Saturday, July 25, 2009

TCU's 42 Nickel Blitz & Coverage Concepts

As an addendum to the AFCA article post about TCU's 'divorced front & coverage' earlier in the week ( ), I am going to offer what I know about their blitz concepts and how it correlates to the coverages they run out of them.

Their calls are meant to tell all 11 guys what to do and not just effect individuals or groups of players. TCU signals in all their calls with wristbands that all players wear. This makes their rather verbose terminology more efficient in communicating and eliminates the need for signalling.

There are three distinctly different front blitz concepts utilized

BULLETS - linebackers (Mike / Sam) blitzes
SMOKES - Safeties (Strong/Weak) edge blitzes
Safeties & linebacker blitzes
Their calls are always determined by how they set the front. Their front will be determined by their call, made by either the offensive formation formation (tight/split) or by hash (field/boundary)

Their basic 4 man fronts are TITE (7 & 3 strong / 5 & 1 weak)
or the traditional G (7 & 3 strong / 5 & 2i weak)

The first example would be;

LBs align by front with 7 / 3 strong and 1/5 weak, with the Mike backer in the bubble.
"Bullets A" tells the backers to run through A gaps. These are essentially run blitzes. This is just an exchange stunt for run-thrus, not a traditional wanton-abandon blitz, just an aggressive run-thru gap exchange.

Another example is;
Toro tells the NT to cross the face of the center
"Okie" tells the backers to blitz opposite of the center, away from the callside. This puts the Mike in the B gap, and the Sam crossing the face of the center to fill backside A gap. He becomes the rat and reads run first.

The last type of BULLET blitz is;
Mike Outside
Sam Outside

Mike loops outside to the edge, the defensive end stunts down inside (TAKE) to B gap.
Sam in the strong A bubble

Smokes are outside safeties blitzing from outside the box. As a general rule in TCU's defense the FS will never blitz.

Smokes can be defined just like the front, depending on what kind of pressure is needed.
SMOKE WIDE (from the field), SHORT SMOKE (from the boundary), DOUBLE SMOKE (both safeties blitzing).

Another way to define the smoke is based on formation strength. THUNDER/LIGHTENING (rather than by hash) determines which safety will blitz (strong or weak safety).
"T"hunder to TE (strength)
"L"ightening away from TE

With SMOKE, the end will need to know if he has additional edge pressure with him. It is the safety's responsibility to make a 'FIRE' call to alert the end that he is coming off the edge. If the end receives a high-hat pass read, he now has a free (2-way) rush. The purpose is not to have one guy (Offensive Tackle) blocking two guys coming off the edge (DE/S)

Additionally, on a SMOKE call, a safety can make a "LION" call to alert the end that he is going inside the rush lane, so that the DE should continue on a wide rush.
For option rules; Safety is pitch on SMOKE, End is pitch on LION

Dog blitzes involve both the linebacker & Safety from the same side. These are generally called
"T Dog" /"S Dog" to generally coordinate with field / boundary (short side) calls

As an example;
"AIM" front angle away from call
Wide Dog B = Sam & Safety from the wide side are blitzing (with Sam in B gap)
Safety from edge
Sam to outside
T to A
Nose to A
E to B


T & N twist
Sam to B
E to C
S to D (outside)


MOB is an 8 man pressure, with all safeties and linebackers blitzing. When facing a TE in MOB, a "COP" call is made to alert the callside end to play man-to-man on the Tight End. The "COP" alert allows the FS to remain free, while not requiring a safety or backer to check out of the blitz.

In all of TCU's coverage concepts;
  • The Corners will always have the 1st receiver, and they will trade based on where true X & Z receiver types align.
  • The Safeties always have 2nd receiver (as long as #2 is outside the tackles).
  • The FS is always free, so long as there is no 3rd receiver outside the box.
To keep the linebackers together (and not displacing their alignment), they will "fiddle" on 2 backs (take first back to flow their way with opposite backer defaulting to the other back) and banjo any 1 back look (linebacker to flow will take the back man-to-man, while the other linebacker is the rat in the hole).

With TCU's 6 man front shell, they will never have the LBs leave the box. They will adjust to formations with their safeties.

If #2 weak walks into the box, then both LBs have a back and the WS becomes deep 1/2 player.
C0 corners are 1x7 and play loose, reading 3 step, then hard focus turn onto WR.
Trade corners.

Against trips looks, the outside corner will always play in a press/bail technique, while the inside defender will play loose / off.

TCU's coverage concept allows 2 coverage players free at all times, not unlike the old "11 Robber" used in the 90's by Charlie McBride at Nebraska.

In the following game scenarios, we will take a look at these principles in practice versus various formations and attacks.

Here versus an even formation out of double-tights. TCU presents a 2-high MOFO shell, but it actually becomes Cover 1, with strong and weak safeties accounting for the Tight Ends, and one linebacker blitzing.

Here is a trips looks (Kings/Trey) with a TE. Again, the same 2-high MOFO coverage shell is presented, but at the snap, the field safety is on a SMOKE, so the FS (the guy on the right hash) immediately opens to the 3rd receiver (Tight End). The spacing concept ISU was running here gets eaten up and the hesitation causes the quarterback to take an immediate sack.

And finally a doubles-to-2-back attack, common with spread option teams. A 1-back look motions into a 2-back formation, but the "AIM OKIE" call actually puts TCU in position to pick up the triple-option threat and stuff this run for a loss. The Mike on the Okie stunt loops outside to take the 2nd back, with the backside Sam stacking the A gap controlling the dive back.

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