1 High 2 High Beaters in The Quick Passing Game


 The 3 Step passing game is all about rhythm.  The routes and the release of the ball must be timed up exactly in order to effectively execute the quick passing game.  Nobody got the ball out quicker than Dan Marino.  When I think ball out quick with my QBS I think Dan.  The 3 Step game needs to be an extension of your perimeter run game.  It should be used not only to convert crucial 3rd and 2-3's but also as a positive first down play that gets you into 2nd and 3-6. I want to take a look at packaging quick game concepts that give a coordinator and a QB the chance to be successful every time the quick game is called.

Lets take a look at packaging coverage beaters in your quick game as opposed to mirrored routes on each side that lead to route conversions and headaches.  When I was a young receiver the quick passing game was always mirrored to each side and we had to learn to convert routes based on coverage.  That meant the QB and the WR had to be on the same page.  I can't tell you how many times I ran Hitch and the QB threw Fade or I ran Fade and the QB threw Hitch.  No matter how much time we spent on it there was always a grey area in the game that made it difficult.  Good DB'S would stem and jockey their position pre snap and paint a different picture. About 10 years ago I was at a clinic and I heard a guy talking about the quick game and coverage beaters.  It made perfect sense to me. It gave the QB the chance to be successful without relying on the route conversion dilemma.  Also in the day and age of "up tempo" offenses it gave the coach a chance to call better routes based on the coverage he saw at the line.  30 Years ago we used to call Quick Hitch in the huddle and had no clue what the coverage was going to be.  Now when you are on the ball playing at a fast pace you have a better chance to see coverages and make better calls.

We want to give the QB a soft coverage beater, and a hard coverage beater.  We talk in terms of 1 High and 2 High beaters but in essence it is really beating a soft flat or a hard flat.  We like to combine the Hitch routes with backside double Slants.  The QB will always check the Hitch Side first and throw that way until the defense absolutely takes it away.  I think the Hitch is the highest percentage pass in High School football and a ball almost every HS QB, in every program can throw. If they take the Hitch away then we will progress to the double Slant side. The reason we run double Slant as opposed to Slant Arrow is because the double Slant is a better Cover 2 beater.  If they roll up the corners and play hard Cover 2 the slant arrow is a dead play.  Will eats up the Slant and the Corner crucifies the Arrow.  The double Slant allows you to isolate that Will LB and make him choose the route he needs to defend.  If you are getting press man then the double Slant route should be equally as effective.  In this scenario I only need my QB to be right, not my QB and my WR to be right. We will NEVER convert 3 step passing game routes.  The WRS will run their routes regardless of the coverage they see.  The other combination we like to use is the Fade/Vertical on one side and the Out/Hitch on the other side.  The Fade side is the Hard coverage beater.  The QB will look Fade side first and if it is a Hard coverage he will throw the Fade/Vertical all day.  Hard coverage means the DB is up inside of 4 yards from the receiver.  It could be Cover 2 or a Man concept but he is up tight.  If the coverage is soft with the DB playing off we will throw the Out/Hitch combo to the soft side.  Because we are no huddle I have the chance to see the structure of the coverage before I call the play so I can be pretty certain I can call the right combinations.  There have been some defenses that have fooled me and the QB and at that point your QB must throw it away or scramble back to the Line of Scrimmage.  The quick game needs to consist of high percentage throws, with timing and rhythm being the key.  Its a great way to attack weaknesses in defenses while keeping your success rate extremely high.

Slant and Angle with Split Field Coverage


 When you think of the 50 defense with a slant and angle package it's almost impossible not to think of Michigan and Coach Schembechler.  I started out as a 3-4 guy and used a ton of slant and angle stuff to get some movement with undersized kids and make the defense a 1 gap philosophy.  The only problem I had was I always played Cover 3 behind it and rolled a safety down opposite the movement.  That left me with an 8 man box vs. 2 back Pro I teams and I wanted to recreate the 9 man box that 1/4 1/4 1/2 coverage gave me.  About two years ago I switched over to the 425 scheme and I have never looked back.  The problem with the 425 is it can get a little "STATIC" by nature if you do not move enough to protect it.  My coaching mentor Joe Delgais always said to me "Hey Mac ever notice why at every clinic offensive coaches draw all their stuff up to even fronts?"  His point was almost every coach can block the standard even front.  Now I move a bunch in the 425 and I have also built in a 3-3 stack package and a 3-4 Dime package to create more confusion for the offensive line and offensive coordinator.

I wanted to come up with something that allowed me to slant angle but also play my base 1/4 1/4 1/2 coverages behind it.  The traditional way always had you slanting to the field, or the boundary, or the tight, or the split, or the back. The problem with that for me was I never knew what formation I was getting so I always played standard Cover 3 with a roll down safety replacing the OLB that went with the front. So I came up with a Dime Slant and Angle Package that allowed me to Slant based on formation so I could always set my base coverage behind it.  It is a complete trade off for me in that I can always play my base coverage behind it, but I can't choose as many elaborate ways to slant.  I'm OK with that because this is a change up for me not a base package.  It is used to protect my even front 425 package.


As I mentioned earlier this is a Dime package for me.  I am going to remove my 3 Technique and add another safety.  I never change sides in my 3-4 package.  I will always leave the exact same players on the exact same sides regardless of formation.  Now I know there are some people that will get upset with that but it's OK for me, this is my team right!!! By adding a safety I can now play any version of my base coverages to any set the offense gives me.  Please keep in mind this is used predominantly vs spread offenses.  The concept is very simple, I will send the down safety from the side with the least amount of receivers and slant away from him.  If i get a 2x2 set I will always come from the right because that is the side of my Will LB who is used to hipping himself out to play Palms or 2 Read or Blue whichever term you are comfortable with.

If you look at the above diagram you can see a standard twins open 2 back set.  We will bring the safety from the single receiver side and slant the front away from that safety.  I can now play 2 Read to the FS side and Sky or Cloud to the Away side. This gets me right back to a 6 man box with a post snap 3 and 5 Tech and a 1 and 5 Tech.  Now your ILB's have to be smart enough to understand the open gap in front of them for their fits, not difficult.

If we get a 2x2 set we will always send the Right Down safety because that is the side the Will LB is on, and he is used to hipping out to handle #2 removed.  You can now play 2 Read or Robber to the FS side and 2 Read, Man, or Squat and halves to the away side.

Now take a look at 3x1.  We will send the down safety from the single receiver side and move the front away from him.  Because I have an extra safety in the game I can play my standard special coverage to the trips side and still play bracket Sky or Cloud to the single.  You could play Solo to trips if you wanted as well.

Simplifying Passing Concepts

Concept Passing
In a recent article by Chris Brown on Grantland he talks about the evolution of the passing game in the NFL and how it can be traced back to 3 main systems. These include Bill Walsh's West Coast offense, the Air Coryell offense, and the Erhardt-Perkins offense. I would like to elaborate on how I teach passing concepts for High School football which would fall under the Erhardt-Perkins method of concept passing.  The idea is based on making it easy for kids to understand routes based on where they are in the formation.  Our concepts will be taught using a Playside #1, #2, and #3 with a Backside #1 and #2 as well.  Once the concept is taught a player should be able to plug himself into any position in a formation and understand what route he has to run.  I will focus today's talk on 2x2, 3x1, and 2x1 formations that we use in our offense.

Playside #1-10 Yard Curl
Playside #2-6 Yard Spot
Playside #3-Arrow,Bubble,Swing(Depends on where #3 comes from)
Backside #1-10 Yard Post
Backside #2-6 Yard Spot

The above diagram has the Curl/Flat concept being run to the right out of a 2x2 formation.  We will use a half slide protection scheme with the oline, with the playside being man and the center turning with the backside in a zone protection concept.

The above diagram has the Curl/Flat concept being run from a 2 Back set with a play action fake off the zeer play I described in an earlier post.  Now #3 is the fullback who runs an arrow route instead of the swing route run by the TB in the 2x2 set.

The above diagram is the Curl/Flat concept being run in a 3x1 formation with TB becoming part of the zone side protection to help vs. a 4 man pressure weak.  If you were playing a 2 High 7 man front team you could just as easily release the TB weak or use him for play action and then release him after his blitz check responsibilities.  He could also stay in and help in protection if the other team has a potent pass rush.

As you can see from the diagrams it is very simple for us to run the curl/flat concept from any formation with minimal changes.  These concepts will be called in single words with protection/direction added which allows us to operate from our standard up tempo, no huddle procedure.

Playside #1-6 Yard Snag
Playside #2-10 Yard Corner
Playside #3-Arrow,Swing,Bubble
Backside #1-10 Yard Post
Backside #2-6 Yard Spot

The above diagram is our Snag, Corner, Flat concept being run out of a 2x2 set.  Any time we are in a 2x2 set the TB will short motion playside from the Pistol helping us gain leverage in the flat.  You would be surprised at how many OLB'S fly out with the TB motion opening up the Snag route. Again this will be half slide protection with the playside being man and the center turning backside to create the zone side.

The above diagram is the 3 Man Scat from a 2 Back set with play action off the zeer play.  Again notice the fullback as the #3 so he runs the arrow route to get leverage in the flat.  VS. 8 man fronts we can put the TB weak with the zone side if there is a tendency to bring 4 from a side.  

The above diagram is the 3 Man Scat from a 3x1 set.  Notice the bubble being run by #3 as the flat route.  Our QB'S throw the bubble a little better than the immediate arrow in 3x1 so we choose to run bubble.  The TB is part of weak side protection here but could easily be given another assignment if 4 from a side was not an issue.

Defending the Spread with Quarter's Concepts

Know thy Enemy, Know thy Self
Over the last 15 years, the evolution of the "Spread" offense has caused defense's to rethink how they want to defend the spread formations. The dilemma you are faced with now is whether or not you want to empty the box and defend the width of formations or stay tighter to the box to defend the Spread running attacks.  With the emergence of Quarterbacks as viable ball carriers, and the percentages of run/pass ratios in high school I tend to want to defend the running game first and make coaches and quarterbacks beat me with a consistent passing game.  I like to try and keep completions in front of me and make a high school offense drive the length of the field.
Give me 3 of Troy please
The advantage you have with the 425 is the 5 spoke secondary.  Playing the extra safety in the old fashioned "Nickle" spot allows more flexibility in coverage concepts.  For me I feel like I have more options VS 3x1 formations and a much easier time adjusting to Empty formations.  Let's first look at the standard options for 425 teams when facing 2x2 10 personnel sets.
Read Side Robber
Robber coverage to the read side is a standard for most 425 teams defending #2 removed in a 2x2 set.  This allows the Corner to be a deep half player and help on the deep outside routes of #2, which lets the down safety be the swing deep of #3 player and be in better position to handle the RB in the flat.  You may potentially lose the double on #1 if #2 runs the wheel route.
Read Side Quarters
You could stay Quarters coverage to the read side.  This would put the down safety on the flat route by #2 and he would be responsible for the wheel.  Now you can get the double team on #1 with the FS and Corner, but your Mike LB has a long way to run to handle the RB in the flats.
Read Side 2 Read
This is my favorite adjustment vs #2 detached but also comes with weaknesses.  Now the flat route by #2 will be handled by the corner as well as the wheel by #2.  The down safety is in a position to play the swing deep of #3 and RB in the flats removing pressure from the Mike LB.  The down safety will line up inside #2 which allows him to fold inside on runs quicker but opens up the field side flats.
My suggestion is to play 2 Read and either Quarters or Robber as a change up to keep the offensive coordinator guessing.

Away Side Man
The first option to the away side is playing man with the Weak Safety, Corner, and Will LB.  This option will help you defend the quick passing game and bubble screen game but leaves you vulnerable to big plays.  The Will LB can stay in the box which a lot of 425 teams opt for because it keeps his reads the same.  You will need to play end or backer force to that side.
Away Side Squat and Half
This is a traditional Cover 2 concept that is generally played into the boundary.  The Will LB may have to remove himself a little to help deny vertical entry on the #2 receiver.  The corner can play force and reroute #1 which will strengthen you vs perimeter runs and quick game.  Very hard to play in the MOF due to the distance of the corner as the force player, and the distance the Will may need to remove to help the Safety in the passing game.
Away Side 2 Read
Again this is my favorite adjustment vs 2x2 sets.  It allows you to play safety force instead of corner force.  Gives us pattern reading concepts that should be a little safer than man.  Also gives us a chance to play the bubble screens effectively.  The Will has to remove himself a little which changes his reads slightly, and is the reason most 425 teams like keeping him in the box.  If you study TCU they slide their backers a bunch and in my opinion don't always stay with the standard 4-2 box.
My suggestion is to play 2 Read in the MOF and Squat and Halves into the boundary.

Now let's take a look at 2 different 3x1 options sticking with the theory of split field quarters concepts.  Rolling to a 3 deep concept vs 3x1 is always an option but for the sake of this article lets stick to quarters adjustments.
The first adjustment is normally referred to as solo.  Keep in mind the reason we are making adjustments is because the Mike LB is a #3 vertical player in Quarters coverage.  If #3 is removed and he is a WR with speed that is not a good option.  Solo allows us to play the Read Side in standard 2 Read coverage.  The Corner and FS will play 2 Read on the #1 and #2 to the trips side.  The down safety will play his normal 2 Read assignment, lined up between #2 and #3 and he will be the curl/swing deep of #3 player.  The Weak Safety will be responsible for #3 vertical while the Mike LB becomes the short wall  of #3 player.  This adjustment makes the Away corner play man on the single and the Will LB play man on the RB if he releases to the single.  The Weak Safety needs to handle #3 vertical in the passing game, but also help on weak side runs.
This adjustment is an X out concept where we will man one of the trips side receivers.  By doing that we are effectively making the formation a 2x1 set so we can play it with base rules.  The read side corner will man the #1 receiver to the trips side.  The down safety and FS can now play 2 Read on the #2 and #3 receivers.  The Mike now becomes a curl dropper and his rule is #3 does not cross my face, #4 does not out leverage me.  The backside safety now drops down and plays flat force while the backside corner plays deep half.  we now bracket the single receiver and strengthen our weak side run game.

Here is a white board video on it, I hope it helps.

Building a Defense With the 4-2-5

Good Start

It has long been said that offense wins games but defense wins championships. So now you have your first Head Coaching job, or maybe your Head Coach comes to you in the off season and says you are the new Defensive Coordinator. OK that's great, now what do we do.  It can easily become so confusing. Should I play the 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5, 3-3-5, 3-5-3, 46, 52 monster? Man blitz or Zone blitz? Box or Spill? So you go to every clinic and every website known to man to come up with the perfect scheme.  Then it hits you.  There is no perfect scheme!!!  The perfect scheme is the one you can teach the best, and more importantly your kids can play the best.  In my opinion every coach should try and learn as much as possible to make themselves better. The best coaches then break that information down into what can my kids learn, and what can my kids play.

Always Teaching
 Let's take a look at what I think are some important things to consider when making your decision. Keep in mind this is for public high school football where you are playing with the cards you are dealt.
1)What is the talent level at my school?
2)How high is the football IQ of my players?
3)How high is the football IQ of my staff?
4)What do the teams in my conference run?
5)How can I be multiple enough to defend all the things I see in High School?

Now by no means am I saying this is the list Nick Saban or Bill Belichick use, but I think it's a pretty good foundation for a new defensive coordinator.  As a young Head Coach i fell into the same trap as a lot of inexperienced defensive coordinators. Every week was a defense of the week, coverage of the week, and blitz of the week.  I told people we played the under front, the over front, the double eagle front and the okie front. We played cover 2, cover 3, cover 4, cover 6, cover 8 and man free.  Every week I dialed up the newest exotic blitzes.  Well, we were not very good and it took me some time and reflection to realize I was the reason we were not good.  My kids had no chance to play fast because their assignments always changed.  We spent more time installing than we did practicing. After trying about everything I could I came across the 425 and never looked back.  For me, at my school, the 425 gives us the best chance for success and it gives my kids the opportunity to play simple, fast football while being multiple at the same time.

That Sounds Good I'll Try That
The 425 has built in flexibility that allows us to line up and compete every week regardless of the offensive scheme we are facing.  If we see a 2 back team we are an 8 man front.  If we see a spread team we can adjust to 2x2, 3x1, and empty formations with no personnel changes.  Not only does the personnel allow flexibility, but the divorced front and check with me coverage principles make it ideal for high school football.
Divorced front simply means the front 6 players and back 5 players work independently of each other.  We can set the front 6 to run strength while the back 5 go to passing strength.  Our coverages are all based off of receiver deployment. This idea comes directly from Gary Patterson's work at TCU.  We base out of 1/4 1/4 1/2 principles and allow our safeties to set the coverage based on the amount and type of receivers deployed to their side.

Here is a look at how we would align to some generic formations.  There will be some film cut ups and then a white board discussion video at the end. I hope this helps.

You Won't Play Good if You Don't Play Fast

**Just a note, late in the video I am talking about  2 Read and I say the FS releases under the LB'S.  I meant to say the #2 WR releases under the LB'S and the FS can double #1. ROOKIE.