Saturday, February 12, 2011

Running the 3-5 Defense

Sorry for the wait,

My personal defense of choice is an odd man front... I have used it in the past, and it is what I know best, to me a 3 man DL with 8 stand up players puts a lot of speed on the field, allows you to drop 8 in coverage easily, and lets you bring pressure from anywhere. 

I am a big believer in a 3 man line because you can line them up and single gap them, you can 2 gap them, or you can do my favorite, and slant them.  I love slanting (especially when all you have is wrestler builds, no big strong 300 lb kids to plug gaps up) because you can really create problems for the OL by messing with their rules and confusing them.  As an OL coach I would much rather face a DL that plays the gap they line up in, compared to one who is constantly slanting on me.

3-4 vs 3-5

Now many people debate these 2 defenses, but I say stop looking at # - # and equating that to some master scheme and just look at what you are in, if a 3-4 or a 3-5 is your front, then that front is determined by the coverage you choose to run ( see my earlier post on coverage determining front).

I do not see myself as a 3-4 guy, or a 3-5 guy... I am both.  When I want to run a 2 high coverage, my front becomes a 3-4, when I walk my SS down to play 1 or 3, now I have made my front into a 3-5. 
I have to admit that the more I learn about 2 high coverages the more I like it, but I have traditionally been  a 1 high coach, and based out of cover 1 and 3.  I still feel more comfortable teaching things this way so I will stick to discussing what I would be in most of the time which is (by walking my SS down ) a 3-5 front.

The best little nugget I got from going to a clinic last weekend was from a 3-5 coach from a HS in Illinois.  Schematically everything he had was already in my playbook (even though any of you who have seen me post on coachhuey can tell I prefer offense and want to OC, I have a defensive playbook ready at all times should I land a DC job somewhere)
But what I got from him was I loved how he called his blitzes.  It was ridiculously simple, so simple that I questioned how in the heck I hadn't already thought of it.
His DL movement and style was the same as mine, a lot of slanting.  He paired his 3-3 stack and each DL was married to a stack LB, meaning M and NT always had both A gaps, DE and OLB always had B and C gaps, this was exactly how I had my defense set up. 
What got me was how he called which of the 5 LBS (3 stack LBs + 2 SS types) would be blitzing

He simply numbered them from left to right 1-2-3-4-5...

So when he wanted to blitz, say he wanted the Left SS and MLB to blitz, he would call 13 attack.  This told the #1 and #3 LBs to blitz. 

#1 and #5 (the SS's) always rush off the edge
#3 would be the MLB, he knows he is blitzing, and he knows he and the NT have both A gaps.  So if he knows the NT is slanting to to let's say the right A Gap, he blitzes the left A Gap.

Since Each LB is married to another player and can only blitz, at most 2 different gaps, once his # attack is called he just has to make sure he goes opposite of which way his DL is slanting. 

This definitely beats my way, my playbook used the old school things I had learned, named blitzes for each Lb and Gap, now I just feel that way is old, dead, and inefficient.

So a typical play call might be something like Slant Strong -24 Attack -Cover 3
Simple way of informing your DL which way to slant, which LBs are blitzing and where, and your coverage

He used, just as I would, a wristband for his MLB, so he simply had to yell out which number to call, MLB would use the wristcoach and tell the defense the play.  I think this way is simple because you never get caught up making the wrong front/slant/blitz/coverage call and putting yourself in a bind.  I know a lot of guys still signal things in, but if you make a mistake in the heat of the moment you can kill yourself.  Making the wristband early in the week allows you to double triple quadruple check it out to make sure you have everything covered, and you can use it all week in practice to as another test, making sure everything you have called on a given play fits together properly. 

This system of calling blitzers is easy, I can't think of any thing simpler.  This can easily be translated when moving from 3-5 to a 3-4.  We drop one designated SS back giving us a 2 high shell.  Now we are in a true 3-4 front, the LBs will now unstack, and even up into a traditional 3-4 look, but they will retain their #s, so that there is no new learning.  So say our #1 LB is our better coverage SS, he is our adjuster, moving between 3-4 and 3-5 defense.  He is always our number 1,  and will always align on the defense's left side when we walk him up into the 3-5.  Continuing from left to right each of the reaming backers are numbers 2-3-4-5.  So when we drop #1 back into a 2 high look , the other 4 LBs retain their LB blitz #.

Now even when we go 2 high, none of the front rules and blitzes have to change.

This gives us a multitude of looks we can possibly give an offense.

There is no perfect defense, their are justifications for every defense.  I believe this defense possesses a sound way of defending every gap, which has been and always will be the name of the game in high school defense.

I am not trying to sell everyone on running any specific defense, I really just wanted to share this simple, efficient system for conveying blitzes to your defense.  This system can be used in any defensive system, it is a matter of assigning possible gaps to defenders, and numbering your potential blitzers.  This can easily be done out of a 4 man front look, numbering your 3 or 4 LBs, and have them understanding what gap they are responsible for depending on DL alignment.

Hope this makes sense and wasn't all incoherent rambling, I am typing this while currently in a bit of a food coma.

Please ask questions, leave comments for feedback, comment on anything you would like to see me post on, I really want to make this a better blog, and I need YOUR guys' help!


  1. Like the numbering system. What is the technique for the DL who slants in the 3-5?

  2. 2 basic slanting principles

    one is gap control, one is penetration/passrush

    Slant is more lateral, moving to the adjacent gap

    Angle is up the field shooting the gap

    so it could be slant strong, or angle strong

    if you want gap integrity you would call slant, if you are looking to get in the backfield call angle

    On both moves I would use a lead step and rip into the gap, but on slant I would have eyes on the man I am slanting to , to read his block for down, pull, pass pro, double, whatever it may be

    For the angle, i would just try to use speed/strength to rip up the field as hard/fast as possible

  3. What are the reads and keys for your LBs?

    I like to shade the DT usually and let the LB read the block and that's how we drill it.

    When you slant, what drills/keys do you use?

  4. I think you can do the same thing with a slanting system that you already teach with guys shaded, as long as those LBs know and understand where the DL is slanting to

    In the past everything I did was gap based, every player was assigned to a given gap, they had to fill their gap, then react to the ball from there. We did really well against any teams who wanted to come right at us, but struggled against misdirection

    the new school I am at, keys everything and after a year of seeing it, I think this is my favorite way to go.

    Everyone has a key and they fill a given area based upon that key. For DL i have always taught to squeeze down blocks and traps, stuff doubles, squueze a man block, fight a reach block, all that good stuff, pretty standard

    Not 100% sure about our LBs on drills and things, but I know they key guards every snap. Really helps against misdirection (we see a decent amount of wing t and fly teams)

    I know if they read pull they scrape over the top, following the pull

    if they read down block they fill the gap outside of that

    reach, they mirror an dmove laterally

    they are essentially mirroring the Guards movement

    I have to admit I do not know much about the LB reads, we have a very good LB coach who played LB in college and I think he does a great job going over the reads with them.

    I have always coached DL. If you would like to know anything about the stimulus read/response I teach to Dl I would be happy to explain that, I know that like the back of my hand

  5. B Dud, check out the GMC 3-5 playbook I posted here:

    It has a good powerpoint of LB reads.

  6. Coach, I like this method of calling blitzes but I was wondering if you know of a way to call twists with this. For example, you said that #1 always rushes off the edge. How would you call it if you wanted the DE to come off the edge and #1 to have the C gap?

  7. Would you send a copy of the IL coach or your 3-5 playbook?