By William Mitchell,

Head Coach,

Lewisville High School (SC)

As a grad assistant in the late 90s, I was introduced to a form of pattern reading out of a 4-4 at the IAA level. Later I was at a few places where we tried to run Quarters coverage. In both situations it never seemed to click with our players. Sure, it seemed simple to our coaching staff, but we never seemed to get the production from it in proportion to the practice time used installing it. As my career progressed, I began to embrace the 3-3 package and the Cover 3 / Man-Free concepts that fit so well with this front. But as the offenses we faced became more & more advanced and proficient in throwing the ball, I began to see the need for a change-up. What we eventually came up with is our version of READ Coverage.

Originally I wanted a way that I could turn my 2 inverts (We call them Spurs) loose to play 100 % run vs 2 RBs without telegraphing the fact that we were in Cover Zero. What we came up with is this:

The READ Technique

This technique is used by 2 defenders against 2 receivers. The way that we teach it to the players is by telling them that this is going to turn into Man coverage within the first 5 yards; we are just letting the receivers determine who has who. Once the defenders have identified their responsibility, they attack the receiver as if they are Out of Phase (using the Saban terminology). They drive at the proper angle (more on that later) and try to get in a hip to hip relationship with the WR.

The CB aligns at 7-10 yds deep over the #1 receiver. The interior defender (FS or Spur) aligns 10-12 yds deep over the #2 receiver. Both players will "Read" the #2 receiever.

We tell our players that #2 can do 3 things in the first 5 yards. He can go inside, he can go outside, or he can go vertical.

  • If # 2 goes inside or vertical, both players yell "Stay,Stay" and the FS takes #2 man to man and the CB takes #1 man to man. The FS may have to get on his horse and chase the Drag route but the LBs are looking to wall off anything coming across.
  • If #2 goes outside, both players yell "Switch, Switch" and the CB jumps the route of #2. The FS has #1 but he will take a cut-off angle to defend the go route by #1 first. (Since that can beat us the fastest).
That is it. That is our READ technique. Now this is how we play READ Coverage.
READ vs 2RBs
  • When the Spurs see 2 RBs, they will know that they are Run first / Force players all the way. If it turns to pass, they continue with the rush unless a  back crosses their face. (Pitch/Peel Rule)
  • The CB to the single receiver side is on an island , Man to Man with no help.
  • To the two receiver side, the FS and CB are executing a READ technique.
  • Note: if the #1 receiver is excessively far away from the #2, then the DBs can make an early "Stay" call before the snap and play loose man.

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If the players can count to 3, they can play this coverage. To phrase the rules in a simple way:


  • 1 receiver = Press Man
  • More than 1 receiver = Read #2
  • 1 receiver = Free on the Hash
  • 2 receivers = READ tech
  • 3 receivers = Man on #3
We have been very happy with this coverage as almost a catch-all vs Spread teams. It has simple adjustments yet looks complicated to the opposing QB, which fits our overall philosophy on Defense.

Do You Teach Pattern Read Concepts?  Tell us what has worked for you to communicate these concepts to your players.  Post your comments below.



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