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Incorporating 4 Footwork Releases to Attack Press Coverage

By Luc Polglaze
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends Coach
Kenyon College (OH)
Twitter: @LucPolglaze

 

 

When facing coverages, receivers should be armed with a variety of tools and releases to help them attack the leverage of the cornerback. I want them to have the confidence to get off the line against press coverage and into their route as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Football is a physical sport, and nothing sums that up better than press coverage. It is a one-on-one coverage that challenges receivers to overcome a defensive back lined up directly across from them. As a result, the receiver’s mindset needs to be aggressive and physical. This is a great opportunity for them to make a play and get open.

At the same time, though, receivers shouldn’t overthink the release. It should be automatic and repeatedly drilled. I will rep releases on an almost daily basis – I want to make sure that this is something that feels natural to the players. Also, I make sure that the releases I coach are boiled down to the essentials. I effectively coach four releases against press coverage – each with its own benefits and risks.

When we talk about a release against press coverage, it comes down to two things: hands and footwork. Both of them operate independently, and both can be the cause of a great release, or lead to a poor release.

Hands: When a receiver is in their stance normally, I allow receivers to have some flexibility with their hands. They should do whatever feels the most comfortable for them, but that will still allow them to accelerate off the line of scrimmage quickly and smoothly. Most receivers will either rest their hands on their front knee or leave them dangling.

 

However, against press coverage, I want the receivers to have their hands up in almost a boxer’s stance. This makes sure that the defender does not have easy access to their main target area – the breastplate/shoulders of the receiver. The receiver is effectively making that window smaller for a defensive back to reach and allows him to have his hands already in a position to react, as we see here from this receiver. Having the hands at chest height means the receiver doesn’t have to waste precious time bringing them up from a lower angle.

 

When a DB shoots his hands, there are two main target areas for the receiver: the wrist, and the elbow. When targeting the wrist, the receiver should flatten their hand and chop the defender’s wrist with the side of the palm. When targeting the elbow, the receiver should cup their hand and swipe up at the defender’s elbow.

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Fullback Kickout Technique: The Gallop

By Danny Schaechter
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterback’s Coach
Gonzaga College High School (DC)
Twitter: @CoachDShack

 

 

I love fullbacks. They’re the offensive line’s bash brother. They can add so much to an offense yet get little notoriety for their contributions, and they get the ball even less. What fullbacks get the least of is technique. This was one of my frustrations that came to a boil after our 2018 WCAC Championship. We were moving our sophomore fullback to defense. His replacement was a third-string linebacker who was smaller than our departing fullback, but he was one of the hardest workers on the team. We had to find a way to give this undersized, converted linebacker a chance to block defensive football players who were going to be much bigger and more athletic.

Like many other coaches, when it came to fullback, we had coaching points: contact near foot, near shoulder, and explode low to high. We’d been giving those fundamental points to our fullbacks for years, and it had been fairly successful, but there were still issues with fullbacks on our kick-out blocks lunging and whiffing, being driven back into the play, and/or playing too high. This is because coaching points are not the same as technique. After asking a lot of college coaches, including Power 5 coaches who were known for physical fullback play, this was the common answer: we just find someone who can do it. Many high school coaches don’t have that option. Through the search for an actual technique to a kick-out block, our staff had an idea that stole from the biggest fullbacks on the team, the offensive line. For us, this was the birth of the fullback gallop technique for kick-out blocks.

 

The Gallop

Once again, this technique is borrowed from the offensive line’s gallop technique used by the drive man on double teams.

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The Complete Split Field Coverage Catalog

By Joey Ginn
Head Coach
Bethel High School (OK)
Twitter: @CoachGinn

 

 

Remember back in the old days when we had to guess which formation the offense was going to be in and hope we called the right coverage to defend them?  Why not teach a few coverage concepts and in your scouting report meeting tell your kids which coverage you want to play to specific formations? In 2016 we began utilizing split-field coverages in my previous stop at Choctaw, and one thing that traveled with me to Bethel was Split-Field Coverages.  I was blessed to have the same Free Safety 3 years in a row which certainly helped the process.  Last week in our exit interview he told me the one difficult thing was the one week this year the coaches called coverages from the sideline…  We believe split field coverages give our kids a toolbox to utilize the coverage based on the split of #2 Receiver on the Read Side and number of backs and number of receivers on the Away Side.  This approach helps our guys get us in the best coverage.  We believe the Split Field Coverages we use allow us to build coverages off each other to ease the install/teaching process. We also believe this helps us get as many hats in the run box as possible vs. certain formations.

 

Communication is Key:

The first thing we teach our Safeties before we start any formation calls/alignments is that there must be our communicators.  We do not want our Corners to have to worry about the formation, only the coverage they are playing, so they are our first communication via a hand signal to the corners.  The next call our safety must make is a communication call to the OLB, so he knows his coverage responsibility.  The simplest teaching point we use during this install process in his communication with the OLB is by asking him, where would we need that OLB to help us in Coverage?  This to me is the easiest way for these guys to understand where that OLB needs to be in coverage.

 

Read Side Definitions:

 

Pro 1 TE and 1 Split

 

Vs. Pro set our 1st Coverage and quite honestly only coverage is a Robber Coverage.  FS will communicate “Robber” to the Corner, which tells the Corner he has all of #1.  There isn’t much teaching that will take place with the Corner, we work man drills with our Corners every Tuesday and Wednesday while the rest of the D is in Inside Period.  The Free Safety will then tell the $ “Wheel Alert” telling him he is the Flat player on a pass and must take the Wheel of #2.  The Safety is reading the TE once the ball is snapped.  We teach a bounce technique to the Safety in Robber; we play at 6-8 yards off in Robber and want to be 1 yard outside the TE.  The Safety’s rules on Robber are simple, if the TE is blocking you are in the run fit (Diagram 2), we are going to spill the ball to you, vs. The option you are the itch player.

 

If the TE is Vertical, you have all of him m/m (Diagram 3).

 

If the TE is Inside you rob the Curl of #1 (Diagram 4), if the TE is out the OLB will take him so again, you rob the Curl of #1 (Diagram 5).

 

I think it’s important to know our definition of vertical is a route past the backers.  We play our backers at 5 yards; we tell the defensive backs if the route goes past the LBs it’s vertical in all our coverages.

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“Burst Corner” Route Technique in Gap PAP’s

By Kenny Koberstein
Head Football Coach
South Eugene High School (OR)
Twitter: @CoachKoby

 

 

As a player and young coach, I “grew up” around Wing-T programs. I have always admired how that offense has built-in answers for pretty much anything a defense can do it. When I set out to build my own offense, this type of flexibility was important to me. While we don’t run the Wing-T here at South Eugene we do base within its principles, especially with our play-action game.

In this article, my goal is to show how we teach and install our play-action game to protect our base runs: power and counter. These shot plays have been our most productive passing concepts in the last four seasons.

The number one foundational run in our offense is the power play, predominantly from 20 personnel. This is the very first play we install on the first day of camp. Each week when we game plan our offense we are looking at how we are going to run power against the front we’re seeing that week. We hang our hat on this play week in and week out.

 

POWER PASS

Because Power is so important to our offense, the first play-action concept I’m going to discuss is our power pass. Again, our rationale is to make this look as much like power as we can. We do not pull a guard on the play-action.  We want to use eye-candy in the backfield to suck up LB’s while still allowing us to stay in our base 6-man pass protection.

 

Install:

For both power pass and counter pass, we install them the same day as power and counter. Our day 1 install is power and power pass. Day 2 is a counter and counter pass. We do this to emphasize to our players that these concepts are linked, and we want them to work in concert within our offense.

We always start the install process in the classroom. The play is diagrammed for the players and we show them video clips of the play from previous seasons.  From there we move to the field. The offensive line works this play against even and odd fronts as a part of their group period while the backs work the concept in our routes on air drill. Finally, we bring this all together in the team period. That evening coach will create a playlist of the install clips from practice that day and share it with notes for their position group. This process is repeated the next day with the next installment.

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Box Run Fits in the Mint Front

By Max Fransen
Defensive Coordinator and Inside Linebackers Coach
Herscher High School (IL)
Twitter: @TheFran54

 

 

Last year, like many high schools and colleges across the country, our program implemented the mint front into our defense as a result of the growing popularity of the spread offense.  As a first-year defensive coordinator, I was transitioning our team from a 4-man front to a 3-man front.  I like the Mint front because it only requires 3 defensive linemen.  As I coach at a small 3A school in rural Illinois, numbers, and size can be limited from year to year.  Other benefits of the mint front include the closed B-gaps, as well as the easy linebacker keys.

 

Nose Technique:

Starting in the center of our defense, the nose tackle lines up in a 0 (head up the center) and plays the “lag” technique.  Too often, interior defensive linemen can get washed down the line trying to cross face a lineman while attempting to maintain a gap.  The lag technique takes advantage of the center by allowing the nose to control the A-gap away from where the center steps.

 

If we are playing a gap-based scheme, the nose’s hand on the side of the running back should be down.  This allows the nose to get hands-on the center and prevent him from blocking back on one of the 4i’s.  However, if we are playing a zone-based scheme, the nose’s hand opposite the running back should be down.  This allows the nose to get hands-on the center and prevent him from having a free release to the linebackers.  As the nose explodes out of his stance, he will naturally fit into the A-gap away from where the center steps.   While doing so, the nose should lock out and force the center’s body in the opposite A-gap, thus 2-gapping the A-gaps.

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5 Gap Run Build-Ins to Manipulate Free Hitters

By Ryan Lusby
Offensive Coordinator
University of Arkansas at Monticello
Twitter: @CoachLusby

 

 

The Power football play is one that has been a huge part of the game for a long time. Power has been and continues to be run no matter the style of offense you play, from spread teams to teams that play mostly out of heavy sets. In my first season on staff here at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, we added over 90 yards rushing per game to what they averaged the year before. A large part of that was our emphasis on gap scheme runs, and specifically two back power. Now I’m not saying Power, or even gap scheme plays, is the only play you should run, but I think that our emphasis on gap scheme runs played a large part in our kids having a better understanding of how running game works. This year we were over 70 percent efficient on two back power. We chart efficient plays in a very in-depth way. We consider the play efficient if on 1st and 10 if we gain 4 or more yards, on 2nd down if we gain half or more of what we have left to gain, or on 3rd or 4th down gaining all of the line to gain. In this article, we will dive into 2 back power from different sets and the RPOs that go with it schematically.

 

We run power most of the time out of 11 personnel out of formations with the tight end in the “sniffer” or fullback position. We align the tight end in a position where he splits the inside leg of the offensive tackle. This is advantageous to the power play in the way that allows for the tight end to be in a position inside of the defensive end he is to kick out. That tight end is to take a step with his inside foot first vertical and insert as tight as he can to the down blocking tackle. We like the play out of the sniffer position more than out of inline tight end formations because the tight end is always inside the end in the sniffer position, and when the tight end is in line there are three different alignments he can get, causing for more thinking on his part. We try to eliminate as much thinking as possible, especially for the offensive line and tight ends in the blocking schemes. The base way we teach the play is with the play side guard and tackle double team the 3 technique to the backside linebacker, center blocking back on the first down lineman backside, backside guard pulls for the first linebacker in the box play side, and the backside tackle steps down protecting B gap to C gap. The biggest thing that is a little bit different for us regarding our play side double team to backside linebacker. If the back-side linebacker tries to flow over the top instead of beating our head against the wall trying to pin his backside, we use what we call the wheel technique. What this means is as he tries to come over the top, we become strong with our inside hand and use his and run him to the play side. The back-side linebacker will now be run past the gap, and the ball will cut back behind the back-sided linebacker.

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Manipulating 9 Potential Conflict Defenders in the Wing T

By Rob Armstrong
Offensive Coordinator
Baker High School (FL)
Twitter: @robarmstrong41

 

 

It is an honor to have the opportunity to share a few of the concepts we use against a variety of defenses. I would also like to thank X&O Labs for this opportunity. Everything we do is based on the defender’s reaction to the conflicts we create. This report will focus on creating individual conflicts and calling plays depending on how the defense adjusts.

 

Attacking 4-4/Conflicting the OLB

Anytime we face an 8-man front we like to start with an over formation. This gets a corner removed and lets us see how they want to position the strong OLB and DE.  We immediately want to conflict the OLB with Rocket or Power. This is a simple conflict to create.  The rocket motion forces the OLB to stay wide for contain, but the OLB is still responsible for forcing the Power. We will call what he gives us.

 

 

Editor’s Note: Coach Armstrong has provided narration for each clip below:

 

Clip 1: Notice the OLB widen to the play side. The Rocket has loosened him enough to come back and kick him out with Power.  Also, notice how wide the WB catches the ball.

Clip 2: Power after running some rocket/jet motion successfully, the Key blocks by play side wing taking the OLB wide and the TE cutting FS off.

Clip 3: Notice how running the Rocket has made the OLB widen for an easy kick out on the Power. Good job by fullback getting his head inside and good job by the RB turning up.

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The “Snag and Go” Variation off Four Verts

By Braden Mitchell
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Stevens Point Area Senior High (WI)
Twitter: @TheeBMitch_XV

 

 

These are our go-to shot plays to get the ball down the field. We will install these concepts at the start of each season and have them in the game plan depending on what coverage we expect to see that week. I believe in creating big plays. When you can get those 25+ yard plays, they can change a game. I just moved out to Wisconsin and this will be my first year at SPASH, so all my clips are from Northridge HS in Utah, where I was coaching for 12 years.

 

4 Verts

I know everyone has this in their system, so I won’t spend a ton of time talking about the basic version of this, but we do prefer to run this out of 3 by 1 formations.

 

 

Coaching Points:

We want our outside receivers to take the outside release and force the corners to stay wide with us. Defenses are getting better at having corners trying to split the outside receiver with the skinny post or modifying the coverage to combat the 4-verts. So, the wider we can get them, the better. We like our tight end being the #3 receiver because he is our bigger body to run that deep cross. Their landmark is 15-18 yards opposite hash, but more than their landmark, I tell them they want to pull that free safety with them, so they need to get his attention and make him move with him. Our #2 receiver is running our skinny post and must avoid any contact and get up that hash. He should be seeing the free safety and noticing if he is getting pulled to that opposite hash by the tight end, if he is then he knows he can bend it a little bit to the middle because he has a little more room there. Quarterback is reading that free safety, and more than reading him he is trying to manipulate him to take that deep crosser. So, I tell him on his 3-step drop to make it look like you want that tight end, then when you hit that last step you should have 2 choices. Either the safety is carrying the cross and you can hitch and throw that skinny post, or he didn’t take the crosser and you need to hitch and drive that ball to him.

 

Variations:  

Defenses have gotten good at corners splitting the receivers or the “flat” defender carrying that 4th vertical.  Now we must get a little more creative with the 4-verts. To combat the flat defender, carrying the vertical we will quick motion our back out.

 

The first time we show this we will just run a key screen with him and have the three receivers block it head up. Then we’ll come back with this look and the quarterback is just seeing who comes hard to stop the key screen and replaces him with the vertical. In this case, it is the strong safety that comes down hard.

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Bucket System to Streamline Pressure Package Communication

By Jason Thier
Defensive Coordinator
Dickinson State University (ND)
Twitter: @JasonThier

 

 

Our belief here at Dickinson State Football is one of the most critical parts of our job as coaches are to be great teachers. It does not matter what we know, it matters what our players know. To centralize our teaching and limit confusion, we have a specific method of organizing our playbook and conveying information. We utilize the “bucket system” to group like concepts together to assist with retention of information. For example, boys’ names are two-person line games, girl names are four-person line games, NBA teams are inside linebacker blitzes, etc. We also have a shared vocabulary for movement and coverage techniques to cross-train positions, creating scheme versatility. Finally, we use a tag word system in our pressure package to determine the location of the pressure to cut down on verbiage and endless memorization. The focus of this article will be on how we implement our tag word system when bringing pressure and how it can be adapted to any scheme.

How does the use of tag words cut down on verbiage and endless memorization? We identify six different locations we can choose to bring pressure from at any given time. Those locations include field, boundary, at a TE, away from a TE, at an RB, and away from an RB. In a non-tag word system, say your favorite pressure pattern is called Smash and Smash comes at the TE. Now, let’s say you want to call the same pressure patterns, but away from the TE. You must assign a new term telling your players it is the same pattern but from a new location. To be able to bring this same pressure pattern, from all six possible locations, you must create six different terms and then require your players to associate those six different terms with the same pressure pattern. Thus, to install five different pressure patterns, which come from all six locations, you would need 30 different terms. It is easy to recognize how this could lead to verbiage overload and confusion when teaching.

In a tag word system, by using independent terms for pressure location and pressure patterns we can install those same five patterns, from all six locations, with 11 terms. All while our players only need to associate one term with each pattern. That is nearly two-thirds fewer terms being used in a tag word system than a non-tag word system to install the same five pressure patterns. Less verbiage and memorization allows players to think less and play faster. It also allows for the expansion of your pressure package, without putting too much on the player’s plates.

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The 40-Second Pre-Snap Thought Cycle for QBs

By Gary Harrison
Offensive Coordinator
Scripps Ranch High School (CA)

 

 

How does your QB manage the 40 seconds between each play?

As coaches, we spend countless hours ensuring our schemes and execution will be effective.  But how much time do you spend working with your QB on managing the 40-second play cycle?   In my observations and coaches’ discussions, I have surmised that this is an area that does not get a lot of coaching time. I think there is an opportunity to improve your QB play by spending some time training this aspect of the game.

We look at the time between plays in 5 distinct compartments: Tackle made (0:40 sec start) à Receive Play call à Communicate Play à Pre-Snap Analysis à Execution.

 

Defining the Problem

We have all seen game scenarios when the QB is struggling, and the game gets too fast for him to the layer is struggling to get full control of his mental faculties. This report will examine the cause of these QB distresses and how to mitigate their negative impact on his performance.

The amount of information anyone can simultaneously process has its limits.  Sports psychologists have studied the mental processes) of athletes when they try to perform more than one task at a time and have concluded that there is a steep drop off in physical performance when the brain is overwhelmed.   Other professions study this phenomenon too.   Aviation physiologists studied military pilot’s cockpit multi-tasking methodology after a string of avoidable mishaps and subsequently recommended compartmentalization training to reduce cognitive processing errors and improve performance.

Compartmentalization is the mental checklist used by military pilots to:

  1. Manage the barrage of incoming information, and to
  2. Filter through to the critical information needed
  3. To take immediate actions in the cockpit

 

When a pilot or QB becomes overwhelmed with too much information, he can suffer from short-circuiting (in the Military, we lightheartedly refer to this as a helmet fire. These cognitive processing errors will result in poor reads and physical mistakes from your QB.  So how can these methods be applied to a young QB?  What are the similarities in a pilot’s load management strategy to that of a young QB trying to manage a game?  The below article explains how we coach our QB’s on managing the 40-second play cycle.

 

The 40-second Play Cycle

We instruct our QB’s to manage this time cycle into five distinct compartments.

 

This seems to be complicating the play flow, but I have found that QB’s in high-pressure situations may jumble these distinct tasks resulting in miscommunication and assignment errors.  When the QB is struggling, the game speeds up and these separate mental activities start to snowball into one big helmet fire. The compartmentalization is a way for QB to maintain or recover his bearing and devote his full mental focus on the most important activities between plays.

 

Coaching Points for each phase of the 40-second play cycle

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Streamlining Teaching of Fire Zone Coverage Responsibility

By JJ Ortiz
Defensive Coordinator and Safeties Coach
Middletown Area High School (PA)

 

 

Outside a defense’s base, fronts and coverages often lie its’ blitz packages. At Middletown, we love to call blitzes and let our players be aggressive. We have always liked how the 4-2-5 gives us options on whom to blitz. However, throughout the years, we’ve found that to consistently execute blitzes correctly, we need to condense the amount our kids have to know. In the past, this has kept the blitzes to just a handful. There were times we knew we needed certain blitzes. Unfortunately, we could not install them because it would become a mental overload for our players who were already having to learn our team’s offensive plays. Our blitz system was one of rote memorization for all eleven players on the field. Although we were having some success, we knew we could make this part of our defense better if we found a better way to coach and teach. As a defensive staff, it became our mission to find a way to expand our blitz package while keeping it simple enough for our players to continue to play as fast as they do in our base package.

 

Through talking to various defensive coaches and learning about their methodologies for simplifying and teaching good defense, we believe we developed a blitz system that finally allows all eleven players to play fast. They can play fast because they do not have to think much about their alignment, assignments, and responsibilities. By creating a sound conceptual blitzing system, teaching the players the “why”, eliminating what if’s, and tweaking how we practice, we have been able to create a lot of headaches for opposing offenses.

 

The System’s 5 Main Components

To establish a fast timeline for teaching, learning, and building repetition; there are four main components to our zone-blitz system. Implementing these components eliminates a lot of pre-snap and post-snap thinking for our players while also providing them an easy gap sound structure within which to play.

 

1st Component: A married front and secondary strength call

Many defenses can blitz without matching their front and secondary calls. Their players can digest how a base blitz call might change depending on offensive personnel, formation, etc. In our experience, it has been an “expensive” proposition for us to teach our players the various what if’s offenses can create for blitzes. We, or more so, I have not been able to find a simple way to teach these types of variables effectively with the number of players we have playing both offense and defense while also staying multiple on defense. We’ve also found that if players are thinking too much pre-snap, this inevitably slows them down post-snap. To combat these issues, we’ve married our front and secondary strength calls in our zone blitz package so that the players know which positions are on their side of the ball.

 

In a married defense, our 3-tech tackle, Strong End, Mike, The overhang Backer, and Free Safety are all on the same side of the football. To the weak side are our shade nose, weak end, weak inside linebacker, and weak safety. By having a familiarity with who is on your side of the football, our players have very little to think about pre-snap once the blitz call is in. They’ll know their assignment, whose blitzing, where they are blitzing, where they are rotating, in large part to the defense having a definitive strong and weak side.

 

2nd Component: Simple coverage rules using a 3 deep 3 under

The coverage behind a zone blitz can also be an “expensive” proposition. Whether it be a check system between 3 deep 3 under or 2 deep 4 under based on formation, or Dick LeBeau’s match carry deliver coverage concepts, it is easy to make the coverage aspect of the zone blitz system time and rep consuming for high school players. Although these mentioned concepts have a ton of value and have shown to be highly effective, we have decided to stick with simple alignment and assignment rules that allow our kids to gain confidence and play fast within our blitzes almost immediately.

 

We will start in a cover 2 shell. Assignments may vary for the safeties depending on where they are rotating, however, for our overhang and two inside backers, the assignments are very simple.  For Safeties: If the defensive player you’re married to blitzes, you replace them in the underneath part of the coverage. If they don’t blitz, you’re rotating to the deep middle 1/3rd. For the overhang and weakside inside linebacker: If you don’t blitz, you are a #2 drop. For the Mike: If you don’t blitz, you are the #3 drop.

 

Coverage Responsibilities:

Outside 1/3rd: (Mostly Corners in Single LB Zone Blitzes) Show Cover 2; Apex 2 threats; Play overtop the deepest threat to your 1/3rd

Middle 1/3rd: (Either Free or Weak Safety) Show Cover 2: Work to Middle of Formation getting run/pass read from the cluing ball up/down from QB

#2 Drops: vs Pass – Seam, Curl, Flat, Wheel.    Vs. Run – Force (Pitch), Fold; #2 Drops must disrupt the inside hip of the terminal #2.  We want #2 drops to be extremely physical on any vertical route

#3 Drop: vs Pass – Disrupt inside pad of #3; Match the vertical of 3 and make them throw over your head vs Run – Inside out on the football

 

3rd Component: Name your single blitzers and conceptualize two blitzer names

To reduce thinking for our players, we will call the position name of the player we want to blitz. The names are:

Strong Safety (Overhang): Sky
Mike: Buck
Weakside ILB: Whack
Free Safety: Fox
Weak Safety: Swarm

When we want to blitz two players, we will use words like “Skab” to define both whom we want as blitzers and how they should fit the blitz.  The first letters “SK” would indicate our Sky player, or Strong Safety would be the outside box fit of the blitz. The “B” would indicate our Buck would be the inside fit, or what we call the “B gap run through” of the blitz.

 

4th Component: Name your gaps

Again, to reduce the thinking for our players in our single blitzer package, we will name the offensive gaps at the line of scrimmage. We do this to tell our blitzer which gap they are to blitz through. It is a very elementary concept but it has quickened the learning curve for our kids and allowed us to be able to teach how to blitz, how to cover and install other defenses at a much more efficient and deeper level.

In the following diagram, you can see how we have named the offense’s gaps. To the offensive strength, we use military call signs. The A gap is “Alpha”, B gap is “Bravo”, C gap is “Charlie”, D gap is “Delta”. To the weak side of the offense, we name the gaps using Spanish numbers. A gap is “Uno”, B gap is “Dos”, C gap is “Tres”, D gap is “Quatro”. These serve as the landmarks for where our blitzer will blitz through the offensive line.

 

A major coaching point for the Defensive Line in this concept is that the D-linemen must know the gap they are aligned with. If their gap is called in the blitz, for example, we call a “Bravo” blitz, our B gap lineman must then move inside to the next available gap. If we were to call a “Charlie” blitz, our C gap lineman would move to the next available gap inside his initial alignment. This means if there is a player lined up in the B gap, then the C Gap lineman would move into the A gap, which would be the next available gap inside.

 

5th Component: Use simple movement patterns for D-Line in overload blitzes

In our overload system, we’re sending more than one blitzer with a lot of post-snap movement by the defensive line. This post-snap movement can involve moving more than one gap (long stick technique) while a defensive lineman drops into underneath coverage.

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Game Planning RPO/PAP Tags From Compressed Formations

By Kurt Forrest
Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator
Mechanicsburg High School (OH)

 

 

Here at Mechanicsburg the Buck Sweep and Pin Pull Concept has become a big part of our offensive identity. To protect these concepts and to create more chunk plays the play-action game we have developed to put specific defenders in run/pass conflict has been remarkably successful for us as well, now most of our offense is based on it. Each week we want to find formations to create a soft edge or give us a numbers advantage to get the ball on the edge.

 

Formations

We have 4 to 5 base formations we use but we will never limit ourselves in this department. We will use Empty sets, 1 Back, 2 back, TE/Wing sets, and we will condense our receivers on a majority of these to create extra gaps. We also use a Strongside and Quick side on our OL, the strong side is where we run our Buck series and the quick side is true pin/pull. This allows us to steal reps in practice since all our guys play both ways and a lot have to play special teams as well.

Here are our favorite formations that we will almost always carry into a game.  The first one is a TE/WING set to the strong side and two WRs “squeezed down” to the quick side, this creates 10 gaps the Defense must account for. We will run Buck to the strong side and QB pin/pull with the running back leading to the quick side. We love using tight ends because it makes most 3-4 defenses into 5-2 teams and it makes even front defenses pick where they want to play their defensive ends (if they get too wide, we will run a power scheme inside of them to keep them honest). The diagram below shows one of our favorite formations with our favorite play out of it drawn up. It’s a simple RPO with buck sweep being run as the base run and the two backside wide receivers running a simple curl flat (bubble) combination. The quarterback reads the BSILB vs a 4-2 box and he will read the backside stack LB vs a 3-3 box. Once the quarterback decides he has a throw read he simply goes curl to bubble.

Route Details: The outside WR who is on the ball should angle outside of the flat defender if the defender is in his framework or a yard or two outside of his frame then work to 8 yards vertical while using his eyes to push the corner deep then snap it off and come straight back downhill into the window between the 2 linebackers. If the defender is 3 yards or more outside of his frame then he will work inside of him to 8 yards vertical and sit down in the window showing his numbers to the QB. Once he catches the ball, he needs to get vertical immediately to try and get 5 more yards. The inside WR needs to drop his outside foot and get as much width on his bubble route as possible to stretch the flat defender. Once the ball is caught, he needs to be ready to win a one on one opportunity.

QB Read Progression: One of the reasons we love this play is we feel it is amazingly simple for the quarterback. Once he identifies the backside inside LB he reads him post snap. Once the ball is snapped his eyes go straight to the read key if the back flows hard, he will pull and go curl to bubble. Most of the time the curl will be the throw that’s open, if the read key flows hard and the curl is taken away then go quick to the bubble. This should be a great third option or check down option with a good athlete one on one out in space.

QB Footwork: At the snap the QB will step back with the foot closest to the RB and then ride the RB through his opposite hip which is when the decision has to be made to give or pull. As he rides the RB the QB should shift his weight to his foot that started opposite the RB. This allows the QB to either be ready to throw immediately or to flip his hips and turn two just like a second baseman to make the throw the opposite direction.

Drill Work: Since the Buck sweep has become our bread and butter, we allow for a 10-12 play period of practice to be nothing but Buck Sweep with RPOs in a team setting. We tell our scout team guys to read their keys and go somewhere fast so even the coaches don’t truly know what read the QB will get. We will run these plays fast and up-tempo so we can get 10-12 team reps in about 4-5 minutes. This makes it 2nd nature for our players.

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Kick Leg Mechanics for Pooches, Onsides and Rugby Style Approaches

By Kristian Stern
Wide Receiver/Kicking Coach
Westwood High School (TX)
Twitter: @CoachKStern

 

 

Kicking is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of football. A kicker / punter can make or break a game just on one kick. When coaching a kicker, it’s important that you only give them one thing at a time to work on. Too many coaching points at once could make your special teams practice go bad in a hurry. For instance, if they have a hard time getting their toe pointed, all they should work on that day is pointing their toe. I will go over what to look for at practice to help your kicker improve as well as your overall special teams. Here are the fundamentals of kicking and punting as well as things you should be looking for in practice.

 

Field Goal Technique

 

  1. The set up (all steps listed are for a right footed kicker; left footed kicker would be opposite):
  2. Place plant foot (left foot) one-foot length away from the ball (use right foot to measure)

 

Plant foot depth:

  1. 2-inch tee: toe even with nose of the ball
  2. 1-inch tee: middle of foot even with nose of the ball
  3. Off the ground: ankle even with nose of the ball

 

Alignment:

  1. After plant foot is aligned, take 3 casual steps back no more than 3 yards
  2. After 3 steps back, align kicking foot through the tee through your target
  3. Take 2 steps to the left (steps are shoulder width or slightly inside)
  4. Steps over are at a perfect 90-degree angle
  5. After 2 steps over, left foot is aligned with where you originally measured your plant foot
  6. Right foot toe is aligned with heel of left foot
  7. Pick small target to hit in-between the middle of the uprights
  8. Small lean forward with a big chest

 

The approach:

  1. Eyes on the ball
  2. First step is a jab step with left foot (small step an inch forward)
  3. After second step, land plant foot next to ball just like you first aligned it
  4. Head should stay on a straight line and not bob up and down as you approach the ball

 

The Finish:

  1. Toe pointed
  2. Plant foot pointing at your target
  3. Leg locked before contact
  4. Make contact with the ball an inch below the middle of it
  5. Toe and leg locked through contact
  6. Leg parallel to ground after contact
  7. Crunch with left arm to counter your leg swing
  8. Everything finishes towards your target
  9. Eyes up after you finish the full kick

 

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QB Run/Pass Packages From Wildcat Formations

By Tim Hammack
Offensive Coordinator
Christ Prep Academy (KS)
Twitter: @coachtdhammack

 

 

Thanks to X&O Labs for the opportunity to share the basics of our Wildcat package with you. Like many other teams, we often utilize the Wildcat formation in short-yardage and red-zone situations. But we also use Wildcat as a changeup and begin drives in the middle of the field by running multiple plays in succession from our Wildcat formation. We also use it as a major component of our “four-minute offense” when we have a lead and want to chew up the clock at the end of the game.  This has forced us to think creatively about expanding our Wildcat to make the package more varied and less predictable, making it more difficult for opposing teams to prepare for and defend it. This report details our specific Wildcat formation and the fundamental design of our four base plays from Wildcat. The plays and assignments are shown against a five-man front since that is what we often see from our opponents against our Wildcat.

 

Formation

Wildcat for us is what would typically be referred to as a heavy tight set. We utilize one tight end on each side of the formation, two fullbacks/H backs, one slot player and the Wildcat back. The H backs align next to each other on the same side in a three-point stance directly behind the guard and tackle respectively with hand on the ground at 2-2 ½ yards. The slot player aligns to the side opposite of the H backs. The Wildcat’s toes are at a depth of five yards directly behind the center. We can align with perceived strength to the left or right based upon the location of the H backs and slot. Our linemen splits in Wildcat do not change from our normal splits. Diagram 1 below depicts our Wildcat formation with left strength.

 

Philosophy

We think of the Wildcat as an extension of our every down offense and one of several personnel packages we use. As such, the terminology we use to call plays while in Wildcat is not special or unique and does not differ from play calls in the spread, I, or any other formation. For example, a basic jet sweep play call would be “blue” or “red” (blue=left, red=right) regardless of formation. This means the basic blocking techniques, rules and assignments for plays also do not alter significantly with Wildcat. We simply now have additional blockers (H backs) with which to work the point of attack.

Basic offensive philosophy includes the ability to threaten the defense vertically and horizontally and make them defend the whole field. Our Wildcat package includes plays to achieve this as well. If the defense stacks the box to stop the Wildcat power inside runs, they then make themselves vulnerable to these horizontal and vertical stretch plays. To help accomplish stretching of the defense we utilize jet motion on almost all our Wildcat plays, forcing the defense to defend the edge. And our pass plays from Wildcat accomplish the purpose of stretching the defense vertically.

 

Base Plays

Our four base plays from Wildcat are jet sweep, full flow lead, back-flow power, and the pop pass.  While we have additional plays, these are the staple of our Wildcat package and our other Wildcat plays build off these base plays.

 

  1. Jet Sweep

As I mentioned we run jet motion on almost every Wildcat play, but not just as a decoy. We typically run the jet sweep at least once every Wildcat offensive series. Diagram 2 below illustrates our basic jet sweep play from Wildcat.

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C-Gap Defender Block Identification and Destruction from Even Front Spacing

By Cody Crawford
Defensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Allegheny College (PA)
Twitter: @CodyCrawAC

 

 

Being simple to the kids you’re teaching yet appearing complex to the offense can feel like a Catch 22.  I believe it can be done if you truly believe in what you’re teaching and know the Why and How.

Anyone who has coached college football at the lower levels knows you really have to budget your time and analyze what you’ll have time to teach and even more important, what your kids will be able to retain with the time you have with them.  All this being said, we implement a system of techniques and progressions that give our players the best chance of understanding the big picture.  You don’t need every one of your players to be able to dissect the defense but, if the players up front understand Why you need them to do what you’re telling them to do, you’ll get much better results.  We base out of a 4-2-5 Under scheme with the ability to set the front in multiple ways.  By having more of a hybrid DE/LB at one End and a bigger End who can hold up double teams we allow our front to be very fluid with different alignments and movements.  As far as our fits are concerned, even though we are a 4 down front we essentially fit the run with odd space.  What I mean by that is we will close both B gaps since we are playing with a 3 tech and a Heavy 5 tech who are B gap players.  The Nose will be responsible for the A gap and we will be softer in the C gaps with our Wide 5 technique and the backer who is opposite.

 

ALIGNMENT

 

Heavy 5 Technique:

Our End will be the bigger of the two because his base technique will essentially be a two gapper.  He aligns in a heavy 5 technique and most of the time to the field.  In terms of alignment when we use the word “heavy” before any technique that means we want our inside hand splitting the midline of the Offensive Lineman’s body.  This alignment is used for a couple reasons.  First, it works against the OL’s fundamentals and reduces the angles.  Secondly, it makes the guard honor the End since he is playing a two gap technique with any block at him.  We place a big emphasis on backfield alignment with our D Lineman.  This doesn’t usually apply to how we align our End.  Whether the back is away or to you, we want the End to stay in the ballpark of his base alignment.  We align heavy because we are making our End responsible for the B gap.  If he gets a base or reach block he plays what we call “Indian” (Escape Inside).  He is going to trigger off the near ‘V’ of the neck of the OL.  We’ll commonly refer to this as “key the logo”.  As soon as he triggers the End should shoot his hands to his target.  Since the End is really a two gap player he should strike right underneath both arm pits with a base block compared to a shoulder cuff and near pec hand placement you see with looser alignments.

 

Wide 5 Technique:

Our Stud position is the guy who is more of that DE/OLB hybrid.  We count on this guy to be able to rush the passer effectively and even drop into coverage sometimes.   We want the Stud be versatile so we can be multiple in the looks we give the offense and not have to change personnel.  When we tell our Stud to align in a wide alignment that means a foot outside the outside foot of the tackle.  More specifically we tell them the outside part of the foot.  We always begin with giving our guys landmarks with their alignments.   We don’t stress as much about being exact as long as you’re in the position to execute your assignment.  Since we align this end much looser that means he’s going to be a 1 gap player.  The Stud’s alignment we adjust more with backfield alignment.  If the back is away we want him to loosen up from his base alignment.  If the back is to him we want him to tighten down to hand to foot alignment.  So his down hand on the outside part of the foot.  The Stud is going to be the edge of the defense so it is crucial he does not get reached.

 

Alignment Variations

When we’re talking about our base over/under fronts the alignment with a TE will depend on whether you are the Stud or the End.  The Stud will move out to a 9 technique against a TE.  We always tell them they are the edge and that is why they will always have an outside alignment and box any pulls which we will get into later.  The End on the other hand will stay in a heavy 5 technique vs a TE unless they hear a “tear call”.  A tear call will be made only when the 1 tech and 5 tech are to the field.  This call is made vs any set that has a TE and two receivers to a side.  If it’s a pro set (TE/Flanker) then the Rover (Nickel/Sam) will be in a 9 technique.  With #2 removed from the core we have a soft edge so we bump the End to a 6 tech and the Nose to a 2i to reduce the bubble.  The End is still playing “Indian” so he is a two gap player.

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