highschool football

THE MOST VERSATILE DEFENSE: Part 2-Coaching the Front Seven

The Multiple 3-4 Defense can easily claim the title of the most versatile defense.  By basing out of a 3-4 under front you can have one call defensively and show a 50 front one snap and it will convert to a 4-2-5 look on another depending on the offensive formation.  This is done with out changing any base rules for the players or the manner in which they set the strength.  If you haven’t read part one of this series, please follow this link here “The Most Versatile Defense” and it will cover the basics of the defense.  This article will concern coaching and personneling the font seven defenders.



We align the three down linemen in a shade, and a 5 to the front side and a 3 tech or a 4i backside depending on the player.  You want flat backs and most of the weight on their hands.  I like the gap hand down, so it is easier to get hands on the offensive lineman.  The first step is a 6 inch “power step” the second step should place the foot equal too or only half a step in front of the first step.  With the second step you want a violent punch on the shade half of the offensive lineman. Only take on half the man and emphasize using hands to get separation. “No Hands; Join the Band”.

When aligning in head up for an okie front, I prefer to have the DL on the move with slants, pinches and stunts.  The 1st step for a slant/movement is a 45 degree power step, and still punch the gap half.  If the DL has gotten leverage on the slant transition to a long arm technique to create space and pursue the ball.  If the DL is fighting for leverage, use a shuck to gain leverage and penetrate the gaps.  They can finish a shuck with a swim or rip.  If done correctly the shuck is usually plenty effective against run or pass block.  When you know it’s a pass you obviously have an advantage.  When this happens, I like my DL to be thinking long arm technique, statistically speaking it produces more stats than any other pass rush move. Verified by several NFL and NCAA defensive line studies. The picture below depicts a long arm in action:




For the nose guard I look for a guy with a quick first step and lots of attitude over shear size.  I want a havoc causer here.  By playing him in a shade on the center or a head up 0, you ensure the center is occupied.  We want him concerned about the nose and not the snap.  A quick nose guard can cause a lot of errant snaps, especially against shot gun teams because the ball must travel through space. It is simple physics, the longer the path of a projectile, the smaller the variable needed to effect its path.  If your nose can command a double team, then you have the right guy there.   If hes a real war daddy then you can two gap him… but true two gap noses are hard to come by, even in the NFL.


Again I like quick explosive guys over size here.  Speed off the ball can be a real head ache for some of the lumbering offensive linemen out there.  For an example, one time in my career I had a defensive end start in a 4A state championship game and lead the team in sacks and he was only 167 pounds.  The next year he started for us at corner back and received a D1 scholarship.  Its about attitude and will.  Speed kills.  If the ends are playing in a shade they need to squeeze any down block. “Down is Dive” no dive then spill.  Other than that all the rules of the defensive line still apply.



If you like to flip flop your inside backers, then put the more physical guy to the same side as the shade and the 5 tech. Put your quicker guy that can run to the same side as the B gap DL, this covers up your linebacker and protects him, so he can run.  For simplicity reasons, I like to not move them when I can.  The LBs reads are “through the guard”.  What this means is guard key is first then the eyes flow through to the backfield action.   This takes practice, but the players pick it up quick and will rarely misread the play once they understand it.  High hats on snap is pass, draw key is when the OL turn out on the DL.  Initial flow of the hats will be first read, then as stated though the guard to the backfield.

The first steps for the LBs must be what I call “read steps”.   These are 2-3 short rapid fire, choppy steps no more than 3 inches, in the same direction as initial flow.  These steps are crucial in allowing the LBs to make the proper reads and react to play direction.  The read steps allow the LBs to redirect on counters, draws and play actions by preventing over selling with steps that are too big.   The LBs are responsible for filling open windows from inside out.  The players on the line of scrimmage will force everything to spill out. Ideally the inside LBs will make the tackle in D gap for no gain if the players on the line have not previously made the play.


These are the guys that will make your defensive mediocre or elite.  You want guys that have attitude and can run.  Long rangy builds tend to have a little more success here if playing on TEs a lot.  When playing on the line of scrimmage over a TE or a wing the rules are similar to a defensive lineman.  1st step is a power step and we punch violently to control one half of the blocker.  The OLBs best weapon is the punch and shuck when man blocked.  When facing a kick out block, we will spill.   The technique is commonly called “wrong arming” take the outside arm and rip through the kick blockers inside arm.  Once spilled penetrate and make the ball carrier bubble out so the LBs can scrape and rally.  If he doesn’t bubble, make the tackle.  You want to be sure to avoid spilling to shallow, about 1 to 2 feet into the backfield is perfect.


This is a base description for coaching the techniques for the front seven in the multiple 3-4 defense.  It is a system that is adaptable and puts speed on the field. In general, you want to turn everything into a toss sweep and make it go sideways. The sideline has never missed a tackle.  Part 3 will cover the role of the secondary in the defense. Please feel free to comment and share.  Give me a follow on twitter at @thecoachvogt



Tubby Raymond and the Wing-T

There is probably no other coach in history that has had as much of an impact on this game than Tubby Raymond.   In the Early 1950s Tubby and his staff developed the offense that would eventually permeate every single offense in the country in some form or another if not directly copied.  That offense was the Delaware Wing-T.  More than just a style of play, it is a systematic method of attacking a defense, allowing smaller less athletic players to be successful using angles and numbers on the edge.  My personal exposure to the Wing-T came as early as I can remember.  My father was a head football coach since before I was born, early mornings for me consisted of buck sweeps, bellyG’s and down options.  At that point the offense was over 30 years old, now in 2017 it is still prevalent everywhere you look from peewees to pros.

Numbers and Angles


The numbers advantage of the Wing-T is very apparent on the edge.  The wings are on the line of scrimmage creating extra run gaps for the defense to account for.  This forces the defense to incorporate the secondary into the run fits, opening up deadly play action passing opportunities.  Coupled with unbalanced you can place a lot of stresses on the defense.  The numbers advantage also extends into the back field as it can be a true 4 back offense, allowing the skill players to share the load.  The versatility of the Wing-T is on display today as several major Division One football programs have incorporated the Wing-T into the spread offense. Auburn and Clemson are the obvious examples here.

Probably the greatest advantage of the Wing-T is the use of angles for the offensive linemen to complete blocking assignments.  Typically on the front side the blockers will “gap” block.  Meaning they will come down on an angle on the first man inside of him to the nose of the adjacent blocker, if there is nobody there or the man disappears he will climb to next level.  It is all quick pin blocking to allow the ball carrier to quickly get to the crease.  This makes it possible for small, undersized, out muscled linemen to still be successful.

Conflicts and Misdirection

Play calling in the Wing-T is all about creating conflicts.  You do this with play series and “companion” plays.  The example we will use is buck sweep and bellyG.  If the defender on the edge is playing to stop the buck sweep, then by nature he is leaving himself open for the bellyG. He cannot play both. When he starts to squeeze, so he can make a play on the bellyG you go back to buck sweep. Both of these plays place the secondary in conflict as well. This is due to the extra run gaps they are responsible for filling.  Once you identify that the secondary has begun playing run aggressively you can then go for a play action shot for the end zone. The misdirection comes into play because the QB has his back turned to the defense after the snap and a fake is carried out for each plays companion play, further placing the defensive into conflicts of assignments.

Permeation and Evolution


Since it’s the development the Wing-T has permeated every level of football.  I used Auburn as an example of how the offense has been incorporated into the spread. But how about the NFL?  Lately we have been seeing some buck sweep and even bellyG in the NFL, but the Wing-T’s impact started much earlier.


In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Tubby Raymond and his staff began doing something that would eventually dominate NFL offenses.  They started running jet sweep and zone blocking with the offensive line.  The lateral movement of the offensive line and cut blocks on the backside would be the basis of the modern widezone. Naturally they also began faking the jet sweep and handing the zone play to the fullback, looking very much like the zone plays you see in almost every run play in the NFL today. Just like the buck sweep and bellyG the jet sweep and zone to the full back is about numbers and angles, instead of pinning inside, the zone series stretches the edge out, creating run lanes for the ball carrier.

Closing and Resources

As always please feel free to comment, share and follow with your email.  You can also give me a follow on twitter @thecoachvogt.com.  Also check out bucksweep.com it is an outstanding resource on the Wing-T offense.   And here is a video of Tubby explaining why he created the Wing-T with a quick description of the buck sweep and the BellyG.

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.