Monday, August 30, 2010

Nick Saban: Cover 3 Adaptation (Mable/Skate) To 3x1

Continuing the review of handling one-back spread formations, the next logical step after you've accounted for 2x2, is how do you handle 3x1 (trips/trey)? All your adjustments to 2x2 can be pointless if you don't have a viable solution that can be 'broken' by a 3-receiver formation.
The Saban way of handling 3x1 out of Cover 3 is known as "mable", which is code for 'man'. This is actually a standard adjustment to trips if you're basing out of quarters. "Mable" (the same thing as "skate" in Cover 6), is manning the single-receiver backside, and pushing the zone coverage to the passing numbers. You're essentially playing zone front side and man backside.

The front side players will simply match the receiving threats as they normally would out of Cover 3. A lot can be assumed that the Cover 3 adjustments to spread are philosophical changes in how the secondary is played. Actually, that isn't the case - the 'secondary' teaching is quite subtle. The fulcrum of the Rip/Liz/Mable (3 deep zone) success is going to come with your inside linebackers. Those two players will control the guts of the coverage, and fully support everything that is being handled by the secondary.

As you can see by the diagram, nothing much changes with the secondary players. We will go over how the "alert" players (M&W) are to handle 3x1 formations:

btw - this becomes the "Zeke" adjustment to any trips look

This isn't a different coverage, just a built-in system for handling stressors of the base concept, and doesn't deviate much at all (from the call side) the standard pattern-match rules.

Let's go over the rules.....

In 3x1 (mable)
Will – backer to the single split side.
  • Back flow TO – match it (jump the flare)
  • Back flow AWAY – cut the 1st crosser
Mike – backer to 3 receivers (final 3 player) Related to #3 receiver after distribution
  • #3 is inside - ROBOT, depth and jump underneath inside breaking route
  • #3 is outside - push the strong hook
Sam – (to trips) Relate to #2 receiver after distribution.
  • #3 inside (M has him) depth and jump #2
  • #3 outside carry inside-underneath
Strong Safety – (to trips)Looking to jump the first underneath receiver. Relate to #1 receiver after distribution)
  • #2 outside – jump it
  • #2 inside (S has it) buzz underneath
Corner (to trips) simply plays old 2-to-1 read Cover 3 because he has to match the 1st vertical threat.

Again, as you see the reaction of the inside linebackers becomes the fundamental under current of Rip/Liz/Mable/Skate, allowing them to aggressively play run (flow) and put them in great leverage position based on this reaction. If those inside backers are trained appropriately, you will have an automatic response to handle most every route combination.

As a footnote, I'll just say that we've covered adaptations, the evolution, of standard zone coverage (by one who has been setting successful trends for a few decades). Saban, himself, doesn't just sit in one coverage throughout a game or rely on these rules / adjustments to beat-all. His defenses and how he uses/employs them is actually quite different. Using a 'pro approach', the defense is purely situational and will handle formations, D&D, areas of the field, differently and on a situation-by-situation basis.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blogger Addition: VassDiddy

He's the President of Punk.
The Earl of Funk.
The Duke of Cool.
The Ayatollah of Rock-and-Roll-a

.........and he's now blogging here!

Chris Vasseur, a long time friend and coaching cohort, is the epitome of coaching passion and youthful grind. Coach Vass has been coaching near a decade, spanning the football hotbeds of Florida to Northern California, and will be dropping encyclopedias of knowledge and insight.

He is a very welcome addition to the host of geniacs like Hemlock, Coach Hoover, and Charlie Means.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nick Saban: Cover 3 Adaptation (Rip/Liz) To The Spread

After providing an overview of playing Cover 3 with pattern-matching principles, we'll now take a look at the adaptations utilized to strengthen this basic concept.

A mantra comically repeated within the circles of "Air Raid" offenses is, "everything works against Cover 3", meaning whatever the concept, you can pass at will against most cover 3 defenses. With natural voids in the defense in the flats and in the seams, the four underneath defenders are typically the lynch pin of how successful a cover 3 defense will be.

The easiest threat to victimize cover 3 is the #2 receiver in the seam. The defense must be able to account for this threat or it will spend much of the game seeing the free safety 'wrong' on a 4 vertical threat.

and so the chess match, begins
To accommodate for this deficiency, Saban's defenses have evolved through the last decade with a "Rip/Liz" match based on where the safety drops into the box (Rita / Linda) against the 2 quick threat (2x2).

From Coach Saban, himself

When you’re playing a passing team you always have a better chance with split-safeties, but with all this zone read / zone option stuff we see…all the spread stuff, sometimes you’ve got to be able to play middle-of-the-field coverage to get an extra guy in the box.

We got to the point where, this is the reason that we do this, when everybody started going spread we couldn’t play 3 deep zone. This started with the Cleveland Browns, I was the defensive coordinator in the early 90s and Pittsburgh would run 'Seattle' on us , four streaks. Then they would run two streaks and two out routes, what I call ‘pole’ route from 2x2. So we got to where could NOT play 3-deep zone because we rerouted the seams and played zone, and what I call “Country Cover 3” (drop to your spot reroute the seams, break on the ball). Well , when Marino is throwing it, that old break on the ball shit don’t work.

So because we could not defend this, we could not play 3 deep, so when you can’t play zone, what do you do next? You play Man (cover 1), but if their mens are better than your mens, you can’t play cover 1 .

We got to where we couldn’t run cover 1 - So now we can’t play an 8 man front.
The 1994 Browns went 13-5 , we lost to Steelers 3 times, lost 5 games total (twice in the regular season, once in the playoffs). We gave up the 5th fewest points in the history of the NFL, and lost to Steelers because we could not play 8-man fronts to stop the run because they would wear us out throwing it

We came up with this concept; how we can play cover 1 and cover 3 at the same time, so we can do both these things and one thing would complement the other. We came up with the concept “rip/liz match”.

The "Rip" / "Liz" call will alert the OLB to the call side that he has a safety coming down who will be assuming the Curl/Flat responsibilities. With the Rip/Liz declaration, the backers away from the call will alert to "Match" ("Rip - Match Left") their quick away from the call, and how the corner to his side will match their receivers. It is all premised on controlling #2 deep in the seam, by catching and carrying #2 vertical or outside past 12-15 yards (this should start sounding familiar to BRONCO/SCIF technique). If there is no threat of 2 verticals to a side, it really becomes your standard fare Cover 3. If #2 crosses / goes inside, he communicates with an "Under" call (alerting the backers inside to cut the receiver) and turns his focus to rob #1 underneath (like standard Curl/Flat Cover 3, robbing inside and underneath #1).
It is essentially saying to the corners and C/F player, "versus two quicks, we're man-to-man all the way, unless our guys breaks inside". The communication is the vital part of the equation. Because the defense is presenting a 2-high shell, you could be playing a Cover 2, 4, 7, or 8 concept, but when you drop the safety down, you have to have a fast and efficient way to communicate which safety is dropping and how the backers away from the drop will respectively handle their threats.

Worst case scenario in Cover 3 is the 4-verticals concept (4 receiver on 3 deep defenders). Rip/Liz match specifically handles this. If you accommodate for 4 verts, you aren't left with many other issues that can hurt you because you will still have 6 in the box. Getting down to brass tacks, lets review how this concept fleshes itself out.

If #1 is vertical and #2 is vertical (VERTICALS)

#1 presses vertical, the corner takes all of #1 - #2 presses vertical, the C/F players takes all of #2
The inside linebackers will match #3 as he presents himself, looking to expand from the hook zone. By carrying the two inside verticals, remember you still have a middle of the field safety, so the backer/safety carrying #2 can maintain a low-shoulder, outside leverage on the receiver. This puts him in great position to discourage the SAIL (or 'pole') deep out break of #2 if it were to develop (past 12-15 yards).

If #1 is vertical and #2 is outside (SMASH)

Looking at the quick game smash concept (backside 5-step check), you can see how this is handled. #1 into the smash (right side of the diagram) takes all of #1 because he hasn't stemmed inside ("under" call, remember) and the C/F match player here handles all of #2 (vertical-outside). On the backside (here the 'rip' adjustment ~ left of the diagram), #1 stems vertical, so the corner matches all of #1. The #2 receiver runs a speed out, so the safety takes him man-to-man.

If #1 is inside and #2 is vertical (DRIVE)

Now a little tricky, the backside match (left diagram, away from 'liz'), has #1 immediately inside on a shallow, so the corner can sink and be over the top of #2, who is running a vertical (past 12 yards) stem into a dig. Because #2 is not inside ("Under"), the C/F safety matches #2 outside and underneath. With the shallow by #1, the backside inside linebacker is looking to cut the crosser (X) and the nearside inside linebacker will ROBOT the dig (depth and rob underneath).

If #1 is vertical and #2 is inside (SHALLOW)

Here, you see (right side of diagram) the match principle of the backer does NOT have a vertical stem of #2, so he declares the "Under" call, alerting the backers to ROBOT and CUT, as he will play standard Cover 3 curl-to-flat rules (with not threat to the seam), gaining depth and width (underneath #1 to his side).

If #1 is inside and #2 is inside (QUICKS / YOGI strong flood)

With the vertical stem of #2 (right side of diagram) the C/F match player carries him and since he is playing outside-underneath leverage, can easily take all of #2 with the outside break. With #1 vertical, the corner can match all of #1, as he would on a vertical #1 in Cover 3. The nuance here is that #3 is immediately releasing to the flat. The inside linebacker to flow (M) can be the final 3 player as there was no "Under" call. This eliminates the easy flood against Cover 3 (and remains consistent with Cover 4 rules and SCIF/Bronco rules).

"Rip/Liz" is an adaptation of 3 Deep zone. How the corners and backer/safety support is primarily a game plan adjustment and can be tweaked on how your opponent actually uses 2x2 route packages. Now, you may be saying, "thats all well and good, but what about trips and empty"? Right, that will be up next, when we explore Saban's "mable" adjustment to Trips/Trey formations.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the 'breakout' session in the comments section below. Also, the adjustment to 3x1 "Mable" is located here. In addition, here is the only film representation of Rip/Liz I could find (outside of a broadcast) of the safety spin, Cover 3, versus 2x2. It doesn't represent the pattern match well because it was a bubble screen, but you can pick up on the fits, backer response, and leverage of the C/F players

FYI - I will update THIS POST with coverage cutups soon, illustrating this being used in game situations. Much respect to my guy, Chris Vasseur, for helping me flesh out the details here and who is also running this with the program he's at now. Also, to coach Chip Bilderback, who's contributions to providing Saban's adapations have proven invaluable.

This blog is primarily just a way of sharing and exchanging coaching information; just trying to pass along nuggets that may help you and your team. Handling spread is an interesting task, and this was one way of adapting a 1-high defense to meet the needs of a threat. Next, we'll take a look at a defensive coordinator's other option for handling the spread, by going into detail of Gary Patterson's TCU "2 Read" handling 4-verticals.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Piggybacking on an astute vamping by Chris Brown about trends for the next decade, the "Bama All-Access" inadvertently supported the assertion Brown makes with a NY Jets playbook on Saban's desk.

While a common practice, sharing information and learning from rivals/colleagues, it was interesting to see the 'association'. I also would go as far as to say that Saban's playbook placement was deliberate (he was attempting to sell an image). If you visit any college coach's office, you'd see the same thing, though (videos/playbooks of NFL other NCAA teams) - studying what the trends are and what other folks are doing. Just another bit of speculation, just the size of that binder would tell you that, if it is a playbook, that he is only looking at a particular package - not the entire scheme (I'm currently trying to digest Saban's last NFL stop, that features a 500 page BASE package, let alone nickel and dime looks that predominate his teaching).

In essence, that is what we're attempting to do here - openly exchange information and musings within the profession.

On the subject of the NY Jets, word is that the Revis deal might get done by this Wednesday. That would be sick. Revis, ARC, and Kyle Wilson would be a deadly secondary to a dominating defense, especially when you consider the 'trends' that are coming. I'm trying to take a stab at some of the trends of the Jets (last year) and how it relates to the trends to follow into the next decade. As pointed out in the comments of the smartfootball post, I made the assertion that we will see a shift away from the fire zones as a means of pressure (where they are relied heavily upon now) and defenses will be even more (off) man-centric, as evidenced in the last series on Bo Pelini. No longer giving a clear "cover 1" or "cover 0" presnap shell, these man pressures of the future will remain consistent in their looks but bring maximum pressure, again swinging the pendulum back to concepts we saw 30 years ago, with a new twist. Just watch the NY Jets or NO Saints this season, and notice the trend taking place.

speaking of blogs....

Blog You!

WTF is this?

Philadelphia Wants Bloggers to Pay $300 Registration Fee

Philly! What are you thinking?

Philadelphia requires freelancers to register with the city for an annual fee of $50 or a lifetime fee of $300. This fee, as many who are reporting on the issue misunderstand, is not an income tax, but some taxpayers who indicated on their most recent tax return they earned income from a blog, no matter how small, have received notices from the city. The letters inform them of the obligation to pay this licensing fee. Even those who were diligent to include as little as $11 in additional income from a website received a request for $50 or $300.

The city’s position is that bloggers who run advertising, or writers who provide freelance services for a site that carries advertising and share its profits, intend to earn income. Even if your blog hosting service publishes advertising by default, you could fall into the category of people targeted by the city’s licensing fee if you live in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


If you've been around football and the interwebs for any time in the last half-decade, you will undoubtedly have stumbled upon the most unheralded treasure for football out there,

Starting in 2005, by Coach Houston and Coach Pascal, it was born out of a need to openly share and exchange coaching information without the salesmanship profiteering, virtual iconic hero-worship or chummy grabassing.

Since being an initial member until now, I can easily say that that site alone has helped me grow exponentially as a coach in five years, that likely would have taken two decades to achieve by attending clinics and serving on staff(s). It has directly led to me being able to network with hundreds of coaches from all walks of life all over the world. I have received two gigs directly from the interaction on that site, as well.

If you have enjoyed the thankless and anonymous work over the years, I would strongly encourage you to click the link below and show your support as "Hueys" enters its 5th season.....

The Elephant In The Room......

A decent back-and-forth presented today at/on NPR regarding Nick Saban's comments about agents and their influence in the college game, addressing an issue that continues to be ignored....

Sorry, Saban: Players Need Money. And Agents

Saban flat-out likened sports agents to "pimps." Now, understand this. Nick Saban makes $4 million a year from Alabama, plus something else again in side deals. And while he takes home this lollapalooza, all the players he coaches are forbidden, by antiquated amateur rules, to earn a living.

Meanwhile, agents, who are honorable brokers in all other parts of the entertainment world — representing musicians, actors, writers and, of course, all hard-working athletes except American collegians — help guide and make more money for their clients, taking a reasonable legal fee for service.

Agents should then be allowed to work upfront deals for the players, with the understanding that they would be repaid when the player hits the pro jackpot. Some blue-chippers — especially in basketball — might be signed up to a bonus right out of high school. Other late developers might not be worth an agent's advance till much later.


Saban: Coaches, ADs Had Call With NFL On Agents

"Where you have prohibition, you have bootleggers," Saban said. "It's always been that way."
He said he has temporarily blocked access to Alabama's practices for NFL scouts — a possibility he hinted at earlier this summer because of the agent issue. Saban said access would be reopened sometime after Aug. 25.

He said the decision wasn't related to agents, but that he didn't think it was fair for his players to be evaluated during two-a-day practices in triple-digit temperatures.

Saban has been one of the most outspoken advocates of finding ways to ensure that rule-breaking agents whose actions lead to punishment of players face penalties as well, including suspension of their license for a year or two.

On one hand, you have coaches, like Saban, who must protect the investment of their institution and maintain control over the program (understandably). And on the other, the near-discrimination or disenfranchisement of the athlete earning potential, not seen in any other undergraduate career.

Would a change drastically alter the (unwritten) rules of the game from how we've known it? Will it tarnish our sentimental concept of what the "game" is? Most likely, and I have no idea what a post-athlete compensation world would look like 5-10 years after it takes place.

Is it high time that athletes be included in the fruits of the labor? Absolutely.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bama All-Access

In case you missed it, there were a few gems broadcast of Saban at practices in August via "Alabama All-Access", last week. They have the full-length program airing sometime this week, I think.

In any event, be sure to check out some sabremetric number-mashing brilliance of rollbamaroll where they do some deep analysis on the impact Saban has made from a strategic statistic perspective.
yeah, pretty fucking awesome!

The clips:
Saban opens with admonition of "1-Alert" designating the rat, then the rest of the clips he hammers "CORA" cover 2 corner technique where corner takes #1 behind #2. The "push alert" is the opposite of this (Money LB takes #1 behind #2).

10Bama_C2 @ Yahoo! Video

More coaching points on Cover 2 [with 2-high "sally" (SS) blitz]

10Bama @ Yahoo! Video

"Meg" is man-to-man (press) in Cover is an adjustment to the single split receiver in Cover 7 (form of Cover 2/4). "Robot" is the term for finding work when #2 releases shallow, backer gains depth to rob a deeper inside route (dig). "Cut" is the backer picking up crosser. The "divider" is position maintenance based on the area of the field.

2010 Cover1 @ Yahoo! Video

Indy drills, position maintenance on the fade, and block destruction....

More indy time with an emphasis on Cover 2 reroutes

2010 Bama Dbs @ Yahoo! Video

Skelly in Cover 2 versus Flow (4 strong flood) and Webb (3 weak) action. "Dog" is a man under technique in Cover 2 versus Flow.

@ Yahoo! Video

"1 Alert" corners matchup on on slot and safeties spin on the F. "Kathy" is cover 2 weak / club to single receiver / bump to a TE/flanker.

2010 Alert @ Yahoo! Video


2010 Bama defensive meeting @ Yahoo! Video

2010_OLine MTG @ Yahoo! Video

....I'll try to get more of the vids posted and get the audio/dimensions corrected....
Also, in the works, as my "off-season" (not coaching) homework, I plan to be studying (and posting) more Saban principles (2-high) and his adaptations in the near future.

Props to @TheFoxJunior on Twitter for alerting me to "Alabama All-Access" on ESPNU, as I avoid the Boo-Yah Network as much as possible.

Friday, August 13, 2010


yeah, all this build up towards the season (college & pro) is getting too much to adequately satisfy and the pre season games just leave you hanging.......

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

4D-FTP Review

I'm struggling through the discs and admittedly I haven't had a whole lot of time to immerse myself in it, but I've watched the 2nd disc twice already. I've looked at this technique before here.....

The first DVD outlines vocabulary and terms that Coach Mark uses to orientate the players with this concept. I wasn't entirely sure this truly was necessary and some of it was reinventing the wheel when it came to terminology and segmenting the field. I watched the entire first DVD intently and never saw the payout.....meaning, I could have skipped it entirely and not have lost any value. Okay, so with essentially becomes a question of "is ONE DVD worth $55?" Well, I probably would say yes, simply because this is a good and valid technique to teach. It would be an investment because I am not convinced (nor does Coach Mark suggest) that this is just something you could install in a spring and have down. This is something I would feel comfortable with introducing at the 9th grade level and progressing a player through the program.

I was much more impressed with the second (drills) DVD. This DVD does a nice job breaking down the basics of the 4-D and provides drills for working on 4-D skills. From basic drills on change of direction to playing the 3-step game and fade routes, the DVD goes through the 4-D progression in good detail.

One thing that we may take from this presentation is utilizing the drift step for changing direction. I'll be watching over and over again until I get this down. I can certainly see the technique actually being superior to shuffle in terms of biomechanic efficiency and certainly more fluid than T-stepping. The only concern would be the expense it would take to get good at it (compared with shuffle). You could be good at the shuffle in 5 minutes (then spend significant time concentrating on not being sloppy) - it would take significantly longer to make 4D (or just the crossover steps) a natural act for average athletes.

The 2nd disc was really nicely done and is high quality (except for some unexpected video breaks? in the bp portion). I would have preferred more specifics on foot placement and body positioning (coaching points to make sure kids avoid common errors). Also, it may help to show how this technique would apply to various coverages. This would be perfect for guys who run their defense like "you cover that guy" and mash various concepts together. This would be something to get started on in spring ball and really just hammer every day, giving something for the kids to use heading into summer passing leagues. Because the transitions taught are directly related to what coverage (leverage) you are playing, it would be nice to articulate in subsequent offerings / clinics how this would adjust and adapt.

I applaud coach rodriguez for presenting these materials and helping the game with an improved technique. The video quality IS top notch, I just wish there was more that we could apply towards coaching the specifics of the technique.


Order at

Monday, August 9, 2010

Return of Football

While Cininnati vs Dallas wasn't enough to beat out an episode of Entourage, it did mark the return of football to primetime (who is watching the CFL or AFL?). It was nice to see TE John Phillips bust out in a stellar performance (before getting injured), but its enough to get by until Thursday night's, Saints game.

Roll Tide

Some great coverage of Bama DB's and OLine here.....

Saban-Man-Crush continues at....

Friday, August 6, 2010


As covered many times in various forms before, the fire zone blitz concept is prevalent in today's game. In this post, we'll cover probably the most under documented aspect of it, the SCIF player. Losing an underneath zone defender to pressure may cause some 'fundamentalist' thinking DC's to lose sleep... "how do you account for the four underneath zones"?

The 5-man pressure package can seem complex or superfluous to many folks, treating it as an alien concept. If you already pattern-match from a MOFC, then adapting to the fire zone for your players and philosophy becomes a natural extension. When players understand zone coverage as it relates to pattern distribution, plugging and playing them into similar roles becomes feasible because of the shared skill set.

When running a fire zone from a coverage standpoint, not much will actually change in the secondary. The fulcrum to this scheme will fall on the integrity of the SCIF/Bronco player, who controls the seams and matches the second receiver in the distribution. This player can be anyone within realistic alignment position (safety, linebacker, defensive end) near the seam. The beauty of the fire zone is its flexibility, you can bring anyone to match / fulfill the 3 underneath players.

If the SCIF player is a member of the secondary, the adjustment is extremely simple. If it is being run out of a 3-man / odd front, there usually is no need to drop linemen to create a fire zone, so you would typically end up with a Dog, Backer, or Safety as the SCIF player. Whoever it may be, the rules and technique will remain the same. The goal is to control the seams, the area between 2 yards inside the hash extending out to the numbers. You are essentially expecting a sack or force a short throw (below the conversion down) and outside (difficult).

This SCIF player must control the seams, which will be immediately threatened by the #2 receiver. On the snap, the defender will keep his eyes on the quarterback, bounce his feet (much like a Cover 4 safety), and easy pedal out with a slide step. Once recognizing drop back action from the quarterback, his eyes will snap to the #2 receiver and continue to slide for depth to stay on top of #2 at a depth of 10 yards.

Because this is a pressure package, the throw, if it occurs, should be quick (under 2 seconds) and not allow the quarterback much time to process through his progressions. If the quarterback's shoulders are directed at the seam, the SCIF player should be expecting an inside or vertical route, to which he has out leveraged the receiver (eliminating the throw). The SCIF defender should know that once the quarterback's shoulders go OUTSIDE the seam (exaggerated toward the flat), there is no way for him to progress back inside (and even if he did, the 'final 3' player would handle it). Therefore, if the quarterback's shoulders turn outside the seam, the SCIF should work parallel (expand width) to the numbers (sideline).
  • If #2 pushes vertically on the seam, the SCIF should catch at 10 yards and carry. He is essentially looking to play 'catch' technique on a vertical stem by #2 with inside-out leverage.
  • If #2 runs a speed out, the SCIF should slide to his outside foot and bust to the curl route, expecting the #1 receiver to be there on a curl-flat combo. The SCIF should not jump the speed out (but anticipate #1 will be the #2 after the pattern distribution).
  • If #2 breaks inside (shallow) underneath 10 yards, the SCIF will attempt to deliver this receiver to the final 3 player in the hole with an outside leveraged collision.
  • If the quarterback's shoulders open AWAY from the SCIF player (he is backside), remember, the quarterback won't have time to work back inside, the SCIF should slide parallel inside, no further than 2 yards inside the hash and help squeeze the ball with the 'final 3' player.

Where things get dicey is when you involve a lineman (end) in coverage as the potential dropper / SCIF player. This really becomes a run stunt because being away from the pressure overload, the defensive end's interior linemen will be stunting to his side. The nearest lineman will be looping to his "C" gap contain responsibilities, leaving the SCIF defensive end as a potential "B" gap filler. Below are some reinforcement drills on how the SCIF DE will mirror the back (load/flare) with leverage. The SCIF DE should always think of himself as a run-player FIRST, and a dropper only if there is no run action by the back.