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By Marty Albert, Defensive Coordinator, Laguna Hills High School (CA)

The entire premise of an RPO offense lies in its ability to slow down defenses post-snap. Which is why it’s important for DCs to give their players some comfortability to play fast by building adjustments within their system. It’s a philosophy that Laguna Hills High School (CA) defensive coordinator Marty Albert has used to curtail the big play potential that RPOs present. In this exclusive clinic report, he details the three methods he uses in his 4-2-5 scheme to defend RPOs-- muddying the QB’s read, altering B gap responsibility and blitzing the read defender. Read the report...


By Marty Albert
Defensive Coordinator                                                                       
Laguna Hills High School (CA)


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RPOs have been a the most recent challenge for defenses across the country. To address this, we worked to adjust our base 4-2-5 defense with split-field coverage to not allow the offense to manipulate our defensive reaction. The key was to create a simple game plan that would protect the defender that the RPO is trying to put into conflict. To succeed against RPOs, we need to take our talent and do two vital things to succeed; play fast and play with confidence.

Coaching Points

For us to succeed with our game plan concepts, we do not huddle on defense. From the sidelines, all calls are sent in based on where the running back aligns. Our 4 defensive linemen align head up until QB starts his cadence then slide to the called side gap as assigned by the Sam backer.  The Nickel safety goes to the call and aligns in a wide outside #2 alignment. He then drops back into an apex off the end man on the line and the #2 receiver inside. The Hawk outside linebacker goes away from call gives to his side a call to Gap exchange (call of Razor or Tango to Tackle & End).

The secondary always aligns four across until the QB begins his cadence. At that time, the FS will call split field coverage to his side and the Rover makes the coverage call to his side. Our base coverage is Palms Read to side away from running back and Red Lock man to man side of running back.

On the gap exchange call, defensive linemen must spear hard charge to their Gap responsibility. The outside defenders (Nickel and Hawk linebacker) must not be in a hurry on their run /pass read. We instruct them to buzz their feet in place saying to themselves “Q-B-C-R” (QB run, Boot, Counter, Reverse) before they attack.


Our biggest variation is against 3x1 sets either by alignment or by motion. In these situations, we check our coverage to the 3x1 set to Gold. In Gold, our corners now play press on #1 while the nickel and FS align to #2 and #3 and play Red Palms against these 2 and their patterns. The rover safety drops to 10 yards over QB and plays a vision concept. His read is QB runs and #3 vertical or coming underneath in the pass game. This allows us to play with a free safety who can be active on filling alley as well as active on passes.


Continue to the full-length version of this report…

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  • How Coach Albert uses gap exchanges to prevent players from being conflict defenders.
  • The Red Lock coverage Coach Albert uses based on the location of the back.
  • The Palms coverage adjustment Coach Albert uses to defend 3x1 formation RPOs.
  • How Coach Albert changes the read defender’s demeanor from a static to blitz position helps in altering the read of the QB.
  • Plus game film on all these concepts.

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While completely stopping the RPOs is not a realistic, we believe that is our talent is equal to our opponents and we teach our fundamentals of the game plan against the RPO, we can succeed. This is accomplished because we stay with our base schemes and do not try to create something new. Because of this our defense plays with confidence plays fast to the ball, we believe we will put the QB in bad positions and force them to make mistakes.

Meet Coach Albert: Marty Albert has been involved with coaching high school football for 47 years in Ohio and California. During that time, he has served as head coach and as an assistant. Albert has spent the last 15 years in Orange County (CA) as a defensive coordinator. 



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