Tag Archives: Defensive football

Hurry-Up Defense

I think I heard the on the radio the other morning, that in the College Football Playoff Semifinal game between Oregon and Florida State, the high-speed offense of Oregon averaged around 11 seconds between plays when the game was still competitive. That’s fast. The sports radio talk show hosts then reported when the Ducks built a big lead and went into a slow-down, time-killing mode, they averaged about 20 seconds between plays. That’s faster than most team’s normal speed!

This high-speed mode killed Florida State. They couldn’t keep up with the speed of the game. The Seminole defense looked confused, tired, and made one mistake after another. That is what these uber-speed offenses attempt to do in this age of modern defensive football predicated on match-ups and substitution packages. The high-speed offense does not allow the defense to adjust; it finds a weakness in a certain defense, either schematic or personnel, it pushes the limits.

I had a conversation with one of my coaching offensive mastermind friends, Coach Larry Wallace, about the offensive performance of Oregon. Both of us were impressed with the speed at which the Ducks ran their offense. Being a defensive minded, former football coach, I was intrigued about how a defense can counteract the up-tempo offense.

Me: “It has me thinking about how to develop a hurry-up defense that is proactive instead of reactive.”

Coach Wallace: “Yeah, good luck.”

Me: “Amen, brother!”

Seriously, is there a solid defensive scheme you can think of to consistently shift the power to dictate the game from the hurry-up offense back to where it belongs–in the hands of the defense? If you have any ideas, please share.

I think the key is to play an aggressive, ball-attack defense through a fairly set package of personnel, not one which relies on massive substitutions. We would need to develop athletes physically to play at this speed (See how Oregon approaches this in my Bullets Over Bowling Balls post from 2012.). A very important point to consider with any scheme in any sport is this—one cannot expect to play the game at a certain speed if they do not train and practice to play the game at that certain speed.

Following in the footsteps of Coach Paul Lane, I would first attempt to dictate the flow of the game from the defensive end. The defensive scheme would involve multiple fronts and alignments with a minimal of responsibilities for each position. Basically, each player would have one job on a run play and one job on a pass play, and that job would be the same no matter what the defensive alignment, or front, looked like. I would try to punch the offense in the mouth by hitting harder, hitting more often, and wearing them down one man at a time all game. Every man wins their job on every play.

The spread and speed offenses usually have a run/pass option depending on the number defenders in the box. It’s a numbers game. If they read they have more blockers than defensive linemen and linebackers in the box, they can call a run play. If defense has a numbers advantage in the box, the pass play is chosen. A good defensive scheme could align in such a way to force the offense into one option or the other. The defenders would need to understand this concept to allow for the advantage of what plays to expect.

Oregon Duck Zone Read

Pressure the offense, particularly the QB, from multiple angles and with the goal of corralling the offense into a small space. Face it, if you’ve watch much hurry-up offense, they are designed to get athletes in space and into one-on-one match-ups they think they can win. I think I would try to minimize this offensive advantage by forcing them to beat me by doing things outside their comfort zone.

For secondary coverage schemes, I would develop physical man coverage techniques first and foremost in all our training with these athletes. In game planning, use man coverage schemes and match-up zone schemes as a general rule. The important thing is to realize how an offense with attack each coverage scheme and convey these tendencies to your secondary personnel.

One of the great enjoyments of the game of football is this mental and strategic side of the game. Even though I don’t actively coach football any more, I still love to think about the game. When I watch a game on television or in person, I am constantly watching for blocking schemes, formation tendencies, blitz packages, etc. Watching the Oregon Ducks this past week triggered the defensive coach in me to figure out how I’d develop a hurry-up defense to try and stop this potent offense.

If you have any ideas, feel free to comment below.  There are definitely more than one way to skin a cat. I am pretty sure there will be a Part 2 to this Hurry-Up Defense post, maybe even a :Part 3, 4, or 5.

The “What if we tried this?” is one of my favorite parts of coaching and training athletes.

And in my humble opinion, that is the fun of football!

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The Bullfighters of the Defensive Line

A defensive lineman’s job is simple; protect your gap and create chaos. If it is a run play, attack your gap and make the play. If the run play goes away from you, attack your gap and pursue flat down the line to make the play if the runner cuts back. If the play is a pass play, then rush your gap, contain the quarterback in the pocket and get one hand up to cut the quarterback’s field of vision.

The weapons of a defensive lineman are his feet and his hands. Good footwork off the snap of the football puts the d-lineman’s hips squarely into his gap and in position to defend his piece of turf. The body follows the feet is a fundamental we stressed in everything. The hands skills, which we called the quick draw/lockout, allow the d-lineman to keep the blocker away from his body. Keeping clean allows him to be an effective defender, not a player getting run down the field by the offensive blockers. Whoever wins the battle of the body in the football trenches usually has the greatest amount of success.  The ability to legally use one’s hands to lockout and shed blockers is about the only advantage the defensive lineman is given, so he must use his hands effectively as well as his feet.

In the effective defensive line scheme, the defensive lineman must command a double team by the offensive lineman. We taught the defensive lineman to hold their ground and not give a single, teeny-tiny inch of their turf to a double team block. We taught them to make a wall and/or a pile in the offense’s intended running lanes at the line of scrimmage to disrupt their rhythm. If the offense had to double team our defensive lineman on every play, it allowed our linebackers to move unabated to make plays. If the offense chose to man block our defensive lineman, we taught our kids to take advantage and dominate the game. Our d-line goal was NEVER to get beat one on one.

One of our biggest challenges for the  defensive line comes when facing the power offense teams. In our experience, it was the teams that ran the Double Wing offense and the Double Tight Wishbone Belly offense. Contrary to popular football belief, these compressed formation offenses are not boring “3 yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy offenses. They are both big play offenses, capable of scoring from anywhere and everywhere on the football field at virtually any time the defense makes a mistake.

These teams are usually aggressive, athletic, physical and relentless in their approach and attitude. As a defense against these teams, we must knew we had to match the offense’s aggressiveness; we must match their athleticism and physicality, and we must be as, or more, relentless. What we want to do as a defense is eliminate their big play capability and stop them cold at the line of scrimmage or force the offense to methodically move down the field in a “3 yard and a cloud of dust” manner. It was absolutely vital that the defensive line made a wall and forced piles of humanity in the running lanes. We wanted to test their patience and force them out of their comfort zone and rhythm. We knew if we executed on each and every play of the game, it became a battle of will and patience. And honestly, I would have taken our kids in a battle of will and patience anytime and anyplace, against any opponent.

Of course, we had to work on these skills all season in order to reach proficiency. Footwork, quick draws, and lockouts were drilled daily. But, when it came time to play the power running teams, we have to ramp up our skills in making walls and forming piles at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, this isn’t a skill learned through talk or only through hitting dummies. This is a skill learned through contact and challenge and repetition. It is a mental skill as much as a physical skill. Nobody in their right mind really wants to fire off the ball, drive their shoulder pad through the offensive lineman’s thigh pad while punching up and out with the butt of their hands to only end up at the bottom of a pile of humanity every single play. But, that is what we had to do, so we came up with the Bullfights. The Bullfights were one of my favorite drills of all time. We incorporated into the weekly defensive line preparation for the weeks where the defensive line had to up our game.

Bullfights

We place six  2” x 6” board about four to five foot long on the ground parallel to each other around five yards apart. The defensive linemen would match up in pairs of “similar’s”, or guys of similar size, age, aggressiveness, etc. One partner would line up in a three or four point stance, straddling the board at one end, while the other partner would do the same at the other end.  The pair would almost line up helmet to helmet in their stances to avoid a high velocity collision or to give advantage to the quicker lineman. On the whistle, the two would fire off the line and struggle for position and leverage while keeping one foot rooted on either side of the board. The goal was to drive the opponent either back off the board length or force the opponent to lose foot contact on both sides of the board.

We’d drill about 10 reps of this with the partner and then we would match up for an elimination tournament. The same basic setup and rules, except with the winners of each round move on while the losers had to work their way up a consolation bracket. In the end, there were only two remaining bullfighters slated for the finals.  Always fun, always exciting and always drove home the point of how we needed to play our defensive line position.

I wish I had a video of one of these competitions. They were so much fun. Making piles of humanity at the line of scrimmage…I do miss that horribly!

OLE’

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