Third down presents a myriad of concerns for the defense: in-breaking route concepts, free access throws to the backside of trips and leverage issues to the front side of 3x1 sets. This is why “Buster” coverage negates all of these issues by producing a sound coverage principle, which allows your defense to get off the field on third down. John Carroll University, which finished 9th in the country this season in pass defense, used “Buster” in the majority of their third down snaps. Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley details the assignments in the backend and explains how he uses Buster to defend Stack and Bunch formations, common third down offensive structures. Read Coach Staley’s clinic report here.
By Brandon Staley
Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach
John Carroll University (OH)
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Do you need a way to deny the ball on 3rd down in a “Gotta Have It” type situation?
Do you need a coverage that will deny in-breaking route concepts, which occur primarily on 3rd down when the ball is on a hash?
Do you need a coverage that can eliminate a great player on the backside of 3 x 1?
Do you need a coverage that has coverage answers to the outside in case an Offense runs their 3rd down concepts based on leverage?
Let me introduce you to a coverage at John Carroll that we call “Buster.”
Defining Buster Coverage:
“Buster” is a deny-the-inside 2-man concept that protects your defense against the weakness of 2-man coverage, which is number two to the flat. At JCU, we usually play “Buster” in our Dime Rabbits Personnel grouping, which includes six defensive backs, one linebacker and our four best pass rushers. We are a defense that is predicated on matching up, especially on 3rd down when we are playing some version of man-to-man.
“Buster” is a concept that we play to a 3 receiver side. In 3 x 1 it’s easy; you automatically have your 3 man side. (Diagram 1) In 2 x 2, the 3 man side becomes wherever the offset back is (Diagram 2). Away from the “Buster” side, we just play regular 2-man coverage, which we call “Macho.” This is a traditional trail technique that we will discuss in detail later. If it’s 2 x 2 and it’s Pistol or under center, than we just play “Macho” to both sides and the Middle LB (MAC) will have the RB man-to-man.
Trouble Shooting “Buster”:
Issues that ALWAYS need to cover on any down, but particularly 3rd down are 2-man stacks and 3-man bunches. The details of these difficult scenarios are critical to your success because if teams can’t win at the line of scrimmage vs. man-to-man, they will try and create access for their players to get open.
What You’re Missing…
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- The alignments and techniques of the corner and safety based on receiver splits.
- How Buster adjusts if the number two receiver receiver goes under or pushes vertical to run the sail route.
- The “Me or You” verbiage Coach Staley uses which is predicated on the split of the number two receiver.
- How Buster is adjusted to defend two-man stack formations.
- How Buster is adjusted to defend three-man bunch formations.
- How Buster is adjusted to defend empty formations.
- Plus game clips of the Buster coverage concept.
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Hopefully this reporte gave you a snapshot of what “Buster” is, why we like it, when to utilize it, and how to teach the major details within the concept. 3rd Down is such a critical situation in the game, and you need an effective coverage to get off the field, especially against dynamic passing teams. Thank you very much for reading and good luck this upcoming season!
Meet Coach Staley: Brandon Staley has been the Defensive Coordinator at multiple schools (Hutchinson Community College (KS) (Top 5 Nationally Ranked, 2-time bowl champion), James Madison University (FCS Playoffs for 1st time in 3 years, Top 15 Nationally in Sacks, Takeaways), and John Carroll University (28-6 in 3 years, 2-time Playoff Team). He has also coached at the University of Tennessee, Northern Illinois University (2 bowl games, Top 20 Defense Nationally) and the University of St. Thomas (11-2, National Quarterfinalist, best season in school history). In 2013 at John Carroll, their team ranked #2 Scoring (9.1) and Total Defense, #3 3rd Down and Pass Efficiency, and #2 Red Zone Defense in the country. Staley was selected Co-OAC Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013. This past season, Staley’s defense finished #12 Nationally in Scoring Defense (13.6) and #14 in Total Defense. They finished #2 Nationally in Sacks/Game (4.5) and #9 Nationally in Pass Efficiency Defense. Coach Staley has coached multiple NFL players (Cordarrelle Patterson, Markus Golden, Dean Marlowe, Larry English) and several others who have signed NFL contracts during his career (Meshak Williams, Angelo Pease, Toby Johnson, Tracy Wilson, Sage Harold, Brandon Lee, Randy Greenwood).