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By Adam Hovorka, Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator, Schreiber High School (NY)

Offensive coordinators. We have your offseason to do list. Theses are the things you should be studying / adding this winter. Read the report...


By Adam Hovorka
Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
Schreiber High School (NY)


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Do you want to know what will make a DC uncomfortable? This report will explain from a defensive perspective the things that any offense can do that will bother a defense and in turn can give the offensive some sort of advantage. Each of the ten ways to make defensive coordinators uncomfortable listed below have one thing in common; they create confusion and doubt.   

We surveyed ten defensive coaches, and these are some of the things that we found are keeping them up at night. 

10) Trick Plays

Reverses, double passes, throwbacks to the QB, and so on. Coaches keep on running these trick plays because they work. So why do they still work is the real question. First, they usually have really good players getting the ball in space. These trick plays should be tied into the offense’s base plays and protect those base plays. If you run a lot of stretch; a reverse off of that same look protects that play.  As defensive coaches, we always stress getting to the ball and pursuit. Tricks work against teams that pursue hard and stress getting to the ball. An added bonus is that the defense will see your trick play on film and pursue a little less diligently and spend time defending the trick play and a little less on your bread and better plays.

9) Play with A Tight End

Tight Ends create unique problems for the defense from an alignment and personnel perspective. The defense has to figure out if they want align certain personnel to the TE or just have players play a side regardless of TE location. Offenses can create great matchups by using the TE in the run game and pass game alike. TE’s create an extra gap in the run game while still having the threat of 4 or five receivers in a pass route. For teams that like to blitz, TE formations create a little bit longer edge and can give the offense one more pass protector while forcing defenses to still account for the TE as a receiver. Teams that run any form of split field coverage have to make a decision of where to put the extra player with the TE. If you do not have a TE simply put your 6th best lineman there or best bigger WR. 

8) Compressed and Stacked Sets

Defensive coaches like to have easy alignment rules for the players to follow. Compressed sets really bother those alignment rules. This creates some doubt in kids and makes kids play slower.  It also creates some nice blocking angles for wide receivers. Compressed sets tend to bring more defenders closer to the football and one missed tackle and there are no defenders near the sideline.  Stacked sets should force outside players to widen out or risks being out leveraged by the formation. This makes it easier to run the ball by removing a defender from the box simply by formation. Stacked and compressed sets also make it difficult for teams to play man coverage. If a team is living and dying with man coverage these are two musts for any offense. 

7) Empty Packages

Empty Packages are something else that defensive coordinators do not want to see. The main reason is that it forces the defense out of its comfort zone by making them decide to keep the box the same and risk being outflanked on the edge or by removing a box player and potentially being a guy short against quarterback run. Empty also has the potential to create a favorable match-up somewhere for the offense. Most teams inside backer would lose in a one on one battle in space with the running back in space. Have an empty package consisting of a quick screen to either side, a perimeter run, a quick pass combination and a quarterback run that you can use to get the defense out of its base. 

6) Ability to Change Tempo

The no huddle isn’t a secret or mystery any more. Good defensive teams are ready for this facet of the game. It is the teams that switch tempo that make it difficult to prepare for. If you vary your tempo you will gain an advantage. Sometimes line up and go as fast as possible not even worrying what look the defense is in. Other times pretend you are going fast and try to get the team to jump.  If the defense doesn’t jump, try to check and get in best play for the look you are seeing. Other times huddle and milk the clock. Varying the snap count also can have this effect. Defensive players have become much better players when they know the snap count.


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As coaches, we have an obligation to put our players in the best possible situation to succeed.  These are ten things that any coach or team can do that gives your offense a chance to be a little more successful. Hopefully you can find a way to work these into your scheme going into next year. I am sure X&O Labs will cover all of these concepts in the next few months in more detail.

Meet Coach Hovorka:  Adam Hovorka is the Head Coach at Schreiber High School in Port Washington New York. This is his second season as Head coach and just finished up a 9-0 season. The starting defense did not give up a point in the second half a game all season.     



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