By Wagner College Defensive Staff
See how Wagner used Zone Pressures to finsih first in the Northeast Conference in scoring defense yielding only 17.4 points per game and total defense surrendering just over 320 yards per game.
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Editor’s Note: After starting the season at 0-3, Wagner College rolled off nine consecutive wins en-route to a FCS playoff birth-the first time in school history- and they did it with defense. Wagner was first in the Northeast Conference in scoring defense yielding only 17.4 points per game and total defense surrendering just over 320 yards per game. X&O Labs Senior Research Manager Mike Kuchar spent some time this past Spring talking football with the Seahawks defensive staff.
After having tremendous success defensively last season which included a run deep into the FCS national playoffs, the Seahawks are beginning to experiment with new forms of pressure this spring, including at two-deep four under concept from their "Dog" or Okie Front (Diagram 1). After running mainly three-deep, three-under blitz rotations last season, defensive Coordinator Malik Hall and his staff decided to integrate some two-deep concepts to keep offensive off-balance. "It takes away the three step game which we were tired of giving up," said secondary coach Ryan Fullen. "We are a quarters coverage team by nature, so we keep the two-deep shell plus we also don’t give up the flat so quickly as other some three-deep, three-under structures."
In order to disguise its pressures, Wagner will use a "walk out" technique by its Corners post-snap, regardless of whether it is a two-deep or three-deep rotation. "It confuses the QB because he sees a hard corner post-snap," says Fullen. "You can get him to clutch the ball on the snap or cause an interception because the QB doesn’t see the corner squatting." Assistant head coach Tom Mesalla agrees, "There comes a point in time you want to eliminate the quick game," he told us. "Those players are too good to see the speed out by the QB. There are also times where the CB’s are really not that good. Cover Two protects those Corners. In Quarters coverage or in three deep they are on an island. "
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According to Fullen, concepts such as the Stick Concept, made popular by West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, particularly out of a 3x1 sets could be stymied with these concepts. The number one receiver runs an outside vertical, number two runs to the flat and number three hits up away from the curl/flat defender (Diagram 10). "Cover Two play with two hard corners can easily defend those stick route concepts," said Fullen.
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However what can be challenging against two-deep pressure packages is the threat of four verticals out of trips because the linebacker away from the blitz is forced to carry number three vertical. One of the options that the Seahawks can use to protect itself against this is to check the blitz to a two-deep zone pressure with the Outside and Inside linebacker blitzing from opposite sides (Diagram 21) or by checking to a three-deep, three-under pressure concept.
To see cutups of these concepts from the spring, click on the link below:
We wanted to present this piece to our readers because of the increasing popularity of utilizing two-deep zone pressure concepts. Wagner has found a way to package it’s two-deep and three-deep zone pressures into the same system while varying its support calls based on what offenses present.
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