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By Mike McElroy, Defensive Coordinator, Bethel University (MN)

Bethel University (MN) plays a great deal of man free and 4 under 3 deep coverage. These pressure patterns match the patterns it uses in man free, which equates to no new teaching for box defenders. It also provides for a happy medium between being in a true zone and having to man up everyone when sending six defenders at the quarterback.

By Mike McElroy (with Adam Hovorka)
Defensive Coordinator
Bethel University (MN)
Twitter: @McElroy26
(Special Reporting by Cory Bailey)



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Bethel University and defensive coordinator Mike McElroy utilize primarily a one-high defense that bases in Cover 3 and variations of Man-Free.  To compete in the ultra-competitive MIAC, Coach felt he needed a pressure package that would enable them to be aggressive in having the ability to send six but not live and die playing straight man coverage without deep middle help.   Coach McElroy felt the best way to be able to bring six but be safe in coverage is to play 2-under, 3-deep coverage.  Bethel will employ this mostly of out of dime personnel with some more speed on the field upfront. 

Bethel is a Man Free / Cover 3 team.  Defensively, everything they do is disguised out of a Cover 1 look.  This 3 under/ 2 deep look is a great compliment to cover 1/3.  Before the snap, the objective is to make it look the same.  It’s a pressure package that is also ideal against the run.  Bethel also likes to run this in the red zone (the coverage adjusts slightly), or end of the half - end of the game (coverage adjusts as well).  They can call it based on back alignment, passing strength, boundary or field.  It is tagged as such.  For Bethel, it was mostly used as a field/boundary tag.  By doing it this way, Coach McElroy, says it allows his guys to avoid confusion caused by trade, motion, back flip or pistol vs. under center. Coach believes in calling it and playing it so his guys can play fast and nasty.   Coach McElroy says, “Call it and Play it”.   Remember, that this will only be called with certain offensive personnel groups and in certain down and distances; therefore, Coach McElroy is confident in his call.  

There are three base pressure looks that Coach McElroy likes to employ out of this package.  We will look at the coverage first and then go over the Pressures.  


Coverage Techniques

The coverage behind the six-man pressure is 2-under and 3-Deep.  Remember that this will be from the disguise of Cover 1.  The Corners will be responsible for the deep 1/3, the Fs will have deep middle and the Q/S will be the two underneath players.   The coverage will not be great against the quick game to the flat.  That is the reason Coach will only call this in longer passing down situations.



The coverage behind the six-man pressure is 2-under and 3-Deep.  Remember that this will be from the disguise of Cover 1.  Corners will align over the #1 receiver and give the illusion of playing press man. Ultimately, they will bail on snap and be responsible for the deep 1/3.  This coverage wants you to throw it to the deep 1/3 to the field.   Corners will be over the top of every possible route, always giving up the hitch or quick out route. If there are two verticals from a detached two receivers, the corner will play his base Cover 3 divider rules that is taught Day I of the defensive install.  Coach McElroy uses the term "two speeds', meaning two fast guys if there are two fast guys to your side the corner will sprint to his divider rules.  The corners are taught they have any vertical of 1 and 2 and will sprint to anything else.   If there is a trips formation the Corner will be locked man on the single side Wr and is taught to squeeze the WR.



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Coach McElroy and Bethel feel that the six-man pressure while playing two-under, three-deep coverage behind it fits in with their overall scheme of one-high.  It is part of their pressure package and is a great change-up to the man free looks that they frequently give.  The "vision key" enables the underneath players to be factored in the passing game, while the three deep players stay over the top.



Meet Coach Mike McElroy: Coach McElroy just completed his third fall at Bethel University as the defensive coordinator and sixth fall as a college coach. He spent his first two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota under Jerry Kill. Coach McElroy’s first coaching job was as a volunteer high school coach in southern Illinois. He was then the head coach of a small 1A school called Elverado for one fall before becoming a Grad Assistant. McElroy played safety at Southern Illinois University from 2007-2012.





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