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xrini3yv4a6fak8pBy Mike Fox, Defensive Coordinator, St. John Fisher College (NY)

Since installing the odd stack defense in 2010, St. John Fisher College (NY) has shattered its school records in total defense and rushing yards per game. Defensive Coordinator Mike Fox writes about his “X” concept, his most productive pressure, which allows him to get +1 in the run game to defend the read zone game.



By Mike Fox
Defensive Coordinator
St. John Fisher College (NY)
Twitter: @sjfcfootball

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At St. John Fisher College our philosophy is to proactively keep opponents off schedule in the run game by creating negative plays on first down. We take an aggressive approach to this philosophy out of our 3-3-5 base defense by using calculated five-man pressures at the point of attack based on film and tendency study.

In this clinic report, I am going to share one of our favorite base pressures used against a zone read scheme offense. This pressure is simple in concept, but I believe the details and teaching in the run fits are what makes them most effective.

At St. John Fisher, we are a base 3-3-5 defense utilizing two 4-techniques with our defensive ends, 3 true inside linebackers and 3 true safeties. We are primarily a cover 3 or 3 under 3 deep base coverage team, but occasionally being run out of a two high safety shell.


It has become common thinking that football has become an offensive driven game. Multiple formations, multiple tempos can create problems for any defensive coordinator. All that said, I believe running the 3-3-5 puts the pressure back on the offense. Preparing for the 3-3-5, duplicating scout looks, and overall scheming against this defense can become a nightmare for offensive coaches.

X Concept

As a defense, we want to make sure in our eight-man front we can account for all eight gaps. Without playing quarters, cover zero or cover one we use our blitz concepts to create a +1 concept against the major run plays we will see, always trying to get an unblocked defender to the point of attack. The X Concept shown below is one way that we are able to effectively do this.


The X Concept is a commonly used pressure out of 3-4 and 3-3 fronts. It is a gap exchange blitz between our Mike and either the Sam or Will. When talking about defending an inside zone scheme, we use a 1 back, 1 gap philosophy. A good zone tailback is taught to find the daylight and then press front side or back side depending on linebacker and defensive line flow. Here are a couple key coaching points we think make this a successful blitz in what we do.



To see narrated game cutups of the X pressure concept, click on the video below:


Weekly Tags to Match Offensive Personnel…

In the full-length version of Coach Fox’s clinic report, available to Insiders members, he reveals how he tags the concept each week to match offensive personnel. Here’s a short list of what else you’ll find in the full-length version of this report…

  • How to tag the concept each week to match offensive personnel and tendencies.
  • The fundamentals behind the “pick” technique that Coach Fox uses in order to get +1 at the point of attack in option.
  • How he dictates which linebacker will be the “read defender” on the back side of option to maintain gap integrity.
  • VIDEO: Watch narrated game film on this concept.

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The great thing about the stack defense is that there are multiple blitz combinations and games you can play with your defensive line, linebackers and safeties. This is both an advantage and curse. Like any defense more is not always better, we try to be effective at four base five-man pressures in order to defend against the run game. As things have changed and evolved in our defense in scheme and personnel the X concept has been a staple of our defense and is a critical component in slowing zone and zone read based teams.

Meet Coach Fox: Coach Mike Fox has now spent 10 years coaching at St. John Fisher, with the last 7 as the Defensive Coordinator. In 2014, he led the #1 ranked defense in Empire 8 conference in all major categories including total yards, points, and rushing. St. John Fisher College currently is the winningest Division III football program in the northeast over the last 12 years. Fox was a 2 time All American linebacker at St. John Fisher before he became a coach.










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