Tuesday, February 5, 2013

1-High Nickel (4-4) Intro

Here is video from when we began using the 42 as an every down defense. In those days, you were essentially talking about a "4-4" defense (its all the same).  We borrowed heavily from Augustana College and St. Ambrose University when developing our version of it, which was premised on being an 8-man defense.  This is certainly a different flavor than the 2-high TCU brand, but its all relative.

The playbook we developed can be found here: "42 NICKEL" .  You'll find the entire playbook with drills, install calendar, playcalls, signals, wristband templates...the whole works (try unhiding some of the sheets in the workbook).  Bear in mind, we distilled everything down to tie the entire defense to the coverage ("3" meant Cover 3 with an over front / "6" was loaded zone from a stacked front) which designated the force players.  We worked tags and front games off those absolutes.  The whole concept became a thrust to vertically pressure the gaps of the offense without blitzing.  After visiting spring ball at Western Illinois when Vince Okruch was the defensive coordinator, we stole his attacking run-through linebacker philosophy that he used with his situational 3-3 package and applied it to our 8-man front.

We quickly found out that we were only limited by our imagination simply because it was about putting as much speed on the field as we could.  We began using the Weak Safety more and more in deep coverage....then began toying with the Strong Safety....then jumped into odd fronts and found we could do a lot of kooky things with coverage.  Where we ended up with this version, essentially brought us to running a split-field approach (after visiting Illinois State at the time) and fire zones. It should be noted that we taught a lot of spot-dropping back then.  In the last few years I've been coaching at schools with odd front (3-3/3-4) and pattern matching out of Cover 3 and 2 Read.  Though we technically did a lot, it was the opposite of complicated (looking back, there was a ton of stuff we could've done)...it was as basic as just reinforcing block destruction and pursuit (with solid tackling).  That really was it.  The "package" stuff was pretty damn simple.

During this period, we were two-platoon and installed Punt Team and Punt Return as extensions of the defense (these two units were considered the defense's offensive plays).  After years of not getting any significant dividend from a walled return, we simply opted to rush with our front and man up with the secondary and directionally zone wall with the linebackers. We didn't mess with long-snappers as we didn't feel there were any that could actually impact our returners.  It actually helped our return game tremendously.

Our punt team (how we taught it) used a simple coding system where we would ("10") spread punt, ("20") tight punt, or ("30") fake punt.  Our fake punt consisted of speed option from the personal protector and later shovel counter with an upback (last play in the video below).  This allowed us to not treat Special Teams as a third rail but just an aggressive scoring opportunity for the defense.

Below is video how we used it at that time

We had ran the 42 for a few seasons and felt we could get more out of it.  #22 in the video was an outstanding player who started at Weak Safety since his Sophomore year.  His senior year (this video), we felt what he provided as a Weak Rush End could not be rivaled by anyone on the team.  So, we essentially took our BEST defender (and smallest!!) and put him on defensive line because they could run/pass away from him at safety, but on the line they were forced to deal with him on every down.  His success lead to underclassmen (particularly linebackers) getting playing reps by transitioning them to linemen positions.  I would say that your two outside safeties are what make this philosophy work and an explosive edge rusher is what allows the front to get vertical and make negative yardage plays.

More detailed explanation of all this is available here:

I ended up moving to Louisiana and installing it at another program (starts with overview handout, examples from Illinois State, then spring ball video)

After reading this over, it should be clear that we stole every idea we had from all the coaches and programs we exposed ourselves to (Augustana College, Western Illinois, Iowa State University, St. Ambrose University, Southern Illinois, University of Iowa, etc).  Don't just accept a "scheme out of a box" but learn, adapt, and mold it to what you have found most effective.

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