Reading the Window

Gary Keller Head Coach Ashland University Ashland, Ohio

would like to thank the American Football Coaches Association for this prestigious honor. It is a privilege to visit with you about our defensive system at Ashland University. To start, I would like to acknowledge our fine staff at AU, as well as our players. Ashland University is a private university, and is a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Twelve teams from a four-state area are represented in this fine conference. The game of football is rapidly changing, but the fundamentals remain the same. Like so many, we believe that three things lead to success on the field: 1. Playing great defense. 2. Great special teams play. 3. Ability to rush the football. At Ashland, our philosophy on defense has been a simple, but effective one. Do whatever it takes to prevent the score! This is easier said than done with the amount of changes (i.e. passing, formations, and liberal use of the hands) evolving on offense. Our defense, forced to adapt, has become more mobile. We now use more personnel groups, as well as defensive looks. We also meet our defensive goal by using the topic of my presentation, “Reading the Window.” From the inside linebacker’s vantage point, the window is the area of open space that exists between two adjacent defensive linemen (Diagram 1).


This term is easy for our players to relate to, and the window does two basic things. It will open. It will close. Before I start discussing the coaching points of both, I need to cover a few preliminary points. Initial Movement The first step we teach with our linebackers is a short downhill step to the outside. This step will vary in length from four inches in length to a normal step, depending upon what they see and hear (Diagram 3).

Diagram 3

Diagram 1

It is extremely important that we teach the inside linebackers to play with their eyes and their ears. Several reasons stand behind our moving to the outside. 1. If the ball is moving in the direction of the first step, the player is in great shape to make the play. 2. It will slow down the backside, preventing going over-the-top on any cut back play. 3. It prevents stepping inside on the down block. We make a point that most big plays from the offense happen when the backside linebacker over-runs the play. It is important to note that when we start to teach young linebackers to read, a lot of time will be spent on correct steps. I refer to these steps as “baby steps,” and expand on the principle. Once it is learned, it becomes second nature to them and we move on to other skills. Keying Our keys are very simple. We key the guard with the awareness of the back paths. Certain actions from the guard tell us exactly what to do, while others may lead to confusion. The following actions give us great keys: 1. The guard pulls across the center. 2. The guard comes directly down on us. 3. Pass sets. Actions that can confuse us: 1. The guard blocks down. 2. The guard pulls to the outside. 3. Scoop blocks.

From our base, the window is over the guards the majority of the time, however when using other defensive fronts, the window can be moved. (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •

Putting it together-Reading the window! Trap Series The first group of plays is referred to as the “trap series.” This series begins by one of the guards pulling across the center (Diagram 4).

Diagram 4

the Mike linebacker to determine the intent of the play. If the fullback is inside the box, he will sit and play either the spill or the quarterback. In Diagram 7, the Mike linebacker is seeing the window open, and gets the trap call from the Will linebacker. This time, the Mike linebacker sees the window open and the fullback is in the box. To counter this, the Mike linebacker works downhill quickly into the A gap and wrong arms the trapping guard. Our intent is to spill the play to the outside.

bility is to yell “trap” and find the fullback. If the fullback is in the box, the Will linebacker works sharply downhill maintaining leverage on the ball (Diagram 9). If the fullback is outside the box, the Will linebacker will adjust his path trying to get to the front side Agap while maintaining leverage on the cut back play (Diagram 10).

Diagram 10

Diagram 7

A coaching point that we try to teach our linebackers is to recognize which type of trap we are facing. We distinct the difference by the path the fullback is on. If the fullback is inside the box area (between the guards), we treat this type of particular trap as an outside trap. Each will have a different set of rules for both linebackers (Diagram 5).

Diagram 5

In the next diagram (Diagram 8), the Mike linebacker is seeing the window open, but the fullback will be outside the box. As mentioned earlier, this is what we refer to the “outside trap.”

In short, by understanding how the “window” works, it has helped put together a simple method of reading and reacting to counter the “trap series.” On behalf of my staff at Ashland University and myself, we wish you the best in 2000!

Diagram 8

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In Diagram 6, the Mike linebacker is seeing the window close and hears the Will linebacker yell “trap.” The trap call to the Mike linebacker is the trigger term that alerts him to the trap scheme. With the window closing, we want the Mike linebacker to work to what we refer to as a “soft stack,” off the heels of the defensive lineman to his outside. While moving to his outside, we want the Mike linebacker to locate the fullback to determine which type of trap play is being seen. By knowing the path of the fullback, it should help

The coaching point here is that we want the Mike linebacker to scrape to his “soft stack” position. From this stacked position, the Mike linebacker should be protected and ready to react to the spill. Again knowing the path of the fullback, will help determine the intent of the play (i.e. power of tackle, counter). The final part of the trap series is the reactions of the Will linebacker, who is on the backside of the play. Once he sees the guard pull across the center, his responsi-

Diagram 6

Diagram 9

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •

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