Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spread Run Variations (Mississippi State/Oregon)

If you have been keeping up with College Football at all over the last few years, you probably noticed that offenses keep getting more creative in their effort to keep defenses off balance. Dan Mullen and Chip Kelly are two coaches who have been some of the most active innovators of the spread running game. In this post I will explore a couple of run variations that these two coaches have used this year.


After looking at this post from, I observed Dan Mullen using some creativity in the way he ran the counter. He used many variations of the play but one in particular stood out to me.

Working from a base 11 personnel formation:

The base way to block the counter to the TE side would be to:
  1. Release the TE on the SS
  2. Have the PST and PSG Team to the BSLB
  3. Pull the BSG to kick the DE out and the BST to seal up on the PSLB
  4. The QB would hold the BSDE with the mesh
  5. WR's Block most dangerous threats
This is nothing revolutionary. The counter has been a staple in football for years. Dan Mullen ran his variation using three simple changes.
  1. The person responsible for sealing on the PSLB
  2. Backfield action
  3. Ball Carrier
In his variation the BST stayed to block to the BSDE. When the QB caught the snap he set up and showed pass, and the running back worked behind the pulling guard to seal up on the PSLB.

This draw/counter play puts pressure on the defense. First, if the backers (and safeties) are getting their run/pass reads from the backfield (this is common even in college) , they will be less aggressive on the run. Second, there is a high chance the backers will be caught off guard by who is going to be blocking them. Third, even if backers were alert to the one pulling linemen, it is not a reliable key. Mississippi State had been pulling one guard on Play Action passes throughout the game.

Another thing that worked in this play's favor was the situation. It was 3rd and 2, its a short enough down that the offense had just about their whole playbook to work with. Given the play call range, the Kentucky Defense had to much guesswork. In situations like these, the smartest thing for the defense to do is avoid bringing pressure and play a base call geared towards the run and short passes. For example a cover 1 variation. This was good for the Mississippi Offense because linebackers running through the gaps disrupts these plays.

This video is from The play occurs at about 5:10. The play is run a few other time throughout the game.


Chris Brown at Smartfootball wrote this article about Oregon's Zone Read of the defensive tackle. Oregon ran a variation of this earlier this year and combined it with stretch (outside zone principals. Working from 20 personnel, they aligned in this formation.

In this play the center, Right Guard, and Right Tackle full zone (outside zone). The runningback meshes with the QB on an outside sweep path. Again, this is nothing revolutionary. The creativity came on the backside. The Left Guard and Tackle released inside and blocked the BSLB and Safety. Finally the H works back across the formation and kicks out the BSDE. The unblocked person was the defensive tackle in a 3-technique. This was the QB's read.

Defenses have responded to defending midline plays by squeezing the d-tackle down the line to account for the running back and letting a linebacker work around for the quarterback.

The problem with that plan against this play is that it will not work effectively.

First, there is no way the d-tackle can play the running back (unless the back gets the ball and tries to cutback, not likely). Second, the backer will be getting a fast flow read, and be working to defend the running back themselves. So the play is essentially a ploy to get the D-tackle to do what he has been taught, and then run the QB ball right behind him where a huge hole will be.

The squeezing of the d-tackle opens up the play. Here is another view of the play to demonstrate the positioning of the players when the QB pulls the ball.

This play put pressure on the D, because it uses the techniques they have been taught against them. The reads that each of the defenders get will put them out of position versus the place the offense will actually attack.


These plays are examples that offensive coaches are constantly trying to stay a step ahead of the defense. Dan Mullen and Chip Kelly have the reputations they have, because of innovation like this. It will be a ongoing challenge for defensive coaches to constantly adapt and adjust to the offense as fast as the they (offense) has adjusted to the defense. I wonder when we will see these variations down at the high school level. They may already be, who knows. These have been the first times I have seen these particular play variations.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Defending Pull Schemes

There are many teams that rely upon pull schemes to move the ball. These schemes create problems for defenses that try to play base gap control defense and read and react. Plays like the dart are troublesome for these schemes. Lets take a look at the couple of typical pull schemes that teams employ.

This is the Dart and it has become a spread staple.

This is a simple fold play.

If you look closely a problem is created. The gap the pulling linemen is going throw gets split into two. This is similar to the problem that the ISO creates. This extra gap gives flexibility to the running back. Usually teams try to leverage their backers to deal with this. However this is not a viable option because the backers create a huge cutback lane, if they do this. Consider these two plays with the backers leveraging the puller.

Lets look at the the problem that is created. First off, consider the # of gaps that are needed to defend the running game.

There are six gaps and in this example we have 6 defenders to cover each of these gaps. So, whats the problem? The problem is that the offense moves where the gaps are on pull type plays.

What makes it a problem for the defense is that the defense does not rearrange the way that the 6 gaps are defended. So essentially, a gap is left open for the ball carrier to run through. If there is 6 gaps and 6 defenders then how is there an open gap?

The pulling scheme puts two players in one gap. The defense needs to avoid this. 2 defenders in one gap is a big problem. A simple and solid counter for these plays is needed. A good way to stop these plays is the fire the backers through their gaps. This allows them to penetrate the backfield before the pullers or double team get to them. However, firing your linebackers constantly is usually not the best idea (unless the team can't stop it).

Another way to defend this is have one of the linemen defeat the linemen at the point of attack. However, this is not the most reliable method year in and year out.

This was a long explanation of some simple plays, but I wanted to establish the problem the offense creates for the defense. The most effective way for countering an offensive concept is to look at the weakness of a particular scheme.

I was beating my head against the wall when I first started dealing with these plays, I tried to rearrange my fronts, stunt backers, and twist linemen. There would be some success, but I would leave myself open to other plays. It was a guessing game, but sooner or later I would get the defense out of position and give up a big play. I needed an effective counter that would remain sound against other plays.

What I realized was that both these plays relied on the guard base blocking the 3-technique one on one. I started slanting the 3-technique from B to A-Gap. This was a problem for guards to pick up because they did not expect a three technique to do this. If I had a tackle that had a problem with this technique, then I would cheat him back a step. This is not a hard technique to execute on defense, an it became my best defense for these types of plays. In one game the 3-tech had 6 tackles for a loss on this stunt.

The best part of it was, I was sound against everything else. The only change in the defensive scheme was that the backers had the B gaps.

If run effectively, the offense will have to get away from the single pull plays rely on counter OT or zone runs to get the ball going. I would rather face those plays. It allows the DE to spill the ball to the Outside guys.

This might seem like an overly simple adjustment. But I have found it to be one of the most effective ways to defend pull schemes. Teams have tried to counter it, but it more or less takes them out of pull schemes. Whenever you run a front with a 3 and a 1, the three technique draws a one on one block. This block is the weakness that the defense can take advantage of.

Even if you pull towards the 3 there is a one on one created. Consider this example.

Still the 3-tech penetrating the A gap creates a problem for this play.

This might have been too long an explanation for such a simple adjustment, but I found it helpful to understand it this way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Split Safety-Zone Blitzes

Much has written about fire-zones. The zone-blitz is a great change up for the defense and creates a lot of offensive confusion. In fire zones you bring 5 and drop into 3 under 3 deep coverage essentially. Most teams have incorporated some form of fire-zone into their packages, and with the nature of football teams are beginning to adjust to it. As football evolves other things are needed to keep the offense off balance. Another reason for utilizing other kinds of zone pressure is that cover 3 can be kind of constricting to people who run a lot of split safety coverage.

The thing about it is, teams that don't run a lot of 3 deep (or don't care to) are used to being in split safety coverage. Split safety coverage is a completely different animal than cover 3. For 1, cover 3 is a full field concept, split safety coverages operate on a 1/2 field concept. This gives need to the ability to bring zone pressure with split safety coverage, and be able to control the coverages on each half of the field.

The ideas behind split safety zone blitzes are simple and close to the ideas behind fire-zones.

  • Confuse the protection scheme and create pressure
  • Play aggressive squat/halves zone coverage
  • protect the defense against the screen and draw
  • Simple and adaptable to different formations.

  1. Zone-blitz with split-safety coverage concepts
  2. Bring 4-man pressure and play halves coverage to both sides
  3. Bring 5 or use a double spy, and play 1/2's to one side and man to the other. (mixture of zone blitz and man blitzes)
  4. Put a spy (or two) on the back to protect against screen, draw, scramble, and dump off
Just like fire zones, there are many different ways you can put blitzes together and be sound. I am not going to go into a bunch of different blitzes, but I will use 1 blitz to illustrate the concepts. As a coach it comes down to applying concepts. I am sure given a particular front and scheme that many effective zone-pressures can be put together.

EXAMPLE-Zone 1 side, Man 1 side

The first step in executing an effective zone pressure is pre-snap disguise. You have to be able to present a normal alignment to the offense and then stem into your pressure, this puts pressure on the O-Line and QB. It is difficult to recognize and communicate blocking assignments in a short amount of time. Consider the alignment below:

This is a basic 4-2 split safety coverage look. Now with proper stemming the defense can move into position to execute a zone blitz. Versus the gun it best to do it when the QB calls for the snap.

This leads to the final alignment just before the snap

The FS side will be in 1/2's coverage. The corner will be making a hard read of #2 covering him on any outside break, but running with #1 if #2 is vertical. The FS is in deep 1/2's technique, while the Read Side backer is walling #2 from the inside and up. the away side of the coverage is man with the weak safety on #2 and the corner on #1. The blitz will involve a double spy:

The SS and Mike backer are off the edge, the ends engage the tackles then drop to spy screen, draw, scramble, and the tackle and nose are executing a twist stunt with the tackle going first.

EXAMPLE- Zone on Both Sides

Simple adjustment with a 4-pressure and a single spy.

Now both sides are playing 1/2's coverage, there is still a 4 man pressure, and a player responsible for screen, draw, scramble.

The coverage is flexible and simple, even versus a trips look the adjustments are easy.

Both backers are walling #2 and #3 with the FS over the top. The corner and weak safety on the back side are free to play multiple coverages like they would with special coverage to the read side.

You can even change up the blitz versus a trips look. Bringing another safety and using a double spy is simple.

The options are near limitless. This zone-pressure concept is a natural fit for coaches who like flexible split-safety coverage. Also, it is easy for the safeties to get each side into coverages. It follows common sense principals that fit naturally into any 2-high defense.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I am a big fan of using trick plays. They keep the defense off balance and can really punish a team for being too aggressive or even too passive. The play below is a good trick play to use before halftime or the end of a game when the defense is in prevent.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Been real busy, I am publishing this incomplete I will add that information into part III.

In Part I, I discussed the 2 main types of brackets: Under/Over and In/Out. I finished up that discussion with a breakdown of the Nick Saban's Cone coverage. In this section I will get into two different ways of bracketing the slot receiver and discuss the run/pass technique of the people involved in bracket coverage.
I previously stated the main benefits to bracket coverage

1. Ability to coverage a good WR

2. Ability to leverage underneath and vertical routes

3. Involve simple and solid run support rules.

#3 might be one the most important concepts when it comes to bracketing. When it comes to man coverage of WR's, it takes 5 men to cover the 5 eligible men at a minimum. This leaves 6 men dedicated to playing the run. When you bracket, 6 men are put into coverage, leaving only 5 to play the run. The offensive concept that has become standard (for 10 personnel spread teams) is to run the ball versus 5 in the box. So if you are going to play the run effectively in bracket coverage, then you are going to need solid and simple rules for getting another player involved in run plays.

The great part about bracket coverage is that it is easy to do that. The starting point is to keep players out of run/pass conflicts. What is the usual indicator of a run in the shotgun? It is the mesh of the QB and running back. It is this action that can put players in conflict. Is it a run or play pass? If a player can't tell, then he is gonna be stuck in concrete not doing anything productive on the field. When it comes to run/pass issues, you need to have clear rules to keep players out of conflicts. Here are some examples and rules for eliminating this dilemma.


Just like "Cone" DUECE puts the #2 Slot WR in an in/out bracket. The techniques for playing inside and outside breaks are identical to CONE. The major difference between the two coverages is the involvement of run/pass responsibilities.

The "IN" players is the person responsible for run overlap. If the ball meshes with the QB and back, this player must play run first. The FS in this coverage would be the person responsible for the play action pass to the slot WR. The Nickle player would come off later once he has cleared the run. Versus a typical bubble screen off play action, the assignments would look like this.

This is not ideal for this coverage, but these rules need to be in place to eliminate the Nickle back from being in a run/pass conflict. Versus a simple run:

Another problem route with this coverage is the Play-Action pass to the slot on a slant. It is an easy pass to complete given that the fake gets the nickle player out of the way. However, this is not a major concern. By alignment the offense will be wary of attacking the D with a slant by the #2 WR. Also, with proper stemming this look can appear to be a 1/2's, man under, quarters, or even an outside bracket look.


Bracket is an in/out slot bracket like DUECE, the major difference is that the nickle and FS switch responsibilities. These alignments are similar to robber coverage, and basic pre-stem middle field zone coverage (cover 3).

Versus a basic run the overlap and play-pass assignments look like this.

Mixing the looks is key. This game of mixing up the overlap players will cause problems for the whole offense. The linemen will have problems figuring out which player will be overlapping into the run-fit, and the QB will be confused as to what coverage the defense is in.

Friday, October 1, 2010


This is the first of a 3-Part series. This series is about the basics behind bracketing and the two main types that are usually employed. Part II will expand on some different variations and explain the run support principals. Finally, Part III will cover some read brackets that resemble match-up zone.


Bracket coverage is designed to create double coverage on a single receiver. There are multiple types of brackets and various reasons to use them. The starting point for bracket coverage is to begin with its place in football.

The two main coverage families in football are zone and man. Between these two families are many voids that coaches have attempted to and are still in the process of filling. The major attempt by many coaches has been seen in the evolution of match up-zone and pattern reading. The other attempt has been bracket coverage. To better understand its place consider the pros and cons of man and zone coverage.


+Close coverage
+Disrupts timing
+eliminates throwing lanes

-Personnel mismatches
-Receivers can run off Defenders on run plays
-vulnerable to the deep ball
-Weak versus the option


+Good for run and pass situations
+Protects against the deep ball
+Able to read the QB and break on the ball

-QB has many throwing windows
- Offenses will attack over stressed flat defenders
- You are either weak vertically or underneath.

In zone you are going to have holes in the short/intermediate or deep zones, you cannot eliminate all areas. In man you are gonna match-up problems and have trouble covering routes run away from the defenders man leverage. (ie. Inside man versus the 10 and out.) Also, a route that creates problems for both man and zone coverages is the 10-15 yard bend-in (Dig). These routes create problems that need solutions, while at the same time keeping the defense as a whole sound versus the run. Bracket coverage has the ability to defend these problem routes, eliminate mismatches, and remain sound versus the run.

The Positives to Bracket Coverage

1. Ability to double cover a good WR (eliminate mismatch)
2. Ability to leverage underneath and deep routes effectively.
3. Can involve simple and solid run support rules.


There are two types of bracket coverage concepts:

1. Under/Over (Vertical Bracket)
2. In/Out (Horizontal Bracket)


I have discussed examples of under and over brackets in a previous post. Essentially One person is in a trail technique covering any underneath break (inside and outside), with another person over the top providing deep support. Here a couple examples:

These are called vertical brackets Because the WR is sandwiched over and under. One man will stay low and in front while the other stays high and behind. The strength in this type of bracket is the ability to stay under any route without having to worry about getting beat deep.


In/out brackets provide horizontal leverage on a WR. One defender will cover him inside and up the other will work and outside and up. This type of coverage is easy to disguise and can be employed on any receiver. To illustrate this coverage, I will use some of Nick Saban's calls for in/out coverage and some key coaching points.

If Coach Saban wants to double the #1 WR in and out with a corner and he safety he will call "CONE".

Versus a vertical route by the WR, both players essentially cover him inside and out eliminating any mismatch.

The technique of each player is crucial. If the WR runs an inside cut, the "IN" defender must play the route aggressively and take it away. In this situation the "OUT" defender would work over the top of the route and provide deep support for the "IN" defender.

If the WR breaks outside the roles would reverse. With the "OUT" defender aggressively covering the WR while the "IN" defender works to provide over the top support.

The over the top leveraging on a horizontal break is the key to allowing the other defender to play aggressive. This makes the double move routes not a concern.

In part II I will cover slot,TE, and RB brackets in addition to discussing the run play in this type of coverage.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Play Action Passes-Defending the Bootleg

I apologize for the return to the 60's hand drawn diagrams. Football season makes it hard to find enough time to write a post much less design the diagrams for it. I hope that the drawing do the job of illustrating my point.

Power running and pro-style offenses use play action passes to keep the defense off balance. One of the most difficult types of play-action passes to defend, is the bootleg. The bootleg puts pressure on the defense because it begins as a play that shows run action in one direction and then develops into a passing play attacking the defense the other direction. The bulk of the pressure comes from the offense forcing the defense to pursue one way and then have to quickly change direction and locate passing threats while simultaneously containing the quarterback. In this post I will explore defending the bootleg. First, I will explain the idea and concept of the bootleg. Then I will give a few examples of how to defend it out of cover 3 and quarters.


To understand the bootleg, you must first understand the major reason that running teams use it.

#1 It punishes over-aggressive run play

The bootleg is an often used play, but derives it power the same way an infrequent trick play does. What are trick plays used for? For the most part it is not intended to "trick" the defense as much as it is designed to keep the D honest. For example, if the offenses is a big toss sweep team, they should have a toss pass in their game plan. This is important because it is needed to keep the corner and or safety from playing the toss too aggressively. If a toss team begins to notice that the corners and/or safety are playing the toss too aggressively, then they should run the toss pass. This is smart for two reason: First, it takes advantage of the opportunity to make a big time play. Second, it will take away the aggressiveness of the corner and/or safety, even if the ball falls incomplete. In effect the toss pass is the playbook to keep the defense honest. If the defense chooses to play the run over aggressively, then they will be punished by the bootleg pass.

#2 It utilizes 5 threats to attack the defense

The bootleg applies just like the toss pass, however defending it is more complicated then the toss pass. The toss pass involves one major threat and requires one player to defend it. On the other hand, the bootleg offers up to 6 threats. The more threats a play has, the more difficult it is to defend. This is the feature that makes the bootleg a great play. The majority of play action passes usually involve 4 threats. The bootleg usually has at least 5.

There are 5 Threats

1. Flat Route
2. Intermediate Route
3. Deep Route
4. Back Side Stretch route (post or dig)
5. Quarterback Run

* There is the 6th threat of the RB throwback, but I will not explore that option here, I classify that play as a trick play that punishes a defenses backside defenders for over pursuing.

The fifth threat is what separates the boot from other play-action passes. In normal play-action passes the QB sets up to read the defense, but in the bootleg he is rolling out away from flow and becomes a downhill running threat. If you are able to cover all the routes, you still have the threat of the quarterback run.

#3 It is simple to execute and change up

The boot is also easy for the offense to change up. They can run the same concept with the same reads, but be able to change up the routes. For example, they can run the boot strong and get the same look.

Not much has changed other then direction and the fact that TE runs a settle route. This route is still the intermediate read for the offense. The other 4 routes are present. The boot can be run from almost any formation as well.

Here the boot is happening out of double tight 1-back. Even though the TE (Y) and Z WR are running different routes (a push and post-corner), they are still attacking the flat and deep.

The boot can be extremely dangerous from overloaded formations like this. These sets force the defense to adjust on alignment and still maintain the ability to cover all 5 threats of the bootleg.


The first step in developing a sound defense for the bootleg is to develop rules and recognition points for bootleg strong and bootleg weak. These rules vary depending on the coverage called.

Cover 3 (Middle of the Field Coverage)

Rules for bootleg weak:

Play Side:

Flat defender----Gain Depth and break on the flat route
Corner-- Cover the deep route #3
Hook Defender---- Find and cover the drag#2
Free Safety------ Protect the middle field and eliminate the post#4

Back Side:

Flat Defender------ Check RB for throwback pass & get under the backside WR if he runs a dig#4
Corner---- Squeeze the Post to the FS #4
Hook Defender---- Become secondary contain on the QB. #5

The play side flat defender needs to gain depth and maintain leverage with the fullback attacking the flat. This is intended to allow the flat defender to help out on the intermediate route and be in a position to keep the flat route to a minimal gain. By gaining depth the flat defender give the QB the immediate read to throw the flat route. At times the hook defender can be sucked up on the run and have trouble getting to the drag.

Defending the strong side boot is very similar to the weak side boot.

Rules for Strong Side Boot

Play Side:

Flat defender----Gain Depth and break up on flat route #1
Corner-- Cover the deep route #3
Hook Defender---- Find and cover the settle route #2
Free Safety------ Protect the middle field and eliminate the post#4

Back Side:

Flat Defender------ Check RB for throwback pass
& get under the backside WR if he runs a dig#4
Corner---- Squeeze the Post to the FS #4
Hook Defender---- Become secondary contain on the QB. #5

The difficulty with the strong side boot is the settle route. The SS is put in a bind. If he is used to help on the settle route, the full back will be open and in a position to gain a good amount because of the SS leverage. On the other hand if he jumps the flat route, the hook defender will have a difficult time jumping the settle route. The strong side boot operates similar to the "stick" concept. It is covered more effectively if the hook defender is aware of the route and sprints to it as soon as he reads strong side boot.

Quarters Coverage (Robber coverage to the passing strength)

Rules for bootleg weak:

Play Side:

Flat defender----Pick up flat route #1
Corner-- Cover the deep route #3
Hook Defender---- Find and get under the drag#2
Free Safety------ Jump on top of the drag #2

Back Side:

Flat Defender------ Check RB for throwback pass
& get under the backside WR if he runs a dig#4
Corner---- Stay inside the post #4
Hook Defender---- Become secondary contain on the QB. #5

There is a trade off in this coverage versus Cover 3. Robber coverage allows the FS to play the intermidiate route aggressively, this is really the route the offense is looking to pick up a good chunk of yardage and/or first down with. By playing the FS on the intermidiate route, you can provide stronger coverage on the main two options that the QB wants to throw without relying on a linebacker that is caught in a run/pass conflict. However, the drawback is that the backside corner has to defend the post alone...... this is the most difficult route for the corner to defend. The one point of relief is that even if the post does come open, it is the last WR that the QB checks and the hardest throw to complete.

Rules for bootleg strong:

Play Side:

Flat defender----Pick up flat route #1
Corner-- Cover the deep route #3
Hook Defender---- Find and get under the Settle#2
Free Safety------ Jump on top of the Settle #2

Back Side:

Flat Defender------ Check RB for throwback pass
& get under the backside WR if he runs a dig#4
Corner---- Stay inside the post #4
Hook Defender---- Become secondary contain on the QB. #5

Again the same trade off as before. Quarters coverage allows the free safety to play the intermediate route aggressively at the expense of putting the corner 1 on 1 with the post.

Final Point

In my opinion, and you can take it for what its worth. I am more concerned with covering receivers than reading the QB on play action passes. Upon recognizing bootleg, I believe it is more important for the defenders to find and cover the threats they are assigned to cover, than dropping while reading the QB. Bootlegs are executed by finding windows, it doesn't matter if the window is behind(vertical) or beside(Horizontal) defenders. By finding and getting to the threats, the defenders will do a better job of eliminating horizontal and vertical windows.


The key to stopping the bootleg is quick recognition, and clearly defined rules. Rules allow the players to know which receivers to pick up, and keep completions to a minimum. Even if they do get sucked up on the play fake, they will know which receiver they are looking for as soon as soon as they recognize pass. Any play-action pass puts pressure on the defense. Teams will use it constantly to punish defenses that are over-aggressive on the run.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Numbers Game

I apologize for not posting in quite some time. I have been stretched thin, between the hectic schedule of football season and finding time for myself. I am working on a few projects which I will post in the near future (hopefully). This post will be focused on alignment philosophy, more specifically the numbers game.


With the presence of 22 players on the field at the same time, football is a numbers game. Offenses use the numbers game to take advantage of the defense while the defense attempts the offense from doing so. The rules of football allow the offense to align in multiple formations, far more than a defense can reasonably prepare for. To combat this, defensive coaches over the years have developed alignment rules and principals.

Alignment can be difficult for players, which is why good coaches teach rules to their players. Also, alignment can be difficult for the coach at times. Coaches have developed their own set of principals to help themselves with alignment to various formations. What are these principals? There are varied options amongst different coaches, but more or less they attempt to adhere to the same principals. When a defensive alignment is considered consistent with a coaches' principals it is said to be "sound".


Football 1 on 1 instructs defensive coaches to balance numbers with the offense. New coaches are drilled on this concept by veterans. The thought process stems from the idea that the offense will attack you, if they have a numbers advantage at the point of attack. This is a good concept, but it does not need to be taken to far.

I know a coach that I worked with when I first began coaching that followed a strict "balancing" principal. I am sure most have you have heard about balancing the numbers before, for a refresher or for those whom are not sure about what I am talking about:

Balancing the defense with the offense is a simple process of counting. You start with the offense beginning at the center; count everyone aligned to the left of the center as 1. The center, the QB, and anyone even with the ball as 1/2 a person. Second, add that total up and repeat the process for the other side. Next, draw up your defense count the players on each side of the center the same way you did with the offense, remembering to count anyone aligned even with the center as 1/2. So defensively any head up nose, backer or safety aligned over the center counts as 1/2. Finally, check your numbers to each side and see if they match. If the defenses' numbers are not consistent with the offenses' numbers then the defense is said to be misaligned.

I am not advocating this is the system to determine your alignments by any means. As I have grown as a coach I have "taken off" the training wheels. This system can help a new coach line up in a manner to avoid getting absolutely killed. However, it by no means guarantees the most effective and ideal alignment.



This alignment is balanced and in line with the counting system. I believe this is sound alignment versus this formation.


Again in this example the numbers are balanced.


This is an example of alignment that fails the numbers test. The offense has 7 to the trips side where the defense only has 6. However, I am comfortable aligning this way against trips. It is not something I will do EVERY time, but I will mix it in often enough.


I think it is a useful tool, however there are many more things to consider with alignment. Disguise, pass coverage, stunts, block angles, personnel, and motion are just some of the other things that should be considered. At a certain level it is important for a coach to take the training wheels off and consider more than just balancing the numbers with the offense. I am not trying to advocate that you should not try to balance up, but that there is more to alignment than balancing numbers with the offense.

If a coach chose to only consider balancing the numbers when determining alignments, there are numerous problems they can run into. For example,

No matter how absurd this alignment is, it is balanced according to the numbers game. If I ask the question: What is wrong with this alignment? I am sure the answers that are coming to mind have nothing to do with balance around the center.