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Clinic Talk: terms and phrases for defensive football

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We're here to talk about the differences between even and odd fronts, 1-gap and 2-gap schemes, and the subtleties of the schemes (Miami 4-3, 4-2-5, 3-4 and Tampa 2). I will also discuss defensive line techniques, linebacker alignments, and even a little about coverages (cover 4, 2, and 2-man).

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When you're talking about defensive football the first thing you need to know is what defense is your school running? As 'Canes fans know, Mark D'Onofrio liked to run a vanilla 3-4 defense but Manny Diaz, per history and the spring game, will run a 4-3 and 4-2-5 mix that fits what many call "Miami talent," and will bring pressure sometimes at the risk of exposing holes in coverage. On Wednesday we will discuss Manny Diaz's defense and what I expect him to run at Miami against different looks.

4-3 vs 21p

While we're not covering scheme exclusively in this post, the 4-3 Miami defense was made famous by Jimmy Johnson and created to stop the Wishbone. It has since been used in the NFL, College, and High School ranks for decades because of its simplicity and "stop all" style. On the DL you see 6, 3, 1 and 5 techniques against 21 personnel. The Sam lines up to the TE and in a 40, the Mike in a 10, and the Will in a 40 weak.

miami 43 d

DL techniques

While watching a broadcast or my chalk-talks, you'll often hear the words "____ technique" when describing the defensive line. Offensive and defensive coaches use this terminology for a quick reference point. Above, I have given you a simple diagram to explain the numbering system. The only caveat is for people like me that grew up in a 4-4 G defense (think: Bud Foster), where the 9 is the 7 and the 7 is a 6i. But besides that, it's fairly universal. I personally like to switch my DE's to have a strong and weak end. I also can't have the 3 and 1 play both, most 3-tech's are bigger and stronger while the 1-tech can be undersized but needs to be explosive off the ball (many are on the wrestling team).

LB alignments

Linebacker alignments are fairly similar to the defensive line techniques, except coaches add a 0 to the back, as you can see in the diagram above. The Miami 4-3 mostly aligns in 40-10-40 while the 4-2-5 will often align the ILB in 20's or a 30 and a 20. It really depends on the down, distance, and what the DC is trying to accomplish.

Now that we've covered alignments, many coaches and announcers will talk about the difference between a 2 gap and 1 gap scheme. 2 gap scheme means that your defensive lineman will have to play the gap to their left and right and read and react to determine which gap to fill. This is mostly seen in an odd front defense (3 or 5 down lineman), but sometimes in an even front (4 down lineman) when they line the DT (Defensive Tackle) in a 2 (head up on the guard).

Many critics of the 2-gap are that you don't allow the DL to just play the game fast and upfield. They're stuck reading, playing off blocks, and by the time they see the play, read it, and react, it's too late. I believe Manny Diaz, in all of his attacking the QB glory, will utilize a 1-gap scheme. Famous abuse of the 2-gap schemes would be every Miami game under Al Golden and Oregon's defense against Ohio State in the title game in 2015.

osu trap vs oregon GIF

Urban Meyer figured out quick to double the 4-technique and kick out the stand-up linebacker/end and he would have a huge gap. He uses the RB Elliot as a lead blocker for the QB Jones and the jet motion fake handoff rolls the safety. The Oregon 4-tech/DT tries to engage the OSU Guard but it's too late as the OT combos him and the C picks up the 0-tech/NT.

Coverage is another story. The Tampa 2 (4-3 cover 2) defense made famous by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin is similar to the Miami 4-3 except instead of 2-man coverage (2 high safeties and 2 CBs playing man-to-man) The Tampa 2 played zone-2 which has the CBs jam/press and attempt to re-route the WR inside, and then stay in the flat hoping the WR was funneled to the safeties. They came up with this defense to combat the quick slant and curl/flat route every NFL team installs day one. Although the two passing combos that broke the Tampa 2 were Leach's "6" play and the "Smash" concept (hitch/corner) Spurrier loved so well at Florida. Many of the 3-4 teams run cover 2 as well. The 4-2-5 defenses like "Quarters" coverage which is a form of cover 2 and cover 4 with some man coverage sprinkled in. Many people attribute TCU with this defense and rightfully so but in this day and age everyone is running some 4-2-5 unless they're a 3-3-5 or 3-4 base defense.

4-2-5 cover 4

DB's label WR's outside in, and in the 4-2-5- it's "split field" coverage which means to either side of the center. For instance, above the X would be #1 to the right side, the A #2, the T is #3. On the left, the Z is #1 and the Y is #2 (if the T crosses he's #3). This is a great way to mark the possible receivers and coach pattern matching to your DBs. In the image above, the RC is responsible for the X, while the SLB is responsible for the flat (eyes on #2) and the FS is responsible for #2 deep with eyes on #3.

isaac INT gif

Quarters coverage allows you to "pattern match" your coverage, meaning, if the Z to the left runs a post route, and the Y runs a wheel, the DB's will banjo or switch their responsibility with the SS picking up #1 and the CB picking up #2.

Check out the video below which has chalk-talk and cut-ups.

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