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Gaming from the Danger Defense!

How to get as many players as you can to the football as quickly as you can

Most high school football coaches resign themselves to playing a safe, maximum coverage defense, one that rarely blitzes and that uses a "bend but don't break" approach.

Against a superior team with a great shotgun or drop-back passing game, many coaches will opt for maximum coverage and either a 3, 4, or 5-man rush. They believe that by blanketing the zones they can avert the ultimate disaster - the long bomb.

The philosophy of maximum coverage also holds that any time a short pass is completed, the defense will have enough backs and linebackers to drop into their respective zones to prevent a score.

Against a team with a great option or running attack, these same coaches will insist on playing a reading defense, with little or no penetration by linemen or linebackers - often creating some bad match-ups in one-on-one or two-on-one situations.

The end result is a steady movement of the chains downfield by the opposing offense and a steady succession of lost defensive opportunities to gain good field position for the offense.

At Calhoun City, we subscribe to a different defensive approach - a "Danger Defense" that has enabled us to hold our opponents to 109.6 yards per game over the past two years during which we won 24 of our 29 games and advanced to the state Class 2 semi-finals one year and to the championship game the next.

Our Danger Defense believes in living dangerously, using a minimum coverage and a maximum rush. To get as many players to the football as we can as quickly as we can, we do three things:

1. Place as many players "in the box" as is feasible against the particular offensive formation.

2. Obtain strong man-to-man coverage by our secondary.

3. Use a wide array of blitzing and stunting schemes to confuse the blocking schemes and pressure the ball.

This philosophy is based on two theories: Vs. the run: Limit the amount of space and time that a running back can have to run the football; Vs. the pass: Limit the time the QB has to pass the football.

Though we use this base defense out of a 4-4 alignment, you may choose to confine this approach to certain situations.

Either way, it can spice up a defense that has been taking a constant pounding week after week by people with superior talent.

Following are four of the simple "games" we use. They'll give you an idea of the infinite number of looks and games that you can play with a well-disciplined blitzing defense.

You may place them in your playbook to spice up your defensive package and give you a new dimension with which to pressure the football. They will force your opponents to spend a lot of valuable weekly practice time preparing for the multitude of looks you can throw against them.


The Fan Game takes advantage of teams which primarily run from a base blocking scheme (head-up on or off the LOS). The defensive tackles, who usually align head-up on the offensive guards, execute a "fan" stunt at the snap. They attack low and hard to the right, aiming across the OT's face.

What usually happens is that the guards will go outside with the OTs, forcing the OTs to either block the charging DTs or be picked off by the linebacker they are attempting to block.

In other words, we want to entertain four offensive linemen with our two tackles [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 1 OMITTED].

The "fan" stunt always involves a double inside "A" gap LB blitz behind it. This puts the center in a pickle, as he has to cover both "A" gaps [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 2 OMITTED].

We can further complicate the center's job by having the inside LBs execute an "X" or "I" blitz behind the fan. In the "X" blitz, the LBs will blitz into the opposite "A gap [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 3 OMITTED].

In the "I" blitz, the LBs will align in a stack and quickly cross into the "A" gaps [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 4 OMITTED].

These two misdirection blitzes will almost guarantee that one of the two inside LBs will have an unobstructed path to the ball.


The Twist Game, primarily a third and long call, is a great pass rush stunt designed to exploit offenses that zone-block against the blitz.

The tackles align in a head-on technique and charge into the opposite "A" gap on the snap [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 5 OMITTED]. It does not matter who goes first, but it is a good idea to change the sequence in the course of the game. We practice it both ways.

The logic behind the call is that the opposing center will take the first DT to cross his face. Since the tackle will be charging head on into the guard, he (G) will be forced to do the same.

This will create a two-on-one situation. The backside tackle will charge tightly (off the center's hip) into the other gap, forcing the other OG to block down on him [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 6 OMITTED].

Against a single tight-end set, we will give the DE on the tight-end size a "crash" call, having him charge hard into the OT's outside shoulder, forcing the tackle to entertain him [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 7 OMITTED].

The stunt works even better against a no tight-end set, where both defensive ends will charge hard, where both DEs charge hard to the QB, forcing the OTs to take them.

These actions by the tackles and tight ends will free up either one or both inside LBs, both of whom will be on a straight double "B" gap blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 8 OMITTED], an X blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 9 OMITTED], or an I blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 10 OMITTED].


The Pinch Game is great against run or pass. We once again entertain the center, keeping him off our inside LBs.

Both DTs align in a head-up. technique and charge into the "A" gap tightly [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 11 OMITTED] - aiming at the C's hip. Both tackles cross the face of the OGs, forcing them to go with them.

The center has a major hardship: both tackles are converging upon him, forcing him to stay in and block one or the other [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 12 OMITTED].

We will often perform our crash call with the strong-side DE, forcing the OT to block him. Again, we run the double LB blitz behind the pinch, using the straight double "B" gap blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 13 OMITTED], the X blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 14 OMITTED], or the I blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 15 OMITTED].


The Thumb Game provides another great pass rush stunt, especially to the weak side of a single tight-end set, or to both sides in a no tight-end set.

This game is especially confusing against offenses that base or zone-block the pass.

The DTs align in an outside technique (guards' outside shoulder or guard-tackle gap) and the DE aligns in a head-up position on the OT.

On the snap [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 16 OMITTED], the DE charges hard inside through his near "B" gap and the DT charges hard outside, turning upfield right off the DT's butt. His job is to contain the "C" gap.

If you "thumb" both sides, the call becomes "Double Thumb" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 17 OMITTED]. What will often happen is that the OG and OT will block the DE or, in some cases, the OG will vacate and go with the OT.

Either way, this will leave a gaping hole in the center of the LOS, forcing the center to do the impossible - block both inside LBs, who are executing their double blitz [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAMS 18-20 OMITTED].

To further complicate things for the offense, we usually blitz one or more inside LBs. This serves to entertain any blocking backs who are tempted to pick up one of the charging inside LBs.

In order to further enhance our success, we have to teach the LBs to blitz "smart" - never run by a potential receiver. They must read on the run and pick up any running backs who cross through the middle.

The outside LBs will, of course, be responsible for any running backs who flow into the flats.

Remember, these four simple "games" are only a small part of the Danger Defense. Any time a dominant offense constantly moves the ball on you, show them that you are not afraid to live dangerously.

You never know ... it might be just what the doctor ordered!


Because of the aggressive nature of the Danger Defense (we blitz and stunt on every play), we have devised a simple way of teaching every part of the system. Each player is given only one blitz or stunt to execute on any given play.

We break the system down into three levels: (1) the front four (DTs and DEs), (2) the four LBs, and (3) the secondary, since we involve them in our blitzing scheme.

Tackle Techniques: The simplicity of our design is enhanced by our "count to four" method of aligning our DTs. They basically align over the OGs, varying their positioning through the use of four techniques:

1. A "one" technique - aligns in the gap to his left (between OT and OG).

2. A "two" technique - aligns on G's inside shoulder [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 21 OMITTED].

3. A "three" technique - aligns head-up on G [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAMS 1-10 OMITTED].

4. A "four" technique - aligns on G's outside shoulder [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAMS 17-20 OMITTED].


Our play-calling system is based on a four-part call:

1. DT Alignment: A two-digit call tells our DTs where to align. Example: "44" calls for both tackles to align in a four-technique on the guards [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAMS 17-20 OMITTED].

A "22" call would place both tackles in a two-technique on the guards [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 21 OMITTED]. By simply changing the sequence of these numbers, we can align in anywhere up to 16 different fronts.

2. DT Stunt: The second part of the call instructs our DTs to perform a different stunt, such as a "fan", "twist", "pinch", etc.

3. DE Call: DEs use their alignment rules to perform a particular stunt such as a "thumb" or "crash." If no call is made, the DEs must read and diagnose the play as it develops.

4. LB Blitz: Informs the LBs which blitz to execute.


A typical call would be "33 Pinch Crash" [ILLUSTRATION FOR DIAGRAM 22 OMITTED]. The DTs align in four techniques vs the OGs and OTs and execute a pinch stunt inside to cover the A gaps. Our DEs crash down into the C gaps, while the inside LBs carry out an X blitz into the B gaps.

These calls are hand-signalled to our defensive captain (in the huddle) by our defensive coordinator on the sideline. We expect every player to look to the sideline and watch for the signal that will pertain to him. This will prevent anyone from blowing a call in the heat of battle.
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Title Annotation:football defense
Author:Baughman, David
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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