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The X factor: your secret weapon on defense. (Football).

PROBABLY EVERY defensive coach has his own idea on how to defense a single dominant offensive player. He may be a star runner, a scrambling quarterback, or a top receiver. The outcome of the game will often be determined by how well you shut him down.

At Grossmont Community College, we do it with what we call the "X Factor." X is responsible for the adjustments we use to stop the big threat.

He is usually a strong-safety type, but could be a nickel back, a linebacker, or possibly a defensive lineman.

He must be intelligent and a top defensive playmaker--the kind of player who enjoys studying game film and could become a coach when his playing days are over.

As you can see in Diag. 1, we align 10 of the 11 defensive regulars in a traditional 52 front. Their assignments do not vary. They are as follows:

N--plays the gap on either side of the center vs the run and compresses the pocket vs the pass.

T--plays the gaps on either side of the OT vs the run and contains the QB vs the pass.

S and W (OLB)--force vs the run toward him; cut back vs the run away and play the curl-flat zone on a pass drop.

M (ILB)--plays inside-out vs the run and covers the hook-curl zone on pass drop.

C's--contain on run toward them, execute safety-pursuit on a run away, and drop into the three-deep zone on a pass drop.

FS--supports the alley vs a run and moves into the three-deep zone on a pass drop.

As you can see in Diags. 2-8, the X man adjusts to the dominant offensive man. His major challenge is the great running back. Diags. 2 and 3 show two of the ways he stops the opponents' best running plays.

Diag. 2, X aligns toward the run tendency. When the opponents are in an I formation, as shown, they will run at the TE (Y) 85% of the time.

X will align accordingly, bringing an eighth defender into the box. X will key the best running back.

Diag. 3 shows the alignment of X toward the formation tendency, and how he adjusts to motion based upon the scouted tendencies.

Diag. 4 delineates the pass coverage vs a great pass-catching running back. X aligns toward the run tendency. If the back motions out to the slot, as shown, X will react with tight man-to-man coverage. Since he knows that he has help over the top, he can be very aggressive.

The talented pass receiver offers another common challenge. Two situations are addressed with the X factor.

Diag. 5 shows the defense vs potential hitch and fade by the tall/fast receiver. The X goes nose-to-nose with him, applying tight man-to-man coverage. Since he knows that he has zone help over the top, he can play the man very aggressively.

Diag. 6 shows a defense against a top receiver aligned in the slot to create coverage mismatch vs a linebacker. X applies a tight man-to-man coverage against the slot man--again knowing that he has zone help over the top and can thus play aggressively.

The X factor can also be employed to pressure the quarterback, as shown in Diag. 7. The pressure is exerted by X from the secondary. X makes it appear that he is playing tight man-to-man coverage, but on the snap he blitzes from the edge.

Diag. 8 shows the exploitation of a mismatch on the line of scrimmage. The best pass rusher substitutes for the normal X man. He aligns on the offense's weakest pass blocker and gets a free rush.

Summary: The X factor offers several advantages:

It enables the defense to take the best offensive player out of the game.

It is very simple to learn.

It can confuse the offense with adjustments that are difficult to read.

By using various personnel as X, it can simplify short-yardage and nickel packages.

Line slants, stunts, and blitzes can be easily incorporated into the scheme.
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Author:Burton, Brad
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Words:671
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