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By Matt Puffenberger

Defensive Coordinator

Berkeley Springs (WV)

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Editors Note: Matt Puffenberger has been an Assistant Football Coach at Berkeley Springs since 2001 and is currently the Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Back Coach.  Berkeley Springs HS is an AA school located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.  It had never played in a post-season game prior to 2002.  In 2000, Angelo Luvara came to BSHS after being the head coach at Potomac State College in Keyser, WV for 22 years.  During his tenure, BSHS has won their first playoff game in school history and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

Understanding Our Base Defense

We are a 4-3 base defense that plays primarily Quarter’s or "Split-Safety Robber" coverage (cover 8 in our terminology) the majority of the time.  Our Quarter’s rules vs. Pro Formations:

  • Corner’s = base alignment is 7 yds off and 2 yds inside the WR (we have a divider rule that tells us to take outside leverage vs. short splits) (we will sometimes show press and bail at the snap)
    • vs. run = secondary force/deep cut-off
    • vs. pass = inside deep ¼ (NO POST!)
  • OLB’s = align based on backfield set
    • vs. run = alley vs wide flow, gap alignment vs fast flow; opposite A-Gap away
    • vs. pass = flat-wheel-#3 (OLB’s buzz flats, run with any wheel, then work to #3)
  • ILB = Align based on backfield set
    • vs. run = fast flow to 1st window (a-gap to c-gap strong/b-gap weak)
    • vs. pass = work middle hole for depth, relate to #3, alert crossers
  • Safeties = Align no wider than the hashmark if into boundary, no less than 4 yds inside hash if to the field with heels at 10 yds
    • vs. run = force/cutback
    • vs. pass = man #2 if #2 vertical; rob #1 if #2 not vertical

Adjustments to 1 Back Formations

Our defense basically converts to a 4-2 Nickel-Type defense when facing 1 back formations. Depending on our personnel, we may sub in a 5th defensive back or have a designated LB that will play the "nickel" position.

Nickel Alignment Rules:

  • The Corners take their normal alignments.  If the Corner has a slot, but the Nickel is away from him, he aligns inside shoulder of #1 and inside of 5 yds
  • The Nickel will align to the passing strength. He will align to the field vs. 2x2 4 WR formations. His base alignment is outside leverage, 5 yds off the line of scrimmage
  • The OLB will align opposite the running strength and be responsible for the B-Gap vs the run.  If the OLB has a 3 technique to his side, he will make a call that stunts the 3 tech tackle into the A-Gap.
  • The ILB aligns to the running strength and is responsible for the open gap based on front alignment vs. the run
  • The Safety to the Nickel aligns half-way between #2 and #3, unless #2 is very wide, in which case he aligns closer to #2
  • The other Safety takes his normal alignment, unless there is a slot receiver to his side, in which case he aligns inside shoulder of #2 at 8 yds deep.

For diagrams and film of how Coach Puffenberger employs this on the man side and the trap side of the scheme,  click here to join the insiders.

Steal Call

When faced with 3x1 formations, there are two main adjustments that we can make.  The first, and most common, is to make a "steal" call.  Some sort of adjustment must be made in order to account for the possibility of 4 verticals.

In this adjustment, the single-receiver side safety eyeballs the #3 receiver.  If he releases vertical, the safety plays him man.  If #3 does not release vertical, then the safety robs #1, just like he would in normal quarters.  It is extremely important that the safety understands that his run responsibility does not change.

The single-receiver corner gets a signal from the safety alerting him that he is man-to-man on the receiver.  The only real change in technique for the corner is to align in a press-man position (catch-man the red zone).

Adjustments to Empty Formations

Our base adjustment to Empty Formations uses a combination of the adjustments that we already use on an everyday basis, so there is literally no extra teaching.

All we need to do is to play "bango" to the 3 receiver side and "trap" to the 2 receiver side.

For diagrams and film on Coach Puffenberger' bango concept,  click here to join the insiders.


I would like to thank X&O Labs for providing me the platform to share information with coaches.  Please feel free to contact me with questions and best of luck this off-season.

What You're Missing:

Right now, members of X&O Labs' Insiders website are reading the full-length version of Coach Puffenburger's clinic report including:

  • Coach Puffenberger’s Nickel coverage adjustments against an outside high-low concept, inside high-low concept, flood and wheel concepts. 

  • How Coach Puffenberger uses his "Trap" call to the weak side of formations to defend vertical and flood concepts back side. 

  • How Coach Puffenberger defends trips and empty formations by using his "Banjo" check which prevents vertical and double stick combinations.

  • Plus game film on all of these concepts.

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