DL Head Up Techniques in an Odd Front

Nov 25, 2012 | Front, Defense, Odd Front Structures

By Mark Miller, Defensive Coordinator, Katy High School (TX)

Editors Note: Coach Miller has 18 years of coaching experience with 7 years on offense and 11 years on defense, with the last 5 years as a Defensive Coordinator / Assistant Head Coach at Taylor HS a 5A school in Texas. He has experience at both the high school and college level.  In 2011, was recognized as Katy ISD’s Boys Sport Assistant Coach of the Year. Miller has his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from LSU. 

This article is intended to define fundamental techniques for defensive linemen within an ‘Odd Front".

Why employ an Odd Front Philosophy of defense?

  1. It maximizes Personnel by Body Type, Athletic Ability and Mental Capacity.
  2. It puts direct Pressure on the Center
  3. It's a balanced Defensive Structure
  4. It's availability and Ease of ‘Move’ / ‘Stem’, ‘Stunt’ and / or ‘Blitz’ Packages.

Our first consideration is always our personnel and what we have to defend. An inherent and unique characteristic of high school football is the fact playing football is voluntary. High school coaches cannot ‘recruit’ or ‘draft’ for a specific offensive or defensive scheme. Coaches place athletes in positions where they can maximize their abilities and help the team become successful. Some of these determining considerations are:

  1. Body Type: height, weight and composition
  2. Athletic Ability: strength, power, speed, agility and reaction time.
  3. Mental Capacity: Cognitive function to physical application / action.

Within those position assignments, the scheme applications are designed as a coordinated help for the individual players abilities. We define our ‘odd front’ through a strength declaration and an identification tag word. The ‘strength declarations’ can be made in seven different ways:

  1. Tight: to the Tight-End
  2. Open: opposite from the Tight-End
  3. Field: to the wide side of the field
  4. Short: to the short side of the field
  5. Over: to the RB in the ‘Shot-Gun’
  6. Under: opposite from the RB in the ‘Gun’
  7. Strong: to an offensive lineman / side

Base Alignment

The term ‘Base’ defines the front alignments (Diagram 1).


‘Base’ tells the noseguard to align head-up as a "0" technique on the center. The DT will align to the call as a 4-Technique. The Buck LB will align as a 30-Technique to the call. The DE will align away from the call as a 4-Technique. The Mike LB will align as a 30-Technique away from the call. The Sma LB aligns on the Tight-End as a 6-Technique and the Will LB aligns opposite the Tight-End as a ‘Ghost’ 6-Technique. It is a balanced structure.

The presence of the "0" technique noseguard and two ‘30’ backers over each offensive guard places three defenders over either A-Gap. (Diagram 2)

The ‘Odd Front Structure’ places ‘Direct Pressure’ on the first person handling the football, the center.

The foundation of teaching / coaching these head-up techniques is physicality. Assuming a head-up alignment increases the likelihood of having to take on an offensive lineman’s initial charge right down his midline. This places a greater emphasis on the defensive lineman understanding and applying proper pad level, striking out of the hips with a blow and separation.