Methods in Freeing the Mike LB in a Stack Front

Jun 14, 2021 | Front, Defense, Odd Front Structures

By Adam Siwicki
Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach
Culver-Stockton College (MO)
Twitter: @AdamSiwicki



The challenge for a defensive coordinator is to find the fine line of keeping your system simple enough for your athletes to play confident and fast but complex enough to keep the opposing coordinator guessing. We use a wristband to communicate the plays we run. I prefer the wristband over signals because it is position-specific and I can put tips and reminders on certain player's wristbands to make the information more quickly accessible to the player. It also allows for flexibility when changing run fits but yet keeping it simple for our players. We constantly change up the way we fit runs here at Culver-Stockton College and yet we have had very few misfitted run plays due to the simplicity of our defense. We play a 3-3-5 odd front, two-high defense. In our conference, we see multiple styles of offenses ranging from Air Raid to Wing T. I wanted a system that is flexible and adaptive to the various styles we see without drastically changing each week.

When game-planning for an opponent, I am always trying to figure out how to add an extra number to the play side. I have coached in many systems and generally, that number comes from the secondary. Our system does allow for us to fit runs that way, but I also like to try and add an extra number in the box, opposed to having it always come from the secondary. We are a gap sound defense and want our linebackers who are responsible for a gap to play fast and downhill. We will free up a linebacker in the box for him to scrape over and fix any misfit defensive lineman or linebackers. Which linebacker we make free varies based on formation, play direction tendencies, or back sets the offense presents us with. For this report, I will talk about how we free up our middle linebacker. To free up an inside linebacker we will slant our defensive line. Which way we slant is based upon game plan and can change by series or quarter.


In Diagram #1 you can see we slant the line to the field and free up our Mike linebacker in a Tampa 2 coverage.

DB RUN FITS: Our boundary corner is the force player while our strong safety has all of #1. They have the flexibility to swap responsibilities making the safety fit the C gap and the corner play all of #1. We feel having a corner trap to the field is not putting that player in a successful position, so we allow them to communicate the switch.

FREEING UP LB’s: I made our Mike linebacker the free player in this formation. As mentioned previously, he will scrape over and fix any misfit defensive lineman or linebackers while maintaining the responsibility of being the spill player. No matter where the extra RB inserts himself in Diagram #1, we will have our middle linebacker there to fill the created gap or be the extra fitter in the box. Our overhang (Nickel) is a force player responsible for the C gap along with the DE to his side. Depending on what plays you get you may choose to keep him out of the gap and place him outside the #2 WR. Again, having a system that allows you the flexibility is something I thoroughly like about this scheme.