“Auto” Pressure Checks from Stem Fronts

Mar 6, 2023 | Front, Defense, Odd Front Structures, Pressure, Man Pressure Concepts

By Mike Kuchar with Adam Clark
Defensive Coordinator
Angelo State University (TX)
Twitter: @CoachAdamClark



As a west coast native, Coach Clark spends most of his off seasons clinicing with former New Mexico State University (and now Syracuse University) defensive coordinator Rocky Long. He says he modeled much of his structure after Coach Long, particularly his man pressure package where a distinction lies in who the blitz/peel defender is based on formation. While most coaches choose to have the outside pressure element be a free rusher- giving the defensive end rush/peel responsibilities- Coach Clark chooses to swap that assignment by putting a first level defender on the  tight end and give the outside rusher the blitz/peel task.

While this job usually falls on the field defensive end, Coach Clark admits it’s feasible considering the ability of tight ends at the Division 2 level. It’s something that could be a challenge with a detached tight end but if the tight end is on the ball it’s a different story. “You can be physical with him and get your hands inside early on,” he said. “We don’t see a ton of freak tight ends that can be a mismatch on an athletic defensive end at the Division 2 level. Some of our defensive ends can in fact be tight ends.”

Coach Clark’s “Auto” pressure is a Double A gap pressure with his two inside linebacker elements on a read rush of the Center. It’s a formation based pressure adjustment which can present itself in several different ways based on formation structure. But at its core, the pressure elements will consist of both inside linebackers and an edge blitzer based off a closed surface. Which means that pressure defender can be an outside linebacker, safety or even corner based on formation structure. Quite simply, if your man is a tight end, you are the outside pressure element.

In 2022, these “Auto” pressure produced the following numbers:

  • 23 yards per carry on run
  • 35% comp percentage on pass
  • 3 sacks on 31 pass attempts
  • 6 hurries
  • 3 knockdowns


Angelo State Personnel:

Angelo State operates out of 3-3-5 spacing, with the first and second level consisting of the following:

  • Nose
  • Boundary Tackle
  • Field End
  • Whip (weak side outside linebacker)
  • Mike (stack inside linebacker)
  • Sam (strong side outside linebacker)
  • Field Overhang (could be Strong Safety or Nickel) depending on call


Most of the time will morph into four-man structures at the first level, either by bringing up the Whip (weak side linebacker) to the weak side of the formation or bringing up the Sam (strong side linebacker) to the strong side of the formation.


Movement Verbiage

In most cases, the strength is set to the field with the ball on the hash. If the ball is in the middle of the field, it’s set to the passing strength. But in Coach Clark’s system, the front will move on over 50% of snaps, more than anyone he’s ever seen. He’ll do it more in early downs than in late downs to confuse blocking schemes and draw offenses off sides. Something he says will happen at least one time per game.

In his base four-down structure he prefers what he calls “heads,” which are two double two techniques and two tight five techniques but who those defenders are will depend on whether or not it’s an open or closed formation. His movement system has a simple verbiage. Anything can be tagged with a “move” call. For example, “Heads Move Tight” tells the front they are aligning in a heads front:


Then move to a “Tight” front with two double five techniques and a Zero technique:


A “Tails” front denotes that the defensive line is sliding weak and the Sam walks up to be the 5-technique on the line of scrimmage.


Angelo State will also show a Bear presentation:


Then shift to the Heads look:


The “Auto” pressure is always run from the Head look above, but how Coach Clark will get there pre-snap lies in all those following presentations above. The linebackers just say “move” (or use a back-up call if refs are on it) and the front expands. If ever the first level gets stuck in a movement, the emphasis is on gap cancellation, not gap integrity. “We just play vertically at that point,” he said. “We cross face of any blocker that is coming at us. For example, if our Zero Nose in Bear that needs to get to the B gap in “Heads” gets caught in the A gap when the ball is snapped. he may need to get a crossover run and prepare him how to adjust if that happens. We just try to play vertical through the backside gap.”