St. Thomas Pressure Package – Case 3: Best Practices In Matching Patterns/Coverages to Affect Run Game

May 30, 2019 | Defense, Pressure, 3-Deep 3-Under Zone Pressures

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar



In the first two cases of this study, we addressed the fun part of creating zone pressures, designing pressure patterns and mixing them with the proper corresponding coverages. Once that information is assimilated, the task for any defensive coordinator shifts to designing these pressures to attack an opponent's offensive structure and scheme. Remember that any of these pressures can be run with a myriad of coverages. The challenge is selecting the coverages that work for that particular week while still keeping it streamlined for defenders to play fast on game day. 

In case three, we present our research on which particular pressure patterns and coverages work best against certain offensive personnel groupings and play concepts.


Editor's Note: The following information is our editorial opinion based on film study. It is NOT the perspective of Coach Kuchinski or the defensive staff at the University of St. Thomas.


General Design Factors

The University of St. Thomas defensive coordinator Wallie Kuchinski told us that in order to stop the run he will do two things: Either run zone pressures or play double eagle defense. That's the extent of it. Since this study is focused entirely on the former option, we wanted to research exactly how he and the defensive staff design their pressures to attack the offenses he sees in his conference. But before we present our assertions on this, Coach Kuchinski provided us with some general guidelines on how he plans his pressure package. There are certain "umbrellas" that his pressure system falls under. They are as follows:

  • Pressures are Multiple: This means that they can be called either strong or weak and the strength call can be manipulated to run pressures. For example, the strong side "Strafe" pressure pattern documented in case one doesn't always need to be run to the tight end (or boundary), which is where he calls his strength. He can mix it with a boundary strength call and get the pressure coming from the field, etc.
  • No Checking Out of Pressures: Because of the various run fits arranged and communicated by the safeties in these pressures, all of which are detailed in case two, there is no checking the pressure side or checking out of pressure here. It's a call it, run it scenario.
  • 70 Percent Rule: When compiling tendencies, Coach Kuchinski follows the 70 percent constant, meaning it's only an offensive tendency (based on formation or down/distance) if it's higher than that number. "68 percent is still 50/50 to me," he said. "We find the breakpoint to get the 70 percent. It may not be 3rd and 7. It might be 3rd and 8 that we get that tendency."
  • Rule of 3: This is a rule in regards to selecting the proper pressure coverage relating to offensive personnel groupings. In doing so, Coach Kuchinski adheres to the rule of 3. "If they have a personnel grouping that adds up to three or more than we need the safeties in the fit," he said. This kind of grouping includes 21, 12 and 22 personnel. "If they have a personnel grouping like 11 or 10, we don't need the safeties in the fit because we have seven defenders. But when they have a grouping that adds up to three or more, we need to spill the ball to somebody, so we need to play Black coverage to get the safety in the fit."

Using those guidelines, Coach Kuchinski and the defensive staff now begin the process of plugging which players they want into the following responsibilities, all of which are detailed in case one:

  • Pressure Side Arrow Defender
  • Non-Pressure Side Arrow Defender
  • Chase/Spill Defender
  • Contain/Splatter Defender
  • Power Player

This is where a coach can get really creative based on the scheme the offense is presenting. Each pressure pattern is structured differently. For a frame of reference, the five most common pressure patterns we researched are below. Again, they are all presented to the strong side, but the pressure can easily be flipped to the weak side as well.