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gracelandBy Derrick Minor, Former Defensive Coordinator, Graceland University

Coach Minor explains how “Big Sky” Cover 3 became his most productive coverage, by being a three deep coverage with four underneath coverage zones or a four deep coverage with 3 underneath zones based on what route the #2 WR runs.

By Derrick Minor - @coachminordbs

Former Defensive Coordinator

Graceland University

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gracelandThe “Big Sky” Cover 3 is a three deep coverage with four underneath coverage zones that converts to a four deep coverage with 3 underneath zones based on what route the #2 WR runs.  Big Sky is a man to man technique that we will play on the # 2 WR to the multiple receiver side.  If the formation is balanced we will employ the Big Sky technique to the field or the QB’s throwing arm. See diagrams 1 - 3.


Why Big Sky?

First and foremost, we like the “Big SKY” concept because it’s a safe coverage concept that allows us to employ the concept verses a variety of formations and personal groupings because of how we play a fast #2 WR be it in a 3x1 or 2x2 set.  In addition it affords us the ability to match speed with speed out of our base 4-2-5 and fire zone packages regardless of how our front is aligned.  Because we man of the #2 WR it affords of the flexibility to be in a single high shell verses a potential 4 vertical threats out of 3x1 or 2x2 formations and still be sound in our coverage principles. 

Often times we will hide our coverage’s by aligning in a two shell and rolling to it late.  However, there are time when we will line up and show it because QB’s can have a hard time discerning whether or not we are manning up the #2 WR because our Quick (Q) and Strong Safety (SS) align the same way every time, which is 4x4 outside of the EMOL.  We do this because we want to all ways give the appearance that they are ON! Meaning one of them if not both of them are coming on some type of pressure or blitz off the edge.  In our 4-2-5 scheme our FS, SS and Q are interchangeable, meaning at any time base on the formation, Trade, Shift or motion (TSM) or designated call any one of them can be responsible for “Big Sky” coverage on a number #2 WR.  

Why Not Check Out?

We never check out of a pressure for two reasons, the first being: the 4-2-5 is a built in nickel defense, because of that it affords us the ability employ a variety of pressures/blitzes and still be able to match speed with speed in space and account for coverage zones and not ask a LB to cover a fast #2 or 3 WR in space.  The second reason is: I like to keep things simple for my players.  I don’t want them thinking too much.  Offenses will TSM you to death if they know they can get you to check out of pressures/blitzes. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:




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“Big Sky” Cover 3 is a coverage I have experienced a lot of success with over the years and is a coverage that is always a part of my weekly coverage package.  Its flexibility and simplicity is the thing I love about it most.  It’s a player friendly coverage that is easy for your players to learn and you don’t have to have superior athletes to implement the scheme.  




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