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June 2004

June 2004

Command of the Line

Georgia Military College\'s Applications of the 3-5-3 Defense
© June 2004

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Since the installation of the 3-5-3 defense, Georgia Military College has consistently been ranked among the nation’s top defenses. Our defensive packages are easy to learn and execute. We strive to control the line of scrimmage with our front eight players. We are able to use different fronts to change an offense’s blocking rules and attacking points against our defense. Even though the fronts have changed, our defensive rules and blitzes do not; therefore, we have our players learn a set of rules that apply to every situation an offense might pose.

Diagram 1.

I feel our base alignment is the best alignment to attack an offense. The offense does not know which direction we are moving the defensive line or where our Mike, Bat, and Dog linebackers are moving. This is our base alignment: (See Diagram 1)

From this alignment, we are moving the defensive linemen to a gap. The defensive ends will move and control either the “C” gap or the “B” gap. We will match our Mike and Bat linebackers to move and control the gaps opposite the defensive line. Our dog linebackers/safeties have one rule: to contain.

Our major coaching points of this defense are the same as with any other defense: #1 pursuit, #2 tackle, #3 take care of your responsibility. With our simple adjustment rules and techniques, we feel we have the ability to defend many offensive sets and plays. Everyone asks me about the option play and power play. I tell coaches that if the players run the defensive call, we will be in place to make the play. As we all know, our players are not always perfect. We do have missed tackles and missed assignments. An offense may select the right play against the defensive play that is called. I stress to our defensive players that we must overcome bad situations. We all lose if a team scores. If one player misses his assignment, other players had better pursue to the ball and make the play. No excuses.

Diagram 2.

Verses the option play, I tell my defensive players that if they run the defense called, we will defeat the option play. Our defensive rules show us who has responsibility of the quarterback, dive, and pitch. (See Diagram 2)

I tell our defensive line and linebackers, we must control the dive and quarterback verses the option play. The dogs have pitch and the free safety is running the alley as the clean defender. Verses the dive option weak from this basic defensive line move, our bat will tackle the dive, the end will tackle the quarterback, and the dog will tackle the pitch. Our Mike linebacker is told to stay inside out to the football and read dive, quarterback to pitch.

Verses veer option weak, the end will make his move and squeeze on the offensive tackle to tackle the dive, and the bat will fit outside to tackle the quarterback. The dog will tackle the pitch. The Mike and free safety are inside out to the football – dive, quarterback, to pitch. Now, if you look at slanting the three defensive linemen strong, the defensive end will tackle the dive, the bat linebacker will tackle the quarterback, and the dog will tackle the pitch. If we can slant the defensive linemen weak, the bat will fill and tackle the dive, the end will tackle the quarterback, and the dog will tackle the pitch.

Diagram 3.

Verses the power play, the defensive linemen are moving and cause disruption in the backfield. The linebackers read pulling linemen and attack to daylight to blow the play up and make it bounce to the dogs, free safety, and scrapping linebackers. (See Diagram 3)

On the power play, the offense will block down with the guard and tackle. Our defensive line is moving. Based on this movement and our linebacker reads, we do not have many problems with the power play. I will explain the power strong play verses the defensive linemen move to the strong side of the offense. An offense will block down with the tight end, tackle, and guard on the strong side. The weak side guard and tackle are pulling to kick out and rap into the line of scrimmage. Our strong side end will make his move and get his eyes inside to see what is attacking him. He cannot be reached by the tight end. The nose guard is moving strong and must not get cut off by the strong side guard. The weak side defensive end cannot be cut off and usually disrupts the play in the backfield. The linebackers always read pulling lineman. Once they see pulling linemen, the strong side Bat will attack downhill and try to hit the offensive lineman before he turns up field. The Mike stays inside out and the weak side Bat pursues from the backside. With all of this movement and attacking, the ball carrier often has to bounce outside where the dog is waiting to make the play.

Diagram 4.

I would like to take some time to cover a few of our blitz packages. We are known for our attacking and pressure style of defense. We have been very fortunate to recruit many athletes who can run. Speed is the focus of recruiting for our defense and we have had many players to fit this mold. I will discuss our 5-man pressure packages with our linebackers and dogs. (See Diagram 4)

Our defensive line is moving on every play. Based on their movement, we hit the opposite gaps with linebackers and dogs to bring pressure on an offense. We will play a lot of man-to-man coverage and cover 3. Based on film breakdown, we try to know what an offense’s favorite plays are and what calls we can make to defend these plays.

Diagram 5.

In our defensive calls, the defensive line will hear the direction they will be moving. We will bring any combination of the Mike and Bats to hit the gaps left open by the defensive linemen’s slant. We will play either cover 1 or cover 3 with this type of 5-man pressure. For example, one call may be Zoo strong 1. When this call is made, the defensive ends will move to the “C” gap, and the nose guard will move to the weak side “A” gap. The strong side Bat will blitz the “B” gap, and the Mike will blitz the “A” gap. (See Diagram 5)

If we call Zoo weak 1, then the nose guard will move to the strong side “A” gap and the defensive ends will still move to the “C” gap. The weak side Bat will blitz the “B” gap and the Mike will blitz the “A” gap weak. We can bring any combinations with both Bats or one Bat and the Mike. Our coverage behind these blitzes will be either cover 1 or cover 3.

Diagram 6.

We also bring 5-man pressure with a Bat and a Dog. We will move the defensive line strong or weak and bring a Bat and a Dog off the edge with the direction of the defensive line’s slant. We cover down with the free safety if we have two receivers to the one side. In the example drawn, the free safety would cover down on the tight end. (See Diagram 6)

In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to several coaches who played essential roles in the development of our defensive package. Scot Sloan, Chad Lunsford, and I visited several universities getting ideas and gaining insight to create our own version of the 3-5-3. Our current staff, which also includes Desmond Coleman (D-line) and Dwayne Robertson (Dogs) along with Rob Manchester in overseeing secondary coverages have also added important contributions and have done an excellent job teaching our players. We are continuing to try and develop new blitzes and coverages with the defense. As long as you have the basic rules, fundamentals, and techniques in place, the possibilities are unlimited with the many packages you are able to run with this defense.

Related Videos
American Football Monthly now offers a full line of coaching videos. So, if you enjoyed this clinic article, here are a few videos that you may find interesting:

1-FV2179A: Basics of the 3-5-3 (Williams)
2-FV2179B: Defending the Option with the 3-5-3 (Williams)
3-FV01599: The Complete Defensive Line Stunt Package (Latimore)

To find these videos and many others, view our online catalog at

About the author
Taylor Burks

Georgia Military College’s Taylor Burks begins his third season as Defensive Coordinator this fall. Two years ago the Bulldogs finished first in the nation in defense among NJCAA colleges and last year finished third. The Dyersburg, Tennessee native is a Mississippi State graduate.

To contact Coach Burks you can reach him at:


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