Friday, July 16, 2010

4-2-5 Alignments-Part II


Alignments to the pro I is very straight forward and allows room for flexibility and imagination. In this part I will focus on base alignments with a few other options.


The front and secondary both declare the strength the same way in this alignment. The TITE call puts the 3-tech towards the TE, the strong DE aligns in a 6. The backers align in 30 techniques. Some people argue that the backers should align in their gaps. ie, the RB should be in a 10. However, in the 30 alignment the RB can still defend his A-gap and is in a better position to play outside and off-tackle plays towards the TE.

The secondary calls "read-left" and sets the SS and FS in coverage to the left. The strong safety aligns 5-7 yards outside the TE and about a hard from the LOS. Also, the SS cocks his stance in and places himself perpendicular to the LOS. This alignment allows him to get under routes by the #1 WR, have a good angle to force the ball, and make it difficult for the WR to crack block him. The last reason needs further explanation. Teams like to run outside, will get tired of the SS forcing the ball back inside. So, they will attempt to crack him inside in order to get around the edge.

Making the crack difficult is accomplished by this alignment for a couple reasons. First, his back is turned to the WR. The receiver cannot legally block him in the back. Second, if he does attempt to crack block him, the crack will occur near the LOS. By making a crack happen at the first level, the corner is free to replace the SS as the force man. If the crack occurred further from the LOS, the corner could not replace as quickly, because he has to respect the crack and go. By attempting the crack at the first level, the threat of the crack go is eliminated. It is difficult to fake a first level crack and turn it into an effective go route.

The WS aligns in a postion to force the edge to his side and play the cutback on plays toward the TE.



Twins is a formation where the front and secondary call the front in opposite directions. The AB is aligned in 10 in the diagram, but he could just as easily be aligned in a 30, it makes little difference. The SS and FS align to the twin WR's just like they would versus the spread. On the TE side the corner is shown close to the edge playing force. The WS could just as easily be there. The alignment each year might be different depending on the type of corners and WS you have. Below is a diagram of TCU from this past year aligning to twins.

Versus the Full-back set strong

Here the backs slide over and WS comes up into the nest, this call a "scoot" adjustment. Everything else is the same as regular pro-I alignment.


Here the alignment follows the base rules. The strength in the diagram is arbitrarily to the left. Versus the balanced front and the motion based nature of the flex-bone, the free safety will declare the read-side upon motion.


The last view diagrams are an example of how TCU aligned versus Clemson principals. The particular scheme they employ is not really special to the 4-2-5. I am showing it as a way of understanding how the particular positions are aligned.

A safety has replaced one of the corners on the right edge. The DT's are hard A-gap player, and the backers are cheated-up into their gaps. There are two safeties to each side aligned on the edge and behind. The corner in the middle is adjuster who moves with any motion by the backs. This allows the front to stay relatively focused on the play by leaving adjustments to the corner. The next diagram shows the formation after motion.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

4-2-5 Resources

Blitzology posted links to some playbooks for people interested in the 4-2-5 defense.

Also, I have included links to two other files.

First, is a link to a 1997 article by Gary Patterson describing some of the principals and philosophy behind the 4-2-5. If you have not read it, it is a short but worthwhile article on the ideas and benifits that are behind the 4-2-5.

Second, is a link to an AFCA article by David Baliff, the current head coach at Rice University. He is the former D-line coach for TCU and Head Coach at Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State). He currently runs and has run a very similar scheme to Patterson's. This article details some blitz and alignment principals.

Third, is another article by Baliff where he outline some technique and schemes with d-line twists. The information on technique is excellent as well as the simplicity behind the twist game terminology, this is typical wording to anyone familiar with the 4-2-5.

Gene-Stallings- Football Philosophy

Gene Stallings was a great coach. He believed that the first step in developing a winning team began with developing a philosophy. He had very clear views of his philosophies on both offense and defense, and was insistent upon sticking to his philosophies at all cost.


His stated "On offense I want to score, I want to score a touchdown, I want to kick the score, or move the ball far enough that my opponent has to go 80 yards to score." He was running the veer option one year, and lost a bowl game due to numerous offensive turnovers. In the off-season, he decided that his team needed to move away from the option. He believed that they could dedicate no more time to perfecting the mechanics of the offense, and that even the significant time they put into the previous season, was not enough to prevent these turnovers. He made this bold move because he believed that the option went against his philosophy. The schemes that a coach develops come after the development of a philosophy. Stallings calls this the "Method."


Stallings impact and emphasis in football was defense. More of his time was dedicated to defense than anything. His philosophy on defense was simple: "I want to prevent my opponent from moving the ball effectively." This is pretty obvious, but he believed that not everyone ascribed to this philosophy. When it came to developing a method for his defense he believed he had to create a coordinated defense. "I want the front to coordinate with the force, and the force to coordinate with the coverage." For him, football was a game of forces, and that if he could force the ball well and defend the end run effectively, then it would make it hard for the offense to move the ball effectively.

On defending the end run, he believed that there were three key parts. These parts have become central to the development of any effective pass coverage scheme. These three parts are:

1. A player to turn the ball back inside (run force).
2. A player to play the cutback (alley)
3. A player to play the play-pass.

This is all you need to defend the end run. If each person does their job, the offense will not be able to run the ball outside. The first two parts are obvious, the third was not as much in the past. During these days the pro-I was the norm. Teams tried to establish the toss game. If the toss was getting played aggressively, then they would employ the tricky toss-pass. This play was not designed as much a "trick-play", as it was a play to keep the defense honest. The third part of defending the end run, was the player responsible for defending against these tricky plays.

He was insistent that his players understood the principals of run force as well. It was important that each of them knew their responsibility and played their part. He did not want two people forcing the ball or two people playing the play-pass. For example, if the alley player got outside with the force player, he would ask him: "Do you think that the corner can force the ball back inside?" The players would say "yes". He would then answer by asking "Then why are you trying to force the ball?"

He changed his pass coverage by changing his forces. If he was in pistol force, the corner was forcing the ball, the safety was playing the pass, and the linebacker was on the cutback. This was 1/2's coverage. He could control these forces independently on both sides. This was an early form of the split-safety coverage that is employed today. If the call was rifle force, the safety played the force, the corner was on the play pass, and the backer played the cutback. This is the same force package that modern quarters teams employ. Finally he would have box force. This was backer force. The safety played the cutback, and the corner was on the play pass. This force was used on the weak side of cover 3, and man coverage.

Stallings was also a proponent of press-man coverage. He believed that if you sat in zone, the offense would be able to move the ball effectively with short controlled passes. He would talk to coaches about getting the fear of getting beat deep out of their heads, and make a commitment to utilizing aggressive man. I am sure that most defensive coaches are still scared of press-man coverage. Stallings was probably a little uncomfortable too. However, he knew it was something he had to do in order to prevent the offense from moving the ball effectively.


Another part of his belief structure was on being a great coach. To be a great coach you have to be a great teacher. And to be a great teacher, you have to be able to "speak with authority". He preached the basic parts of effective teaching such as accountability and attitude. However, he stressed another, sometimes overlooked part of the job. Speaking with authority meant you were completely knowledgeable about what you were talking about. If you did not understand something fully then the players would be able to see through that.

If you are an offensive coordinator, you better know the passing concepts, blocking schemes, and the various mechanics of each position in and out. "If you don't, then you are cheating your players." The same went for defense. Also, if you were a position coach you better know that position inside and out. A great coach should know it to the extent that they are educated about it in schemes that are not part of the ones they coach.

The head coach was no different. Stallings believed that the head coach should be knowledgeable about all the aspects of football. The head coach should know offense, defense and the kicking game in depth. If not, you are cheating the team. This is crucial, if you are an offensive coach that becomes a head coach. How can you speak with authority to your defensive coordinator, about an issue you have with his scheme, if you don't know defensive football in and out? This what he believed was necessary for speaking with authority. When a coach gets up to the board to talk football, he needs to be able to speak with authority.

Finally, Stallings explained a simple process for getting to this point. He believed that a coach should dedicate one hour per day to studying football, any aspect of it. This is a time where you don't take phone calls or any other type of distraction. You can read about football, watch films, talk to others whom are knowledgeable about football, ect. If you do this consistently, after a few years "you will be an authority on any aspect of the game." This is what I love about reading football blogs, it is a time to dedicate yourself to getting better at the game.


This is just a snapshot of Gene Stallings' Philosophy. The important thing to take away from this is the commitment he made to sticking to it. He altered his offensive schemes and defensive coverage to stay consistent with what he believed. This commitment was a big part of his success. Perhaps, the biggest key to becoming a great coach was doing the things necessary to be a coach that can speak with authority about any aspect in the game of football.

This information was gathered from the 1992 and 1993 COY Manuals.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

4-2-5 Alignments-Part I


This is part 1 of a 2-part series on alignments. The alignments I will discuss are in no means things I would do every time. Doing the same thing every time to a particular formation is a recipe for disaster. The offense will be able to scheme you, because they will be able to predict what you are doing. Also, you will be in a position where the offense will predicate to you what you will be in defensively. So when looking at these alignments, consider them a solid base alignment that can and should be adjusted to keep the offense off balance.

In this part, I will discuss alignments versus 10 personnel. Doubles and trips variations will be the focus. In part II I will cover spread sets that involve tight-ends and pro running formations.


The 4-2-5 Defense is very flexible to multiple formations. The fundamental thing to keep in mind when aligning to various formations is common sense. The quarters coverage concept is very self-adjusting and does not require too much movement. An important point is linebacker alignment versus 10 personnel spread formations.

The idea behind alignment and coverages in this scheme, is to create an advantage where there is one more defender to each side of the formation (+1 Rule). If there are two WR's to a side, the defense wants to put 3 people in coverage to that side. The linebackers are the people for the most part that allow for this advantage to happen.

As a rule of thumb, the linebackers should slide over to the side that is needed to create this advantage. This usually fits into two rules.

1. Versus a 2x2 formation the backers should slide towards the away-side of the coverage.
2. Versus a 3x1 formation the backers should slide towards the trips.


Versus doubles in the middle of the field, the alignment is simple. If the call is 2-blue-solo. The read-side would be in cover 2 (robber) and the away side is in blue coverage. I will not go into the rules of these coverages, I have discussed this in a previous post. The linebackers slide toward the away side. In the above diagram, the read side is arbitrarily to the left, not because of the back. The read side could just as easily be set to the right. When the ball is in the middle of the field, other factors (devised by game-plan) dictate which side is the read side when the ball is in the middle of the field. A particular receiver, the quarterbacks preferred side to throw, and the opponents bench could all be factors that push one side to be the read side over the other. The time the back plays a role, is the option. If the team is able to run the option well, then the back is an important consideration. However, the offense can easily move the back to the other side and or stack the back behind the QB. This is why the back should not be a dominating factor when setting the read side.

The backers slide to the away side in order to get the mike backer closer to his coverage responsibility and maintain effective positioning on the run. Also, the FS will be involved aggressively to the read side. This allows the backers to slide toward the away side.

One problem with this coverage to the middle of the field is the soft cushion to the slot on the away side. If you sit in this look the offense will attack the away side heavily. The smash, All hitch, and other quick combinations are difficult to cover consistently from away-side blue coverage in the middle of the field. In short, the away side is susceptible to the quick game.

Fortunately, there are a couple things that alleviate this problem. First, the ball is not in the middle of the field often. Usually the ball is on a hash. With ball on the hash, these problems are not as significant.
Blue coverage is much more sound on the hash. The rule for setting the read side in this situation is the field. Versus 2x2 on the hash the FS should set the read-side to the field side. Away side blue is better on the hash for two reasons. #1 The mike is in a better position to get under both WR's, and #2 the receivers do not have as much room to maneuver.

The other thing that alleviates coverage problems when the ball is in the middle of the field, is the ability to mix in coverages to the away-side. The easiest adjustment to the away side is to get into man. Man coverage is designed to take away the quick passing game. If the offense has to guess whether or not the away side coverage is in blue or man, then they will have a harder time attacking you. They will have an even harder time if the WS and away corner do a good job stemming their looks. The backer does not need to stem coverage because his alignment is the same.

The backers do not have to change their alignments. The only thing that changes, is the the away-side backer (mike) is now responsible for forcing the ball and covering the pitch on the option. Again this is not an adjustment that you do all the time. But mixing in blue and man to away-side, when the ball is in the middle of the field, is a solid strategy for dealing with 2x2 formations.

Another important consideration versus 2x2 sets is the splits of the WR's. There are many different variations in their splits, too many to cover in this post. The important point is this: receivers usually alter their splits and alignments for particular reasons. If a slot receiver aligns closer to the core of the formation, he is usually leveraging an outside cut, conversely, if he aligns closer to the sideline, he is leveraging an inside cut. These variations must be accounted for. Here is a common example.

When the receivers get closer to one another, they are usually going to cross somehow. In this particular variation #1 has closed his split and # 2 has widened and deepened his. This is a common adjustment by the offense when the defense puts a defender in outside alignment on the slot. In robber coverage the SS aligns outside the #2 WR. However, versus this variation this would be a bad idea. The offense aligns like this to put the SS closer to the #1 WR. This allows the #1 WR to get around and inside the SS on a slant route easily. The FS will not be in a position to stop the completion. The play to expect here is a Bubble by #2 and a quick slant by #1.

The adjustment in a quarters concept is to adjust the coverage to leverage the most likely route combination. Versus this variation the read side should check into blue coverage. This moves the SS inside the slot in a position to slice the #1 WR, in this case, the slant route.
If the offense does run the bubble slant combination the coverage will be able to play it perfectly. The diagram below shows how the defense should cover these routes.


Versus trips the alignment is simple. The backers should now slide toward the trips side. The base coverage adjustment to trips is to play SOLO coverage. Solo allows the read side to play cover 2 on the #1 and #2 WR The read backer and WS will be responsible for covering the #3 WR.
The backers slide to create a 4 on 3 advantage. The read-side backer is responsible for the short wall of the #3 WR. What this means is he cannot let #3 run a short crossing route. If he lets #3 get across the formation there is going to be a problem, because there is no one on that side to pick him up. The away backer and away corner are both in man coverage, and are not guaranteed to be there. The WS is responsible for covering the deep vertical and post routes by the #3 WR.

Not all trips are created equal. Offenses think too! (For the most part.) Different trips variations are common place in today's game. Some of these variations will make x-out adjustments (like special) more effective. Versus displaced trips alignment should look like this.
The read-side corner will man #1 (x-out), the SS and read-backer will banjo the in and out routes of #2 and #3. The FS will be in deep 1/2 to provide deep support. The SS, FS, and read-backer are playing blue coverage on these WR's. The away side can vary their coverage. In the above diagram I have shown man with the WS in 1/2's. You could also run a 3-way with the backers and SS.


Empty backfields are not a major alignment problem either. Keeping with the idea of common sense and the +1 rule, aligning to empty is a simple process of following the rules. If a team run an empty backfield, there are only two things they can give you. 3x2 or 4x1. The same split variation principals apply here as well. Versus a 3x2, alignment should look like this.

The backers should stack behind their respective ends and read for the QB draw. Once they clear the draw they are on slice responsibility. To the read side the corner x-out's #1 so the read backer is slicing #2 and #3. This is the same technique he would be in versus any trips with an x-out adjustment being run. This is not different. To the away-side the backer plays the same technique that he would play versus a 2x2 set. To him it is still just two WR's.

If the offense runs a quads set, there is only one simple variation. Because the offense has 4 WR's to a side, a backer need to now get out of the box entirely to remain consistent with the +1 rule.

By bouncing the backer out, the defense now has a 5 on 4 advantage. The mike is now the short wall player and the WS can run his solo technique, this time reading the #4 WR. Again the #1 WR is discounted because the corner has him on an x-out.


Again these are just some of the things you can do in split-safety coverage in the 4-2-5. The rules are simple and allow you to leverage the formation and plays the offense is in a position to run. In the next part I will cover TE spread formations and 2-back sets.