The myth that football coaches can put their best big athlete at the open side end and "just let him go" is far from the truth. Though the open end may have more space and freedom to make plays, zone read option offenses, as well as one and two back counter and power schemes designed to attack the open side, force him to play assignment and technique within the defensive scheme. Also, his alignment, assignment, and technique may change depending upon whether he is aligned outside an A gap nose guard (B gap bubble side) or a B gap defensive tackle (3-technique).
For the sake of clarity within this report, we will refer to the shade side defensive end as a 5-techniqueand a 3-technique side end as a Ghost 7. Illustrations of two defensive fronts, an open side 5-technique in a "4-4" (or "4-2-5") and a ghost-7 technique in a "4-3 Under" front are included.
Initial reads from offensive tackle:
5-Technique (A gap D.T. side)
- Fan (Turnout)
- Veer Release
- Scoop Away
- Inside Pull
Ghost 7 (3-Technique Side)
- Fan (Turnout)
- Down (on 3-tech.)
- Scoop Away
- Inside Pull
Our survey responders placed a heavy interest in defending two open side runs: the Zone Read option and Counter O.T. While the Counter O.T. (also known as the 1980's Redskins' Counter Trey) has stood the test of time, defending the zone read has only recently become a priority in high school football. This report will place an emphasis on defending these two open side runs. Because a specific technique for a defensive end must fit within the total defensive scheme, we will include the other defender's responsibilities within the diagrams used.
Case 1: (Part A) Open Side 5-Technique Stance and Alignment:
Our research found that the most frequently taught alignment (40% of coaches) is (1) foot to crotch or outside eye on the offensive tackle, 32% of coaches surveyed teach (2) an inside foot to outside foot (tip-5) alignment, and 25% prefer (3) a tilted stance, targeting the "V" of the offensive tackle's neck.
"We align the open-side 5-technique a little wider and slightly tilted. He should never get reached because of alignment, and he is in position to shoot his hands and friction a veer release," said Rex Norris, former college and NFL defensive line coach. A fourth option is widening the open end to at least one foot outside the offensive tackle. All four alignments have their advantages: a foot to crotch alignment better ensures keeping the offensive tackle off linebackers; a tip-5 alignment puts the defensive end in a better position to play a reach block and play a "chase" technique vs. flow away; a tilted stance gives the 5-technique a better angle to read the tackle/near back/far guard triangle and attack kick-out blocks; and finally, a wide 5-technique gives an athletic defender more freedom to be a play maker and mesh charge a quarterback vs. option. The question that must be answered, "How much of a collision do we need vs. an inside release by the offensive tackle?" is a major factor in this alignment decision.
(Part B) Open Side Ghost 7 Technique Stance and Alignment:
Because there is no B gap bubble to the 3-technique side, 38 % of defensive coaches teach an alignment of at least one foot outside the offensive tackle. However, a surprising statistic was revealed from our survey: We found that 34% of defensive coaches teach a tip 5-technique or tighter alignment to the open side, even with a 3-technique tackle aligned in his B gap.
A potential problem with a wide alignment, as explained by longtime Harnett Central High School (N.C.) defensive coordinator Bill Wyrick, is getting trapped. "The wider we align him, the better chance he has to run up the field and get kicked out." Wyrick added, "Versus a down block by the offensive tackle, we teach him to read near back (for kick-out) to off-side guard. We will always play our open side end in a foot to crotch 5-technique, squeeze the tackle's inside release and make sure we spill all kick-out blocks."
Though a tight alignment may be a good starting point, an argument for playing a wider technique (one foot to one yard outside) may be supported by the following: first, a wider alignment gives him much better initial leverage for a contain rush vs. drop back pass, sprint-out or boot-leg. Secondly, the offensive tackle must block down on the 3-technique vs. any power or counter play run to the open end side, and a wider alignment puts him in a better position to read through the offensive tackle, near back, far guard triangle and still spill a kick-out block. It should also be noted that a tilted stance by a wider alignment (Ghost 7), which is taught by almost 25% of defensive coaches, will give the end a better angle to flatten, attack, and spill kick-out blocks.