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.