Back when I was a defensive coordinator we played a pretty basic 4-4 defense. Over the years we tweaked it a bit here and there and we came up with a quick call that was easy for the kids to get into in short yardage situations. I realize it’s pretty simple and we all have good schemes but if you’re like me you just like seeing other methods. That’s what’s cool about www.chiefpigskin.com, we get to share and just talk about football.
Now, in this case I’m talking very short yardage defense out in the middle of the field, not goal line. If we had our opponents in 3rd and 1 or less or 4th and 1 or less and we just knew they were going to sneak or dive, we would get into our “tight 22 up”. Let’s take a look at our base D.
Our tackles lined up in what we called a 2, 3, or 4 alignment. We would make the call from the sideline. 2 is inside shoulder of the guard, 3 is head up and 4 is outside shoulder. If we called a 33, they would both be head up, 42 was outside-inside, etc. with A or B gap responsibility. Our ends would be in a 5 technique if no tight end and in a 7 technique if there was a tight end with C gap responsibility. Our outside backers would be in a 3 x 3 alignment outside the last man on the LOS. So, for our short yardage defense 22 meant both tackles get into inside shoulder of the guards. “Tight” meant to tighten up. Our outside backers would walk up to the line, get into a 9 technique of the tight ends and kick the D ends to a 5 technique, or “tighten” up. Our inside backers would line up in B gap and move “up” closer to the LOS. Thus, the tight 22 up call.
The less the offense needed for a 1st down, the more our inside backers moved up. For example, if it was 4th and inches, they would get into the B gap almost on the LOS. If it was 4th and 2, they might be about 2 yards behind the D line. This D had to: 1) stop the QB sneak and 2) stop the quick dive. Tackles were responsible for A gap and stopping the sneak. Inside backers had B gap, tackles C gap, and outside backers the edge and alley. We had great success with this simple adjustment and the kids had confidence they could make a key stop.
My best story, (I always have a story), was from 1997 and we were playing a very good Maroa-Forsyth team at our place. It was early in the 2nd quarter and they had the ball 4th and about half a yard on their own 30. They decided to go for it. We had a real good team too, one of our better ones. They had confidence they could get half a yard. We got into our tight 22 up and stuffed a QB sneak for no gain. It was very emotional and our guys were pumped as they came off the field. Me too! I think I was yelling “How dare they? How dare they?” as our guys were getting to the sideline. Before I could look up, on the very next play, our head coach John Beccue called a skinny post pass and we connected for a score. He was good at taking advantage of opportunities like that. What a turnaround! We went on to get a hard fought 16-14 win and those two plays were a great lift.
So often a tough game comes down to making one or two key plays at just the right time. It’s difficult to be ready for everything but that’s the task we are called to do, as much as possible. And I’ve learned you’ve got to have “playmakers”, those kids who just have a knack for making big plays when you need them. You can’t coach that and sure is fun to watch.