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dutchtownBy By Jason Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Dutchtown High School (Geismar, LA)


Defending trips is about having options and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each option. Coach Brown explains his favorite concepts here...

By Jason Brown
Defensive Coordinator
Dutchtown High School (Geismar, Louisiana)


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The popularity of the spread offense has made this formation and it’s variations a major concentration for defensive coaches at all levels. With offenses becoming more and more prolific it is on us as defensive coaches to find more and better ways to defend and give our teams a chance to win. It is my goal to present some concepts we have used to combat this very popular formation, and to stimulate thought in an effort to come up with even more ways to defend this formation.

When identifying trio formations, we must know if it is a 3x1 detached or attached formation (Diagrams 1 and 2), and if the back is set to or away from the trio (Diagrams 3 and 4). These variations help us in scouting and help us match up our coverage preference against each set.


When we defend 3x1 formations, we think it is imperative to have multiple ways to attack. Each 3x1 coverage has its weakness and it is important, as a coordinator, to move the stress points of your defense around. In other words, if you defend the formation the same all the time, the offense will identify the stress and exploit it. It is our belief that we should control when and how we expose our weaknesses in coverage rather than have the offense dictate vulnerabilities by virtue of formation.

Loaded Zones

This concept basically allows us to play a pushed over 3 deep zone to 3x1 sets where you have 5 on 3 zone to the trio side and man to man backside. The 5 on 3 numbers allow us to be very good versus a myriad of passes to the trio side, and helps us be very good versus the run. The weakness of the Loaded Zone is the fact that it is man to man weak side and teams will exploit the coverage on the weak side until they get tired, especially if they have a favorable matchup at the wide receiver or running back.

Within our coverage system, we have “camp rules” which are basic rules that we use to get defenses taught in a systematic fashion, and then we have “game plan rules” that we will use week to week. For example, if we have a split-safety coverage called (even numbers) and a trio formation shows itself, camp rules tell us we will check to either Hammer or Nail depending on the one that is being taught at the time as the default. If a middle of the field coverage is called (Odd numbers) camp rules tell us we will check to one of our loaded zones to a trio set. Furthermore, if we want a specific coverage to trio sets we can always add a Tag to a coverage call (Diagram 14-15).


There are times when we can use a tag that gives us an either/or option to trio sets. If we call “adjust” we would like a 1/4s coverage concept (default decided per game plan) if the formation is a trio set with a number 2 receiver weak (Diagram 16). We would like our Loaded Zone concept (default decided per game plan) if the trio set is a 4 strong set (Diagram 17). If we tag “Giant” to the end of the coverage call we want “Poach” if it is a 4 strong set (Diagram 18) and if we get #2 weak we want the default coverage (Diagram 19).


Tied into all of this has got to be the ability to disguise your intentions until just before or right at the snap. If teams know you are in a quarter’s concept, to the trio side, they will work the trio side passing game, the bubble games, and the RPO stuff that way. If they know you are in a loaded zone they will work the single receiver side and throw it till they get tired. We work very hard with our players on disguising the things that we are doing and not letting the offense “read our mail”.

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  • The three kinds of “loaded zones” coach Brown will play against trips formations and how he correlates his terminology into the concept being played.
  • Diagrams and video of Coach Browns’ “Hammer” concept- a quarter, quarter, half coverage, which puts an inside rotator closer to the box to defend the run game while providing sound coverage to the backside of trips.
  • Diagrams and video of Coach Brown’s “Nail” concept- a quarter, quarter, half coverage, which puts the inside rotator as the outside technique providing sound coverage against RPO concepts.
  • Diagrams and video of Coach Brown’s “Poach” concept- a split safety coverage, which provides for a halves coverage to the three receiver side of trips.
  • How Coach Brown uses tags to give “either/or” options to trio sets, and how these tags are correlated to each of these coverage concepts.

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I deeply appreciate the opportunity to share some of our trio coverage answers. I am a product (not nearly a finished product) of all of those people who have shared with me over the years. It is great to be able to give back to this great game and I hope I have given you something that can help. Since this formation is becoming more and more prevalent, it is important that we are able to attack it with multiple answers. With good execution of the trio concepts and sound disguise principles, you should be well on your way to attack, not just defend the 3x1 formation. I hope that I have helped in some way at least stimulate thought on the matter. Coach’em up!!!


Meet Coach Brown: Jason Brown is the Defensive Coordinator at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, Louisiana. He has been coaching for 25 years with 21 of them serving as Defensive Coordinator at various upper classification schools in Louisiana. Dutchtown High School has a 51-11 record over the last five years and their defense has contributed greatly to this success. Some notable former players for Dutchtown High School include Eddie Lacy (RB Green Bay Packers), Eric Reid (DB San Francisco 49ers), and Landon Collins (DB Alabama).



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