Friday, July 24, 2009

Building Your Defense: Things To Consider

"Information is the absence of doubt" - Bill Gates

You can teach your kids everything in football, but if they don't know how to apply it (when they will see it and how it relates

  • WHAT offenses are in your conference?
  • WHAT defense are you going to base out of?
  • HOW are you going to defend those offenses from your base defense?
  • HOW ARE YOU GOING TO BUILD IT?
  • And when does each piece fit?
Week 1 of camp
basics, alignment & assignment and pursuit
Week 2 of camp
formation recognition / checks / rules
Week 1 of regular season
game plan adjustments to fit that offense specifically
Week 2 of regular season
game plan adjustments to fit that offense specifically
Week 3 of regular season
game plan adjustments to fit that offense specifically

If you don't face a team you would use Cover 2 / 4 against until week 3, then there is not much need to rush to get it installed before then.

If you are facing a lot of teams that never pass the ball, then forcing a 'victory' 2-man coverage in doesn't make much sense.

Think economically to build a momentum for mastering the basics you can build off of, then install for a purpose (game plan).

In a nutshell, REVERSE ENGINEER YOUR DEFENSE.

Eliminate the fluff - are the kids in efficient positions to do their job? Eliminate the stuff that just doesn't matter. The fancy names, the kooky plays, the crazy blitzes, the laundry list of coverages, the slogans.....cut the BS

Do they know their job? Is it simple enough, without any major adjustments (what really changes for them?) Are we giving them clear TRUE/FALSE singular decisions they can make at the snap within a second? If not, back to the drawing board.


1) Recognize play-side assignment and where they need to be immediately. If they aren't here - things are going to be fall apart

2) Tempo to play defense - there should be a timer going off in their head once the ball is snapped, that they need to be in a certain (hole /fit) within 2 -3 seconds).


Through constant TEAM pursuit drills, defining hustle required to play, and seeing where everyone else is on the defense (to your left & right) to get a comfort level of the support-fits.

I think defining the TEMPO has everything to do with becoming 'faster' on defense. It quickens the decision making and builds an attitude of anticipation. Defense should be played with great intensity, so realize this isnt' something you can hammer away at for hours on end. Get in, Get out, and be done - short bursts of relentless intensity.

The clock should be ticking for defenders just like it ticks for quarterbacks. The longer a play 'lives' the greater the damage a defense will likely be exposed to.

Each second should be counted like a rhythm;
1-one thousand, you should be stepping playside
2-one thousand, you should be squaring up playside
3-one thousand, somebody is getting lit up / you're in the gap

Most coaches waste waaaaay too much time simply because they aren't organized, and there is a lot of standing around, killing the tempo / attitude of defense. Know exactly what is coming now, next, and 30 minutes from now - KEEP THE KIDS MOVING.

Muscle-memory conditioning.....Pygmalion impartation of how to play defense. If we expect it from the players, WE (as coaches) better be hustling in and out of practice - lip-service won't get it done.

3) Block Destruction - The biggest intimidator on defense that causes hesitation and delay is for a player to handle blockers. The better equipped a defender is at getting off blocks and understanding true leverage and body positioning, the more confident he will be at attacking a gap or taking on offensive players. If you can spend 5 minutes a day on block destruction leverage / technique your players will be considerably more aggressive in attacking the LOS to make plays.

What I'm directly talking about to make the defense "faster" isn't so much to do with scheme or technique, but more along the lines of a defensive R4 / C4 ala Darin Slack. Nothing ground-breaking, just streamlining the process of playing for better (quicker) performance. Call it Gestalt modality, or as Carl Von Clausewitz puts it, in On War, the strike of the eye. Taking the premise of the book as it explores Napoleon's strength, what made him such an effective general, was his ability to piece together previous engagements (having not fought) and see the end game of the tactics. Clausewitz calls this "the glance" that once seeing the pattern, the individual can piece together the successive moves. Something like 'intelligent memory applied to new situations' (new combination of previous elements).

This is why I HATE trying to take new players and immerse them into the 10 different nuances of blocks and such - it is sensory overload. Handle the main thing, TO & AWAY and the appropriate response. I would like to get to a point where we develop powerpoint flash cards of the 36" window run fits look like(train them to NOT look at the entire field and get lost), to train defensive players to train their eyes to see, specifically, where they are affected, and where their eyes should train to next.....so it is a;

  • full picture of the half-man guard to the half-man tackle
  • next slide is the half-man guard becomes a whole-man guard (reach)
  • next slide is focusing on the far shoulder of the guard to attack the stretching gap
  • next slide is into the backfield, locating the angle of the back en route to the D gap.
Training the MENTAL progression of where you need to be on specific action TO & AWAY, so there is no hesitation. This foundation of knowing location and player-to-field-position relativity, creates a structure of mastering these looks before even going out and playing them. A sort of deja vu, "I've seen this and how it was done before..." trigger, affording the player the creativity to deal with each situation that arises without being totally up the creek.

The bare bones of this thinking is found in the IN-AT-OUT drill for LBs
Instead of showing them THIS

We show the THIS

Which progresses to to


THIS is their offense...
THIS is why they do it....
THIS is what gives them fits....
THIS is how we can screw this up.....

It starts with compartmentalizing the looks you'll see out of base formation.
The alternative sets (what still is applicable and what ISN'T).
Then work the areas of the field, what they'll do and where (on the field).The scripted scout sessions are like;
2nd & 7+
inside the 40's
1st & 10
on their 20 - 35....

All the while keeping a consistent teaching method.

  1. Call the defense to run
  2. Call out the D & D.
  3. Make the defense align properly to the formation
With the formation presented, you can have the players call & response the threats on that D&D and formation.[i.e.; Backed up in their 10, Power-I...."Strong Power!" or "Weak Counter!"]

It is conditioning your kids to say, "okay, X,Y, & Z....so P,D, & Q are irrelevant "(don't have to worry about Dig / Cross inside the 10 yd line......don't have to worry about speed option inside their 15)

This is best emphasized in understanding what, specifically teams run out of Pro, Twins, and Trips looks to the strong/weak side of your defense.

For example, by formation, the WLB should always be expecting Lead Iso versus I formation or I-weak split.....but not at all versus I-strong split or ace formation. Without having to worry about weak Iso, that WLB should progress his thinking to look for the expected primary threat (based on formation)

It is about teaching (pattern) recognition...when you SEE this, in THIS situation, EXPECT this

This is how you do it at the college level. Look at the NFL Scouting report PDFs floating around - that is how they do it. When you take your game log / scouting reports and put them in a pivot table, you can see the trends based the various factors. If you can plot / predict the trend, you have a good feel for that coordinator's fingerprint.Kids already do this extremely well intuitively......it is the basis of video games.

You can use the week of practice to get ready for your opponent OR you can use the week of practice as a "football camp" where you defend every offense and block reaction.....Which one will better prepare you for Friday night?

1 comment:

Ted C is Me said...

Eliminate the fluff - are the kids in efficient positions to do their job? Eliminate the stuff that just doesn't matter.

Or, as Bruce Lee put it in The Tao of Jeet Kune Do,

"It's not daily increase but daily decrease - hack away the unessentials!"

Great stuff!

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