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By Erik Kruppe, Head Football Coach, Farmington High School (MO)

Over the past two seasons, Framington's opponents are only converting on 34% of 3rd and 4th downs. They emphasize and take pride in defending what they call the “critical downs.” See how they use this coverage to get off the field and, in turn, win games. Read it here...


By Erik Kruppe
Head Football Coach
Farmington High School (MO)
Twitter: @KnightsFBFHS

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At Farmington High School, our linebackers spend much of their time working on keys, reads, proper run fits, block destruction, and tackling. When it comes to defending the pass, we try to keep it simple for them. We want our linebackers to know exactly what is expected of them versus the pass, regardless of the coverage called.

Base Concept

Everything we do defensively is based out of a 4-3, Cover 4 concept. From our Cover 4 look, we have the ability to get in and out of different coverages. We want our linebacker’s pass defense rules to be consistent, regardless of what coverage is called.

To do this, our linebackers (Sam, Mike, and Will) are taught a count system. The Sam and Will understand their pass responsibility is based off the #2 receiver to their side, while Mike’s responsibility is based off #3 strong. Our linebackers understand they will either drop off their number, or play man on their number. For instance, the Sam will either drop off #2 (any zone concept) or play man on #2 (any man concept). We determine zone or man coverages by numbers and colors. Numbers indicate zone coverages, while colors indicate man coverages. For the remainder of this report, we will discuss how our linebackers pattern read (i.e. drop off) receivers in our zone coverages.     

Pattern Read Concept

Our Linebackers will drop off, or pattern read, their assigned receiver in any zone coverage. One of the first things our linebackers are taught is that their receiver can really only do one of three things: he can release inside, outside, or vertically. While each of those releases can encompass many routes, our linebackers need to understand the initial direction of the receiver’s release.  

Sam/Will’s Pattern Read Drops

Our Sam and Will drop off #2 to their side. If #2 is a split receiver, our linebacker will “Walk,” apexing the #2 receiver (#2) and the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL). If #2 is a tight end or a running back, our linebacker will remain in the box. 

Against a vertical release, our linebacker is taught to drop inside-out, making sure he does not expand past #2.  He is to get his hands on and collision #2, settling underneath the route. As #2 continues to run vertically, the linebacker will get his head on a swivel and look up #1. If he sees the #1 receiver (#1), he will expand to the hip, allowing our cornerback to sink underneath the smash concept.  If he does not see #1, our linebacker will square up and break on the ball when thrown.

Our Sam/Will is taught to let an inside release of #2 go, and look up #1 instead. This is one of the most difficult things to get linebackers (young ones in particular) to do correctly, as their natural instinct is to chase the route. We like to run double crossers when teaching our pattern read concepts in practice, because it allows the linebacker to see what it feels like when they chase a shallow cross, only to have the cross from the other side enter a vacated zone. We would rather have them learn from failure in a practice instead of a game.

Versus an outside release, our Sam/Will is taught to expand with the route, staying higher and wider than it. By staying higher and wider than the route, it allows us to drive the up-field shoulder versus the arrow route, and smoothly work to the hip pocket of a wheel route (which our linebackers are expected to run with). Once recognizing an outside release, our linebacker must get on his horse, because he is naturally out-leveraged by alignment.

Mike’s Pattern Read Drops

If the #3 receiving threat (33) is aligned in the backfield, more times than not he will be asked to insert himself into the protection scheme.  If this is the case, our Mike drops directly over the back, working for depth.

If #3 releases, our Mike linebacker will expand with the route until he hears or sees #2.  In that instance, he will settle with #2 (who has now become the new #3 receiver in the route combination) and pass off the swing route to the Sam or Will.

If #3 runs a vertical route from the backfield (releasing downfield between the tackles), it is the Mike linebacker’s responsibility to run vertically with the back. While that is not a common route, the Mike must account for it, because our safeties will not be in a position to run with the route.

Coaching Points:

  • We do not ask linebackers to drop deeper than 10-12 yards in zone drops, unless a specific route (e.g. wheel route) requires them to do so.
  • We like our linebackers to get hands on routes whenever possible, but never chase a route in order to do so.
  • The linebacker must have vision on his route; if he stares too long into the backfield and loses vision of the route, the linebacker is no longer in a position to defend it properly.  We want them to defend routes, not grass.

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  • How this pattern match coverage defends curl flat route concepts.
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  • How this pattern match coverage defends double post concepts.
  • How this pattern match coverage defends smash concepts.
  • How this pattern match coverage defends three-level flood concepts.
  • How this pattern match coverage defends shallow concepts.
  • Plus game film on all these coverages.

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Linebackers have the greatest amount of roles to play in our scheme. They must set our defense, play the run, defend the pass, rush the passer on stunts, etc. Our pattern read concept keeps our linebacker’s pass defense rules simple, and allows us to play any zone coverage we’d like without changing the linebacker’s responsibility.

Meet Coach Kruppe:  Erik Kruppe just finished his fourth year as the head football coach at Farmington High School.  Farmington has increased its win total in each of the four seasons, and finished 7-4 while earning a #1 seed in their district in 2016.  Coach Kruppe began his career in the collegiate ranks, with stops at North Park University, Truman State University, the University of Missouri-Rolla, and Arkansas Tech University.



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