Monday, May 6, 2013

The Birthplace of the Pistol: 2013 Nevada Spring Game

While in Reno for the California State Athletic Director's Association yearly conference (yes, a state conference was held outside of the state), some of our coaching staff took the time to take in the Nevada spring game and get an up close and personal view of where the Pistol began.

Traditionally, we have been a flexbone, inside veer/midline team that also got into shotgun, predominantly to throw the ball. One problem we consistently ran into was a lack of a similar running game out of shotgun.

Now, we are going to begin infusing a Pistol look as our base backfield set. We will be able to keep the rest of the offense pretty similar, but will have to re-tool the mesh and steps for the QB, fullbacks and slotbacks.

Leading up to the game I read a fair amount of local newspaper articles and new Head Coach Brian Polian noted that they would be pretty vanilla on both sides of the ball as not to give anything away for their opening game.

Nevada used 11's personnel and this look A LOT!

Some quick things I took from the Wolf Pack Spring Game:

#1 - Nevada lived in 11's (1-back, 1-TE) personnel. They moved their H-back/TE around a lot pre snap with different motions and he was always on the move post snap, crossing the formation to kick out a DE or lead up on a LB.
#2 - Different plays looked extremely similar from a big picture standpoint. This constantly put the DE's in conflict. Nevada primarily ran inside zone, Power and a Power Read.

Count the numbers... How do you not run some sort of option football?

#3 - Their biggest play was consistently the Power Read. especially when their athletic QB pulled the ball and got to the perimeter.
#4 - Offensive linemen splits differed throughout the game. I'm sure this is an adaptation to the play call. The guard-to-center split varied from about one to three feet and the guard-to-tackle split varied from about two to three feet.
#5 - I was impressed with how well the defense tackled throughout the game. They were extremely effective in open field situations.

Friday, April 12, 2013

How to play with pressed CBs in Cover 4

I had the chance to listen to Michigan State Defensive Back Coach Harlon Barnett speak at the 2013 AFCA Convention.

Prior to the clinic, I had heard about the Spartans' use of pressed cornerbacks in their version of Cover 4. I was hesitant to give that version a shot because it seemed as if it would further isolate my corners, and it would also be difficult to play our version of 2-Read coverage.

After hearing Coach Barnett speak, I opened my mind a little bit and might use some pressed corner looks this summer.

Here's some notes from the nearly hour long lecture...


Key Points
- CBs line up 2-3 yards inside #1 WR
- If #1 WR is inside the divider, the CB lines head up
- Safeties line up 1x9 outside of the End Man on Line of Scrimmage
- Safety on weak side makes "MOD" call, which means "Man on Demand" or stay in man
- Safety on strong side makes "Box" call. The safety will take #2 man-to-man on any route over 10 yards. If #2 is not vertical past 10 yards, he will find the QB and play the football.
- The CB on the strong side has #1 on any route over 5 yards. On any route under 5 yards, he zones off his 1/4.
- If #2 is a TE or RB, you step downhill on the snap
- Eye control: Safety keys #2  (w/ no TE, key guard)
- Backside Safety has cutback (creates 9-man front)


- To the 3 WR side, the Spartans play "Midpoints". The CB splits #1 and #2 at 8 yards and plays the ball. The S splits #2 and #3 and plays the ball. The safety will key #3 and lean towards him on any vertical route. Basically, they are playing Cover 3 to this side.
- To the 2 WR side, Michigan State can play a ton of calls... Read (2-Read), Box, Cloud, Dog (2-Man)
- If hurt by quick game, play man


- Weak side CB plays "MOD"
- Weak side safety is in a B-10 alignment (B gap at 10 yards).
- Weak side safety makes a "Yo-Yo" call, which means he will take #3 on the any vertical route.
- Can play any coverage call to the #1 and #2 WR to the strong side.
- Strong side safety is 1x10 off the #2 WR, not the ball.

General notes
- Using a pressed corner forces the WR to be predictable when running routes
- Using a pressed corner forces the WR to bubble his release which messes up timing
- Using a pressed corner takes away the easy quick game, which is one of the pitfalls of Cover 4
- Safeties use a slightly staggered stance with inside foot up. Inside foot should move first.
- Press: Off-hand jam aiming for near pec
- CBs read WR hips through "Move" area (0-18 yards)
- CB needs to cutoff and control after the "Move" area. CB needs to keep running.
- CBs will use an outside alignment in "Read" (2-Read) unless the WR is outside the divider

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Defending 11's Personnel with the 4-2-5

One question that consistently gets asked on and one I get a fair amount of questions on is how to line up or defend 11's personnel with the 4-2-5.

The greatest asset of the 4-2-5 is its flexibility and that comes in handy when defending 11's personnel.

In my eyes, there are three basic 11's personnel formations you will see:

#1. Pro Ace
#2. Pro Trips Ace
#3. Pro Trey Ace

Of course there are plenty of variations with receiver and back alignment, shotgun, pistol and other looks, but we'll stick with those three.

To simplify things, I will line up and play base defense in one of two ways:

#1. If I want to stop teams that run predominantly to the TE side, I will play an Under front and Cover 3.

#2. If I want to stop a strong passing attack, I will play an Over front and Cover 4.

Easy enough?

Let's assume we are in the middle of the field

We'll start with what I call Pro Ace.

We call our Over front "Tight", which tells our (M)ike LB to set the front strength to the TE side. Across the front, we are in a 6i, 3, 1 and 5. The (F)ree Safety will set the secondary strength to the passing strength, so he will make a "Right" call here. Both our F and (W)eak Safety will make a check to their side based on their rules. With a #2 detached to the free side, we make a "Read" call and play 2-Read. With 1-back and 1-WR to the weak side, we make a "Read" call and play 2-Read.

We call our Under front, "Split Tough". Split tells the M to set the front to the split end side (or away from the TE) and Tough tells our safeties to play 1x1 off the TE. Normally if our (H)ammer or weakside end gets a TE to his side, he gets in a 6i and makes a "G" call which tells the (N)ose to move from a 1 to a 2i. When we use our "Tough" call, the ($)trong Safety will tell the H "Tough", which tells him to stay in a 5 and cancel the "G" call.

When we play Cover 3, we set the secondary strength to the TE side when one is present. This allows us to put our $, who is usually the better run defender out of him and the W, to the TE side. He is usually a better player for us at playing on a TE as well. We play Cover 3 with similar rules to Saban's Rip/Liz, with some notable differences, but our $ and W will carry the vertical of #2 until #1 comes shallow. Our F splits the #2's (here, the TE and slot WR) and plays high hole.

Moving on to Pro Trips Ace...

We use automatic trips checks for different formations. I won't signal in that we are going to play Special Sky, we will just game plan it that way. I just signal in we are playing Cover 4 here. Again, we are in an Over front and the F is setting the secondary strength to the 3 WR side. We run Special by playing man-to-man on #3 and playing 2-Read to #2 and #1. On the weak side, we play Sky.

Again, when we play Cover 3, we will set the secondary strength to the TE and our F will adjust if he needs to. We are in "Split Tough" (Under) up. Our F is now taking the vertical of #3 to #2, the W is carrying #2 vertical and our (C)orner has the vertical of #1.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2012 in Review: Cover 0 Blitzes

Our defense bases out of zone coverage.

When we want to bring pressure, we do so predominantly out of Cover 3. But, we also have a Cover 0 package as well.

Our Cover 0 pressures are categorized two ways: Bomb (Linebackers) and Bullets (Safeties).

When we run Cover 0, we do so to effect the quarterback in the passing game and to bring additional defenders to the party in the run game. It's also a pretty common short-yardage call for us.

In our Bomb blitzes, our Cornerbacks take #1 man-to-man, our free safety takes #2 to the passing strength man-to-man, our weak safety takes #2 to the away side man-to-man (or the back out his way in 2-back). Our strong safety takes the running back (or the back to the passing strength in 2-back).

We ran 23 bomb blitzes over the course of 11 games this season and gave up only 47 yards (2.04 average), and added an interception and two sacks.  On the flip side though, we gave up seven touchdowns.

So, what do these numbers mean?

Well, at first glance, it would seem that our Bombs were go big or go home plays. Further digging revealed that six of the touchdowns were given up inside the 10-yard line. The only score we gave up outside of the 10-yard line was a 20-yard pass for a TD on a first down.

In our Bullets blitzes, we send both safeties against two back sets. When the offense presents a one-back formation, our weak safety will make a you/me call to the LB on his side and that LB will replace him on the blitz while the weak safety takes #2 man-to-man. Otherwise, every other defender does exactly as he does in the Bombs.

When we ran our 18 Bullets blitzes last season, we allowed 3.83 yards per play and three total touchdowns while forcing a fumble and collecting two sacks. Two of the three touchdowns came inside the 10-yard line and the biggest play we gave up was 32 yards on a 4th and 7.

Looking at the numbers would make it seem like we had a fair amount of success blitzing out of Cover 0. We may look to use those blitzes in more than just short-yardage and goal line situations and use them on early downs as well. Cover 0 doesn't play into my normal, bend, but don't break philosophy, but I also like to get out of my tendencies when I can.

A lot will ride on how good our secondary can play man-to-man against some of the more athletic teams we see throughout our league schedule.

Any thoughts on trends/stats that I'm missing or not seeing through the correct lens?