By Mike Kuchar
For years, DC’s have taught a long stick fundamental in pressure scenarios. But recently they have made the shift away from traditional first-level horizontal movements and have now gone to “face reading” linemen to vertically affect gaps in pressure scenarios. When taught correctly, these face reads can not only alter protections but can also generate free rushers at the line of scrimmage. In this report, X&O Labs highlights six programs (Illinois State, Indiana, Baylor, Austin Peay, Angelo State, University of St. Thomas) and how each of them teaches the face read fundamental in its pressure packages.
“Face” Read Fundamental:
Source: Travis Niekamp, Defensive Coordinator, Illinois State University
Here is where the advancement of the scheme comes in. Illinois State doesn’t rely on any long-sticking in its zone pressures. Instead, all players are taught a “face technique” for both first and second level defenders. The footwork is more lateral in nature and is used any time the front is being moved. Rather than having a gap mindset, first level defenders will read the next interior offensive lineman for the following reads:
- If the offensive lineman blocks down, he’s off his ass.
- If the offensive lineman is out, he works across his face.
According to Coach Niekamp, this has been one of the most efficient tweaks they have made to the scheme and it’s done across the board with both first and second level defenders. “Some coaches prefer long sticking to the pressure side and gap fitting away from the pressure but we are a face technique with all of them now,” he told me.
He prefers not to put a lot of responsibility on his front three defenders. They just get good at reading the demeanor of offensive linemen. The benefit comes not just in the pass game but in the run game as well. “It’s really good vs. gap schemes because you’re facing all guys up front and creating issues with movement and you still have a hard spill and contain player (both rushers),” he said. “Often times we’ll bring two off the edge and send the ball away, getting guys chasing the ball from behind with two linebackers that can scrape and fit.”