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accBy Brian Casey, Head Coach, Aurora Central Catholic High School (IL)

Find out how you can attack the increasingly common Quarters Coverage with these varied schemes...


By Brian Casey
Head Coach
Aurora Central Catholic High School (IL)
Twitter: @ACCHSFootball

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accIt is safe to say that we have all run up against the “bend, but don’t break” defense, who wants to prevent the “big play.” These defenses are trying to force the offense to be patient and string together 9, 10, 11 play drives for scores. In doing so, they are much more likely to play a safe zone-coverage designed to limit the big momentum play. This clinic report will focus on how we attack that Cover 4 or Quarters Coverage.



When talking about attacking Quarters Coverage, we have certain concepts and play calls for two reasons:

  1. We are exploiting areas on the field where the offense has a numbers/leverage advantage that will allow us an easy throw and catch and potential run.
  2. We are trying to accumulate enough of those plays to force the defense out of that coverage to open up more area down the field for more aggressive/explosive calls.

We will attack Quarters Coverage in a variety of ways:

  1. Quick Pass Game
  2. Vertical Stem Route Concepts
  3. Levels Concepts
  4. Play-Action Pass
  5. “BDIS” (Best Dude in Space)

While all five of our ways to attack are successful against Quarters Coverage, game situation (time remaining, score, etc.) will play a factor from both the Offensive and Defensive perspectives. Obviously, when trailing later in the game, we will have a lot of easy space in the flats and underneath, but that may not help gain big chunks of yards needed to get a quick score. In those same situations, running the football and throwing quick into the flat does not threaten the defense, so we will utilize the vertical stems and level concepts. In a lot of what you see below, we will utilize the running back in the pass routes. If we are getting Quarters Coverage, we most likely are not going to see any exotic pressures that cannot be picked up by our interior five linemen. However, if the running back is needed, we will check our protection at the line of scrimmage.

Quick Passing Game:

We utilize our Quick Passing Game for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it typically is a simple read and throw, which can be a confidence booster for a young quarterback. Once we identify coverage (safety alignment), we cut the field in half and have a one person/leverage read to get the ball out of the hands in less than two seconds. Second, we will force the defense to defend the entire field and all eleven offensive players. Finally, it is a “take what’s given” approach. Every Offensive Coordinator wants to be in 2nd and Medium, 3rd and Short situations, the Quick Pass Game, especially on early downs, allows us to stay on schedule.

We do have the ability to run different concepts on either side, but for the sake of this report we will mirror our routes.


Slant / Bubble

This is the same idea as a two-man Snag concept. We want to max the split of the #1 WR to really put a horizontal stretch on the OLB. The quarterback has decided pre-snap which side of the field he is going to work. Once he receives the snap, he will eye the OLB, and throw off his movement. The OLB will either widen to the Flat with the Bubble leaving the Slant open in space, or he will stay to wall off the Slant, leaving the Bubble alone with open grass.

The important thing we have found here against a 2-high Safety look is the split of the #1 WR. We stress the “max split”, we want him as wide as he will be allowed (outside the numbers). Anything too tight to the middle of the field brings the near safety into play. He can now potentially make a play on the ball, or be in position for a big hit on our receiver. The max split allows the ball to be delivered wide enough to still be an easy throw and catch, and should allow the receiver to potentially make a move on the Safety after the catch.


Fade / Out

Simple concept, and very inexpensive to teach, rep, and execute. The #1 WR will run a Fade to clear the cornerback. The slot will run a Speed-Out, running away from the OLB/Flat Defender.

The quarterback again will make his decision on which side of the field to attack pre-snap. The decision should be made based upon the leverage of the OLB against the slot receiver. We want to attack the side of the field where we have the leverage advantage to the sideline. After the decision has been made, timing and placement is important. We want the ball on the WR as quick as possible and in front of the slot (toward the sideline). Anything ball thrown behind the Slot back towards the field risks being undercut and intercepted by the chasing OLB.

This is also good against any 2-high defenses that move around pre-snap. If the CB walks down underneath 4-5 yards, we can take a shot with the fade as well. Against a true Quarters Coverage, the fade would work more as a clear-out.


Curl / Flat

To put more stress on the defender over the Slot WR (OLB), we run our Curl/Flat concept a touch differently. The #1 WR will take in immediate inside release and run his Curl on a sit down at a landmark 10 yards above the pre-snap alignment of the slot WR. The inside slot WR will again run a quick Speed-Out creating a horizontal stretch for the flat defender.

On the snap, the quarterback will eye the flat defender. If his shoulders open to the sideline, or he attacks downhill to re-route the slot WR, the quarterback will deliver the ball immediately to the Curl route at 10-yards over the #2 Receiver. If the flat defender hangs, or drops, the quarterback will get the ball to the Speed-Out (Flat) right away giving the receiver a chance to make a play in space.

The Curl/Flat concept allows for many different variations, including by adding the back out of the backfield into the route.

Play-Action Pass:

Similar to the “Drive” concept, you can match this with about any run play you have. We have done this faking both Iso and Power, to get the linebackers threatened a bit more with the downhill run action. Again, much like ‘Drive’ we create a vertical stretch on the linebackers, especially with the Play-Action fake, but our goal here is to put some pressure on the Post/Dig side safety, and throwing off his movement, hoping to take a real shot down the field. 

The single receiver will run the ‘Drive’, running across the formation, full speed, at 4-yards, or pre-snap toes of the linebackers. The outside receiver to the Twins side will take an outside stem, trying to get the cornerback to open outside, before stemming right back on a Post route. The #2 (slot) receiver will run a Post-Stem Dig route behind the linebackers. The slot must burst to the Post to make the near side safety feel threatened. This route can also be converted to a Post if the safety does not respect him as a vertical threat. 



Finally, with a defense playing a soft coverage, sometimes the most successful ‘big-gainers’ can come from simply getting the ball to your best athlete in space and letting him use his instincts and run.

Each week I will have a “Get The Ball To …” column on my call sheet with 4-5 different ways to get the ball to our best players’ hands. We can throw him a spot, middle or tunnel screen, a swing screen out of the backfield, put him on the shallow drive route and get him the ball quick, etc. In 2014, we had a number plays of 20+ yards simply by throwing our best guy a quick hitch as the outside receiver. If you can get the ball into your best ‘dudes’ hands 12-15 times a game, you have a chance!



What You’re Missing…

Join X&O Labs’ Insiders (an exclusive membership-based website) and get the full-length version of this clinic report – including game film. Here’s just a short list of what Coach Casey reveals in this detailed report…

  • How to attack the midrange (12-18 yard) void in Quarters Coverage by choosing which break off routes to use off vertical stems, giving safeties the illusion of vertical concepts.
  • How coach Casey teaches a stop tag on a vertical route by outside receivers in the Four vertical game.
  • Why a levels concept puts immediate stress by high lowing underneath defenders in Quarters Coverage.
  • How pairing your play action pass game with a Jet Sweep complement can open up voids in the seams.
  • VIDEO: Watch game film on all these concepts.

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Again, a lot of the concepts and ideas presented in this report are not revolutionary. They all can be modified to fit your style of offense, and your offensive talent. For example, all of these are shown from a 2x2 formation. However, all can be run from 3x1 sets.

One important thing to keep in mind, while some of these schemes are simple and in some cases basic, as an offensive coordinator, my goal is not to out-smart the opposing defensive coordinator, I am trying to confuse his 16, 17, 18 year old players. We feel that by getting the ball out of our quarterback’s hands in our Quick Pass Game, stretching the defenders both horizontally and vertically, taking shots with Play-Action, and getting the ball to our best player as much as possible, gives us a great chance to do that, and be successful against a team that wants to line up in a Zone coverage, especially a soft Quarters shell.

Meet Coach Casey: Brian Casey has been the Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator at Aurora Central Catholic High School (IL) for the last 5 years. In that time, Casey has helped rebuild the ACC Football program. The Chargers have reached the IHSA post-season in each of the last three years, a stretch that includes a 18-12 record and a co-conference championship in 2012. Prior to taking the program over, Casey served as an assistant coach at ACC.



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