Flexible gap-control defense.
Many high school football coaches who play a set defensive front are likely to have problems adapting to their changing personnel year after year, especially on the small-school level.
Ordinarily, when a coach begins changing his philosophy every year, he is going to have a lot of trouble maintaining the consistency of his program.
But philosophy is not written in cement. There are times when a change can produce a little magic. It happened to us several years ago when, after several lackluster seasons at Trego Community, my defensive coordinator, Brad Starnes, and I installed a flexible, multiple front, gap-control defense that enabled us to create havoc in our league.
The defense was premised on the Pro 4-3 and, along with our blitz scheme, gave us a very aggressive package that worked against every offense we faced. It helped us qualify for the state playoffs in 1995 and '96, culminating in a defense that gave up only seven points per game and produced four shutouts.
For an understanding of our fronts and alignments, you have to start with our techniques [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 1 OMITTED] and gap assignments [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 2 OMITTED].
Base Front, "22 Cover 2" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 3 OMITTED]. The call of the defensive front is derived from the alignment of our DTs, starting with the weak DT. We determine the strength of the offense by the location of the TE and/or the TE and FL.
Our MLB (Mike) calls the strength at the LOS.
We feel that it is easier to align the DTs and have the LBs carry the load and make sure everyone else aligns properly in the box.
"22" means that both DTs align in two techniques. We always call the front first, the blitz scheme second, followed by the coverage call (hand-signalled in by the defensive coordinator).
In "22" the DTs are B-gap responsible, the DE's C-gap responsible, and the OLBs (Sam and Will) D-gap responsible.
The MLB (Mike) aligns 4.5 yards over the C and is responsible for both A gaps.
Sam always aligns over the TE. If there are no TEs, he will align over the strong-side TE.
The Corners level the wide receivers, funnel them inside, and play the force, while the Safeties play deep halves coverage.
Note: The Corners and Safeties line up the same way (as above) in Diags. 4 through 9.
In "22 Switch" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 4 OMITTED], the OLB's (Sam and Will) switch responsibilities with the DE's. The DE's will align in a six technique over the TE's (outside the OT's if there is no TE) and play the D-gap.
Sam and Will will flex back to 4.5 yards over the OT's, even with Mike, and play the C-gap to their side.
In "13" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 5 OMITTED], the weak DT aligns in a one technique over the OG and plays the weak A-gap, while the strong DT aligns in a three technique over the OG and plays the strong B-gap.
In "13 Switch" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 6 OMITTED] Sam and Will flex back to 4.5 yards over the OT's and become C-gap responsible. The DE's move over the TE's in a six technique and play the D-gaps. Everyone else aligns as in "13."
"11 Tilt" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 7 OMITTED]: gives us a change-up inside as we will tilt both DT's in at 45-degrees in one technique and tell them to create havoc in the A-gaps. Mike then becomes a B-gap player to both sides of the ball. Everyone else aligns as in "22." This alignment has been good to us over the past few years in short-yardage situations as it helps take away the QB sneak and FB dive.
"33" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 8 OMITTED] gives us a 6-2 look. Both DT's align in three techniques over the OG's and become B-gap responsible. The DE's align in four techniques over the OT's and play the C-gaps. Mike flexes back over the weak OG at four yards and is weak A-gap responsible, while Sam flexes back even with Mike and plays the strong A-gap.
Will aligns in a six technique over the weak TE and plays the weak D-gap. If there is no TE to his side, Will will align outside the OT on the LOS and still play the D-gap. In certain situations, we will flex Will back to 4 yards outside the weak OT.
Keeping Will on the LOS keeps the offense honest because someone must be accountable for blocking him in passing situations. If the offense forgets about Will, he will get a "kill" shot on the QB. This will usually free one or both of the ILB's to blitz.
We will adjust our secondary coverage to cover three because we will move the SS up on the LOS over the Strong TE in a six technique. He now becomes D-gap responsible.
In passing situations, we simply tell the SS to play the fiat routes or run with TE when he runs a flat route. The Corners play the deep outside thirds, while the FS plays the deep middle third.
"03" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 9 OMITTED] is our last look, except for our goalline package. This front resembles a 5-3, with the weak DT aligning in a zero technique over the OC and playing a strong A-gap. The strong DT aligns in a three technique over the strong OG and is B-gap responsible.
The weak DE slides down one man over the weak OG in a two technique and plays the weak B-gap, while the strong DE aligns in a four technique over the strong OT and is B-gap responsible.
Sam and Will align as in "22" and become D-gap players.
Max flexes back at 4.5 yards to align over the C and plays the weak A-gap on weakside plays. On strongside plays, he is free to scrape to the ball since all strongside gaps are accounted for.
We usually play cover 2 in this front, but we can move the SS up over the TE in a six technique, as in "33," and flex Sam back at 4.5 yards over the strong T [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAG. 10 OMITTED]
We then tell Sam to find the football. We would play Cover 3 in this adjustment.
Jeff Fuss, Football Coach, Lakin (KS) HS