Defending Hot Reads and RPOs from a Cover 2 Structure

Mar 22, 2020 | Defense, Coverage, Two High Coverage Structures

By Mike Harrison (Athletic Director/Head Football Coach)
and Roy Salas (Assistant Athletic Director/Secondary Coach)
Holy Cross High School (TX)



At Holy Cross, we believe in a gap control odd front with a cover 2 shell as our base defense.  This allows us to disguise our stunts and coverages and puts our athletes in, what we believe is, the most advantageous position to be successful.  From this base, we can be multiple in all aspects of defending our opponent.  Our base coverage is a cover 2 concept with a pattern read to defend both run and pass. Here is a diagram of the base alignment.

Diagram 1


The two outside backers we call Sam and Macho.  They are very important components of our scheme.  We will begin by teaching our outside linebackers our basic stance and the base squat technique.  This technique places them in a hook to curl responsibility vs the pass and outside-in leverage vs the run.  Our basic stance is two point with feet slightly tilted; with outside foot slightly ahead of an inside foot.  Our eyes are inside on the QB, with shoulders square to the receiver/LOS and keeping our nose over our toes.  They are responsible for QB on an option and have second contain responsibility on outside pocket passes (sprint out or bootleg).  We teach them the ABC's of alignment and read progressions as outlined below.

Squat Technique: Used by outside linebackers when in hook/curl responsibility.

Depth: 5 yards from LOS, if there is a TE, HB or tight slot, they are 1 x 1

Alignment: LEVERAGE is defined as an ability alignment, but it begins as a nose to eye relationship and moves directionally.  this goes by seam leverage: If the receiver is inside the seam; outside leverage, If the receiver is outside the seam; inside leverage. 


ABC Alignment Rules

“A” alignment is against a tight end, H-back or tight slot.  Align 1 x 1 outside and read the helmet of the tight end or H-back. If the helmet goes outside-treat as a hook block.  Maintain leverage with the inside shoulder to outside shoulder of the tight end, always keeping the outside free. If the helmet is inside-squeeze the LOS and look inside for potential misdirection or QB read plays.

If the helmet goes vertical-open hips to the receiver and jam with the outside arm.  Then collision route and carry to a depth of 12-15 yards before turning over to the safety.


Trips alignment is over #3

"B" alignment is if the inside slot receiver is 8 yards or less to the end man on LOS.  Align nose to the inside eye of the slot receiver.

“C” alignment is if the inside slot receiver splits over 8 yards from end man on LOS then apply the APEX rule or also known as the ½ way rule. This states that my depth will correspond with my width (simply put if the receiver is 10 yards from the OT then my alignment would be 5 yards inside the receiver and a depth of 5 yards) Trips alignment is over #3; follow “B” or “C” alignment rules

Single receiver-based rule is SINK (align APEX to single receiver) and run responsibility is switched to pitch/contain


Safety Technique:

Our read technique is to key the QB level to the #2 receiver (#3 in trips); buzz feet at the snap

“QB to me”: We define this as level one action which means the QB is giving any down the line action to my side or level two means the QB is giving off the line action to my side. Here, we will check receiver for run/pass intent. If the receiver drives to you to block or tries to hook the defender will lock out his arms, keeping shoulders square to LOS (NEVER shoulders turned), keeping eyes inside for the ball, fighting across the face of any block; never going under the block.  Remember the OLB is responsible for QB on option.

If number two blocks down on an inside defender, he must replace while maintaining outside leverage; squeeze the hole outside-in.


Quail Technique:

If the receiver releases for pass route, he must collision the route.  If the QB breaks pocket on sprint out or bootleg; then he must release the route and become second contain on the QB.  The inside LB will now have to replace the OLB on the hook/curl responsibility.  Part of our basic defensive unit work is that when the QB moves outside the pocket then the zones will move with him.

We call this Quail technique: Check the BSG for run/pass intent.  Based on the backside guard the OLB will do the following:

BSG zone away: Play the cutback


BSG pull away: Take a pursuit angle

BSG pass set locate the backside route and collision, DO NOT CHASE