Category Archives: Defensive Fronts

The Popularity of the 3-4 Defense: What’s Old is New

Guest Blog Post

This is a guest blog post by Cameron Soran, a lawyer. While not a coach, I think you’ll find he has a strong football mind and understands a lot about the game.

“There’s a lot of ways to play football,” Chip Kelly told  room full of reporters. “Trends go one way and the other. … if you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else.” While ostensibly Kelly was discussing offenses, his insight equally applies to the opposite side of the ball. More and more it seems, NFL and college teams are moving to 3-4 defense (or 3-3-5) defenses over the 4-3 counterparts. To some, this might signal that the 3-man front is somehow a superior defensive system. But recent trends in football are just that: trends. While the 3-4 defense offers certain advantages, it is by no means superior. To explain some of the reasons for the recent change, and to understand the numerous different flavors of 3-4, I think, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, that “a page of history is worth a pound of logic.”  Continue reading

4-3 Blitz Package: Making an Easy Blitz Look Complicated

Intro: Last spring, I was approached by the head coach of the school I am currently at now to design and implement a new 4-3 Cover 2 defense. As I began researching the different ways to play 4-3 Cover 2, I realized that I needed to simplify what we were going to do with our players as they would be switching from Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 defense to something totally different.  So we began to look at a cover 1 4-3 blitz package.

We would be changing from boxing/contain to spilling as well as jamming and funneling. Knowing this, I knew that when we needed to get pressure, what we would be doing couldn’t be that difficult to implement and practice as we would be spending more time repping Cover 2 fundamentals. Continue reading

Tips for Understanding Defensive Line Techniques

I find this as a common question, that really a lot of coaches can’t answer. What are the popular defensive line techniques, and why are they called that?

Well, great question. First of all, let’s find the “genius” (please notice the quotes…) of the system. Continue reading

The 4 Most Important Aspects of the Under Front Defense

The 3-4 or 4-3 under front defense is popular, especially versus 21 personnel. In my opinion, there are 4 critical elements of the defense that as a defensive coordinator, you need to know them as your strengths. As an offensive coach, you can try to break down for some success.

Under Front Defense: The Tandem

The tandem is one of the 4 most important elements of the under front defense. The tandem basically is the outside alignment on two adjacent linemen on the end of the line of scrimmage. Versus 21 personnel sets, you get this to both sides. Continue reading

Football Coaching Videos on YouTube

Free Football Coaching Videos on YouTube

So I just thought, for all those coaches who don’t know, that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google. That means, if you’re looking for free football drills, football technique information, or football x’s and o’s or strategic insight, YouTube is a great resource. Heck, it’s even a great resource for getting an idea on a football video that you may order. Tog (from CoachHuey) posts some great youtube football video content through his Twitter Account. There are a lot of other great football coaches on YouTube who are putting out a ton of videos that can be useful for us as coaches.

Heck… Strong Football by CoachCP… yes, this blog right here, has a channel with 2 videos that you should be looking at! *Shameless Self-Promotion* Sorry, couldn’t help it.

Searching for Coaching Football Videos on Youtube

Searching on YouTube is a little different for us coaches. You have to be specific in what you’re looking for. Nothing is worse then seeing a video named the right way… and it turns out to be a video from the Madden or NCAA Football Video game… and worse yet, it’s the game from 6 years ago so it’s even less realistic than it is today! I will say though, it is quite humourous to hear them speak about some stuff. Mainly because I’m sure they work in the video game, but won’t work for the real world. I mean… I wish I could run the option well and have the most dynamic passing game in the world.

Other Things to Be Careful Of When Searching For Football Videos

Some people who claim to be football coaches don’t know what they’re talking about.  Some I think are new to football coaching and don’t just provide quality information. Now, I’m sure some of you have accused me of this from time to time, and you were probably right about me! But there are some videos on YouTube, although I’m not willing to point them out, w are just way off, or are done probably by that Madden Guy who wants to be named the Defensive Coordinator for the Patriots (aside: A guy once did apply for that position and cited his Madden record… no joke).

Be Specific When Looking For Football Videos

Be specific, but not too specific. The reason I say that is because YouTube depends on the video creater typed in.  Now, YouTube is smart and if something is way off, it will see that people leave the video and drop it down.  But, at the same time, don’t be too specific because very few people who make videos know this aspect of YouTube. So don’t type in “5 step pass patterns out of Red Formation” … because guess what, that’s not going to give you any relevant results.  One, they don’t know your formations. Two, they probably just typed in “I Formation 5 Step Passes” or something a lot simpler. Instead, search for  “I Formation Passes” or something along those lines. Heck, the easiest way to find my videos is by typing “Cover 4 defense” or “Split back Veer”. Yes, you have to sort through some BS, but you’ll know the good stuff when you find it.

However, you can’t be too general either. You can’t say “football drills”. You’ll get way too much stuff. Try “offensive linemen drills” or something like that. If you leave it at “football drills”, you’ll get all that other crap… and maybe even some soccer drills (*gasp!*).

Looking for Non-Free Football Video Information/Reviews

Sometimes, e-commerce stores like Championship Productions will post a clip of their videos on YouTube. If you wanted to get a better idea of what the content is on a video before you buy it, you should see if their is a clip of it on YouTube. Maybe even research the topic for some non-related videos as well, which can help you see if it’s an area of interest before you buy.

Conclusions on Searching For Free Football Coaching Videos on Youtube

Football videos on YouTube is worth your time. You may find a new football drill or some other golden nuggest of information. I strongly encourage you to do a few searches and figure out what you can find. Also, another great source of videos is ChiefPigskin.com.

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense

This is a guest post by my good friend Joby Turner, who wrote an earlier post for Strong Football on offensive football formations and play calling.

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense

As you read the title, you may be thinking “What the heck is this defense?” Well, I felt the same way when I took over as the JV Defensive Coordinator at my current school. The first thing I thought was “How old is this crap?” and the second was “Why do we need 5 Linebackers?” When I first started looking at the defense, I wondered what had I gotten myself into. Each position had a different name, and traditional rules of how to play support were different than what I had been coaching as a Miami 4-3 Guy at my previous school. Luckily enough, parts of the Eagle 5 Linebacker defense were similar enough that I didn’t look like a complete idiot the first couple of days of camp.

The defense itself is an older defense run by Fritz Shurmur during his days with the ’85 Rams. He wrote a book on the Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense as well. The Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense, as its name suggests, uses 5 Linebackers, 2 Defensive Linemen, 2 Corners, and 2 Safeties. As a side note, our 2nd safety played LB and Safety as it became a Rover type Position. Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense has the ability to mix in an amalgamation of different defenses all at once and maintain the same individual techniques. At times, the Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense can look like a 3-4, 5-2, 4-4, 5-3, or a 4-3 depending on coverage and offensive formation. This multiplicity and ability to maneuver from front to front without changing personnel is key. With all of the multiple formation teams around today, the Eagle 5 can adapt well without much teaching needed. The versatility of the defense also allows you, the defensive coordinator, the ability to change fronts based upon match ups. Let’s say your nose tackle is very quick, and the offense’s Center is not fleet afoot. What you can do is stick your Nose backer on the Center and create havoc all night long, and you don’t even have to do it every play, so it becomes a guessing game to the Offensive Coordinator and the Center as to when you are going to stick that guy on him. As all OC’s know, that can be a real PITA. Let’s look at each individual position now.

Order a Used Copy of the Book for $30-$40!

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense – Player Names:

Tackles = These are your standard Defensive Tackles you would find in a traditional Miami 4-3 Defense. They need to plug holes and be able to draw a double team. They will either align in 3 techniques on the outside shoulder of the offensive guards or 1 techniques on the inside shoulder of the guard. I recommend having a solid 1 technique as the offense will be attacking the weakside quite a bit.
L and R: This position is a rush DE/LB hybrid. These guys are generally your best pass rusher players. They have force/contain responsibilities, so they need to be able to take on a run block too. They will align outside the last man on the line of scrimmage with their shoulders cocked toward the fullback. At the snap, they are to come across the LOS aiming for a spot where a fullback would be putting his hand if he were in the I Formation. On the way to this spot, the L and R must constrict all outside flow and force the ball back inside. This is probably the 2nd toughest position to play in Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense.

B Backer: The B Backer position is the toughest to play in the whole Eagle 5 Defense. This player needs to be like a modern day SAM backer in an Under front. He better be a thumper, because he will be taking on the TE every play. This player also needs to be able to cover as well. He will be responsible for the flat in most situations.
Mac Backer: The Mac Backer is your traditional Middle Linebacker. He needs to be good at taking on blocks and rerouting all runs to the Nose backer. Like the B, he also needs to be a thumper as he will be taking on all sorts of blocks.

Nose Backer: The Nose Backer should be your most versatile and skilled Linebacker, because he will have many different responsibilities. A comparable position is the Will in an Under or the Weakside Inside Linebacker in an Odd front Defense. He needs to be a tackling machine since most plays will be rerouted to him. He will also be asked to put his hand on the ground and take on the center as a Nose Guard, hence the Nose Backer designation.

Will Backer: The Will backer is a Strong Safety/Weakside LB. In Fritz Shurmur’s 5 Linebacker Defense Defense, he used a Strong Safety, which makes sense in the NFL. For our purposes, we used him as a linebacker like a 4-4 defense would, since we play a ton of run heavy teams. No matter how you decided to play him, the Will Backer needs to be best Coverage Linebacker. He will generally be asked to cover tons of space, and be a good open field tackler. He should make tons of plays, since we will generally be unblocked on any strong side runs or passes.

Free Safety: The Free Safety in the Eagle 5 Defense is the same as any other Free Safety. He needs to be a Centerfielder and your 2nd best tackler. He will clean up a lot of missed assignments and broken tackles.

Corners: Your Corners need to be average cover guys that play pass more often than not. You can get by on lesser athletic kids at this position depending on how often you play Zone as opposed to Man. The Corner’s basic rule is nothing outside of you, and nothing behind you. If they follow that rule, your defense will be in good shape against pretty much anything.

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense – Fronts:

At my current school, we basically used two fronts, the Hawk and Eagle. We did not use the 3-4 look very often as our personnel this year wasn’t built for it. As you will see in a minute, the Hawk is very similar to the Slide look of the old Miami 4-3 teams, and the Eagle is strikingly similar to the Double Eagle look from most 50 teams. These fronts are both pretty simple, but modern force rules and option responsibilities can get confusing. Luckily, we never played any true triple option teams last year, or we may have been in for some long nights. Now for each individual front.

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Defense – Hawk Front:

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Hawk Font

Hawk Front

The diagram above is our Hawk front. Please note that in the diagram the “SS” is our Will Backer and I will refer to him as so not to confuse myself. The Hawk Front was our front we used quite a bit. We flip flopped our Backers but not our L’s and R’s or DTs. This cut down on the learning for the backers, and it showed as the players got used to playing their position as the season progressed. It was characterized by 3 and 1 Technique Tackles who were responsible for the Gap they aligned in. The L and R played outside the EMLOS. As mentioned previously, their aiming point is the spot where a ghost FB would be in an I Formation. The Mac Backer would play in a 10 Tech strong and have Strong C Gap or outside half of the Strong A Gap on ISO to him. The Nose Backer would align in a 30 Tech weak and have Strong A Gap on runs away and inside half of Weak B Gap on ISO to. The Will backer would be stacked on the OT if there was no Twins Look weak. On a Twins look weak, he would apex between #2 and the OT to his side. The Will is looking to cleanup all mistakes and be a free hitter on all runs way. On runs to him, he has to make the L or R correct and fill the first opening he sees. The B Backer is aligned head up on the TE not allowing him a free release. If there is no TE, the B Backer assumes a position 3-5 yards stacked behind the L or R to his side. His responsibility is similar to the Will Backer on the opposite side.

The picture below is taken from the Miami 4-3 Defensive Playbook. Note how similar the “Canes Solid” Front is to the Hawk front.

Miami 4-3 Defense - Slide Front

Miami 4-3 Defense - Slide Front

Coverage wise for the Hawk Front, we generally ran Cover 3 as a base coverage, or Cover 1/0 when we blitzed. The two coverages worked well together, and were easy to teach. However, having the B on the LOS when a TE was in the game, and him having Flat responsibilities got real tough for a HS kid to execute. It became tough once the TE released vertical, and #1 ran a shorter route. Also, our L and R’s didn’t do a good enough job forcing the ball back inside to the B, M, and N causing our run fits to be less than perfect. It is critical that the L and R maintain force responsibilities even though traditional thinking of cover 3 makes them not the force player. The L and R must learn how to pinch pulling linemen and fullbacks. This is critical for all the fronts.

Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Defense – Eagle Front:

The second front in Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense that we ran was the Eagle Front. The Eagle Front is very similar to the Double Eagle or Bear Defense the way we ran it. The Nose Backer is head up on the Center, Tackles are in 3 Techs on the outside shoulder of the guard, and the L and R are still wider than the EMLOS. The Mac and B Backer are generally aligned head up on the Offensive Tackles.

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Front

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Front

We’d play around with where to put our 3rd LB or will backer. In the diagram above, our Will backer would be in the FS position and the SS would be our FS. This would allow us to keep people in the same general spots of the Hawk front and cut down on the learning curve. Gap responsibilities are the ones you are lined up in. The Nose Backer would generally go weakside A Gap unless there was a blitz by the FS or Mac Backer, then he would play Strong A Gap. Coverage wise, we would generally play Cover 3 or Cover 1/0 like we would with the Hawk front. Cover 1 and Cover 0 end up being the same thing depending on receiver placement and potential blitz call. We basically teach them the same. The only real difference is if the FS is blitzing or if the FS must cover someone in a trips look.

Michigan State's 4-3 Cover 4 Defense
Pat Narduzzi has consistently dominated the Big 10 with the 4-3 defense. You can learn about how he runs a 4-3 over cover 4 defense in order to be successful. Simple, but deadly. Narduzzi uses game film and diagrams to teach you the keys to his defense.
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Fritz Shurmur’s Eagle 5 Linebacker Blitzes

One of the real beauties of this defense is how often we blitzed to force the action on defense. It was generally very successful, and the teaching was very minimal. Our system of calling the blitz was very easy. If we wanted any one person to blitz, we would just call Hawk Mac Cover 1. Hawk would be the front, Mac is the blitzing player, and Cover 1 would be the coverage. For the Corners, we used Tornado for the Right Corner, and Lightning for the Left Corner. Ingenious I know. Now let’s say you wanted to bring more than one person on a blitz. If you wanted to bring the two strong side linebackers (M and B) we would call Hawk Strong 0. Strong indicates that the two strong side backers would blitz. Weak worked the opposite way. The Will and Nose Backers would blitz. To get the two middle backers to blitz, would be a Middle Call. We would only six players max, but if we really wanted to get frisky and bring eight, we would just call “911.” That let the players know that everyone but the Corners and FS would be blitzing. We played Cover 3 with no underneath coverage. “911” situations were generally Down and Short to go, or on the Goal line. I will diagram a few of our blitzes below.

Mac Blitz:

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Mac Blitz

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Mac Blitz

Eagle Free Blitz:

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Free Blitz

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Free Blitz

Eagle Strong Blitz:

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Strong Blitz

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Strong Blitz

Eagle Middle:

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Middle Blitz

Hawk Mike Cross:

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Cross Blitz

Fritz Shurmur's 5 Eagle Linebacker Defense - Eagle Cross Blitz

These are just a small sample of the blitzes we ran.I hope you have learned a little bit about the Eagle 5 Defense and an old school way to be multiple, before it was cool to be multiple. If you would like any further information, feel free to check out these links below, as well as my contact information. Have a great day.

Michigan State's 4-3 Cover 4 Defense
Pat Narduzzi has consistently dominated the Big 10 with the 4-3 defense. You can learn about how he runs a 4-3 over cover 4 defense in order to be successful. Simple, but deadly. Narduzzi uses game film and diagrams to teach you the keys to his defense.
Order Now

View Fritz Shurmur’s LA Rams Defensive Playbook!

Coaching Defensive Football – Simple Defense

Coaching Football Defense – Keep It Simple Stupid

Football coaches today constantly discuss the growing complexities of defensive football. You hear it all the time on ESPN and when you hear offensive football coaches speak at football clinics. But here is the bottom line, some of best defenses, at any level, have been those that keep it simple. I think this applies especially at the high school level.

Discipline and Technique is Key

As a football coach, I’ve noticed a growing trend. The best athletes need to play on defense. Now, that’s not to say he can’t have a role on offense if he is the most electric player in your program. However, playing the best athletes on defense is crucial. But that’s not why we coach, and it’s only 1/10 of the battle. You need to coach these players, so they are disciplined and technically sound on every single play. You need these defensive players to have ownership of your scheme to a certain extent so they believe in it, so they have a true passion for it.

I should say this, when I say most athletic football players, I don’t always mean the kid with the best 40 time or who benches the most. Being athletic is a mental state of mind. It’s the ability to process information faster, to understand a system and to excel. The big question is, how can we, as football coaches, enable the best of our football players to do just that?

Simple Football Defense

I believe in systems that are very simple. I’m not talking about terminology or which coverage is best. Cover 4 is a complicated coverage, but it can be very simple for an 18 year old if you coach it up. Coaching it up is the key aspect here. Coaching football understanding is pivotal. Your defensive football system needs to be taught simply.

Simple Football Defensive Fronts

In Illinois, some of the best defensive football teams in the state are athletic and disciplined. They also primarily only have two, MAYBE three fronts. All three of these fronts, be them the 4-3 Over front, or the 4-3 Under, or the 3-4, or 4-2-5, whatever the case is, their second and third front has highly recyclable skills to the base front. This is similar to my post on recycling blocking schemes for offense. So let’s say you run the 4-3 Over front and you want a 4-3 Under variation for heavy running situations. In both defenses, you should always be using the same skills. Maybe your defensive ends need to always spill Teaching a 4-3 Over front as your base defense and then using the classic 3-4 or 50 Okie defense where everyone is head up is a waste because the skills of your defensive linemen and linebackers are completely different.

Simple Football Defensive Coverages

While coaching a simple defensive front is important, it’s the coverage that is critical to skills like spilling. I know some teams that hardly ever zone blitz because it would change how their edge players would act, because in some coverages their players would now need to box out rather than spill the kickout. The coverage sets the front’s technique.

Besides interacting with the front 7, a common base defense coverage family is critical for the defensive secondary as well. Coaching your kids to play the cover 4 coverage all the time may make sense for you. A coverage that relates to that is Quarter Quarter Half. At the same time, maybe 2 read is your adjustment for teams that throw the bubble. Remember, it’s how you teach it that is important. Maybe you don’t need to tell your kids you’re playing what we defensive football coaches consider a different coverage. Maybe whenever they see a back in the backfield, cover 4 uses a “sky” call, which is quarter quarter half to us, but to them the only difference really is that the weakside safety is taking the flat.

Why Coach Defense Like This?

Yes, you will run into a smart coach or a smart quarterback every once in a while who can take advantage of some of the aspects of your defense. Having a few, and I mean a few, checks can usually cover every scenario. While you may run into that Division I QB every once in a while who causes you fits, you still will likely be in a great spot and that kid is still only 18, just like your kids. If you’re playing against a good coach who tries to take advantage of your simplicity and has an answer for all your checks, just remember their kids probably haven’t spent enough time to be perfect at all those adjustments themselves.

Overall, I feel you will be in a good spot for most games. Teams who spend their time focusing on a few simple schemes and really hammering down the technique and discipline required to execute them well will win enough games to get into the playoffs unless the talent versus their opponent’s talent is vastly superior.

Make sure you check out my latest video blog post on Coaching the Cover 4 versus the Spread Offense! Also, check out ChiefPigskin for some other great videos!