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Using the 3-5-3 to Stay One Step Aheadby: Taylor Burks
Defensive Coordinator Hillwood High School (TN)
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Over the years, offensive coaches have used different techniques to attack the 3-5-3 defense. They will use formations, motions, and plays to attack certain areas of the defense. I often see offenses that want to attack the edge of the defense at the “C” or “D” gap. They are trying to put pressure on the ‘Dog Safeties’ and cornerbacks or the defensive ends and ‘Bat Linebackers.’ Offenses normally use different blocking techniques from the crack back to the kick block on the dog safeties. They also use the fullback/H-back, wide receivers, and/or the tight end to try to out-man the defense at the point of attack.
As a defensive coordinator, I must think ahead and use simple adjustments and not confuse the players. If you have to add new terminology or assignments that change only in certain situations, you will be sure to confuse your players. My goal is to let the players know what to do in all situations and to play fast. I like to play pass coverage that is based off of a cover 3 or man-to-man concept. As the number one wide receiver starts to attack the dog safety to perform a crack block, we have to teach our cornerbacks the concept of crack/replace. The cornerback must replace the dog safety in run responsibilities and force the ball carrier back to the inside defenders. As the cornerback reads the crack block, he must yell “crack” to inform the dog safety of this threat and he must be ready to fit off the crack block to make a play on the ball carrier or force him back inside.
For our cover 3 and variations of it, we will change responsibilities between the dog safety and cornerback. We let the cornerback squat in the curl-flat area or become the outside-in force player and let the dog safety sink to the deep outside 1/3 of the field. We will also squat the cornerback in the curl-flat area, have the dog safety play the hook-curl area, and have the free safety get over the top of all receivers to the outside 1/3 of the field. When this occurs, our backside dog safety will spin to cover the middle 1/3 of the field, and the backside cornerback will cover the outside 1/3. These simple adjustments have helped us defend offenses attacking the edge of the defense.
As teams use motions, trade the tight end or use an overload formation, we will bring an extra defender over to keep us from getting out-manned at the point of attack. We can use the free safety to adjust to motions, or we will have the dog safety make these adjustments. With a team that will trade a TE, we generally are not affected by this since we are a balanced defense. If we are having problems with a TE trade, we will simply walk a bat linebacker or dog safety up to the line of scrimmage and play a 9 technique. For a team that will try to overload our defense with four linemen to one side of the football, we will simply slide everyone over one man to the four linemen side and run the defensive call.
I hope these simple adjustments will help you be successful in running the 3-5-3 defense. I recently completed a series of three DVDs now available at AFMvideos.com. The titles include ‘Advanced 3-5-3 Techniques against the Run,’ ‘D-Line and Linebacker Techniques and Drills for the 3-5-3,’ and ‘Adjusting Your Defense to Various Offensive Schemes.’
About the Author:
Taylor Burks is currently the Defensive Coordinator at Hillwood High School in Tennessee. Burks coached at Georgia Military College for nearly a decade and implemented the 3-5-3 at the school. GMC was consistently ranked among the top defenses in the country.
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