By Josh Runda
Defensive Coordinator & Linebackers
Bluffton University (OH)
At Bluffton University we base out of the 4-2-5. However, when I became the Defensive Coordinator, I knew I wanted to be able to run the 3-High Safety defense as well. This would allow us to be multiple and make offenses prepare for 4-man fronts and 3-man fronts. The trick was finding a way to marry the two defenses and be able to have variations of the Same coverages out of both looks. Our identity is simplicity and at the end of the day, we want our players to play fast and playing with confidence. Our goal is to be able to run our coverages in our 4-2-5 and 3-High Safety defense without changing the language. The 3-High Safety defense also gives us the ability to run different variations of drop 8 coverages.
The Basics If you aren’t familiar with the 3-High Safety defensive structure, here is a look at our base alignment to a 2x2 attached tight end formation.
Positionally upfront we play with an End (E), Nose (N), and End (E). At linebacker, we play with two in the box linebackers, our Mike (M) and Will (W). Our Sam (S) is a true field player. In the secondary, we play with two Corners (C), a Strong Safety (SS) which travels to the field, our Boundary Safety (BS), and our Star (ST). The Star is our middle safety.
Our Base Coverage We are a split field coverage team working in triangles. Our strong safety works with the Sam and the corner to their side and the boundary safety works with the will and the corner to their side. Our safeties align on the outside shoulder pad of the #2 WR to their side. Based on their alignment, they decide if they can give help to the corner to their side. If they do think they can give help they will put us in a “Read” (Cover 2) call to that side. This means all three defenders are going to read off the #2 WR’s release. If the safety does not think they can give help they will put us in a “Nail” (Cover 4) call to their side. In both coverages, the Mike is going to have eyes to #3.
We are a +1 mentality to the box and because we often count the Star as a run-first defender, we utilize him as a "takeaway” defender in our base coverage. This simply means that we will utilize the Star to take away something the opposing team does well in the passing game. We also can add him on to the rush or use him as a spy vs. a mobile quarterback.
Alignment: 1x 6-7 yds I/S Responsibility: Flat/Deep Quarter Key: #2 Goes in - Sink with #1 Goes out – Drive Flat Goes Vert – Use Mesh technique on #1
Alignment: O/S Shoulder of #2 10-12 yds Responsibility: Deep Half Key: #2 / Skooch steps at the snap Goes in – Eyes to #1 Goes out – Over the top of #1 Goes Vert – Man to Man
Alignment: 1x 6-7 yds I/S Responsibility: Deep Quarter Key: Mesh technique on #1. If #1 is under, zone off
Alignment: O/S Shoulder of #2 10-12 yds Responsibility: Deep Quarter Key: #2 / Flat Foot Goes in – Eyes to #1 Goes out – Eyes to #1 Goes Vert – Man to Man