, (2) down block, or (3) release for a Against WR and FL we tell our CB that there are only three pattern. ( You may want to add a base block as a fourth option.) things a playside WR/FL will do: (1) run a pass route, (2) stalk block, or (3) crack back. (You may want to add a fourth In the hook block, see diagram 4, the CB should break from option: the hitch pass.) We split our athletes into two groups. his backpedal and yell “sweep” and break upfield to his normal One plays the receiver and other plays the CB position. We contain responsibility mentioned above.
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Diagram Four TE Sweep
LOS squeeze hook block

Diagram Five TE Down
LOS squeeze down block

Diagram Six TE Pass
LOS pass release

CB

“sweep”

CB

“run”

CB

“pass”

In the down block, see diagram 5, the CB reaction would be the same as the sweep except he would yell “run” instead of sweep. We feel that if an athlete uses the right word on a consistent basis he and his teammates better understand the running attack that is coming at them. In the pass pattern, see diagram 6, the CB should continue his drop to his zone and yell “pass.”

ondary go into a wheel rotation toward where the ball was coming. This was consistent with our contain principals, see diagrams 7 and 8. We call this coverage and run support “Three Ball.” If you are not familiar with this coverage, you have the CB nearest to the side where the ball is headed attack the play as a running play, from the outside in. It is great for option, sprintout and quick hitch support also.
I.J. Gorman is a former NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach, and has coached on the college and high school level. When Milton Academy won the New England Class C title he was the Varsity Secondary Coach and now serves as the Head Middle School Coach. He can be reached at (617) 8982247 or by e-mail at IJ_Gorman@Milton.Edu. Kevin Macdonald is the Head Football Coach of Milton Academy and has coached for 13 years at the high school level. He may be reached at 170 Centre Street, Milton, MA 02186. n

Coverage Twists
The most important adaptation and compromise strategy-wise on which we agree is putting in a fourth defensive back in obvious passing situations. However, we needed to not compromise our philosophy of not getting beat by the run. To do this we began using our four deep coverage if it was a drop-back pass, but if the ball went to one side or the other we had our secDiagram Seven
Ball Left Corner Left Safety Right Safety Right Corner

Diagram Eight
Ball Left Half Free Safety Right Half

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GR I

IR ON D D

In this section, we run our favorite drills submitted to us by coaches from all over the country. Send us your favorite drill and if we publish it, we will send you a great give-away for your time and effort. It may be a video, a book, a coffee mug, or perhaps even a t-shirt! Send all drills to: GRIDIRON Coach Drills, 7 Hansbrinker Court, Liberty Township OH 45044.

The String Drill Submitted by Jeff Wallace, Head Coach, Kirksville High School, Kirksville, MO
Introduction
We got this drill from Butch Davis, Defensive Coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. They think it is the best defensive football drill you can do. butt down, weight on the balls of his feet). Five yards directly behind the offensive blocker set up a lead blocker and a ball carrier. On the whistle, the defender is instructed to play off the reach block of the offensive blocker using his hands, then play through lead blocker keeping his shoulders square, then explode and make a good form tackle on the ball carrier

s lls rriill

Purpose
To teach defenders to maintain a good tackling position, keep shoulders square to the LOS, maintain balance when taking on a block, keep the outside arm and leg free when taking on a block, read the relationship between the lead blocker and the ball carrier, and proper takling technique.

Coaching Points
1) Make sure the defender understands there are times when he doesn’t hve to take on the lead blocker. He can just rip through and make the tackle. 2) The defender must keep his shoulders square to the LOS, keeping his outside arm and leg free. 3) When making the tackle the defender must get his head across to the outside number of the ball carrier. 4) Have the defender drive the ball carrier back for 5yards while making the tackle.

Drill
Set up an offensive blocker in a 3-point stance. The defender lines head up with the blocker in a good football position (head up, back straight,

Diagram
BC LB Good Form Tackle Drive Back 5-yards

OB BC LB OB D
= Ball Carrier = Lead Blocker = Offensive Blocker = Defender

D Coach

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