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Drills to Develop the "Hybrid" Player When Transitioning From Even to Odd Fronts

By William Lund D-Line Columnist X&O Labs

William Lund, D-Line Columnist, X&O Labs

Editor’s Note: Please welcome William Lund to the X&O Labs team.  Coach Lund is a veteran college football coach with a high level of expertise on coaching defensive line. We are excited to have him on board.  Every month Coach Lund will bring you some of the best insights, drills and strategies on developing your defensive line.  And the best part is, Coach Lund will answer any and all of your questions.  Just post your questions or comments below and Coach Lund will respond shortly.  

Coaches are always trying to find a new edge in defending offensive schemes. Much of the change occurs when a coach decides to use a 3-4 defense to replace a 4-3 defense or a 3-3-5 defense to replace a 4-2-5 structure. Defense is not so much scheme, but a players understanding and belief in that scheme. Whether a coach choses to be a 4-man front or a 3-man front, more often than not he will have a "sub" package incorporating one or the other fronts. If you don’t decide to change personnel, you may have a player that is a "hybrid." A hybrid player is one you need to have on the field as a rusher in pass situations, but also one you want to use in coverage. This hybrid player may be necessary because you cannot afford to pull him off the field not matter what the situation, but still may want to incorporate a 3- or 4-man front. In my column this month, I will discuss the ways you can effectively train your hybrid player to excel as a coverage man or as a rusher.

For the purpose of this column we will use a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme as our template in developing a plan for our hybrid player. When training a player, you need to make sure he can handle the multiple details that a player needs to know as both a rush end and drop end. Pass Rush moves, drop zones and man responsibilities are all parts of being a hybrid player. Because of all the responsibilities that fall within this player’s domain, the tendency of coaches is to take a player that "athletically" looks the part and try to force him into a "hybrid" role. As coaches, we must not try to "force a square peg into a round hole." In order to be an effective hybrid, the player must be savvy, with the understanding of a larger scheme of things. It is my opinion, that the easiest place to train your hybrid begins with aligning him as the defensive end or outside linebacker weak or away from the formation strength (or away from the tight end or passing strength.) From here you can limit the number of assignments and coverage responsibilities he has to know. Remember this is a starting point to build on your player’s knowledge base. (Diagram 1)

Note: The hybrid player is the "R" in both scenarios

First Level (DE) Keys and Reads

As a pre-snap, we will key the "V" of the neck of the EMLOS. In most cases, this will be the OT. We do an every day drill called "Quick Hands" that emphasizes this technique (diagram 2).

From there, we progress to Butt and Press in order to develop hip involvement with the punch (diagram 3).

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Coach Lund's 8 Drill Videos

Get instant access to Coach Lund's full-length "Hybrid" Players in the 3-4 and 4-3 report on X&O Labs' exclusive membership website - Insiders.  Coach Lund included the following videos with his full-length report:

  • 3 Video Showing the Zone Melt Drill

  • 1 Key Drill Video

  • 1 Butt and Press Drill Video

  • 1 Quick Hands Drill Video

  • 2 Videos Showing the Sneak and Search

These are actual practice videos from Coach Lund's private collection and you can start watching all of these videos and read the full-length version of this report on the Insiders website.

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Continued From Above...

Second Level (OLB) Keys and Reads As an OLB, we will key through the OT into the backfield. Now there are a number of keys coaches can use. In this case, I recommend beginning with the TB. This will be easier to develop an understanding and progressing to a "triangle" key. As a starting point you can begin keying the OT and slowly work into the backfield and triangle (diagram 6).

Gap assignments as a DE in a 4-man front vs. a OT away from call will place him as the C-gap defender but an OLB could be a C-gap defender, force player, or alley player based on coverage called. As a starting point, it will be easiest to teach an OLB to come off the edge as a fourth rusher. It’s more difficult to teach the coverage aspect than the rusher aspect. Essentially, if you bring the "hybrid" as 4th rusher you become an under front by movement (diagram 7). This allows for gap responsibility to remain consistent with 4-man rules. As a C-gap rusher whether he aligns as a stand-up or as a down end the teaching is negligible.

Rush/Coverage Responsibilities of the Hybrid Player

The bulk of teaching will involve coverage. This aspect is where coaches need to be careful in initially limiting the amount of coverages that the "hybrid" is involved in. If you are in a 3-deep coverage then the Hybrid would become a force player (Buzz-Flat Defender) and needs to understand everything gets turned inside. However, in a Robber coverage or Cover 4 Scheme, he becomes a spill player and is trying to make things bounce outside to the safety. It will be important to equally split time as a down end or outside linebacker to develop a basic understanding of his role in run fits (diagram eight).

As a coverage player you want to limit the areas of responsibility the Hybrid will have. In my opinion, a cover 3 "buzz/flat" dropper is very easy to teach to a hybrid. I would recommend teaching a spot drop first so he can get feel for the zone. His drop in the flat should be 5 to 8 yards to and through the numbers based on threats. Once at the numbers he can work back to the QB and squeeze his zone. Two drills I use to develop a basic drop and zone understanding is Zone Melt and Sneak and Search.

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Zone Melt Drill The zone melt drill requires four cones. One is the starting point while the three others represent zone edges. The three cones are at eight yards of depth, and ten yards apart. The drill begins with the Coach/QB giving players a pass key. The LB/Hybrid will drop to the midpoint of the cones and work off the Coach/QB shoulder and work to the respective edges of the zone. The coach will work one side, then the other as the LB/Hybrids melt their zones (diagram 10). When the coach brings his hand off the ball the defenders will break in front and across the cones as the coach delivers the ball. Catch. Secure. Score!

Coaches at all levels are trying to find ways to keep players on the field that will give them the best chance to win. In doing so it may be necessary to think outside the box in developing your players. With that in mind we need to "slowly develop" the understanding needed to teach a "hybrid" player so he can execute at his highest level on the field. I feel that teaching these players the concepts of playing on the line and off the line, coupled with the drill work included in this article, will develop your hybrid player into a play maker on the field.

Questions or Comments? Please post your questions or comments below and Coach Lund will respond shortly.

William Lund

William Lund completed the 2011 season at Columbia University as the defensive line coach. Lund is a 15-year veteran college coach who most recently served as the defensive coordinator at St. Norbert College in 2010. During that season, the Green Knights' defense led all of Division III in takeaways (46) and won its first conference title in four years under Lund's tutelage. ??Prior to his stop at St. Norbert, Lund was a defensive assistant for two seasons at Buffalo, where he was part of a coaching staff that led the Bulls, who play in the Football Bowl Subdivision, to the first MAC championship in the program's history. In 2008, the Bulls were first in the nation in fumbles recovered and seventh in takeaways.??Lund was the defensive coordinator at Carleton College from 2006-07 and also spent six years at Colby College and three at St. Anselm College.  Copyright 2012 X&O Labs



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