These two different looks discussed in this report provide you with the ammo you need to stop the biggest threat out of the sprint game while remaining sound to everything else.
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As the dual threat athlete has become more and more a part of our game, so has the sprint game which helps utilize the dual threat weapon that is a running quarterback. In years past, the sprint pass has been used by offenses to cut down half the field, simplify throws, and get your quarterback out of the pocket. However, now it is used to maximize the threat that is the athletic quarterback. Defenses now not only have to defend the passing game, but also contain the quarterback and the threat he presents carrying the football. Our general philosophy regarding not only sprint passes, but passes in general, is controlling where the offense is able to throw the ball and who they are able to throw it to while maintaining containment on the quarterback. We believe forcing the offense to throw it to the place or player they do not want to, we will have success. Throughout this post, we will look particularly at the sprint pass and how to maximize and differentiate the different looks we give while keeping it very simple for our players.
Game Planning and Approach
As a staff, the first step we take in attempting to successfully defend the sprint pass is understanding what routes they like the most. We understand, as a smaller high school with two-way players, that we must be simple in what we teach, and we must put an emphasis on stopping what they the offense does best and most frequently. Week to week, we have a detailed understanding of what sprint concept(s) our opponent is running, who they are trying to get the ball to, and when they look to execute their sprint game. Based off this understanding, we try to use our coverages to dictate where and to whom the ball goes to (taking away what they do best). Today, we will look at the way we approached some of the most popular sprint pass concepts we saw this year and how we approached stopping these concepts.
Trap Corner (“Clip” Corner)
Our bread and butter approach to covering one back, 2x2 formations is to play a 3-4 and match coverage where our secondary is reading the #2 receiver and we are matching coverage based off his release. Our guys understand that the #2 receiver can do one of three things -- he can go out, in, or vertical.
However, we also will play a version of Cover 3 that we call “Clip” to combat the sprint pass. This provides us a different look and takes the thinking out of it for our guys. We had a lot of success with “Clip” in combating sprint passes that tried to attack us with a quick and easy completion to the flat. Specifically, we used this coverage to stop a team that loved to throw the curl flat combo off their sprint game.
“Clip” is a simple, late rotation, trap corner Cover 3 but works, as stated above, to provide a simple and diverse look that also takes away the thinking for our guys. The assignments in “Clip” are as follows:
Call Side Corner: In this coverage, he aligns about 5-7 yards deep and about 1 yard outside the #1 receiver. We tell our corner that he is to play “under” the #1 receiver until something threatens the flat. By telling him to play under #1, he also can help stop a comeback or a hole shot if need be. This allows them to slow play the flat and provides us enough extra time for over the top help to arrive. However, this coverage is designed to specifically prevent quick and easy completions. It is imperative that the corner understands that his eyes and responsibility is defending the flat. As stated previously, this week we knew that we would get this combo, so our corners knew what concept to be on the lookout for.
Call Side Safety: In “Clip” our call side safety is responsible for defending the deep third of the field. We try to get as late a rotation as possible in order to disguise our coverage. The call side safety must get to the center of his zone and get depth immediately. In the case of Diagram 1 he will break and fit on top of the curl route knowing that he has help from the outside backer under the route. However, if we were to get a fade out of #1 he would carry #1 deep as it is in his zone. He is playing an old school deep third.
Backside Safety: Our backside safety is responsible for the MOF. As stated earlier, late rotation is imperative in this coverage, but this safety must make sure that he gets to his area to play ball. We do not want to compromise our assignment.
Backside Corner: The backside corner is responsible for his deep third. However, throughout the week, he becomes aware of the situation and knows that he will squeeze any flow the other direction while still knowing that he is responsible for throwback and reverse his way.
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As the sprint pass game has evolved and become a way to feature playmakers and get the ball to them quickly and easily, it has become an important part of playing sound defense. These two different looks discussed above provide us with the ammo we need to stop the biggest threat out of the sprint game while remaining sound to everything else. Our mission is to create a simple plan that forces our opponent to win matchups they aren’t used to winning with players that aren’t used to making these plays.
Meet Coach Jesse Turner: Jesse is a secondary coach at Leeds High School. He is from Leeds, Alabama and has coached on two state championship teams as a volunteer assistant (2014,2015). Upon graduating from The University of Alabama, Jesse returned home to teach and coach. Jesse is in his third year on staff at Leeds. His first year on staff he was the head middle school football coach before becoming a varsity assistant.
Meet Coach Lee Gibson: Lee Gibson just finished his twentieth season as a football coach. His first five years were spent at Pickens County High School, three of which he was the defensive coordinator. After leaving Pickens County, he went on to coach at Tuscaloosa County High School for thirteen years, seven of which he was the head coach. The past two seasons he has been the head coach at Leeds High School where he has navigated the Greenwave to two consecutive playoff appearances. Coach Gibson’s teams have made the playoffs every year except for one.