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By Mark Miller, Defensive Coordinator, Taylor High School (TX)

Editors Note: Coach Miller has 18 years of coaching experience with 7 years on offense and 11 years on defense, with the last 5 years as a Defensive Coordinator / Assistant Head Coach at Taylor HS a 5A school in Texas. He has experience at both the high school and college level.  In 2011, was recognized as Katy ISD’s Boys Sport Assistant Coach of the Year. Miller has his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from LSU.

This article is intended to define fundamental techniques for defensive linemen within an ‘Odd Front".

Why employ an Odd Front Philosophy of defense?

  1. It maximizes Personnel by Body Type, Athletic Ability and Mental Capacity.
  2. It puts direct Pressure on the Center
  3. It's a balanced Defensive Structure
  4. It's availability and Ease of ‘Move’ / ‘Stem’, ‘Stunt’ and / or ‘Blitz’ Packages.
Our first consideration is always our personnel and what we have to defend. An inherent and unique characteristic of high school football is the fact playing football is voluntary. High school coaches cannot ‘recruit’ or ‘draft’ for a specific offensive or defensive scheme. Coaches place athletes in positions where they can maximize their abilities and help the team become successful. Some of these determining considerations are:
  1. Body Type: height, weight and composition
  2. Athletic Ability: strength, power, speed, agility and reaction time.
  3. Mental Capacity: Cognitive function to physical application / action.
Within those position assignments, the scheme applications are designed as a coordinated help for the individual players abilities.  We define our ‘odd front’ through a strength declaration and an identification tag word. The ‘strength declarations’ can be made in seven different ways:
  1. Tight: to the Tight-End
  2. Open: opposite from the Tight-End
  3. Field: to the wide side of the field
  4. Short: to the short side of the field
  5. Over: to the RB in the ‘Shot-Gun’
  6. Under: opposite from the RB in the ‘Gun’
  7. Strong: to an offensive lineman / side

Base Alignment

The term ‘Base’ defines the front alignments (Diagram 1).

‘Base’ tells the noseguard to align head-up as a "0" technique on the center. The DT will align to the call as a 4-Technique. The Buck LB will align as a 30-Technique to the call. The DE will align away from the call as a 4-Technique. The Mike LB will align as a 30-Technique away from the call. The Sma LB aligns on the Tight-End as a 6-Technique and the Will LB aligns opposite the Tight-End as a ‘Ghost’ 6-Technique. It is a balanced structure.

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The presence of the "0" technique noseguard and two ‘30’ backers over each offensive guard places three defenders over either A-Gap. (Diagram 2)

The ‘Odd Front Structure’ places ‘Direct Pressure’ on the first person handling the football, the center.

The foundation of teaching / coaching these head-up techniques is physicality.  Assuming a head-up alignment increases the likelihood of having to take on an offensive lineman’s initial charge right down his midline. This places a greater emphasis on the defensive lineman understanding and applying proper pad level, striking out of the hips with a blow and separation.

Techniques of "Head-Up" Defenders

0, 4, and 6 techniques must have an efficient stance & start and strike out of their hips with the proper foot and hip in their assigned gap. In addition, their eyes locate the ‘Flow’ through their adjacent OL pressure key. These techniques demand, and as such, develop a defensive player’s mentality to out physical the opponent. Moreover, these head-up techniques present a defensive advantage of the unpredictability of a potential ‘3 – Way Go'- meaning that these players can be attacked in three different directions- middle, left and head-up.  The concept is to utilize stunts frequently and play the true ‘base technique’ once the opponent’s offensive linemen are uncertain (Diagram 3).

All of the defensive linemen align slightly off the football, about half the length of the football. This separation allows for better angles during stunts and makes ‘crossing-face’ more efficient.

Play of the 4-Techniques (head up on offensive tackles):

Stance: Slightly staggered, about toe to heel relationship with staggered hand down. The staggered foot / hand are also their gap assignment, the B-Gap (Diagram 4).

Primary Key: Through the center’s snap wrist to the rear nose of the football.

Pressure Key: Outside foot of offensive guard (Diagram 5)

Upon the snap, the player must strike out with his hips!  Here are some of the coaching points we emphasize to make this happen:

  1. 6" Power Step with inside foot toward outside part of offensive tackle’s inside foot.
  2. Thumbs up & elbows brushing own rib cage. Shoot & Stab through heel of palms under the breast plate of OT.
  3. As the elbows are locking out, the screws of your head gear should be driving up and through the base of the "V" of the opponent's neck.
  4. The 2nd step will be into the midline of the OT. The first two steps must ensure the defensive linemen are playing with their "feet in the neutral zone".
  5. By the 3rd step, the pressure key has declared and the defensive lineman must transitionally direct his eyes to making a run pass read and identifying flow.

Defending the B-Gap

We teach our players to defend the B-Gap by making a pressure key off of the offensive guard.  The guards movements are broken down into the following three types:

Non – Aggressive Away Blocks:

Blow & Separate.  The player needs to lock his arms out and squeeze Down to replace the hip of ‘OG’. At that point, he must identify flow and pursue inside out to the ball carrier (Diagram 6).

Non – Aggressive At Me Blocks:

Blow and separate.  Then read the possible blocks listed below and respond.
  • Vs. Out: Cross-Face of OT & get in hip pocket of ‘Out’ OG. You must get your inside hip / foot through the outside hip of the OT.
  • Vs. Zone: Mirror step w/ OT & penetrate through play-side half of OG. (Diagram 7)

Aggressive At Me Blocks:

Crossface the OG’s fan block then get the outside hip and foot through the inside hip of the OG. (Diagram 8)

0-Technique

Stance: Balanced 4-Point Stance. The NG is a backside A-Gap player. This balanced stance allows the NG to play off of the center’s block in either direction. (Diagram 9)

Primary Key: Through the center’s snap wrist to the rear nose of the football.

Pressure Key: ‘Either’ Offensive Guard (Diagram 10)

Upon the snap, the player must strike out with his hips!  Here are some of the coaching points we emphasize to make this happen:

  1. 6" Power step with near foot toward center’s snap hand.
  2. Shoot & stab through the heel of the palms with one under the breast plate and the near hand of the center’s snap arm pinning his elbow.
  3. As the elbows are locking out, the screws of your head gear should be driving up & through the base of the "V" of the Center's neck.
  4. The 2nd step will be into the near arm pit of the ‘C’. These first two steps must ensure that the defensive linemen are playing with their "feet in the neutral zone."
  5. By the 3rd step, the pressure key has declared and the defensive lineman must transitionally direct his eyes to making a run pass read and identifying flow.

Defending an A-Gap

Here is a look at how we teach our players to defend an A-Gap based off of reactions from an unpredictable ‘pressure key’, either offensive guard.

Zone: Blow and separate, mirror step w/ the ‘C’ & penetrate through the play-side half of the scooping OG. (Diagram 11)

Pull:  Backdoor the down blocking OG. Get into C’s back hip pocket and press flow.  The NG will Push with  right hand and pull with the left hand then rip through inside leg of OG.

Double  Team:  Split the double team. If getting washed, drop & make a pile to clog the A-Gap.  The NG will push / pull vs. ‘C’ (the post of the double team block) and drive his left hip into pressure key (down blocking guard). He should then step to drive right foot and hip through midline of ‘C’ to get square in A-Gap.  (Diagram 13)

Base Without Pressure: Identify flow and cross the face of the ‘C’ getting to his far hip.  From there, he should work his foot through and square into the flow side A-Gap. (Diagram 14)

Conclusion

Our defensive line must master...
  1. Eye Control {Progression & Discipline}
  2. Strike Out of Hips
  3. Blow & Separate
  4. Mirror Step & Penetrate
  5. Squeeze & Replace
  6. Push / Pull

 

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