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kiogorefbBy TJ Gillen-Hall, Defensive Line Coach, Kilgore High School (TX)

It’s essential that in order to defend the zone and power read game, your first level defenders can’t stay stagnant. And against those that run this schemes efficiently, you can’t defend it in just one way. Texas prep perennial power Kilgore High School’s defensive line coach details four effective first level movements he uses out of his 4-2-5 structure to defend the play side read game.



By TJ Gillen-Hall

Defensive Line Coach

Kilgore High School (TX)



kiogorefbOffenses are continuing to evolve and add more run read plays for the quarterback. As a defensive coach, you have to have answers that allow your kids can play fast while accounting for different looks so that the quarterback doesn’t get the same read every time. At Kilgore HS (TX), we will have developed four different ways to play the various read schemes by change-ups for our defensive line.  Many of these are ideas are borrowed from past experience defending the triple option and veer teams. Even though some of these schemes on offense seem new, for the defense it still comes down to the old cliché of “assignment football”. These change-ups allow us to be able to dictate to the offense that we want to carry the ball in the read game based on opponent tendencies and our calls. Each of these stunts, discussed below, is primarily for our defensive ends since they are usually the players being read.

Base Scheme

We base out of a 4-2-5 defense and we play “attack and react” with our d-line 85-90% of the time.  With that in mind, we spend most of our time working block recognition and destruction and expect our defensive lineman to win the line of scrimmage. Generally, we play a heavy seven technique to the tight end side reading the tight end first. We put a lot of emphasis on winning this battle with our ends.  On the weak side of the formation, we play an open five technique. These stunts can be easily adapted to and run from other fronts and shades, in the film you will see us running them from a 9 technique as well. 

Stunt #1 - “First threat”

7-Technique Reaction

When the 7-technique is getting read he will get an outside release from the tight end (Diagram 1).  As he realizes he is getting a non-aggressive block, his eyes will immediately go to the tackle and he will squeeze the gap. If he gets a down block out of the tackle he will continue to squeeze and look for a kick out block or look to the quarterback.  We teach them the mantra “if he’s reading me, I’m reading him.” Our ends are taught to take “first threat” because with all of the different reads, you can’t say he always has the quarterback or always has the back. By assigning him the first threat we eliminate that confusion.  He will squeeze and take the first thing off the tackle’s block.

Even though this is the base way we play it, it’s probably the hardest for most of our players. They don’t want to trust and stay patient, they feel like they have to go somewhere and get out of position on any type of read play. 

5-Technique Reaction

Our open 5 plays it basically the same way, but it’s a faster read for him since he doesn’t have to deal with the tight end first, he’ll simply punch and squeeze off the tackle’s block (Diagram 2).



Your Next Steps…

X&O Labs Insiders members, please click here to login and get the full-length version of this clinic report, including the “Rocket” and “Hit” stunts and game film. Here’s a short list of what Coach Gillen-Hall reveals:

  • Coach Gillen-Hall’s “Chase” movement and how it is predicated to either the side of the back or the side of the quarterback.
  • In-game adjustments players make on their own to use these change-ups.
  • His “Rocket” stunt, which negates the fast flow of Power read concepts.
  • His “Hit” stunt that is an automatic reaction against a tackle down block, which can be run from both sides of the formation and against a two-man or three-man surface.
  • Plus game film [VIDEO] on all these concepts.

Get Full Access: Join X&O Labs’ exclusive Insiders membership program and gain full access to Coach Gillen-Hall’s clinic report and game film… Click here to join now.



Again, I believe as a defensive line coach or coordinator you have to be able to change the way you play the read game with your front to give your kids a chance, slow down the quarterbacks reads, and keep the offense off balance. Letting your defensive line stunt allows them to play fast and know their assignment before the ball is snapped. Thank you to XandOlabs for the opportunity to write this article, hopefully some of you get something out of it. 


Author's Bio:  Coach Gillen-Hall has been coaching at Kilgore High School (TX) for 8 years.  For the past five years, he as served as the defensive line coach.   During that time Kilgore has experienced consistent success as state quarterfinalist in 2011, semifinalists in 2012, and losing in the state chamionship last year. Prior to starting his coaching career, Coach Gillen-Hall played offensive line at Angelo State University.   




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