3-4, 4-3, or 5-2? Its All About Personnel

 Today I want to take a look at defining defensive concepts.  Many people new to the game of football look at the picture at the snap of the ball and try and determine what the defense is.  This is a classic mistake in defining defensive concepts.  All fronts are universal and can be played by any personnel grouping on the field at any time. Now with that said, that does not mean you will be successful with those fronts but you sure can play them.  For argument sake, i can play the under front with my 425 personnel at any time.  The problem is I am going to ask one of my safeties to play a 9 technique(outside eye of Tight End on the LOS) and put him in a position where the chances are he wont be successful.  That does not mean I cant play that front, it just does not make sense for me to do it.  Conversely I can play an okie front from my 425 personnel grouping and make my weak side DE play as an OLB. Again I would be putting a player in a position to fail, but yet can still play that front if I chose to.  A real good example of that is watching NFL Football games.  On 1st Down vs 21 Personnel you will see both 4-3 teams and 3-4 teams play an under front or a reduction front.  That does not mean they magically became 5-2 teams!!!!  They are playing the same front with different personnel.

4-3 Under Front 4 Hands Down
I want to take a look at playing Under Front concepts with 3-4 personnel while playing divorced front/secondary rules and check with me coverages.  Divorced front simply means the front six defenders are separate from the back 5 players and do not have to be set to the same side.  Check with me coverages mean your secondary players play their coverages based on the deployment of the receivers. It is the easiest way in junior high or high school football to play defense because you can get multiple reps playing the exact same coverages to the exact same looks the offense gives you.  Keep in mind the goal of this blog is to get our kids to play fast.  With that being said it may not be the most effective way for college or NFL teams to play because they want to show multiple looks and coverages and they have the teaching time and meeting time to do that.  I base all my theories around High School Football because that's the level I currently coach at.

With the under front you normally have the Sam LB tied to the front which technically makes it a 7 man front.  This gives you a little bit of a problem when the offense gives you conflicting formations.  What I mean by that is formations where the run strength is opposite the passing strength. So if the Sam LB goes with the run strength you wont be able to play your standard every down check with me coverages.  Now what you could do is have coverages that are tied to fronts but again I think that is asking too much of high school kids if they play both ways and multiple sports, and don't have 365 days a year to study defensive football.

Just A Thought
 So what I am going to suggest today is just an idea if you wanted to play under fronts while still teaching your kids standard check with me coverages.  Again I think it is OK to think outside the box and stray from the normal a little bit.  The reason I say that is because High School Football is far from the normal everyday football of college and the NFL.  If you look at the video chalk talk I am going through the way I would play divorced front check with me coverages with 3-4 personnel.  I am going to travel the Sam LB with the passing strength while allowing the Mike LB to set the front 6 to run strength.  There are only a few formations that will put you in a conflict and you may not see those formations a whole lot anyway, so to me it is the worth the time to teach it.  The reps the kids will get playing check with me coverages far outweighs the concern of conflicting formations.

This is not intended to be a 3-4 2 gap discussion as that is a completely different animal.  This is a discussion about defensive personnel and playing 1 gap football.

**Editorial Note** At the 18 minute mark or so I say 10 personnel when drawing an 11 personnel formation.  I am not smart enough to edit the video so this is my clarification.


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