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By Clay Iverson, Head Football Coach, Mukwonago High School (WI)

When you double the number of INTs that you had from one year to the next, you must be doing something right. Find out how Coach Iverson mixes his coverages to keep QBs quessing. Read it here...


By Clay Iverson
Head Football Coach
Mukwonago High School (WI)
Twitter: @CoachIverson

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As we have developed our zone pressures, we have started to add different coverage concepts on the backend. We used to use Cover 3 exclusively and we did it the same way. This was a very effective way to cover down on your pressures and we will discuss. We found that as opposition coaches found ways to attack our one coverage, and quarterbacks were able to execute, we had to add a few more concepts; both to defend the run and pass from the back end of zone pressure. The concepts we will get into here are the base Cover III, Cover III Cheat, Cover II, Gator Coverage and Split Coverages.   

Why Zone Pressures

We live in a “why” society (which isn’t bad). Your players and assistant coaches want to know the why.  This forces the coordinator to make sure that he has good reasoning for what he is doing. We use to be a man blitz team or a zone pressure team that voided zones.  We believed that high school teams would be unable to pick up the pressures and even if they could, they would not be able to find the voided areas in their run and pass game.  We were right, for a long time, then we became less right as offensives started to evolve.  Finally, we knew we had to make a change because our “why” became “because we have always done it that way” – a very dangerous answer.

Varying Coverages within Zone Pressure

As we searched for a better way to call, execute and cover in our pressure packages we met with multiple college and high school staffs. Coach Steger, the incredibly well respect defensive coordinator at UM-Duluth, really has guided us through the process of making zone pressures a main stay in our defense. I have written before on the different pressures you can bring, and really they are as endless as your imagination, so instead of the pressures let’s look at the variations in coverage you can use in a very basic pressure. 

Cover III


Coaching Points:

Very important to keep safeties on the hash until snap of the ball or they will tip the pressure. This might sound like coach speak but it has hurt us. Your back end kids will have plenty of time to get there. Here are some coaching points for the roll down safety ($ in Diagram 1).

  1. He should get no deeper than 7 yards of LOS when dropping into the flat. We use cones to teach this.
  2. Once the ball is snapped, the players don’t take their eyes off QB. They must remember they are in zone coverage and play the ball.
  3. Any receiver that tries to get down the seam must be rerouted. He should use his body position to force them outside to the Cover 3 corner.
  4. Keep the FS free and protect him.
  5. Make sure he keeps his shoulders square to LOS.  He can rally to flat, but if he turns his shoulders with a vertical route he is lost in run support and we have lost our flat player.

It is important that the safety that is rolling to the middle doesn’t over rotate and give up hips. He can be slow to go because he won’t be threatened until a deep route shows up.  The FS is needed in the run game on his side so if he bails to the middle to early, not only has he tipped your hand, but your run fits and spacing are a mess. 

Your corners have to understand they are cover 3 corners and if they have any #2 vertical threat they have to honor it and we will be light in the flat. We will teach our corner away from the pressure to be a little more aggressive as a lot of times the ball comes out fast his way.

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  • The coaching points behind the “Cheat Coverage” adjustment Coach Iverson uses to defend quick game routes.
  • The coaching points behind the “Gator Coverage” adjustment Coach Iverson uses to defend running quarterbacks and crossing routes.
  • The coaching points behind the “Split Coverage” adjustment Coach Iverson uses to play number three vertical on trips routes.
  • How cover two zone pressures are adjusted to defend slant/arrow, four verticals and dig concepts.
  • Plus game cutups of all these concepts.

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Zone pressures have aided our defense more and more each year. This year we were able to hold some of the top offenses in the state down (including 3 games without allowing a touchdown) by tying our pressures to different coverages. The most important thing to remember is whatever you decide to do within these packages, you much teach the run fits. They change depending on coverage. Everyone has to know where they need to be in the run game. This can get lost when we start talking back end, but I will gladly give up a few passes over getting the ball run down our throats because we didn’t explain responsibility in run and pass. Hopefully, some of this can add to your zone pressure schemes

Meet Coach Iverson:  Coach Iverson has been a head coach in the State of Wisconsin for 12 years at both Pewaukee and currently Mukwonago High Schools.  He has had coordinator duties for 14 years at the varsity level.  His current record as a head coach is 80-39, with 10 WIAA playoff appearances including four quarterfinals and one semifinal appearance.  



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