The premise of creating more takeaways begins with the commitment to do so. Black Hills State University made that choice three seasons ago and since has averaged 2.5 takeaways per game finishing either first or second in the conference in total takeaways each of the past three years.
By Anthony Kerr
Black Hills State University (SD)
Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this report.
Three years ago, we made the decision that we would be a defense built on taking the football away from our opponent. Our priority on game day is to gain two or more takeaways. We stress the importance of takeaways in all our meetings. We start every practice with a takeaway drill. Over the past three years, we have worked hard to develop a progression that puts our kids in the best situations to get takeaways.
For us to reach our takeaway goals our scheme must allow our players to be in positions to make interceptions. Playing zone coverage majority of the time maximizes the opportunities that our players will have to make interceptions. Our zone coverage progression is zone eyes, lean vacate, vice and be alert.
We define zone eyes as identifying the route of the receiver that starts the play in a position closest to the defender’s zone. The route will determine defenders first step. If the receiver is attacking the defender's zone the defender must step towards the receiver taking the space away. Our defenders utilize a 45-degree step outside and back when guarding against an immediate threat to their zone. We label our underneath zones slant of 1, seam of 2, and hole. Our high zones are 1/3, 1/2 and canyon.
If the receiver is not attacking the defender's zone the defender does not need to step. The defender can be patient. After the defender reacts off the receiver the eyes of the defender will transfer to the QB and the defender will react off of QB intentions. Our DL will use zone eyes as well. The DL will read shoulder of QB and react to his intentions getting hands up attempting to tip balls up in the air.
Zone eyes- is a technique emphasized in our skelly drill. Drilling zone eyes in an individual period during practice requires a player lined up in the position that will be a most immediate threat to the zone being emphasized. That player is labeled player A. If the zone being emphasized is the seam player A would be lined up as a slot receiver. Player B will line up as the defender in the alignment required by the defensive scheme. The coach will start as the QB. Player A will start the drill by stepping towards or away from the seam. Player B will react accordingly. If player A steps toward the seam, then player B will execute the proper step to close the space in the seam and then get eyes to the coach to read QB intentions. If player A steps away from the seam Player B will keep patient with his feet and get eyes to the QB front shoulder to read QB intentions.
Lean Vacate Concept:
Reading the QB intentions requires the defender to read the front shoulder of the QB. The defender will lean in the direction of the QB front shoulder. As the QB works through his progression the defender will continue to lean. While leaning with the QB the defender will be vacating the backside of the defender’s zone. The defender needs to understand that as he leans the other defenders are leaning as well thus covering up all zones except for the zone furthest from the direction of the QB shoulder. The DL is responsible for covering up the vacated zone with the pass rush.
Lean Vacate- is emphasized in our skelly drill. Drilling lean and vacate in an individual period during practice requires a defender in his proper alignment as designated by position and scheme and a coach lined up as the QB. The QB will start the drill with pointing his front shoulder to one sideline in progression QB will move shoulder to the near hash, middle of the field, far hash. The defender will move with the QB front shoulder. It is important to remind the defender that we did not move to the far sideline because we are vacating that zone and the pass rush will get home.
Every zone coverage will consist of an inside leverage defender an outside leverage defender and a defender with leverage over the top of the receiver. The vice technique creates a small window for the QB to throw through and causes the receiver to attempt catches in traffic. Having a vice on the receiver increases the chances of interceptions when the ball is tipped by a defender or bobbled by a receiver. The DL provides the base for the vice with their pass rush, zone eyes and getting hands up. When the QB is distracted it is harder to throw the ball through small windows. Understanding the vice is the foundation of what we do to increase our interceptions.
Vice is emphasized in our skelly drill. Drilling zone eyes in an individual period during practice requires a player lined up in the position that will be the most immediate threat to the zone being emphasized. That player is labeled player A. If the zone being emphasized is the seam player A would be lined up as a slot receiver. Three defenders will line up in their proper alignment dictated by the scheme. Player A will start the drill by running a route in the zone being emphasized. The three defenders will execute zone eyes, and finish in proper vice leverage on the receiver. The key for the defenders to vice down on the receiver is when the QB indicates he is throwing the ball to the receiver.
Continue to the full-length version of this report...
Join X&O Labs' Insiders, an exclusive membership-based website, and you'll get instant access to the full-length version of this report—including access to everything X&O Labs has ever published. Plus, if you join today, you'll also receive up to 4 FREE books mailed directly to your home or office. Here's just a small sample of what you'll find in the full-length version of this report:
- Drill film and coaching points of the fundamental Coach Kerr uses to teach defenders what to do if the interception cannot be made.
- Drill film and coaching points of the fundamental Coach Kerr uses to teach defenders what to do to prohibit receivers from securing the ball.
- Drill film and coaching points of the fundamental Coach Kerr uses to teach defenders what to do if the receiver has brought the ball to his chest on the catch.
- Drill film and coaching points of the fundamental Coach Kerr uses to teach defenders what to do if the receiver has secured the catch and is turning upfield.
- Drill film and coaching points of the fundamental Coach Kerr uses to teach defenders what to do once the quarterback’s off hand comes off the ball.
Join the Insiders today and get your FREE book(s)!
Since making the decision to make takeaways the priority we have attained our takeaway goal of two or more takeaways per game. More important than the stats is that the players enjoy it. Getting takeaways is fun. The celebrations are fun. Celebrating takeaways adds to the atmosphere at practice and gives us an everyday practice goal. The bottom line is that in order to make this a reality all eleven position players must realize the role they play in attaining our takeaway goal. All eleven position players must understand and be alert to the techniques that we coach.
Meet Coach Kerr: Anthony Kerr is in his twentieth-year coaching college football. The past four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Black Hills State University. Coach Kerr is married to his wonderful wife Ami and father to three great kids Avery (8), Adalinn (7), Austinn (5).