See how the 4 time South Carolina State Champions were able to go 5-0 against true Air Raid offenses holding them to an average of 14 points per game in 2016. Read the report...
By Jason Winstead
South Pointe High School (SC)
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For most defensive units, the goal is to stop the run first. This makes since as there is nothing worse than having the ball crammed down your throat 4 yards at a time. Defenses tend to be built with this in mind. Stop the run, worry about the pass next.
At South Pointe High School, we do things a bit different. Our defenses are built on speed. We prefer speed more than size. If you can run, you have a chance to play. Our philosophy has developed because we were playing a number of Air Raid offenses year in and year out. This has led us to set up our defense to stop the pass first, while staying sound vs. the run with as few players in the box as possible. We will use multiple coverages to confuse the QB and to change our run fits against Air Raid teams.
As stated earlier, we value speed. We are a gap assignment team. We are not big enough, or strong enough to utilize 2 gap techniques. We also want to take away as much thinking as we can. We tell our players to, “Know their gap responsibility and GO!”
At South Pointe, we make sure our best 11 are on the field. We do not believe in fitting our players into a scheme. Instead, we believe in fitting our scheme around our players. That means that we will do whatever we have to do to get our best 11 on the field. Against Air Raid offenses, it is vital that the 11 on the field can not only run, but also tackle in the open field.
Our base alignment is a 3-3 cover 3 look with our SS splitting the difference between the end man on the line of scrimmage and the #2 WR. We will show what looks to be a 4 man box, hoping to encourage them to run the ball. Our DE will control B gap. Our NG will be given an A gap by the MLB. The Mike will take the other A gap. Our SS will read thru the tackle to the RB and will fill C gap against the run. What appears to be a 4 man box, quickly becomes a 6 man box against run.
Our goal is to make the offense bounce their running game to C gap. We feel that we have the speed on the field to run it down. We have no expectation of completely shutting down the run. We are playing the run/pass percentages. We will live with a few long runs in order to stop the chunk pass plays when possible. Adjustments will be made if the opposing OC makes a point to run the ball.
Our base coverage is Cover 3. We prefer to drop 8 in many instances. The nature of the Air Raid is to throw the ball quickly. We will pick and choose when to send pressure, but have found this to be a lot of show with minimal results. Most QB’s we face, including our own, will throw without the laces. Catch and throw. What ends up happening most of the time is that a throwing lane is opened and our blitzer(s) can’t get to the QB in time. We prefer to keep the extra droppers when possible.
That said, it is how we get to Cover 3 that has benefitted us. Our corners play a hard Cover 2. They will beat up the # 1 WR and funnel them inside. We are a zone Cover 3, Cover 2 team, so this is not something new we have to teach the week of the game. Our Corners will play #1 in a 1 x 1 alignment if the WR is on the LOS and at 3 x 3 if #1 is off the LOS. Our goal is to get our hands on them quickly and take away the screen game. If no screen happens, the corner sits in the flats.
Everyone else is playing Cover 3. Our SS plays Curl, Mike plays hook to the strong side. Our FS stays in the middle of the field. Our 2 deep safeties (S) will align between the #1 and #2 WR and bail into deep their assigned.
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- The fit responsibilities of the front six and how Coach Winstead shows the appearance of a four man box, but defends with six.
- How he gets Air Raid quarterbacks to scramble by teaching his defensive ends to be B gap and not C gap rushers.
- Why he teaches his strong safeties not to be spill players by using their speed to get the run game pushed to the perimeter.
- The coverage changeups Coach Winstead will use against 2x2 formations based on tendency.
- The coverage changeups Coach Winstead will use against 3x1 formations based on tendency.
- The multiple pressure coverages he’ll use without making much adjustment from the secondary.
- VIDEO: Plus narrated game film on 2x2 and 3x1 formations.
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This defensive alignment has been good to us when playing Air Raid teams. It allows us to get a great amount of speed on the field. It fits our personnel like a glove. We have even been able to go to it as needed as dictated by down/distance/score/time left in game, etc. throughout the season, even if the team we are playing is not necessarily an Air Raid offense. It also allows us to align quickly against tempo and easily change the coverage or stunt. There is not a lot of verbiage used, so tempo does not affect a change in coverage.
While this concept is weak against the run. We know this and do not panic when a run pops for a big gain, or a QB scrambles for a first down. Our thought process is to make the offense do something they are not comfortable doing. Against Air Raid teams, we believe that the play caller is not going to call run after run after run. Those that are willing to, force us to make changes. We want to take away the big play and quick score ability of the offense. We want to make them drive the ball.
Meet Coach Winstead: Jason Winstead has been the Defensive Coordinator at South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, SC since 2011. In the 6 years there, they have won 4 State Championships and have played in the State Semifinals all 6 years. Winstead was also part of the staff at D.W. Daniel High School from 1997-1998 that won the 1998 State Championship and finished as Runner-Up in ’97. Other stops in his career include coaching at Rock Hill High School and Laurens District 55 High School, both in South Carolina.