X&O Labs Releases...

The Brand-New Special Report for Coaches Who Live and Die in the Odd Front

The Largest Research Project Ever Conducted on Defending Spread Run Concepts Using Odd Fronts

Get an inside look at how some of the best programs in the country stop the Spread run game using the Odd Front.

65 percent of programs ranked nationally in the top 10 at the FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III levels based their scheme out of the odd front.

While Coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart at Alabama have been credited with being the catalysts of using three-down structures to defend the run game, many other programs have modeled themselves after some of the same techniques and philosophies used in Tuscaloosa.

At X&O Labs, as the research company for football coaches, we wanted to go further into why these odd front defenses are continually consistent, particularly in defending the spread run game. Our research included odd front defenses that were among the best in rushing defense along with a contingent of high school programs that were also basing in the odd front. This research includes what they were doing that was making them so successful in defending spread run concepts such as zone read and power read. We segmented our research in the following components:

  • The methodologies and techniques associated with two-gap vs. single gap control for the front three defenders.
  • Defending the open side (two-man surface) run game including the zone read and power read concept.
  • Defending the closed side (or three-man surface) run game including power, and other gap concepts.
  • The pre- and post-snap reductions these coaches were using to defend specific formational tendencies as well as field/boundary tendencies.

While these categories were simply a jumping off point, it’s important to note that this study is specifically about first and second down defense. Pressures from an odd front, particularly in third down, is an entirely separate course of study in its own right.

Many defensive coordinators will find ways to corner an offense into third down to bring those exotic pressures associated with the odd front. But this study is not about that. It’s about living and dying in the odd front in run situations.

We researched and interviewed several defensive coordinators from base 3-4 structures such as Wagner College (NY), Trinity College (CT), St. Thomas University (MN), University of St. Francis (IN), John Carroll University (OH) and Army. We also sat with odd stack, or 3-3 coaches, such as the staff at Villanova University and Jacksonville University to get their perspective on how their structures are most successful in defending the run game of spread offenses.

What we found is that these odd front coaches feel it’s the best front to defend the read elements associated with spread option football for various reasons, which we expounded in the four cases of this report.

Benefits of the Odd Front Against the Run Game

  • Provides for an opportunity to put your most athletic players on the field.
  • Gives a defense flexibility and disguise due to its ability to slant and stem to other fronts.
  • A dominant nose can control a game and put increased pressure on the Center.
  • Offensive linemen must face a defensive line that will either two-gap, shade or slant.
  • It increases offensive preparation time because of the odd front variations this system presents.
  • Unfamiliarity with the scheme can lead to offensive confusion.

This brand-new special report features 4 cases as outlined below. Plus, it includes 1 hour and 45 minutes of game and practice film. So, you’ll be able to read in-depth details about the concepts and then see it in a real game or practice setting.

Here’s what you’ll find in each case of this brand-new special report…

Case 1: Two Gap vs. One-Gap Technique for Defensive Linemen

This case will be centered on the varying methodologies between the two-gap and one-gap technique up front. We will examine the techniques associated with each of these methodologies, including the circumstances in which coaches use them. We begin our research with the play of the nose, then transition into the play of the boundary (two-man surface) and field (three-man surface) defensive end. We wanted to present these issues because they continue to be hot topics among odd front coaches.

Naturally, we will present both all methodologies and perspectives on these components, but some of the research divulged in case one includes:

  • Explanation of the 3 main characteristics odd front coaches say is a necessity in an odd front nose.
  • The specific instances, based on formation and personnel, where odd front coaches are choosing to two-gap their nose.
  • The drill work that odd front coaches are using to teach the two-gap technique.
  • Reader responses from two-gap, odd front coaches as it pertains to the following components: stance and alignment, pre and post-snap reads, techniques against single blocks, techniques against double blocks and more.
  • Why Villanova University defensive coordinator Billy Crocker and Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman chooses not to have their nose play the backside A gap in zone schemes.
  • Why Alvin Smith, the defensive coordinator at Wagner College (NY) says the attack step he teaches his nose helps direct run flow more than read steps more commonly associated with two-gap defenders.
  • The “throat” technique that Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman uses to have his nose attack the “hard shoulder” of offensive lineman.
  • How odd front coaches are teaching the slant/angle technique to their front three as it pertains to the following coaching components: stance, pre and post snap read, specifics behind the slant and stick technique, technique vs. block to, technique vs. block away and the technique against double teams at the point of attack.
  • How Trinity College (CT) varies between its drive step for one-gap movements and its stick step for two gap movements and the drill work it is using to teach it.

Case 2: Defending the Open Side Read Game

For clarification purposes, the open side run game consists of concepts attacking the two-man surface side, away from the tight end or strength of formation. The runs we focused on researching were specifically the spread option game, which encompasses of the zone read and power read run game. We wanted to research what advantages the odd front gives in defending these run concepts. Because there are different runs designed to both sides of the offensive formation (closed and open) most odd front coaches use different types of personnel to play these two positions.

Some of the research uncovered in this case includes:

  • The 3 most important characteristics odd front coaches look for in developing their open side defensive end.
  • Why the majority of odd front coaches use a head-up alignment for their open side defensive end.
  • The specific techniques odd front coaches are using to train their boundary side defensive end against the various types of blocks he sees during the course of the season.
  • Analysis of the “Kill” technique that Jay Bateman, the defensive coordinator at Army uses to defend the open side zone read game.
  • Analysis of the “Read” technique that Jerry Odom, the defensive coordinator at Jacksonville University is teaching his open side defensive end to use, which is predicated on the block of the offensive tackle.
  • Analysis of the “Bend and Chase” technique that Billy Crocker, the defensive coordinator at Villanova University is using with his open side defensive end which helps to close out the front side A gap in zone and power read concepts.
  • Analysis of the “Lion,” “Bear,” and “Rover” stunt that Kyle Bakken, the defensive coordinator at Concordia University (MN), uses to change up the read element to the open side against power and zone read.
  • Analysis of the “Quarter” and “Runner” technique used by Tim Baechler at Canton High School (MI) which triggers the play side backer in his odd front scheme to react off the block of the offensive tackle in order to defend the open side read game.
  • Analysis of the “Full to Half Man” technique that the staff at the University of St. Francis (IN) is using to train their 4-techniques to play both the B and C to the read side of zone read as well as the drill work that they use to teach it.
  • Why Brandon Staley, the defensive coordinator at John Carroll University (OH) has his backside defensive end “box” instead of “spill” the ball against Y-off zone bluff concepts.
  • Why Coach Crocker at Villanova University teaches what he calls a “downhill run element” to his defensive end to the open side of power read which eliminates the read side A gap fit.
  • Why Villanova has started to pull its linebackers, rather than its safeties, in quarters alignments vs. trips formations.
  • How Coach Odom at Jacksonville University gets his backside 5-technique as an extra player against power read by reading the hinge block of the offensive tackle.
  • How Coach Staley at John Carroll University (OH) is able to push the power read concept one gap wider with some of the alignments he is creating to the open side, which helps his second level players run down the scheme.

Case 3: Defending the Closed Side Run Game

The presence of a closed tight end may raise some concern for odd front coaches and for good reason: it creates an extra gap along the front. So in order to account for that space, we found that 45 percent of coaches will use a 5-techinque alignment with that player. This was only four percentage points lower than the 4-techinque alignment, which was the most common answer. Only 5 percent of coaches chose to stay in that 4i technique alignment that is synonymous with the closed or boundary side defensive end.We present our research on how odd front coaches use these alignments to defend gap schemes and other three-man surface runs.

Some of the research included in this case includes:

  • Why the majority of odd front coaches use a 5-techique defensive end to the three-man surface side of offensive formations.
  • The three most important characteristics odd front coaches look for in developing their closed side defensive end.
  • The specific techniques odd front coaches are using to train their closed side defensive end against the various types of blocks he sees during the course of the season.
  • Analysis of the “Throat” technique used by Jay Bateman, the defensive coordinator at Army, which get his closed side defensive end to play both the B and C gap by attacking the “hard shoulder” of the offensive tackle.
  • The drill work used by Ben Albert, the defensive line coach at Boston College to train his 9-techique to defend against the push reach, scoop, down kick out and “G” schemes.
  • Analysis of the “Blood Technique” that Ryan Fullen, the defensive coordinator at Wagner College (NY) is using to teach his 9-techique to defend against closed formation run game.
  • Analysis of the “Bite Technique” that Tim Baechler at Canton High School (MI) uses against three-man surface run game, particularly to the boundary.
  • Analysis of the “Sting Technique” that Lew Acquarulo, the defensive coordinator at Trinity College (CT) teaches to his 9-techique against the closed side run game, particularly when the front is moving away from him.

Case 4: Reduction Methodologies and Adjustments to Problematic Formations

We’ve found that most odd front coaches do not typically stay in the odd front, they will stem and shift with a good deal of consistency into even front structures. Our research indicates that the majority of odd front coaches, 38 percent, will move their front three defenders on at least three quarters of snaps. We’ve also found that 61 percent of coaches will move those defenders both pre and post snap. Most of these movements come in the form of “reductions,” which essentially means where the first level B gap defender (or 3-technique) will be placed either pre or post snap. We present the various methodologies that coaches use to design their reductions, either based on field/boundary tendencies or formation tendencies.

Some of the research uncovered in this case includes:

  • Why 61 percent of odd front coaches more their front three defenders in either pre or post-snap circumstances.
  • Analysis of “Under,” a boundary reduction front used at Trinity College (CT) including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • Analysis of “Even,” a boundary reduction front used at Trinity College (CT) including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • Analysis of “Rush,” a boundary reduction front used at Army including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • Analysis of “Bust,” a boundary reduction front used at Jacksonville University including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • Analysis of “Field Closed Angle,” a field reduction front used at Wagner College (NY) including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • Analysis of “Sam,” a field reduction front used at Army including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • Analysis of “Stem,” a double reduction used at Villanova University including the pre-snap and post-snap movements associated with it against various formations.
  • How odd front coaches are trigger their reductions based off various formations including 11 personnel, 21 personnel and Y-off structures.
  • Various ways in which odd front coaches are adjusting to first level unbalanced formations such as four-man surface in their base defense including East Noble High School (PA) “Knock” adjustment, Trinity College’s (CT) “Okie” adjustment and Wagner College’s (NY) Dog Bow Zone adjustment.
  • Various ways in which odd front coaches are adjusting to formation into boundary (F.I.B.) structures in their base defense including Wagner College’s (NY) “Steeler” adjustment.
  • Various ways in which odd front coaches are adjusting to the Trey Formation in their base defense including Villanova University’s “Sink Coverage” adjustment and Canton High School’s (MI) “Cat Coverage” adjustment.
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