This variation of the Quarters Cover 8 concept from Coach Darian Dulin of Abilene Christian University is a proven adjustment to address specific formations you will see against spread teams.
By Mike Kuchar
Lead Research Manager
Editor’s Note: The following research is part of XandOLabs.com special report on Quarters coverage. Insiders click here to read the full version of this report AND the full Quarters Coverage Report.
As we discussed at length in our Quarters Special report, the Alert and Palms principle was the best answer to 2x2 open formations. That said, we did find another interesting adjustment that could be made to handle four vertical threat in the pass game. Darian Dulin, the defensive coordinator at Abilene Christian University (TX) grew tired of seeing slot receivers get around his outside linebackers and between his Safeties to catch square in routes and skinny posts, which could be an apparent weakness in Quarters Coverage (Diagram 13). So, he adjusted by walking his outside linebackers out further on the number two receiver and play his Safeties closer to the box - essentially, switching their responsibilities (Diagram 14). What resulted was a top ten finish in total defense among all FCS schools in 2012, and a design he calls Cover 8.
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- The type of footwork he teaches to get the most accurate post-snap run/pass read.
- How the depth of his Safeties may vary based on whether or not they have an open or closed gap to their side.
- Why he feels Backer (LB) support in Quarters coverage can be more productive than Sky (Safety) support.
- Why he’s more concerned about his OLB’s getting hands on the slot than showing up in the run game.
- The adjustment he makes when slot receivers tighten their pre-snap leverage points.
- Plus video on this concept.
Dulin told us that it’s a coverage used most effectively when your Safeties are your best secondary players. It gives them the ability to get over the top of vertical routes, yet get involved in the run. He would have his Safeties get as close as six yards from the line of scrimmage if they felt they can play both the run game and get over the top of number two. They are asked to play Quarters responsibility in the pass (by playing number two vertical) yet still play the alley - the outside linebackers will have force - in the run game. His Safeties will soft pedal out on the snap and read the Guard to their side to give us a little bit of a cushion on the run/pass read. Dulin feels playing against Gun formation offenses, gives his Safeties a better run/pass indicator, allowing them to play both situations. "We feel we have quick reads with the QB in gun based on whether he’s faking the zone read or he’s popping it up and throwing it to the seam route," he said.
Yet, the onus of Cover 8 are the responsibilities placed on the outside linebackers, not the Safeties. We had a hybrid Sam last year who could cover guys. Safeties can be downhill force players, where outside backers could be more athletic."
Dulin says the Sam and Will must get a quick read from EMLOS, then get their eyes to number-two. "We’re more concerned about getting hands on number-two and being late for the run," said Dulin. "With those Safeties being an 8-man box we were one-up or even with the offense in the run game."