By Mike Kuchar with Adam Fuller
Florida State University
As long as Adam Fuller is the defensive coordinator at Florida State, the unit will be a split safety defense. It’s how he cut his teeth from his days as the DC at Tennessee Chattanooga up through Marshall and now at Tallahassee. But when he got to Florida State two years ago, he had to find change-ups to play man-match defense with quarters principles. So, he devised a concept where corners can be over-the-top halves defenders, allowing safeties to be match players underneath. Essentially, it’s a two-man coverage concept with invert principles. It’s similar to robber but it’s true match coverage, where the removed defender on both sides (the Nickel and Will in Florida State’s system) are going to route disrupt who they are aligned on, but are responsible on route matches from inside out. According to Coach Fuller, it became a good way to handle inside and outside smash routes and was an easy answer to defend those shake routes that are so prevalent in Empty formations.
Remember, it’s based out of split safety rules- so that field side and boundary side play independent of one another. The Weak Safety and Field corner are the deep halves defenders and everyone else switches responsibilities. Where it differs from true Cover 5 (two-deep man under) principles is that the Mike linebacker becomes the Nickel, the Nickel becomes the corner, the Free Safety becomes the Mike and the field corner becomes the Free Safety. Or, as Coach Fuller put it more simply: the field corner has the outside half and everyone else has the in and up of the next adjacent receiver.
Still sound confusing? We’ll go into depth below:
We’ll start at the boundary where the boundary corner will have all of number one. This is not different than traditional two-man concepts where the boundary safety (Buck in FSU’s system) can help with everything vertical. The boundary corners main rule is to force the route back inside.
Buck Safety (Weak Safety):
In this coverage concept, the buck is an extra defender who will play off the release of number one to the boundary. He’s taught to bounce, slide, and help defend the vertical of number one. He can be no further than two yards outside the hash.
Part of the reason why this coverage is advantageous is gives the opportunity to have the Buck play over the top of any smash routes into the boundary.
This is his traditional rule against single-width formations. Against any double-width formations into the boundary, the weak safety will operate in the same way as the field corner, which we will explain below.