Monday, October 5, 2009

Nick Saban: Middle of the Field Safety Coverage Principles (part II - Cover 3)

Cover 3

Saban installs all versions of three-deep zone (buzz, sky, cloud, etc) all at the same time. Citing his work with Bill Belichick, Al Groh, Jim Bates, Rick Venturi, and Woody Widenhofer, he explains the simplicity of Cover 3 concepts;

"Its three-deep zone, guys.
However we put the parts in it makes no difference.
Here's the positions and here's what you relate to."

What he's referring to is the variations of who is the force (flat) defender in the coverage. This could be the corner (cloud), the safety (sky), or the backer (buzz).

With a 4 man front, you will end up with 4 underneath defenders
  • curl to flat
  • hook
  • hook to curl
  • flat
What makes it so simple?

The bottom line how the defenders relate to pattern distribution and who is controlling the two deep vertical seams in Cover 3. He will take corners, safeties, and linebackers and teaches them how to control the seams (protecting the seams in C3 is vital to the success of the coverage as 4 verticals is the only pass that can hurt you) as the curl-to-flat player relating to the #1 receiver pattern (who ends up being the first receiver outside once the receivers run their routes).

With middle of the field coverage, the breaking point lays in the seams (pictured). The major liabilities attacking the seams will be the #2 receiver(s). Saban's philosophy states that there are really only 3 types of passes that can be run with the vertical seam being run #2 (double-seams / Smash / and Seam + Out or 'pole'). The strong safety should drop into the seam at 10 yards, which intersects a vertical stem of #2.
"If a guy has to run around you, you have rerouted him without touching him. Just don't let him into the seam!"

Saban teaches and stress three important concepts to his defenders
  • drop to area / reroute receivers (deflect receivers from finding the weak spots of the coverage)
  • match pattern distribution
  • break on the ball
The pattern match concept he relies so heavily on can be found here, but a brief overview of this can be seen below. Before the pattern distribution, the receivers are numbered from the sideline.

After the snap, the routes are run and the receivers are distributed through the defensive zones.

THIS is the distribution of the pattern. From this distribution, the curl-to-flat defender expands to the #1 widest shallow receiver, the S to the #2 shallow receiver. This is not landmark dropping (though landmarks do give a proper depth/spacing to relate to the final distribution) this is "finding work" and the proper route to attack.

The corner leverage in Cover 3 was covered in the first installment. The Free Safety (middle of the field) technique Saban stresses is keeping the shoulders square to the line of scrimmage while back pedalling and attacking the ball.

The worst thing a safety can do is roll his shoulders and commit to a side, thereby opening the cut-back and/or over pursuing to the perimeter. He likens it to playing running back, that a safety should attack the point of attack in much the same way, keeping the shoulders square and balanced into the fit.

The following video is just a visual representation (with game clips) of the 2001 LSU playbook starting from page 159.

In the following more recent clips, note the alignment, leverage, and support of everything discussed thus far regarding his methodology;

Next up, Cover 1 with "rat in the hole", however, as Saban says.....

Before you teach Cover 1, you should teach your kids to play to match the pattern.

Whether it is press or loose, what horizontal leverage should a corner have?
Exactly as he does in 3 deep zone (the safety is in the same spot).


Anonymous said...

I don't undestand exactly how they are defending the seams. Are the outside linebackers running with the reciever the entire 15 yrd seam area highlighted in the picture?

How exactly are they defending the seams?

And what all does re-routing cover?

Brophy said...

An old google video of mine kind of goes over the curl-to-flat player taking away the seams

We don’t cover anything under 5 yards and the backer should be dropping to a depth of 10 – 12 yards to cutoff the stems into the seam.  The drop typically intersects with the receiver’s route, thereby putting him in a great position to get physical with the receiver.

Anonymous said...

Ok I'll check the video. Another question how do you guards spancing, sticks and other quick game routes if you don't guard anything at up to 5 yards?

Brophy said...

Hence the first post in this series on pattern matching and position maintenance.
Quick game is happening at 6 - 8 yards.
Zone match is reading the Q drop and squeezing the receiver based on how the distribute into the areas of the field . It isn't just blindly dropping to areas on the field.

The route-reading post of 18 August 2009 has several videos I created going over this.

Paulo said...

Great series here, thanks a lot for the knowledge.
Can you post this videos online again? Vimeo or send by email please?

Unknown said...

Anyway this film could be redone or sent out?