Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Three T's (Updated)

This is an update of a post I wrote last year. I wanted to take a few minutes today to share a couple of important points that can help you win more football games. I hope this small piece will be of value to you regardless of what scheme you run. Regardless of which system you decide fits your players, your success will be determined by a few important factors. 

When I was a defensive coordinator, I installed our defense as more than a system. It was an attitude. Defense is about pursuit and passion. We installed our defensive attitude with a very specific process. I like to break things down into their simplest forms. Our defensive attitude revolves around getting the ball back as quickly as possible. There are three ways we can get the ball back: 

1. We can force our opponent to punt 
2. We can get a turnover or a turnover on downs
3. We can give up a score. 
Ultimately, the 3 T's will determine which way we get the ball back.

What are the 3 T's? The three T's are quite simply: Technique, Tackling, and Takeaways. Technique involves two things for our players. First, they must know how to line up right, and they have to be able to get into a comfortable balanced stance. When we say line up right, they must line up in the appropriate place based on the call. Second, they have to be able to control and dominate their gap responsibility, or their pass zone. If we can get our guys to line up right, we can be successful on defense. One misalignment, however, can be disastrous  To make sure we line up right we keep things simple. We have simple alignment rules for our guys.

There are only five things an offense can do to each side of your defense. They can give you a nub, a single, twins, trips, or quads. We have very simple alignment rules for our second and third level players to ensure we are always lined up right. From there, we use our individual and group periods to develop our ability to control our gap responsibility in the run game, and our pass rush or coverage responsibility in the pass game. We teach our players what to do, how to do it, and why they need to do it the way we teach them. We never wanted our guys to have to guess where to line up. If they had to guess, things were too complicated. We wanted things simple enough that guys could line up quickly against modern spread offenses. 

The second T we emphasize is tackling. We have got to be able to tackle well on defense. Tackling is about more than how to contact a runner. It is about angles and leverage. If your defensive players understand angles and leverage, you will improve your tackling immensely. Every day we work on our pursuit angles. We cover every possible angle that we may face. We work the A gap run, the B gap run, the off-tackle run, and the sweep. We also work our draw and screen angles. We teach our players four concepts that will give us great angles to make efficient tackles. I never understood why people only do a sweep pursuit. Shouldn't we work our pursuit angles versus inside and outside runs? Our players and coaches bought into this philosophy and it helped us to take great angles of pursuit. We taught our pursuit as a progression.

First is our force concept. We have a player assigned to be the force player on every single play. We teach our force player that his landmark is the outside jersey number of the ball carrier. By attacking the outside jersey number of the ball carrier, our force player "forces" the ball carrier back into our players in pursuit. We tell our force player to take on the ball carrier as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. While we don't want to miss a tackle, our force player is coached to always take an angle where if he misses the tackle, he misses to his help. Our force player is typically going to be an invert/outside backer in our sky or cover 3 look, or a corner in Cloud or Cover 2.

The second concept of pursuit is our attack concept. Our attack players are going to be our defensive end and playside inside backer. They are aiming for the inside jersey number of the ball carrier. We want them to stay square as they approach the ball carrier. They work a slight inside out angle while pursuing the ball carrier. If the ball carrier is inside of them on an A or B gap run, they will work to the middle of the ball carrier's chest. Attack players always spill traps and counters.

The third concept of pursuit is called collapse. Our collapse players are typically our Mike backer and our defensive tackle or tackles, depending on our front. They are aiming one yard inside the ball carrier. They are responsible for the immediate cutback of the football. If they get a downhill run, they attack the middle of the man. They are spill players on trap plays.

The fourth concept of pursuit is chase/contain. Our chase contain players are typically our backside defensive end and backside linebacker. They play counter/reverse/boot on flow away. One important concept is that our backside players must not run upfield. They need to squeeze space making sure not to get leveraged by the boot. When flow goes away they must get their eyes down the heel line and make sure nothing is coming back to them. Once they are sure nothing is coming back, they take the best angle to the football. 

Those four concepts of pursuit helped our leverage and angles, which greatly improved our tackling. When we installed this pursuit concept, we found ourselves much more successful on first and second down, which helped us greatly on 3rd down. Below is an illustration of our pursuit concepts in action.

Force Illustrated

One very important coaching point is to Stay square. We need to keep our hips and shoulders as parallel to the LOS as possible. By staying parallel we are able to increase the surface area we have to contact the ball carrier. We are also able to explode our hips into the tackle, allowing us to drive the ball carrier back. When our shoulders are turned, we give the offense yards after contact. This is not good for the defense. As you can see in the picture above, our collapse and chase players are not doing a great job of keeping their shoulders square. This creates space for the ball carrier to cut back and makes us less effective. However, our Force and Attack players are doing a great job of keeping their shoulders square. 

This brings us to our third T, Takeaways. Takeaways are vital to our success. Any time we can get a takeaway  we are changing momentum. Takeaways also change field position. Forcing a team to punt is great, but often the punt results in a 40 yard change of field position. When we get a takeaway  we are saving ourselves big chunks of yards. Every ten yards we gain on defense is one less first down our offense must gain to score. 

How do you increase your takeaways? We do a takeaway circuit each day. We spend 5 minutes working strip drills, tip drills, and interception drills. We then emphasize taking the football away in all of our indy, group, and team periods. We want to have a ball in every single drill. In our inside run, skelly, and team periods, we are trying to take the football away from our offense. Here is the kicker. The offense also gets better with ball security. I am a firm believer that you get what you emphasize. If you coach your team to get takeaways, and you expect to get takeaways  and you get them to expect to get takeaways, you will get takeaways. You get what you emphasize and we emphasized takeaways in every aspect of practice. We first secure the tackle, then we strip the ball. 

Our attitude on defense is that every play is an opportunity to score. We are allowed to score on defense. We are allowed to rip the football out from the ball carriers hands. We are allowed to intercept a football in the air. Turnovers don't just happen. We drill our players to know turnovers are created. We must purposefully work to create takeaways on defense.  We drill our linebackers on flying to the football when it is in the air. We had a situation a few years back where our Mike LB intercepted a ball thrown thirty yards downfield on a deflection. He got the interception because he was hustling to where the ball was being thrown. He could have done what many players do. He could have watched the ball and then half ran to where the ball was being thrown. He understood our attitude and has bought in. We teach our guys to read the Axis. The axis is the QB's hips and shoulders. His hips give you direction, his shoulders give you trajectory. Our LB read the axis and he accelerated with everything he had and he got within four yards of the receiver when the QB pulled the pin. The ball was tipped in the air, and our guy made the pick on the run. You can't expect takeaways to magically happen. You have got to drill your players and emphasize takeaways with every drill you do.

The three T's, technique, tackling, and takeaways, are the three key points we emphasize with our defense. They make up our defensive attitude. We are going to line up right, play hard and fast and relentless. We are going to have great technique to control the gap or zone we are responsible for. We are going to pursue the football with great leverage and consistently make tackles. We are going to do everything in our power to take the football away from our opponent. 

If we can line up right and play with great technique, tackle well consistently, and win the takeaway battle, we are going to give ourselves a chance to win every single football game.

Another key was our preparation. We were very detailed in our approach to preparation. We scripted everything. We worked well as a staff to prepare for each opponent. Our players were confident because they knew what are opponents were going to do before they did it. A lot of coaches ask me how we were so well prepared. I put together a Game and Practice Planning Resource Packet for defensive coordinators. It has 12 documents that will help you prepare each week. These are editable documents that can be customized to your program. They are available for under $15! You can click here to order them and download them today!  Click Here: Defensive Game and Practice Planning  If you use the code STATE2016 you can save 20%!

The newest Odd Stack Video I have is out with Coaches Choice in conjunction with Nike. 
Basic Concepts of the 30 Stack Defense

In January of 2016 I published a couple of iBooks that can help your program with X's and O's on the offensive side of the ball. The first is on Installing RPO's into any offense. Here is a link to the iBooks version: The ibooks version includes explanations, diagrams, and video clips on multiple RPO Concepts. It will give you a simple process for implementing them into your offense.
If you don't have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can order the Amazon version for the Kindle. It has everything except the embedded video. You can order it here:

I also wrote a book on Tempo. It will greatly help you build a multiple tempo system with simple communication that will allow your kids to play with confidence. It also had over an hour of video clips! You can order the ibooks version here:

Order the Amazon Kindle version here:

1 comment:

  1. Would love to get more information on the three tee. Example of the attacker Force Chase