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The Situation

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David Hartman, Head Coach
Crossroads Youth Football League, Victoria (TX)
AFM subscriber since 2002

44Base Crash Laser 54, Cover 1

Our play LASER 54 calls for 6-man pressure involving a dog by the LOU and ROB inside linebackers thru the 5 and 4 holes, respectively. For simplicity, when calling blitzes, we utilize a mirror of our offensive hole numbering system so players on both sides of the ball only have to learn a single set of numbers. Since both ILB’s are responsible for the first back out to their side, ROB should pull up his rush and slide outside as the near back releases. MIKE takes a 5 yard drop initially looking for shallow crossers or a possible dump to the TE before reading screen and pursuing to get over the top of the play. MIKE’s recognition of the play and pursuit to the ball will be critical to holding the screen to little or no gain.

Playing man-free coverage, we walk our openside invert,WHIP, outside to cover their #2 receiver. The tightside invert, TIGER, loads into a loose 9 technique on the LOS with no split receiver to his side of the formation. The corner then rolls up a couple of yards outside him, approximately 5 yards off the ball with coverage responsibility for the #1 receiver, which in this case is a tight end. If the TE engages the invert, he takes over force responsibility and must maintain outside leverage. The invert should shoot his hands to the TE's outside number, to prevent a free release upfield while maintaining outside leverage as the primary force defender. Our FREE SAFETY’S base alignment splits the offenses #1 receivers at 10-12 yards off the ball which puts him just outside the tackle on the twins side of the formation. From here, he will attack the play from the inside-out, running the alley to either side while looking to pick up an uncovered vertical or delayed release by the TE.

Scott Cramer, Defensive Coordinator
Verona Area HS, Verona, WI
AFM subscriber since 2003

Stopping the Screen

We’ll bring some pressure with line movement in a medium to long yardage 4th down situation. In this case, where it’s 4th and goal on the 10 and the ball on the hash, we’ll bring pressure off the short side with line movement toward the field, complementing the pressure, with zone coverage behind the pressure. Because we’ve been in 3-3-5 most of the day and the vertical field is now compacted, we’ll go to a shade eagle front, showing more immediate pressure to the offense.

Our first rule for the rushing OLB and the playside defensive linemen is to not round off their rush as they fall into pursuit, but to immediately re-trace their steps when they recognize screen. Next, we’ll ask our corner to the playside to remove the outside blocker from the play and to get the ball turned back into the help, ripping through the outside blocker’s outside armpit after making a move to draw the blocker inside. Our ILB to the screen side will then fill the next gap. We are building a wall in front of the receiver to allow our rushing OLB and DL to attack the tailback (receiver) as a wall from behind. An important point for the defenders attacking the screen blockers: running directly at the receiver allows the offensive linemen to know exactly where the receiver is located. This is a key point because in a conventional screen such as this, the offensive linemen have their backs to the receiver and the running lane is vague; therefore, their blocking assignments and areas are also vague. We can increase their hesitation by making them believe the player they are blocking for is in an area that he’s actually not. The defenders should make their first few steps in pursuit at an angle that gets the blockers out of position, then use a punch-swim or rip to avoid the blocker and move onto a direct path to the receiver.

Mike Mari, Defensive Coordinator
Mendocino College (CA)
AFM subscriber since 2004

Backers Playing Man

Being as it is 4th down from the 10, and our opponent is going to try to get into the end zone, I would first align my DB’s with their feet on the goal line. No need to worry about a short completion as our defense can surround any underneath route. My base coverage for this situation would be 2-man. I would be locking up the recievers and providing help with the safeties over the top. Also, by aligning my corners at 10, no pick routes would work on the 2 receiver side. A screen play would be defended by my backers playing man on the backs to their side. The defensive line should also recognize the screen from the OL. The OL sells the screen that will provide my backers with additonal time to see the back to their side setting up the screen.

COMING SOON: The Situation: You are only down by 6 points late in the fourth quarter. It’s 3rd and 6 on your opponents’ 28 yard line. The ball is on the right hash which is your sideline. You have just used your last timeout with only 30 seconds remaining in the game and the offense is huddled on the field. On 1st down you ran a sprint option play to the left, the QB kept the ball for a 5 yard gain. On second down you threw a quick hitch to the right for a 1 yard gain. Your playbook is modeled after the spread option offense and you have an arsenal of plays to choose from. What do you tell your team to do? Send us a detailed response and accompanying diagram... deadline is January 15th! Send your responses and play diagrams to AFM Managing Editor Rex Lardner at


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