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

Find out how multiple programs are addressing open sets with their quarters coverage concepts.


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


Editor’s Note: The following research was conducted as part of X&O Labs’ special report on Quarters Coverage, which can be accessed by clicking here.


Two-Read Coverage Rules:

In this type of coverage, the Corner’s rules are simple:

  • If number two is vertical (past linebacker depth) stay on number one (Diagram 3).

  • If number two is out, get off number one and play number-two (which is essentially becomes the new number one) (Diagram 4).
  • If number two is in, stay on top of number one (Diagram 5).

Alert Call

Since it is the defensive backs making these adjustments on field, anytime the offense comes out with a detached number two receiver and could be a vertical threat, Shap Boyd, the defensive coordinator at Muskingum College, uses an "Alert Call" made by his Safeties.  His rules are below:

Alert Call Rules:

CB Rules:

  • Squeeze #1 until #2 crosses your vertical
  • Do not chase, zone your quarter
  • If both WR disappears, then you can squeeze if #2 is running to the post or seam.
  • Watch the QB thru 3 steps before snapping eyes back to #1.
  • Flip your hips and skate

Safety Rules:

  • 12-15 yards off ball, on top of #2
  • If #2 is vertical- lock on #2
  • If #2 is out- get eyes to #1
  • If #2 drags- eyes go to QB and find work
  • "Don’t got until you know.  Find out what #1 is doing."
  • Will LB must wall #2, look to #1 and expand for #3 pickup

The benefit of the Alert call is keeping the outside linebackers close to the core in run-downs.   Since both outside linebackers don’t have flat responsibilities, it allows them to stay what Boyd calls "the hip position" on the defensive end to their side.  Boyd uses it more on run downs or what he calls "tweener" downs when he’s not given a tendency on a run or pass.

Joey Wiles, the head coach at St. Johns High School (FL) uses the same coverage, but he calls it "Palms." A scheme he took from the University of Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.  Although Wiles says he will play Palms vs. any formation, it’s particularly useful against 2x2 sets because it keeps the Will and Sam linebackers in his 4-3 scheme involved in the run game.

Palms Coverage (Diagram 6)

Joey Wiles, the head coach at St. Augustine High School, a powerhouse prep program in the Orlando (FL) area has been an advocate of running what he calls "Palms" coverage, a concept he got from Bob Stoops back in his Kansas State days.  According to Wiles, he’ll run Palms to any offensive structure.  "In one season we’ll see three ‘I’ formation teams, two Wing T teams, one triple option team and three or four spread teams," said Wiles.  "We will run this against anything."

The Palms coverage premise is based off the read of the number-two receiver.  Wiles says that they are "palmsing" number-two.  While we must admit we have no idea where the verbiage comes from (if you know where it comes from, post in the comments section below), the concept is extremely effective and the rules are simple:

Palms Coverage Rules:

  • If number two is vertical, the corner plays number one.
  • If number two runs a flat route, the corner comes off on number two and the free safety plays number one.

The Sam linebacker or Nickel will apex (split the difference) between number two and the offensive tackle (Diagram 7).  "Depending on how good number two is, sometimes we begin to creep him in a little bit.  On pass route, the Sam must take a straight backpedal for three steps and settles there.  We do not want him opening up and letting the number two receiver underneath.  The only thing that takes him off is number three to the flat (Diagram 8)."

The Free Safety will split the Sam and the number two receiver.  "You can play him at ten yards, but we back up ours to 12 yards," said Wiles. "You just have to be sure the free safety can get to the number one receiver on a vertical route if he gets a flat route by number two.  We play our corners at seven yards."

To summarize, the Corner and Free Safety handle number one and number two, the Sam handles number three to the flat and the Mike LB handles number three. It’s that simple.  We know that routes and landmarks can vary, but that is the general premise of the coverage, and day one explanation.  On the other side, everything else is identical.  Will is apexing number-two, the strong safety splits the Will and number-two and the Corner is over number-one.

To see game cut-ups of Quarters coverage against 2x2 open formations, click on the link below:

"Cathy" Coverage

Chris Ash, now the defensive coordinator at the Ohio State University used the same principle while he was at Wisconsin last season, except he called it "Cathy" coverage.  Similar to Palms, Cathy is an in-out principle used by the Corner and Safety on numbers one and two in the pass game.  Ash’s descriptions and reads of the coverage are below:

Cathy Description:

Cathy is a soft pattern read vs. two or more detached receivers.  Corner and Safety must read the release of number two to their side, but Ash uses landmarks for vertical matches, not defenders.  Responsibilities will be determined by release.

Cathy Adjustments:

  • Number-two receiver releases outside five yards or less (Diagram 9). Corner takes the flat, Safety works over the top of number-one.  Outside LB plays Curl.
  • Number-two goes inside (Diagram 10). Corner plays number-one.  Safety zones his quarter and looks to bracket number one.  OLB plays curl and takes number three to the flat.
  • Number-two is vertical over 10 yards (Diagram 11). Corner plays number-one.  Safety plays number-two vertical.  OLB plays curl and takes number-three to the flat.


Editor’s Note: The following research was conducted as part of X&O Labs’ special report on Quarters Coverage, which can be accessed by clicking here.




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