Unfortunately many youth football coaches confuse a defensive “alignment” for a defense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard coaches insist “I tried the 4-4 last year and it didn’t work” or “I tried the 6-2 last season but we couldn’t stop the sweep”. When I hear comments like these, I know the coach talking doesn’t understand the basics of defense. A 4-4 or 6-2 simply denotes how many players are aligned on the line of scrimmage and linebacker spots. The numbers mean nothing more, they don’t denote a defense at all.
All 4-4 alignments are not alike, are the linebackers stacked? Are the defensive tackles lined head up on the guards? outside shoulder? How about the defensive ends?
A 6-2 Wide Tackle Six alignment is much different than a 6-2 Split Six alignment or the 6i alignment. They all have 6 linemen on the line of scrimmage and 2 linebackers, but the base alignment is much different in each. In fact so is the entire defense.
Then there is the coverage question? Not all 6-2 or 4-4 defenses use the same pass coverage, are you man, zone or a combination? How do the force and alley players play in your defense? Mine play much different than most.
What is the base key and base responsibility for each player in the defense based on those reads? Please don’t tell me it is “make the tackle”. If that is the only key and base responsibility you teach your players, prepare for getting a bundle of points scored on you each week. What are your run fits?
What type of player do you have at each position? The 6-2 defense I use has a much different player description for defensive end and defensive guard positions than any 6-2 I’ve ever seen.
What is the base technique each of the players in each of the positions in your defense going to employ? What base stunts and blitzes do you run and why? What formations require adjustments to your base defense? Which formations give you such an advantage that they prompt you to go to an automatic stunt?
What tendencies are you tracking on defense? How and when do you use that data to your advantage in youth football?
How and where do you get minimum play players in your defense where they can add value on every snap and execute a technique or approach where they can also have individual success every play? The Miami 4-3 you are copying is used by a college team that could care less if all their kids got into a game. As a youth coach, we care about that.
So the next time someone tells you they are running a 4-4, 5-3 or 6-2 without saying what type of flavor it is, what the coverage is, what the force is, what the alley player is, what the base alignment is for each position, what the base reads are for each position, what the base techniques are for each position, what your run fits are, what type of player you are looking for at each position, what the base responsibilities are for each position and what their base stunts and “tells” are, the info you are getting from that person is going to suspect at best.
An alignment is not a defense and it never has been.
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