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By Adam Hovorka, Managing Editor, X&O Labs

The Odd Stack front is synonymous with three deep coverage structures, but the advent of open formations has forced defensive coordinators to adjust their coverage structures to defeat vertical routes. George Fox University (OR) defensive coordinator, John Bates, has blended his odd stack outfit to play split field coverages and still be sound in the run game. It’s a system developed around the training of a linebacker/safety hybrid known as the “Money” in the George Fox’s system. As a result, the Bruins have posted its best win total in five years (7-3) and finished 11th in the country in scoring defense (12.9 ppg) this past season. Read the report...


By Adam Hovorka  
Managing Editor 
X&O Labs 



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There is no doubt that today’s offenses have made the jobs of defensive coaches much more difficult. We all have to find answers to combat no huddle, empty, trips, formations into the boundary and RPO’s. Defensive coordinators from all levels of football are trying to be more multiple in defending the multitude of things they will see but still maintain simple rules for their guys to follow.   

At George Fox University, Defensive Coordinator John Bates is utilizing his base 3-3 personnel split field coverage defenses to run a three down, cover two robber hybrid to battle all the empty and trips spread schemes he sees in his conference.  

The benefits of utilizing Robber coverage concepts against spread offenses are the following: 

  • In playing cloud support corners are able to have immediate run support for perimeter runs. 
  • Having a short hole defender eliminates the possibility of scrambles by dual-threat quarterbacks and allows him to break on intermediate routes. 
  • Having a high hole defender (along with two hash defenders) helps to combat the vertical game synonymous with open formation offenses. 

Traditional odd stack schemes consist of a 6-man box with 5 defensive back types aligning based on coverage. Typically there are two flat defenders and a one high safety along with two cornerbacks. Employing this defense as a split field outfit makes it difficult because the two flat defenders never play at depth and have limited deep coverage responsibility. George Fox University will be in a two-high shell almost all of the time. But in order to do that, Coach Bates will rotate the three types of safeties between being the flat players and the deep half, third or quarter player. The nature of his structure is a 3-3 defense, by personnel and alignments. He has taken the traditional one high base coverage that accompanies an odd stack and has found a way to utilize split field coverage defense. He does this by running a 30 front cover 2- robber hybrid, to battle all of the empty and trips formations that they see in his conference.  

So in Coach Bates’ defensive cover two hybrid, he places those two flat defenders deeper. The diagram below is GFU’s base defense vs. 2x2 formations.   


Defensive Personnel  

George Fox University will be in a two-high shell almost all of the time.  To do that they will rotate one of the deep three safeties between being the flat or curl player and the deep half, third or quarter player. Either the right (Ram) or left (Lion) safeties will be the down safety, responsible for the flat, depending on where they are in regards to field or boundary. If the ball is on the left hash the Ram is the down safety to the right, the free safety is the deep half to the right and the Lion is the deep half to the left (boundary).  This is very similar to how 4-2-5 teams rotate their three safeties but Coach Bates chooses to play right and left as opposed to field and boundary.  Coach Bates and many other coaches around the country are hesitant to run Cover 2 schemes because of the fact that the Mike backer has to play the middle of the field and match the number three receiver vertically. With so many offenses running variants of empty and trips formations, having the Mike backer on number three would cause a certain mismatch in the offense's favor. Most high school linebackers and many college players don’t have the speed to be a middle hole player and also play run.    

Adapting the “Money” Front 

So Coach Bates has countered this problem of having his Mike backer be the middle hole player in Cover 2, by running their Money front. So now instead of the Mike backer being the middle hole player, it is the Free Safety. Coach Bates runs this Money front against teams that will be in 10 or empty personnel who want to throw the ball more than they run it. It's Coach Bates philosophy is to force teams to do things that they don't want to do, and this case it is to force teams to run the ball. 

Alignment vs. 2x2 Formations 



Against 2x2 formations, the Ram (Right Safety) and Lion (Left Safety) become the deep half players, the Brick (BR) and the Bull (BL) becomes the overhang players and the FS becomes the $ or the money player. Against the overhang defenders are collision number two vertically and then playing the curl. It is important to note that in their base defense both the Ram and Lion are trained to play deep zone coverage players. Because of this, it an easy transition for them to be the deep half defenders in GFU’s Money front. This Money player is the hybrid middle of field backer and middle safety that will be responsible for the middle of the field and/or vertical of number three and be the extra hitter against the run. The Mike linebacker will align to the field side/ shade side of the center or field side A gap.  Corners play on number one at a depth according to the coverage. The Nose is head up the center and the two defensive ends are outside shoulder of the tackles in 5-techniques.   

Continue to the full-length version of this report…

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  • How the Money front adjusts to 3x1 and Empty formations.
  • How Coach Bates trains the Money player to react off the mesh of the QB to defend run/pass in the RPO game.
  • How Coach Bates cancels gaps in the run game to account for five-man run boxes.
  • How Coach Bates is able to get a free hitter in the run game vs. 2x2 and 3x1 formation structures based on the placement of the back.
  • How he adapts the defense to defend the run game of three-man surface formations.
  • How he trains the Money defender to react off vertical and intermediate routes.
  • Plus, game film on this defensive structure.

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Coach Bates at GFU has come up with a way to run Cover 2 without the old problem of having his Mike backer being responsible for Middle Hole. He is able to do this while being able to play with his base personnel.   

Meet Coach Bates: John Bates finished his fourth season as an assistant coach for the Bruins in 2016, serving as the recruiting coordinator and defensive coordinator for the football program. 

Bates has an extensive background in coaching, most recently working as Casey’s defensive coordinator at Aloha from 2011-12. Prior to his stint at Aloha, he was the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Neb., from 2004-10. NWU was consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally in multiple defensive statistical categories during his tenure there, peaking at No. 2 in scoring defense in 2008 by allowing only 11.2 points per game.  



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