The Most Versatile Defense

A look into the multiple 3-4

If you’re looking for a simple, effective and yet multiple look defense, look no further than the 3-4.  With simple, one word calls you can show and even front, a fifty front, a stack look and any look you would like without having to change personnel.  I am firm believer that the more looks you can show an offensive line the better, but you don’t want to sacrifice fundamentals to do this.  The multiple 3-4 allows you to do exactly this, without having to change the base rules for your defense.  Multiple stunts and blitzes are easily attainable whether you call in each play, or have the players auto call to formations.  I find it most effective when alignments are auto called and blitzes are sent in as desired.


We will stop the run first and foremost!  We will not allow people to move the ball running the football and will adjust week to week to ensure this. The secondary will align in a base 2high shell that allows us to be sound against the run and the pass.  Every day as a team, we will tackle, we will drill run fits and we will run “block destruction” drills. We will penetrate with our defensive linemen and wreck/spill with our linebackers to our run support players.  We do this with our base front “shade” a 3-4 under alignment.


This is where it starts for me.  The base look we give.  Shade, is a traditional 50 look or 3-4 under depending on how you call it.  You have a shaded nose, a 5 and a 9 to the call side.  You have a 4i and a 5 on the backside.  The interior linemen are down in traditional 3pt stances. The 9 and weak side 5 are in 2pt stances.   I do something a little different with how I call Shade.  I call to the passing strength.  I do this because with one call I can give the offense two different looks!  A 50 look and an Even Look.  Here are our rules of front alignments for shade

  • Alignment
    • Weak Tackle/End aligns 4i and steps hard inside eyes on guard
    • Strong Tackle/End aligns 5tech and plays squeeze
    • Nose aligns play side shade on the center
    • Sting will be a loose 9 or tight 9 to heads on the TE or 5 tech depending on the call
    • Rush will be a loose 9 or tight 9 to heads on the TE or 5 tech depending on the call
    • Will aligns with inside foot in left B gap
    • Mike aligns with inside foot in right B gap
    • Secondary alignment is based on coverage call


In the photos above, every call is a right call. As you can see, the base call of “shade” gives the offense two different looks by calling to the passing strength.  We can give them an under front or an over front.  The OLB gets a call that’s away and he has a TE he aligns head up, if call is too him and has a TE he is in a tight 9, a TE and a wing a loose 9 almost head up on the wing.


Changing the front with the 3-4 is incredibly simple.  Basing out of under and calling to the strength gives you two fronts automatically.  By calling or having players auto call to formations you can add several other looks.

This is “Tuff”


Tuff puts the down 3 into head up alignments.  If you have some war daddies you can two gap these guys and cause a lot of problems for offenses, if not I recommend slanting based off your scout of the opponent

This is “even”


Even puts the end and nose head up on the guards.  The tackle and the rush in 5s. The sting can be placed as tendencies of opponent dictate, such as to the field, QBs arm, best slot and so on.

This is “30”


I like to show 30 against the hyperactive pass happy offenses we see these days.  In 30 somebody is always blitzing, I recommend twisting the DL and LB vs lining up and plugging a gap.  This is harder to pick up for the OL even if they practice it all week.  It is just difficult for them to see.  Twists with the LB and DL can cause a lot of issues for the opponents pass protections.


I have two base coverages that I like to use.  First is “Blood” a 2high pattern match coverage.  The safeties and each corner will read 2 to 1 and match the patterns accordingly. I will get into pattern read coverages in a future article. The safeties are the extra run support players, when a tight end is present you have to constantly drill play action.  When safeties play run support they tend to get nosy and bite up, this is unacceptable and if a good staff is on the other side of the field they will exploit this when they see it. The safeties are execute read steps every snap regardless of run or pass. Against 3×1 we adjust in several ways with the secondary. Here is one example that I call “slide” right:


The other coverage I call “Bones”.  This is a 1high look.  We have Bones (cover 3) and Bones lock (man free).  In Bones the Free goes to the middle of the field and the Drop, is our extra run defender. Where we put the drop depends on tendencies of the opponent.  Could be to the field, the strength, over the End to give a stack look, it depends week to week. I highly recommend that every defense have a 1high look in the plan.  You will eventually play a team that can run the rock.  When you play those teams you have to force them into situations where they are outnumbered and have to play behind the chains so you can get back in your pass coverages on 3rd and long.  If you stay in 2high against these teams you are asking for a slow death in the 1st half.  In the second half your DBs will wear out, no question, no debate, it will happen, nobody wants their secondary making all the tackles. Those 4 yard runs in the 1st half turn into 15 yard runs in the 2nd. Just save your self the headaches get in 1high and force them into long stick situations. Here is a look at basic “shade bones” with the Drop to the strength:



You can talk all day about different types of pressures.  That can be an entire article even two, but for sake of simplicity, for me there are three ways to effectively bring pressure.

  1. Be better than you opponent
  2. Bring more than they got
  3. Bring the blitz from where OL can’t see them.

One and two are pretty self-explanatory, you’re either better and can get off blocks or you bring more bodies than they can block.  Bringing pressure from where the OL can’t see it, I feel is the most cost effective as you do not have to take extra players out of coverage.  For example one of my favorites is the classic C stunt and it is highly effective.  The 5tech takes an outside rush and the OLB twists from outside the box to rush B gap.  The guard will be occupied with helping center on the nose and eyeballing the middle backer. He will almost never see the stunt coming if timed up and called at the right moment. Here is the C stunt:



When personnel grouping any defense I firmly believe that the most athletic kids on the team play defense.  Speed kills, I will make the trade any day for the fast guy that can make a mistake and then run the play down for a one yard gain over the big plugger that is rendered useless if the play gets outside.  Gain advantage over big offensive linemen with multiple looks and slants and quicker get off.  You can always sub in bigger bodies in short yardage situations if you must. On Defense you want guys that can run! If they can run they can swarm the football quickly, if they can swarm the football, good things happen for the defense.


When speaking about the multiplicity of a defense one has to also consider the ease at which that is accomplished.  K.I.S.S. should be the defining rule.  Make the simple look complex to the opponent.  The   3-4 is simply the easiest way to do that.  It is extremely versatile, you can line up on power running team one week and a tempo spread team the next and still be gap sound up front while having all pass zones accounted for.  You can show under fronts and over fronts with one base call.  Nobody has to flip sides when shifting into your different looks and their rules remain constant. If looking to find an adaptable effective defense then the multiple 3-4 should get your serious consideration.  Please feel free to comment below, and give me a follow @thecoachvogt.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s