By Chris DiLella
Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator
Rhodes College (TN)
First, I want to mention how grateful I am to X&O Labs for allowing me to talk about something that I believe we have had a good amount of success running these last few years. Our read pressure system has allowed us to always make sure we have at least a 4th rusher in the passing game, while also allowing us to be gap sound vs. any run we may see. When speaking about this I am specifically talking about our 4 linebackers, our call/boundary side OLB- Rush, our call/boundary side ILB- Mike, our away/field OLB- Lynx, and our away/field ILB- Will.
What I mean when I call these a “read pressure” is that each defensive player has a specific offensive player that he reads when blitzing and that tells him how he should react. The variation of who is coming when causes confusion for both the QB and OL. It allows our players to play fast against any offense we see because of the minimal rules and techniques that we teach them. Our alignment rules are simple and by day 2 of installs, we can run any pressure out of any coverage that we have. Below, I will be going into detail on what we teach our players when we run Razor (rush), Laser (lynx), Max (mike), Wax (will), Rome (rush or mike), Waco (lynx or will).
OLB Pressures (Rush and Lynx)
When calling our defense, we are generally going to be sending the rush about 60% of the time. Because of this, we like him to be a very good pass rusher and our best run defender. On the other side, our lynx is going to be better in space and better in coverage.
When it comes to teaching our OLB alignment, we like to speak in general terms and have them follow a few simple rules.
- Align for Success! Be able to execute your assignment from where you are
- Apex Split #1 or split #2 at 3-5 yds.
- Attached TE w/ no split #1 align in a loose 7 at 1-3 yds
- Attached TE or H w/ split WR apex to wide 9 depending on splits
- You have the freedom to “prowl” into position pre-snap
In normal, non-blitz, situations we teach our OLB's to read their "triangle" which is EMOL through to mesh point. This transitions seamlessly to our razor and laser technique because we will always be C gap players reacting to the tackle's block.
- Read “V” of the neck of the tackle
- Attached TE shock and rip into C
- If you can't rip into the C gap then put his body in it
When teaching this I have found the hardest thing for younger players to pick up on is that they are not just blitzing off the edge (or running up the field). They need to understand that they are responsible for a specific gap and what they do needs to be dictated by what we are seeing from the offense.
We teach 3 basic block recognitions to them.
- Veer (tackle away). Shuffle and squeeze responsible for QB on mesh/boot. Spill anything across.
- Base (tackle to). Shock/Release in C gap. Do not widen or come inside
- Pass Set. Transition to pass rush technique. RB to you beat outside for contain. You are an outside pass rusher. Aim for the back shoulder of WB
The drill below is done twice a week. Once they are comfortable with each one, it is at the coaches' discretion as to what they are seeing. We will add a TE into the drill depending on what we need to prepare for.