Sunday, July 3, 2016

Four Keys To Being Dominant on Defense

After being an offensive coordinator for several years, I had a chance to run a defense a few years back. It was a daunting task as I was taking over a defense that had given up over 45 points a game. The players were demoralized and didn't believe in themselves. The big thing was, everything that had been done was correctable.

We put in a defense that our players bought into and embraced. We ran a 3-3 Stack. It fit our personnel and our philosophy. We coached our guys on the fundamentals. We sold them on our philosophy or culture that we were going to be physical and play very fast. Our number one goal was simple. We were going to get the ball back. There were four ways we could get the ball back. We could give up a score. This was the least favorable. Second, we could get a stop forcing a turnover on downs. Third, we could force a punt. Or, we could get a takeaway. Only the first was unacceptable. 

In ten games we had six shutouts. Only 2 teams scored more than 14 points against us. We had 38 takeaways in 10 games. We gave up less than 7 points a game. Two teams failed to cross the 50 yard line. We were dominant against the run, giving up less than 100 yards a game on the ground. We were also very, very good against the pass. Looking back, there are four things that are vital to success on defense:

1. Be Gap Sound
2. Have a Force Player to Both Sides
3. Be a Great Tackling Team
4. Keep Things Simple

Be Gap Sound
Every single snap we want to make sure we have a player for each gap. We never want to leave a gap without someone responsible for it. We rarely two gap. We want one hat one gap 95% of the time. Regardless of what defense you run, you have to be able to have a hat for each gap.

Have a Force Player to Both Sides
We always want to have a player to force the run on both sides of the formation. We never want our force guy to be a defense end or hand down player. We ran the 3-3-5, meaning our inverts were our force guys on outside runs. We essentially had built in force guys. Most of the time when a team gives up a big play on the edge they either don't have a force player, or the force guy screws up.

Be a Great Tackling Team
We took great pride in tackling. We rarely missed tackles. We also didn't practice full speed tackling in practice very often. What we did do was spend a lot of time working controlled drills to improve our leverage and angles. That's what tackling is all about. You need to understand your leverage and then play very fast. We need to know what are landmark is in pursuit to set up our tackle. If we do miss, we miss to help. When we tackled we wanted to square our shoulders and run our feet. Our goal was to drive the ball carrier back. I like a lot of what is being taught today, but one thing missing is squaring up and running your feet. We wanted to drive the ball career back every time we tackled. 

Keep Things Simple
We didn't have a lot of fancy fire zones. We had our base front. We then had a way to blitz each player on our defense. We typically blitzed in our base gaps. We then could work some gap exchanges. We didn't do a lot of this as we wanted our guys to be very good at playing their gap. We coached our guys on their eyes each and every rep. Most guys who screw up on defense let their eyes go where they are not suppose to. We coached and drilled the eyes. 

These four keys were vital to our success. We were able to play very fast and get a lot of bodies to the football. We worked very hard in practice to be very good at these four things. 

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! Defensive Game and Practice Planning Here are screenshot samples of a couple of these documents. You can use code STATE2016 to save 20%!

I hope you have gotten something from this post.

A few months back I published a couple of iBooks that can help your program with X's and O's. 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:

And finally, I put together a special teams resource. This has everything you need, included drill tape, practice tape, and game footage. It includes teaching presentations and scouting forms just for special teams!