With the rise of heavy passing teams, Coach Franke knew he had to evolve defensively. After implementing this defense two years ago, it has become a solid foundation of his defense.
By Josh Franke
Toronto High School Toronto (OH)
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Heavy passing offenses have slowly trickled down from the NFL to the collegiate level, and now they are becoming commonplace among high school teams. With the ever-growing popularity of things like 7on7s, the Elite 11, and private quarterback coaching, high school quarterbacks are better today than they ever have been. Having to defend these heavy passing offenses a few times a year put a huge burden on our defense. Although we traditionally run a 3-3 stack, we were still getting beat in coverage. If we played quarters, slants, hitches, and bubbles would hurt us. If we tried to stop those underneath routes with different coverage, we would get burnt deep on vertical routes. We used to play by the old adage “If they want to nickel and dime us down the field, that’s fine, no one has that patience”, well, those days are over because these offenses will do that. We had to develop something different that would allow us to play max coverage but also allow us to be solid in run support. I have to give credit to my defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Steven Rebich and Matt Ludewig because together we sat down to develop our 31 and 32 defenses to counter the rising trend of the spread pass-heavy offense.
The 31 and 32 defenses were designed to be played against teams who love to pass the ball out of 3x1, 2x2, or any type of empty set. We wanted it to be a “defend everything” type of coverage but we also wanted to take away any type of jet sweep and stop the inside zone with a QB read off it (which is usually a complimentary run play for these offenses).
The term 31 and 32 are used to determine the number of box defenders we have. We are traditionally a 3-3 stack, therefore, when we go 31, we will have three down linemen and one linebacker, in 32 we have three down linemen and two linebackers. The trick and one of the most important pieces of this defense is that your tackles line up in a 4i position.
This is one of the most important coaching points in this defense. The tackles are responsible for the B gaps and must be prepared to take on double teams, especially against the pass. You can play the NT in a variety of different ways, you can slant him opposite of the back alignment, you can have him control double-A gaps by playing straight up, we also have incorporated a couple of different defensive line stunts we like to integrate, which works well because of the closer alignment of the tackles and nose tackle.
The interior linebacker/s will be responsible for the A gaps and are responsible for all inside runs and will act as the alley or fill players on any outside runs. Our interior linebackers tend to love this defense because they have no major responsibility and are freed up to play instinctively against what they are seeing and reading.
Coaching Points for Run Defenders
By far the most important position on the field because they’re the only two players who have both run and pass responsibility. In this defense, the secondary is a pass-first responsibility and the box defenders are a run-first responsibility.
Your force players must be able to force all outside runs, jet sweeps, and QB pulls on reads back inside to help. We tell all our force players that their first responsibility on a run is to make sure they don’t get the edge if they can make the tackle, great, but it’s not their primary responsibility.
We have our force players pivot their stance to face the backfield. This way their backs are already turned to the potential WR block. As I mentioned before, we’ve had several blocks in the back called because of this alignment. I cannot stress enough that they must attack the outside shoulder of the ball carrier so they don’t give up the outside alley.
Our tackles hate this formation and alignment because they always get double-teamed, almost every play, regardless of pass or run. They will often try to play head up or even sneak themselves outside, or they’ll say, “I’ll line up outside and rush into the B gap.”. Make sure that they’re lining up in that 4i technique and just work on splitting double teams by getting skinny through the hole with a solid rip move. We’ve learned that having speed guys on our line has been more effective than having strength guys on our line and it helps with this alignment and we still got a lot of penetration.
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With the rise of heavy passing teams, as a staff, we knew that we also had to evolve defensively to protect the scoreboard. After implementing this defense two years ago, it has become a solid foundation of our defense, it has been a go-to for us against dominant spread teams who like to throw the ball and is a great passing down option. This defense allows you to be sound and solid against both the vertical passing game and the quick game but doesn’t jeopardize any gap integrity against the run.
Meet Coach Josh Franke: Coach Franke is entering his 10th season as a head football coach and his third season leading his Alma Mater, Toronto High School located in Toronto, Ohio. Coach Franke credits much of his success in coaching to his staff, administration, school board, and most importantly, his wife Kendra Franke and two daughters Alexis and Lyla.