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R.C. Slocum Defensive Coordinator Texas A&M University College Station, Texas
t is an honor to be asked to contribute to the AFCA Summer Manual. I share that honor with my fellow defensive coaches, Bob Davie, Curley Hallman, Paul Register and Bob Matey. With their excellent coaching, and the play of some outstanding young men, we moved from No. 8 in the nation in total defense a year ago to No. 4 this past season. More importantly, we won our second straight Southwest Conference Championship. These accomplishments are certainly a reflection of the loyalty, dedication, and outstanding coaching of these fine men. The topic which I have been asked to discuss is certainly worthy of consideration. Many of us on the defensive side of the ball have had anxious moments over the years while considering how to stop the fade. It is a well-conceived play that offers maximum gain with very little risk. It is normally a touchdown or is incomplete. It is run more often in goal line situations simply because man coverage is easier to predict in this area. The first step in defending this pass is to study your opponent’s philosophy and tendencies in the following areas: When does he like to throw this route? Will he throw it on 1st down, or is it a play that is just called in obvious passing or blitz situations? Is it a check when man coverage is read? Will he repeat the call? From what formation does he like this route? Many teams prefer the fade from a pro-set so that there is a wide receiver on both sides and two opportunities at getting a tight corner. Many motion teams will never motion and throw the fade. To which receiver do they prefer to throw this route? Is one receiver taller or is one a better leaper? Does the receiver tip his route by his alignment (split)? Knowing the answers to the above questions is essential to designing a plan to defend this route. By answering these questions, you have a chance to anticipate and will increase your chances to defend against it. We have a pressure philosophy when a team gets inside our 20-yard line, and consequently, we play a high percentage of man coverage. While we do mix in some zones, we play a lot of man and are prime targets for the fade route. Because we do play so much man inside the 20, the fade pass, along with the flood pass, must be taught early and
worked on often if we are to be successful. We start our teaching in man coverage by stressing that the fade is a timing pattern. Our best chance for success is to disrupt the timing of the receiver. To accomplish this, we move to a position very near head-up on the receiver and about one yard off the ball. We want complete concentration on the waist area of the receiver. The defensive back should be in a well-balanced and comfortable stance with both hands up. It is important to have the hands in a ready-to-hit position as timing on the hand shiver (catch) is critical. The inside foot should be firmly planted and slow to move. On an attempt to release inside, the corner should catch the receiver and ride him down the line. If he tries to release outside, he should be jammed with the inside hand on the shoulder pad. In case of a swim release technique, the corner should jam him hard in the rib area to disrupt his route, again using the inside hand. To back up a little bit; when the receiver first came to the line, the corner should have checked the receiver’s split to determine what techniques to use in man coverage: 1) In the pocket, or 2) Pin and look. Now to explain briefly these two techniques: In-the-pocket is the technique used when the receiver has cut his split down and has considerable room to the outside. With this alignment, the threat of an out pattern must also be defended. Also, when the fade is run from this alignment, the receiver normally shows a short, hard push up the field and then fades hard to the corner of the end zone. After trying to make contact on the release, the defender should wheel towards the receiver and drive upfield with him with visual focus on his hands. When the receiver lifts his hands, the defender must immediately lift his own hands (inside hand) and prepare to drive it through the pocket (receiver’s hands). We stress trying to whack the receiver’s off arm. The defender must get the ball out of the pocket. If the receiver is aligned close to the sideline (three yards or less), we will use our second technique—and look. Again, our alignment should be very near head-up and we want to disrupt the receiver’s release if at all possible. As he releases to the outside, the defender should step first with the outside foot and wheel with the
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
receiver. The inside foot remains stationary as long as possible to prevent the head fake and inside move. As the defender turns up the field with the receiver, he should try to crowd him into the boundary, feel him on his arm, and get his eyes around to look for the ball. If the receiver has gotten a clean release and has the defender beaten, it is important not to run a circle in attempting to cover him. Rather, a cut-off angle should be taken to regain position. When the receiver is pinned, then the defender can turn and look for the ball. These techniques obviously must be practiced repeatedly to develop proficiency and confidence. Probably the greatest problem to overcome is the “panic reaction” at the moment when the ball is arriving, regardless of the techniques being used. The defender must realize that it is always going to be close and the bottom line is whether the ball is caught. For this reason, “it is not over, until it’s over” as the saying goes. Find some way to get the ball out if it is momentarily in the pocket. The above techniques are used when we are playing straight man with no help. There are other maneuvers that we will use to help our corners defend the fade. Having some anticipation as to when this route is likely to be run is very beneficial. If the fade is a problem, one of our first alternate choices is to show a pressed corner and
R.C. Slocum at a Glance
Experience: Defensive Coordinator, Lake Charles (La.) High School, 1968-69; Freshman Offensive Line Coach, Kansas State, 1970; Freshman Coach Kansas State, 1971; Offensive Assistant, Texas A&M, 1972; Defensive Assistant, Texas A&M, 1973-78; Assistant Coach, Saskatchewan Rough Riders, 1977 & 1979; Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M, 1979-80; Defensive Coordinator, Southern California, 1981; Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M, 1982-88; Assistant Head Coach, Texas A&M, 198588; Head Coach, Texas A&M, 1989- (109-37-2). Career Head Coaching Record: 109-37-2 Bowl Games: 1989 John Hancock Bowl; 1990 Holiday Bowl; 1992 Cotton Bowl, 1993 Cotton Bowl, 1994 Cotton Bowl; 1995 Alamo Bowl; 1998 Cotton Bowl; 1999 Sugar Bowl, 1999 Alamo Bowl Conference Championships: Southwest Conference, 1991, 1992, 1993; Big XII, 1998
hope to get the fade or an audible to the fade. Our corner will give the quarterback a good look, then will back out and play three-deep. We will also do the opposite if this; show three-deep and walk up to a press alignment late. In obvious passing situations, we have numerous other zones and bracket man coverages that we will employ to defend the fade route. I think that it is important that you present the fade as a route that we
can stop in any of our coverages, but is a challenge when we are one-on-one. We hope we will always have players that relish that type situation. Hopefully, these ideas will be of some benefit to the reader. These techniques are the subject of as many discussions as any topic in football. However, as is always the case, if you have something that you really believe in, sell to your players, and practice diligently, it will usually work for you.
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• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •