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By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

This new pressure system is the brainchild of LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda and it’s helped propel him to one of the most sought-after minds in college football.

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar



Last week, X&O Labs released its brand-new special report, The Simulated Pressure Package. This new pressure system is the brainchild of LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda and it’s helped propel him to one of the most sought-after minds in college football.

It’s a package Coach Aranda crafted during his days as defensive coordinator at division II Delta State University (LA)—and it has now translated to the highest level of college football, the SEC. Using these pressures on nearly 50% of downs last season, the Tigers have improved their pass efficiency defense from 15th in his first year to 4th. According to Coach Aranda, and unfortunately for his opponents, he will utilize more of the simulated pressure concepts heading into 2019. As part of our research process, I discussed with Coach Aranda how the system works, what makes it so unique and how coaches can implement it at their level.


Mike Kuchar (MK): What is the genesis of these concepts? What was the reasoning or influence behind why you implemented them?

Dave Aranda (DA): “Blitz used to mean playing zero coverage and you would get one guy free on the back. There is an attacking mindset there with those kinds of pressures. But that means that you have to get someone to win. The other five defenders are preoccupied with blockers. That still could be true in other math equations if you brought the overload of four defenders on one side and two on other side, but then the disguise element is gone. It’s difficult to get those guys over to their coverage responsibility. Those pressures didn’t seem like it was sound against pass.”


MK: How, specifically, do these pressures affect and manipulate protection schemes?

DA: “That’s the thing these simulated pressures do. You’re not overloading a protection, you’re stressing it. You’re getting the right one-on-one’s. We will try to overload one side and bring it the other side. Sometimes we go off the Center’s point. For example, if the B gap linebacker is going to rush the B gap in an under front as he starts to rush, they slow it down and redirect to him and now the other linebacker goes. Then the B gap linebacker just takes the A gap linebackers drop. So, if the pressure is away from the slide, we’re hitting the back. If we are showing double edge look from an Odd front, we will get an A gap rusher (LB) on running back. You get the pressure with the guy that you want for the guy you want it against and you can still take away the X in trips or still play three deep (coverage) in a bunch look where you can zone off the crossers.”


MK: I’ve also seen that these pressures will force backs to stay in protection schemes. They almost become a non-factor in the pass game.

DA: “The deciding factors in these pressures are twofold: how much can you affect the QB and can they get their running back out? If everything was equal, the reasons for these pressures is you can pressure the QB and you make him come down off his spot and off his rhythm. That happens a lot, even at this level. In many offenses, the backs are a big part of the passing game in getting out and releasing and you’re forcing those cats to stay in. And if they don’t stay in, you get a free runner.”


MK: After studying these concepts, it seems the term “simulated rush” makes sense because you are actually creating unconventional rush patterns. Does it serve as an equalizer for defenses that may not have the ability to rush with four?

DA: “We got into these pressures because we didn’t get the rush we were looking for. It helped with that. Against QBs that can throw guys open, we had to get them off of a rhythm. So that pressure helped. The times that we haven’t been good on defense, I haven’t gone over to the philosophy of ‘let’s go to six man blitz and show that we have got that big stick and we’re willing to use it.’ When you’re bringing these rushes and playing the appropriate zone there is a pinpoint accuracy because you’re attacking the protection. I would compare a carpet bomb to a laser guided missile. The issue with the laser guided missile at times, when you’re trying to disrupt the run game or stress a protection, you’re trying to get it specific so you’re keeping that blitz mentality. That’s the challenge. Even at this level there is a fair number of quarterbacks in this league where their eyes will come down. The aspect of simulated pressure and the presentation of a single high look where you can roll to quarter, quarter half and still bring pressure and attack the protection, the QB will sense it.”


MK: Your name is synonymous with this system. Has anyone else piggybacked off it?

DA: Right now, the Baltimore Ravens do a great job of running these creepers [Simulate Pressures] and it’s a direct result of how they are practicing it. Because these schemes require universal teaching, it becomes necessary to rotate players through different skill sets in the form of a circuit. For example, on day one install, the linebackers will do linebacker things, the defensive backs will do defensive back things and the bigs will do big things. The next install, the LBs will switch with DBs and then the LBs will switch with the bigs. This way everyone’s role is switched. Simulated pressures give you that ability.”


MK: How has the scheme evolved since its origins? Has it become an every down and distance concept? Can they be mixed with pure fire zones?

DA: “Moving forward, we’ve added the ability to hug up on running backs if they stay in on protections. If the running back and tight end are in the core (let’s say 20 personnel) 2x1 formations that offenses are using now. For example, in our Fiesta Bowl against the University of Central Florida, they would max protect and release guys vertical down the field with man beater routes.  So, we would bring our Nickel and slant away from passing strength, while our 5-technique away from pressure would drop as the curl flat defender. We would use our strong hook defender (Mac LB) to hug up on the back. So, when he would block, he would add onto the rush. It looked like a fire zone. The weak hook would still drop as he normally would. This had the appearance that any time they were in a two-back look, we would “hug” and get that pressure.  


What Are Simulated Pressures?

If you haven’t heard of Simulated Pressures, or “Replace” blitzes as they are also known, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s the hottest new pressure trend this off-season—and for good reason. This new pressure system flat-out keeps offensive coordinators in a lose/lose situation by bringing control back to the defense.

My research team and I have been tracking this system for a few years. It’s the brain-child of some of the most effective defensive minds in all of football… 

  • Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, LSU
  • Pete Golding, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
  • Ron Roberts, Defensive Coordinator, University of Louisiana


In simple terms, Simulated Pressure is four-man rushes that attack an aspect of the protection or blocking scheme by overloading that particular player or side. This part of it is no different than any other pressure package. But, the difference in Simulated Pressure is that by only sending four in the rush (and not five), coverage isn’t compromised like a traditional fire zone.

That’s the simple explanation, but here’s why Simulated Pressure has garnered its “nightmare” reputation…

With Simulated Pressure, you get pressure with the player you want against the protector you want to attack, and you still have your full catalog of three deep and two deep zone coverages. How? You give all 11 of your players a legitimate role as a rusher. This is key to the system because the illusion of pressure can be as productive as pressure in certain situations. By rushing all of your 11 defenders at some point during a season, the offense has to legitimately account for each defender when they “bluff” or show pressure early. In turn, this allows you to dictate protection in one area and rush four from another.

“It just made more sense to attack protections and that’s the thing that these Simulated Pressures do,” Dave Aranda, LSU’s defensive coordinator, told X&O Labs exclusively. “You’re not overloading a protection, you’re stressing it. You’re getting the right one-on-ones. If it’s a full slide protection team, we will overload the back who is blocking the edge. If we are showing double edge from an Odd front, we will usually draw a fan dual protection and we’ll get an A gap rusher such as a linebacker on a running back. You get the pressure with the player that you want against the protector you want to attack and you’re still taking away the X or zoning-off crossers like you would in zone coverages.”


“With these pressures, you hold people by the nose and kick them in the butt.”

--Dave Aranda,
Defensive Coordinator, LSU
[Exclusive Interview]


Secret Sauce 

If what you’ve read so far hasn’t piqued your interest in Simulated Pressure, here’s something we found that should convenience you to make the switch: What we found to be the “secret sauce” in studying these Simulated Pressures is how often the back is forced to stay in six-man protection. In this day and age where running backs have the potential to catch up to 83 balls a year as evidenced by Washington State University’s Air Raid systems, these concepts force backs to stay in and protect mainly because they don’t know where the pressure is coming from. When these pressures are combined with disguises, such as the mugs and bluffs, running backs are often wrong in their assignments, letting defenders have a free run at the quarterback. It’s a lose/lose situation for the offense. 


Want Proof It Works?

In his first season at LSU in 2016, Coach Aranda used Simulated Pressure on 12% of pressure downs. The Tigers finished 15th in passing efficiency. Three years later, Coach Aranda used Simulated Pressures on 50% of pressure downs and his defense ranked 4th nationally in team passing efficiency. And this progression isn’t an outlier. Using this pressure system, Coach Aranda’s unit at Wisconsin followed the same meteoric progression, finishing in the top five in total defense his last two seasons there. 

Just this past season, the University of Louisiana generated half of their entire sacks all season off these replace pressures. “We can run the same pressures from every front we carry into a game week, but we have the ability to switch who the outside and inside rushers are as well as a call to change the path of the two interior rushers,” said safeties coach Patrick Toney. “By having all these variables, the same pressures look drastically different week-to-week, which makes it incredibly tough for opposing offenses to prepare for.” 


How Easy Is It to Run?

The process is simple and easy: You identify the protection scheme, select the personnel you want to attack them with and go. All this without sacrificing coverage. Best part is you don’t need dynamic pass rushers to get to the QB. It’s plug-and-play. Your pass efficiency defense will increase because you’re confusing the QB. 


Do You Need Stud Pass Rushers?

The short answer is NO! That’s what makes Simulated Pressure so effective. It’s a great equalizer for programs that don’t have a great front-four because the offense has to account for all 11 of your defenders on any given play. 


Is It Difficult to Install?

The simple answer is, “Heck, NO!” Simulated Pressure limits teaching from a defensive standpoint. You can use your same coverages that you would normally use on base downs, but now you can bring pressure behind it. It’s about doing more with less. It’s a safe way to pressure the QB with 7 in coverage. Being able to play traditional coverage while still being able to bring pressure maximizes your time coaching. Since you are running the same coverage you play on base downs, there is minimal new learning for your players, which allows them to rep and become proficient at the techniques, pattern reads and matches of the coverage. The other added benefit is that the presentation of the coverage looks drastically different to the opposing quarterback, because different defenders are dropping into the underneath zones and different rushers are coming. So, it’s simple for you and your players, but it’s super-difficult for opposing offenses.


Will Simulated Pressure Work at the High School Level?

We asked each of our collegiate coaches this same question. And Ron Roberts, defensive coordinator at the University of Louisiana and one the of the original architects of Simulated Pressure, said it best, “You will give guys in high school nightmares because they will not know how to protect it. Even at this level, teams will decide not to protect it by checking into max protect schemes.”


The Bottomline on Simulated Pressure

Simulated Pressure is proven to work, it’s easy for you to run—and hard for the offense to protect, you don’t need All-Americans in your front-four to be effective, its super-simple to install and it’ll bring “nightmares” to offensive coaches and players at the high school level. 

All that sounded pretty good to us back when we started researching this concept—and we think the concept is even better now that we’ve spent months watching film, interviewing coaches, and conducting our research. 

That is why I am proud to announce that we have just released a brand-new study called, The Simulated Pressure System, in our exclusive Insiders  membership website.


X&O Labs’ Install Report for the Simulated Pressure System

When you join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, you’ll get instant access to the full report detailing everything you need to install this ground-breaking pressure system in your program. 

Here’s a short list of what you’ll find in this brand-new special report…


Case 1: Devising Pressure Patterns to Manipulate Protections

If this case was printed in a book, it’d be over 20 pages—and its chocked full of everything you need to install this system quickly and easily. But good for you, it’s available in our Insiders website so it includes plenty of video to show you what this system looks like in real-world situations. Plus, it includes diagrams and illustrations you can use with your coaching staff and players.


Case 2: Back End Coverage Structure and Responsibilities

This case is your step-by-step guide to coverage responsibilities for defenders in these Simulated Pressures. And we didn’t go light on this case either. This case would be a 20-page chapter if we had printed this in a book. This section also includes all the video, illustrations and diagrams for implementing with your coaching staff and players.


Case 3: Drilling the Rush and Cover Concepts in Simulated Pressures

As potentially elaborate as the Simulated Pressure scheme may be, its efficiency lies in drilling the fundamentals of both the cover defenders and rush defenders. In case three of this study, we provide you with all the drills and coaching points you need to get this installed quickly and effectively. Remember, teaching Simulated Pressures require teaching defenders to perform skills that they are not accustomed to performing. Therefore, we include in this case the exact system the coaches we spoke to developed and use to teach and drill players to defend any zone in coverage. This install drill system is the real reason Simulated Pressures is an easy install and effective on the field. It works.


BONUS CASE: Installation Methods for the High School Level

While Simulated Pressures have been populating the NCAA domain for the last few years, we realize many high school programs will be implementing these concepts for the first time. As a result, we wanted perspective from a high school program with experience using these schemes, particularly a smaller program with lower numbers that needs to maximize time to get these established. Our source came from Lexington High School in Missouri, where defensive coordinator Kyle Cogan has been using them for the last couple of seasons.


Join the Insiders and Get Started with Simulated Pressures!

When you join X&O Labs’ exclusive Insiders  membership website, you’ll get instant access to our brand-new special report, The Simulated Pressure System. Plus, you’ll also get full access to every report, video, drill and study we’ve ever published. Our Insiders  website is without question, the largest research resource for football coaches in the world. No other resource comes close. 

And because we’re coaches just like you, we’ve made our membership prices affordable. Individual memberships are just $59.99 per year or you can register your entire coaching staff (up to 20 coaches) for the low price of $149.99 per year.

Plus, your Insiders membership comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee. When you sign up today, try it for the next 90-days. If you don’t think your membership is worth the money you paid, just let us know within your first 90-days and we’ll refund 100% of your money. 

Best of all, when you join today, you will select a free book from our best-selling bookstore, and we’ll mail it directly to your home or office. BUT… if you register today with a STAFF MEMBERSHIP, you get 4 FREE books! That’s $160 in free books when you join with a Staff Membership.

Click the link below to start your registration. It only takes 3-minutes and you’ll have access to The Simulated Pressure System and thousands of other videos, reports, drills, studies and diagrams to use this off-season!


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