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vtfbBy Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

Discover how coaches from accross the country are utilizing their pressure checks against various 11 personnel looks.


By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager 
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikeKKuchar

Editor’s Note: The following research is excerpted from XandOLabs.com special report on Developing a Pressure Check System. Login here to read the full-length version of this report.


11 Personnel Pressure Checks

Essential Questions/Answers on how to attack 11 personnel:

vtfbQ: What if the tight end is not tied into protection?

A: We’ve found that many defensive coaches aren’t seeing tight ends that are tied into protection. It usually is six-man protection with the back. If that is the case, five to six man pressures can be effective. Keep in mind, a three-by-one closed set does give the opportunity for outside linebackers to get on pressure tracks, because inside linebackers are able to work to number three (the tight end) in coverage. So it may be beneficial to bring perimeter pressures.

Q: What if the tight end is tied into protection?

A: Now with the tight end tied into protection, defenses have a choice to bring pressure to the tight end to get some sort of exterior rush or bring it away from the tight end, if teams are sliding in that direction. We’ve heard many coaches talk about getting that exterior pressure to the tight end side, particularly against sprint out concepts.

Q: How much of the offenses run game are predicated to the three man surface?

A: Some coaches are choosing to design their pressures to the three-man surface side in run-downs. One back power teams or one back zone teams may be affected by a check system designed to bring pressure to the tight end.

Where to Attack

Bud Foster specifically uses an 11 check in his pressure system where he may be having five different calls based off his 11 checks. “The back could be at home, he could be weak or could be strong and we can play three different coverage’s based off of it,” said Foster. “We won’t change the front. If they detached a TE, we may pressure now to the side of the Tight End.”

Scott Donaldson is one of those coaches who prefer an exterior pressure against tight end or three-man surface structures. Although he mentions he doesn’t see many teams that keep the tight end in protection, when he does it negates any opportunity for an outside backer to be an interior rusher. “It really screws up the timing of the blitz when you have a tight end there,” said Donaldson. “The OLB can get cut off. When the tight end is on the field and we are blitzing a tight end, we will limit the blitzes to the ones that we know time up with a tight end. Anytime the SS has to go inside, its’ no good. Instead we’ll send him outside.”

Garrett Gillick, the former defensive coordinator at Bentley College and now the linebackers coach at the University of New Hampshire, spends more time analyzing where the back is in 11 personnel. “If they come out in 11 personnel with the back weak and we want to run Seattle (detailed below), then we come off the weak side,” said Gillick. “If the back is strong we want to attack the back. We will say check ‘Seattle’ to the back.”

Virginia prep powerhouse Westfield High School designed a check system in 11 personnel to attack the open side. “Depending on where the tight end was, gave us a hint,” said defensive line coach Mike Giancola. “If the tight end was to our right, they liked boot because they would drag him across the formation. If the tight end was on the other side, we got iso and draw. Our outside linebacker away from him would blitz off the edge. If the tight end was to the other side, our Whip and Mike linebacker would come through the gap and blow up the End to stop draw and get pressure on the QB’s face for pass.”

There are some coaches, like Jeff Judge, that design a check system off three-man surfaces in 11 personnel groupings. “We faced a team this season that ran power 100 percent of the time in the run game with these formations,” said Judge. “We will rotate our weak safety and create a 9 man look to the power side. In the pass game, teams will use a tight end, but will never block them. Teams will throw hot.”

Dan Garrett calls his strength to the closed or open side of the formation but will based on tendency which type of pressure he is sending. His rules are below:

  • 2 by 2 balanced but have a TE side and a SE by alignment
  • The 3 SEAM and 3 HOOK are to the strong side of the defense
  • The TE side in doubles is the closed and strong side. Our strong people align to the TE
  • The twins side of the formation is open (SE) and weak because our weak side people should be aligned there
  • To call the blitz it would either be by closed or open – if I have a tendency
  • Or with that personnel group on the field – I may want our strong or weak side people to go in the blitz and tag it as such

Garrett did tell us that what the offense does in the run game might predicate what he runs which is detailed below.

Much of what Gettysburg does in its pressure check package is against 3x1 formations and is often predicated on the single back (which we address in the next case). Weaver operates out of a three-down front with some form of Quarters coverage as a base, but against closed tight end structures, the H backer will be involved in the check and come off the edge. The coverage rotates to a three-deep, three-under concept.

What You’re Missing…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of this research report. Here’s just a short list of what you’re missing in the full-length report:

  • Why Tim Schaffner, the head coach at Butler Community College, has a different package to pressure Tight End/Trips formations.
  • Why Scott Donaldson, the defensive coordinator at Heidelberg University prefers to use 3/2 zone pressures against 11 personnel and the “Mower” and “Texas” pressure he uses to do so.
  • Gettysburg College’s base man pressure to 3x1 Trey sets including defensive coordinator Shaun Weaver’s adjustments to change of strength and pre-snap motions.
  • VIDEO: See real-game application of these concepts.

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As 11 personnel groupings continue to infiltrate spread offense landscapes, we are hoping to provide several pre-snap answers to defend what you are seeing.



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