Delaware’s Eight-Man F ro n t: T h e Zo ne Blitz

n behalf of the Delaware football program, Head Coach K.C. Keeler and our defensive staff of Paul Williams, Rob Neviaser, Craig Cummings and Brandon Walker, it is an honor to contribute to the 2003 AFCA Summer Manual. In recent years, the zone blitz has been a widely used concept in passing situations. The philosophy of the zone blitz has been to overload the pass protection, to trigger a hot throw and tackle it up. At Delaware, we also use the zone blitz in run/play action pass situations. Our goals in these situations are to outnumber the amount of blockers in the run game and contain, as well as defend, playaction passes. We view the zone blitz as one of our eight-man fronts with immediate bootleg contain. This past season we zone blitzed 79 times versus the run, for an average gain of 2.75 yards per rushing attempt. The advantages of the zone blitz over a traditional eight man front: 1. The post-snap movement hurts a team who is choosing their rungame to a specific leverage. 2. The pre snap two deep shell does not indicate a weakness to quick game or one on one coverage on the receivers. We are a seven man front look pre snap. 3. A player is assigned a vertical charge to immediately contain any action pass on both the strong and weak sides. They are not put in the bend inside for the run game versus containing the bootleg dilemma. 4. The blitz is run out of a field front not a formation front. There are no checks. Change of strength motion and tight end trade have no effect. The coverage remains the same to any formation. Below, in Diagrams 1, 2 and 3 are the top zone blitzes we use as eight-man fronts:


Diagram 3

Below in diagrams 4 and 5 are traditional eight-man fronts:

Diagram 4

Diagram 5

Diagram 1

Our philosophy on the zone blitz is to be a 5-3 defense with cutback help coming from the strong and weak side. Our rush end (he is in a three point stance) is the boundary cutback player. He will shuffle back on the snap to linebacker level and is on a backfield key. He plays like the will in a 4-3 defense (Diagram 6). There is an outside player working vertical on the snap to contain bootleg and action passes both strong and weak. The pass coverage is three underneath (curl No. 2/hook No. 3/curl No. 2) and three deep. All pass coverage people have their vision on the quarterback expecting a quick throw. Boundary receivers will be rerouted to the outside toward the corner. Field receivers will be rerouted to the inside toward the middle third player (Diagram 6).

Diagram 6 Diagram 2

Bootleg is drilled the first day we install a zone blitz. The curl (No. 2) droppers have the first outside threat with quarterback coming back to them and throwback with the quarterback going away from them. The hook (No. 3) dropper has the first crosser and the middle safety has the deep crosser. Below in Diagrams 7 and 8, bootleg is drawn up strong and weak versus one of our top zone blitzes.

Diagrams 1 and 2 for two examples of a field zone blitz. If the blitz is from the boundary, the line will work to the field. The free safety will blitz and the strong safety will become the middle third player. Below, in Diagram 9, is an example of a boundary blitz.

Diagram 9

Diagram 7

Diagram 8

The installation of our zone blitz is simple. Our Sam linebacker sets the front to the wide side of the field. If the ball is in the middle of the field the front will be set to the receiver strength. If the blitz is from the field the front will work weak. The strong safety will blitz or step down as the curl/cutback player and the free safety is the middle third player. See

If the blitz is from the middle, the tackles will work out. The free safety will step down as the middle linebacker/hook (No. 3) dropper while the strong safety will be the middle third player (refer back to Diagram 3). The run fits are very specific with aiming points and gap responsibilities. The following are the responsibilities for one of our field blitzes (refer back to Diagram 1): Sam Linebacker: Hammer techniqueD gap responsibility- blitz to a point two yards outside the deep or near back. If action is away continue to work up field for bootleg contain. Take on all blocks with your inside arm. End: Long slice-a gap responsibilityslightly deepen off the ball and step to the crotch off the guard. Come under all blocks. Nose-nice-boundary A gap- cross the center’s face and work up field in the opposite A gap.

Tackle: Long tout-work to the inside number of the tackle. Cross face vs. any block and work up field for bootleg contain. Rush: Shuffle back to four yards over the offensive tackle and perform the responsibilities previously mentioned in the article (refer back to Diagram 6). Curl (No. 2) versus pass. Mike Linebacker: Blitz the B gap. The aiming point is the inside number of the offensive tackle. Bend inside with any down block staying as tight to his hip as possible. Come under all blockers (outside shoulder). Will Linebacker: Shuffle in, replace the mike and play inside out on everything (like a 4-3 middle linebacker). Outside shoulder all blocks. Hook (No. 3) versus pass Strong Safety: Step down to the outside number of the tightend/No. 2 receiver. Keep the ball on your inside shoulder, C gap versus run to him and cutback versus run away. Curl (No. 2) versus pass. Free Safety: Deep middle third player. Back peddle to a position splitting the No. 2 receiving threats on both sides while reading the quarterback. Corners: Outside third players. Read quarterback for quick game and late help on flat routes. Versus two removed receivers to his side peddle to a position that splits both while reading the quarterback. We feel the zone blitz is a great run down call to compliment our other eight man fronts. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions about this article. The staff at the University of Delaware would like to wish you and your staff the best of luck in the upcoming season.

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