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captureBy Dan Devine, Defensive Coordinator, Alpharetta High School (GA)

Want to beef up your 4-2-5 coverage structure to defend the box run game? Try subbing in an extra defensive lineman for a safety. Find out how this concept helped Coach Devine's defense finish 10-1 with the fourth best defense in the state of Georgia. Find out how in this exclusive report.



By Dan Devine
Defensive Coordinator/LB Coach
Alpharetta High School (GA)
Twitter: @coachd73

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captureThe concept of the 5-1-5 defense is a run stopping package that we used off of our base 4-2-5 defense. This concept was born out of the necessity to stop the run heavy oriented teams while staying true to our 4-2 principles. What we found was substituting a DL for a LB or safety type body allowed us to stay solid in the run while still being flexible in the passing game. The result was a system where we could run all of our 4-2-5 coverages and get pressure with our most athletic players all out of a 5-1 front.


At first, we were reluctant to leave one sole linebacker behind the line, but the more we practiced it and broke down the film the more comfortable we felt. We had a lot of inexperience and injuries at the linebacker position and our depth in the backend was also thin. For that reason, we decided to lean on our strength and depth up front to make the changes we needed against heavy run teams.

That said, the one backer in this system must be very good. He has to be smart enough to make the adjustments, tough enough to go tackle-to-tackle and elusive enough to shed defenders. In all, he must be the best defender on the team. We also knew, as a coaching staff, that we had to be sound with teaching technique and also make our kids fully grasp the idea and concept of what we were trying to do.


The basic concept of the 5-1 is to cover up and shift along the defensive front while allowing your one true LB to roam free. In order to allow him to do this without fearing plays down the sidelines, all outside edge principles (backside counters, reverses, toss, etc.) are handled by the two safeties outside.


At first glance, this concept will appear to be very similar to the old 5-3. This is especially true against heavy wing-t or option teams. However, when you actually look at personnel and depending on formations it does stay true to a six man box.

We play with a strong safety, weak safety (Raider) and a free safety. In our system, they are called the triangle. Against run heavy teams and statistically heavy run situations, we will most likely be in some version of cover 3 with a single high safety. In that case, the strong safety will align the strength and weak safety opposite the call. Their alignments are 3x3 off the last man on the LOS (if given a TE or tackle) or head up to inside eye if given 2x2, trips or empty.

Whether we roll to the coverage or just line up in the base formation, both outside safeties know that their jobs is contain, backside counter/reverse, and anything that bounces out to their side. They cannot be sucked in by play action or get caught peeking in the backfield. They play a vital role in being able to run this defense effectively and consistently.

To see a glimpse of this concept, click on the link below.

LB Rules/Technique

Our linebacker will be aligned directly over the ball and his heels will be at 5 yards when the ball is in the middle of the field. When the ball is on the hash and the offense is overloaded to one side, we do tell him he can cheat slightly toward the strength or wide side. That said, he cannot go too far as it is just he and the weak safety backside at point of attack.

Base Coverage out of the 5-1-5

As a defensive staff, we felt it was critical that our 5-1 concepts could mesh with all of the coverages that we use in our 4-2-5 base.  This would allow it to be very versatile and prevent predictability on the backend when we go to this concept.  The way it works out, nearly every coverage we have in our 4-2-5 can be run or tweaked to fit this 5-1 front.

What You’re Missing…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of Coach Devine’s clinic report. Here’s just a short list of what you’re missing without an Insiders membership…

  • The three front structures Coach Devine will use in his 5-1-5 defense based on formation
  • Why he had to change his sole linebacker’s pre-snap reads in order to defend all box run game
  • How he is still able to use split-field coverage rules to play trips and empty sets
  • The base pressure package Coach Devine uses in his 5-1-5 setup
  • VIDEO: Watch narrated game film on all these components of the 5-1-5 defense

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In conclusion, the 5-1-5 was created to help fit our personnel and give us an advantage up front. We felt substituting a DL for a back seven player made us better at the point of attack and especially stopping the run. This concept keeps most of our players true to our 4-2 rules but at the same time keeps us flexible in both our pressures and coverage schemes. Our athletes and coaching staff have bought into it and have developed a true mindset when it comes to implementing it on a week in, week out basis.

Meet Coach Devine: Dan Devine was a special education teacher and a football assistant at Hopewell High School in Huntersville, NC from 2003-2007 on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. He then got his first crack at the head coaching ranks and was the Head Coach at Hickory Grove Christian School in Charlotte, NC from 2008-2009 where he received CPFC Coach of the Year honors in 2008. He then moved on to rival Westminster Catawba Christian the next two seasons where he served as the Athletic Director and Head Coach and received CPFC Coach of the Year honors in 2010 as well as the first state championship in the school’s history. 




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