At Holy Cross, they believe in a gap control odd front with a cover 2 shell as their base defense. This allows them to disguise their stunts and coverages and puts their athletes in the most advantageous position to be successful. See how they do it...
By Mike Harrison (Athletic Director/Head Football Coach)
and Roy Salas (Assistant Athletic Director/Secondary Coach)
Holy Cross High School (TX)
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At Holy Cross, we believe in a gap control odd front with a cover 2 shell as our base defense. This allows us to disguise our stunts and coverages and puts our athletes in, what we believe is, the most advantageous position to be successful. From this base, we can be multiple in all aspects of defending our opponent. Our base coverage is a cover 2 concept with a pattern read to defend both run and pass. Here is a diagram of the base alignment.
The two outside backers we call Sam and Macho. They are very important components of our scheme. We will begin by teaching our outside linebackers our basic stance and the base squat technique. This technique places them in a hook to curl responsibility vs the pass and outside-in leverage vs the run. Our basic stance is two point with feet slightly tilted; with outside foot slightly ahead of an inside foot. Our eyes are inside on the QB, with shoulders square to the receiver/LOS and keeping our nose over our toes. They are responsible for QB on an option and have second contain responsibility on outside pocket passes (sprint out or bootleg). We teach them the ABC's of alignment and read progressions as outlined below.
Squat Technique: Used by outside linebackers when in hook/curl responsibility.
Depth: 5 yards from LOS, if there is a TE, HB or tight slot, they are 1 x 1
Alignment: LEVERAGE is defined as an ability alignment, but it begins as a nose to eye relationship and moves directionally. this goes by seam leverage: If the receiver is inside the seam; outside leverage, If the receiver is outside the seam; inside leverage.
ABC Alignment Rules
“A” alignment is against a tight end, H-back or tight slot. Align 1 x 1 outside and read the helmet of the tight end or H-back. If the helmet goes outside-treat as a hook block. Maintain leverage with the inside shoulder to outside shoulder of the tight end, always keeping the outside free. If the helmet is inside-squeeze the LOS and look inside for potential misdirection or QB read plays.
If the helmet goes vertical-open hips to the receiver and jam with the outside arm. Then collision route and carry to a depth of 12-15 yards before turning over to the safety.
Trips alignment is over #3
"B" alignment is if the inside slot receiver is 8 yards or less to the end man on LOS. Align nose to the inside eye of the slot receiver.
“C” alignment is if the inside slot receiver splits over 8 yards from end man on LOS then apply the APEX rule or also known as the ½ way rule. This states that my depth will correspond with my width (simply put if the receiver is 10 yards from the OT then my alignment would be 5 yards inside the receiver and a depth of 5 yards) Trips alignment is over #3; follow “B” or “C” alignment rules
Single receiver-based rule is SINK (align APEX to single receiver) and run responsibility is switched to pitch/contain
Our read technique is to key the QB level to the #2 receiver (#3 in trips); buzz feet at the snap
“QB to me”: We define this as level one action which means the QB is giving any down the line action to my side or level two means the QB is giving off the line action to my side. Here, we will check receiver for run/pass intent. If the receiver drives to you to block or tries to hook the defender will lock out his arms, keeping shoulders square to LOS (NEVER shoulders turned), keeping eyes inside for the ball, fighting across the face of any block; never going under the block. Remember the OLB is responsible for QB on option.
If number two blocks down on an inside defender, he must replace while maintaining outside leverage; squeeze the hole outside-in.
QB drop back pass: (We define this as level three action) First check receiver for a run/pass intent. If the receiver drives to the OLB to block, he must engage the receiver, lock out his arms, keep shoulders square to LOS (not letting shoulders turn), turn eyes outside to the #1 receiver looking for tunnel screens or hitch screens. The OLB must fight across the face of any block and NEVER go under the block. If WR blocks down on an inside defender, replace maintaining outside leverage; squeeze the hole outside-in
If the receiver releases for pass route the OLB will do the following:
- Collision the route
- Receiver inside release; jam and run him to the inside hole player, communicating with the hole player; then recover to your zone
- A receiver outside release; jam and run him to the flat defender; then recover to your zone
- Receiver bubbles; drop and turn eyes to #1 receiver looking for slant route (DO NOT JUMP THE BUBBLE)
- The receiver sits in your zone; take him
- The receiver is vertical; jam and run him to 12-15 yards, release and look for any routes coming inside. COACHING POINT-- How long are you with the receiver on inside or outside release? Until the hole or flat defender recognize the route (in-in-in or out-out-out)
- Run to—Squeeze hole outside-in
- Run away—BCR/Cut back
The next position we will look at is the cornerbacks. The y will align at a depth—4-6 yards and this is based on ability. If the receiver aligns inside the top of the numbers to the ball; align outside leverage-nose to eye. If the receiver aligns outside the top of the numbers to the sideline; align inside leverage-nose to the eye. The CB Stance will be 2 point with Toe to instep relationship; inside foot back, Eyes inside on the QB, Shoulders square to LOS, Nose to eye relationship on receiver and Nose over toes.
Key QB to #2 receiver or #3 receiver in trips. Shuffle 3 steps, widening outside with each step
QB to you (on-line or off-line): If number two or number three blocks, attack the line of scrimmage now, fill the run alley outside in; you have contain (pitch on option)—squeeze everything inside.
If number two or number three releases for pass, then collision number one forcing an inside release Jam him and run with him to a depth of 12 yards with eyes on number two or number three. If number two or number three releases for an outside route, then release #1 and attack the route (this includes bubbles on RPO or screen).
If number two or number three releases for an inside route continue to run with number one to 18 yards; if there is no threat to the flats, then stay with number one. If a threat to flats then release #1 and attack the flat route. If number two or number three release vertically; run with number one; you have him all the way. If the QB goes away from you (level one or level two away) get eyes to number two or number three to your side. If he blocks; squat and look for reverse or late release by number two or number three on bootleg. If he releases inside away, then collision number one. If he is looking for an inside release chase him to the hash and check for screen threat backside. If number two or number three release on an outside route, attack the route.
If QB drop back (level three)
If number two or number three blocks: Attack the LOS now, fill the run alley outside in; you have contain—squeeze everything inside; screen alert! If number two or number three releases for pass, collision number one—force an inside release if possible if number one makes an outside release-jam him and run with him to a depth of 12 yards with eyes on #2/#3. If #2/#3 releases for an outside route, then release number one and attack the route (this includes bubbles on RPO or screen). If number two or number three releases for an inside route continue to run with number one to 18 yards; if no threat to flats, then stay with number one. If a threat to flats then release number one and attack the flat route. If number two and number three release vertical; run with number one. You have him all the way
NOTE: Never chase number one inside the hash marks; once he crosses the hash and number two and number three have not threatened the flats get vertical on the outside of the hash your side.
Deep Halves Safety Technique:
The next position to look at is the Deep Halves Safety, we call his technique split technique.
His depth is 12 to 15 yards; Two factors that determine depth are his ability to cover ground and based on situation. His alignment rules are the following:
- Ball in middle of field align outside of the hash marks
- Ball on the hash mark to you align +3 yards off the hash to the short side
- Ball on hash mark away from you align -3 yards off the hash to the ball
- Split the difference between Offensive Tackle and #1 receiver
- Single Receiver to you with Twins away-split the difference between the offensive tackle and the single receiver
Trips: Is an automatic read number one and number two receiver if the trips are to you; if the trips are away then you must cheat to the trips side reading #3 to #2 to #1 receivers (you have #3 receiver vertical).
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- The Quail technique used for the safety to read the backside Guard for run or pass.
- The “Cloud” coverage variation the staff at Holy Cross HS (TX) uses against RPO concepts.
- The “Sink” coverage variation the staff at Holy Cross uses to alleviate the outside linebacker from being in a run/pass conflict.
- The “Sky” coverage variation the staff at Holy Cross uses to get the corner help on any vertical or deep routes.
- The “Rain” coverage variation to allows the outside linebacker to defend any hot routes or RPO concepts in the flat.
- Plus, game film on all these concepts.
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The main point of our cover 2 package is that everyone follows through with their responsibilities. We believe that if everyone does their job then the overall scheme is a success. When players try to do more than their responsibility is when the defense becomes vulnerable. We like this coverage as our base because it plays to our “Team First” priority for defense. When played correctly it is equally strong against the outside run game of most offenses, gives us good coverage vs RPO’s and can defend four verticals because of its pattern read principles.
Meet Coaches Harrison and Salas: Mike Harrison has been the head football coach at Holy Cross for the past 9 years and has 19 years’ experience as a head football coach. He has been coaching high school football in Texas for 31 years and has an overall record of 118 wins 82 losses and 3 ties. Roy Salas has been the assistant athletic director and secondary coach at Holy Cross for the past 5 years. He has been a high school head football coach in Texas for 4 years prior to coming to Holy Cross. Roy was an all-American DB at Ottawa University in Kansas during his college playing career and coached secondary after graduation.