Def ensive Line: A tt a ck F a st

common defensive philosophy asserts that the front four are responsible for occupying blockers, allowing linebackers to come up and “make the play.” On the contrary, we believe that any defensive player in the front seven should have an opportunity to make the play at any time. More importantly, defensive linemen need to believe that the defense was built around them just as much as it is designed for the middle linebacker. This belief allows them to be more committed and more excited to play defense. “Attack and Act” rather than “Read and React” is our defensive philosophy. Over the past five seasons, our multiple eightman front attack defense has produced exceptional tackle for loss and quarterback sack records (at NAIA Southern Oregon and NCAA-III North Central). Single-season and career sack records have been set by players who formerly were supposed to be the “set-up” man for a second level player. However, we have also seen career and single-season tackle records for our linebackers, pass-efficiency defense records and individual consecutive-game interception records in our secondary. Our base front and adjustments are designed to get the best performance out of the talent available to us. At the small college level, it is more likely to find a recruiting class full of “linebacker-type” athletes than to find a pair of All-American defensive tackles. Therefore, we emphasize quickness and athleticism over size. In our base Eagle front (Diagrams 1 and 2) we have three defensive linemen (tackle, nose, tackle) and two outside linebackers (left and right). This front tends to force offenses out of double teams and into single man-blocking where our quickness becomes our advantage.

A

Diagram 2: Eagle Front vs. Double

backer reads a down block from the open side offensive tackle, he will settle his hips, read, and squeeze the counter or outside trap. Player Identification and Fundamentals Our teaching progression for defensive linemen starts with breaking down the skills required to play the position into only three to five fundamentals. Our top three defensive line fundamentals are take-off, change of direction, and use of the hands. We identify our defensive line players first by their quick take-off. We expect our defensive linemen to get their heads across the neutral zone when the ball is between the center’s legs. If a player we are scouting (or an incoming freshman in fall camp) isn’t this quick, we believe he should be on the offensive line not the defensive line. There are stance and technique teaching points which we believe improve the skill of quick take-off, however. Second, we expect our defensive tackles to attack quickly on the motion of the offensive guards. This is the second fundamental, we call it “directionality.” Our time spent working on the three technique (outside shade of a guard) not only helps us identify which players can move but teaches them what we expect from a reach block or scoop (outside zone), down block (trap or inside run), or pull away (trap or counter). We expect our three defensive linemen to react flat down the line of scrimmage in unison on the outside stretch play (Diagram 3). If the inside three defensive linemen are not relatively equal in change of direction skills, the offense is more likely to see the gaps they want for cut-back running lanes.

Diagram 1: Eagle Front vs. Pro

Diagram 3: Flat Attack vs. Scoop
Our outside linebackers are primarily edge pass rushers, whose responsibilities change only because of two simple rules. First, if an offensive formation shows a crack threat on our inside linebacker (generally a tight end, tight wing, slot, or flanker), our outside linebacker may pick up a flare route by a back. If our five-technique outside line-

While we emphasize pure speed takeoff on the first step, our attack of different blocks are expected on the second step (Diagrams 4 and 6). If our three-technique tackle gets too far up field without attacking quickly on the steps or hip of the offensive guard, he should not play defensive line in our scheme. We refer to these problems as “fish hooks” (too much depth on trap or run away, Diagram 5) and “trap bait” (not sinking hips, making contact or “squeezing” on a down block, Diagram 7).

foot is back and the outside hand is down. The up hand is the first to attack to aiming point, generally the upper outside corner of the jersey number. This is under the outside shoulder plate or arm pit (outer pec and under delt) of the offensive lineman. As the third fundamental of successful defensive line play, we spend a little less than one third of our individual practice time incorporating hand placement and replacement drills. Base Stance and Stunt Changes In many cases, when our gap of responsibility changes due to a line stunt, we change our feet from our base stance. This allows our players to take their first speedstep up field, while the blockers take a pass set and kick-slide. Our fast movement up field, combined with the offensive line’s pass set, creates the seams we want to attack in a stunt or blitz. On the second step, the defensive lineman executes the stunt through the seam. In Diagrams 8, 9 and 10, the defensive tackle making the second move in the stunt has begun with his feet opposite his base stance, allowing him to take one step up field, plant and change direction off his outside foot, crossing to his new gap of responsibility.

Unpredictability There are enough blitzes with our inside linebackers, and twists with our outside linebackers, that the change of feet in the stance is too difficult a predictor for offensive personnel to know where defensive lineman will attack (Diagrams 11, 12 and 13).

Diagram 11: Stack Front Monster Blitz

Diagram 4: Attack Hip and Pursue

Diagram 12: Weak Edge Twist

Diagram 5: Fish Hook

Diagram 13: Strong Edge Twist

Diagram 8: Weak In

Diagram 6: Attack Hip and “Squeeze” vs. Trap

Diagram 9 Weak Out

Diagram 7: Trap Bait

Our defensive package reflects the philosophy that we should attack and act upon the offense rather than read and react. It helps our defensive linemen, and every member of our defensive unit, get excited about being playmakers at any time.

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Diagram 10: Loop Weak
Hand placement is aimed at the outside shoulder of the offensive lineman if we are aligned in an outside shade, and at the inside shoulder if we are aligned in an inside shade. Initially, for outside shade alignment, the inside foot is back and the inside hand is down. For inside shade alignment, the outside

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