9-Technique Play vs. Run Schemes

Jun 21, 2018 | Defending Run Game, Position Groups, Linebackers

By Mike Kuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs


Researchers' Note: You can access the raw data of this report - in the form of graphs - by clicking here to read: 9-Technique Statistical Analysis Report.


This report will focus on our research findings regarding the play of the 9-techinque defender.  What we’re calling a 9-technique defender is the player that lines up on the outside tip of the tight end or three-man surface.  While we realize this player can be a defensive lineman, we chose to detail the linebacker technique exclusively. This week our focus will be on how coaches train their 9-technique LB’s to play various blocking schemes.  These are the main defensive structure’s we will focus on for the report:

  • Even Front: Mainly an Under or Eagle defense with a walk-up outside linebacker playing the 9-techinque (Diagram 1)
  • Odd Front: a 3-4, 3-3, or 5-0 structure with an outside linebacker playing the 9-technique (Diagram 2)

It’s important to note that the 9-technique survey generated the most responses that we’ve ever had at X&O Labs with 2,457 high school and college coaches completing the survey. When we get responses like that, not only does it prove the validity of the responses, but also provides for a broader spectrum of coaches to share their knowledge.  We appreciate your feedback and hope that you’ll continue to be active participants of these surveys.

Before we get into the specifics of what we found, we thought we’d share some interesting statistics based on the survey.

  • 50.6 percent of coaches will use a 9-tehnique defender any time there is a three-man surface present, regardless of the front structure. Just goes to show how important it is to put immediate pressure on the tight end.  You don’t need X&O Labs to tell you that most run schemes are three-man surface oriented.  The presence of the 9-technique puts a first level player in the D gap for immediate force of the football.
  • 57.8 percent of coaches will use a traditional defensive lineman type IN THE EVEN FRONT to play the 9-technique, more so than an outside linebacker type. The teams that do use a linebacker to play the 9-technique will be more of an Eagle or Under front by nature thus making a five-man front.  It’s not as common to see a four down front with a 9-technique defender.  Teams that run a four-down structure will mainly utilize a 7-technique defender.  But, for now, we’ll focus on the 9-technique. 
  • 63.3 percent of coaches will use an outside linebacker type in THE ODD FRONT to play the 9-technique, more so than a defensive lineman type. We didn’t find this surprising, but what we did find interesting was the fact that these same coaches will spend more time training this defender to rush the pass than anything else.  It’s something we’ll detail in next week’s report.
  • 54.4 percent of 9-technique linebackers work with the DL in practice, while 45.6 percent work with the LB’s. This surprised us.  While we knew it wasn’t uncommon for these types of perimeter linebackers to get work with the defensive line, we certainly didn’t think it would be in the majority.  In fact, most coaches that utilize a 9-technique linebacker train him to use the same fundamentals that a defensive lineman would in the run game.   The only thing that separates their job description to that of a defensive lineman is the linebacker’s responsibility to cover receivers.  At least we thought, until we found that 67.1 percent of coaches will not even use that player in coverage schemes, he will rush the passer.  But again, a topic to be covered next week.

Case 1: Variations of Stance and Alignment

We’ve found that deciding between a two-point and a three-point stance is relative to whether your 9-technique is a defensive lineman in nature or a linebacker.  Today, we’ll focus on that player being a linebacker.

We’ve found that the stance of the 9-technique linebacker will vary based on the support structure of your defense.  If that 9-technique is the primary force player, he will use more of a tilted stance in order to maintain leverage on the perimeter.  Conversely, if that player is not a force player, his shoulders may be more square to the line of scrimmage.

Regardless of what responsibility the 9-technique defender, we’ve found that 58.1 percent of coaches teach the inside foot up in the stance.  This ensures a quicker read on the player’s visual key, who is mainly the tight end.  As it pertains to horizontal alignment, 46.4 percent of coaches will have their 9-technique split the crotch of the tight end, while 40.5 percent will play with their  inside foot further than outside foot of tight end in a wide alignment.  While it seems like coaches are split on this matter, Mike Eddy, the head coach at Gallia Academy High School (OH) doesn’t do either.  He has his outside linebacker line up in what he calls an "ability alignment." 

"If the 9-tech is a better athlete we use a tight alignment of inside eye to outside eye," says Eddy.  "If they are close to ability we align shoulder pad to shoulder pad.  If the TE is the better athlete, we align even wider at the tip of pad to tip of pad.  We align as wide as needed to defeat a possible reach block while still being able to squeeze a down block and keep the tight end off our inside defender.  Stance is slightly staggered with inside foot toe to instep.  This allows him to balance his step when he executes his read step on the offense’s initial movement."