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Getting Defensive

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Okay, I just took over as Defensive Coordinator- I think. Our Head Coach has used a 5-3 through our scrimmages and first two games. We lost both games, and were outscored 10-5. Is there something better we can do than the 5-3? Its a flag football team, ages 6-8. Please, any insight will be greatly appreciated. Thanx.

Wood

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8-2-1

This may sound a little nutty, but it works. At that age anyway. Stack all the gaps with a player and have him stay low. If the split people, the linemen will charge in making it super hard for a young kid to throw. Your safety should be the fastest kid, and hae him watch the QB's eyes. Go where his eyes go. If they line up in a very spilt setup , the "ends" on he d line can split out to cover, but the QB will be running for his life.

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Thanks for responding, Coach Caddell, I really appreciate it. I forgot to mention that it is 8-man Football and also that we were outscored 10 Touchdowns to 5 (after this Saturday its now 15-7)... Maybe its because I'm a first year coach but I didn't quite understand everything you said. Is a "gap" the area between O Linemen? If so, how does this differ from a "split"? Also, why would the D Linemen stay "low"?- and do they do this as they rush? Finally, you said the Defensive Ends can "split out to cover." Do you mean, not having them rush in and instead drop back to cover? Thanks again.

Wood

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Sorry to be cryptic.

Yes, Gaps are the spaces between the offensive linemen. These are usually labeled gaps 1-9 by the offense, but for defense it would be easiest to refer to them by letter. A gaps, B gaps, etc.

As such (gaps in bold):

------------RB-------RB

-----------------QB

----0L----0L----C----0L----0L

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

-C-----B------A----A-----B------C

You can see that as more linemen are added to the offense, you get new gaps (a "D" for instance). A "split" is the distance that the Offensive linemen use to seperate themselves. So "tight splits" would be where the offensive linemen are touching feet or shoulders as they line up. "wide splits" would have the offensive linemen a foot or two apart.

An old Lineman mantra goes "the low man wins". A player on the line (offense or defense) will beat his apponent most of the time, if he is th elower of the two. It gives you better leverage, and gives you the ability to react. A successful offensive lineman will attempt to "lift" the defensive lineman as he block, taking away his center fo gravity and making it hard to react to the play. As a defensive lineman, staying "low" means maintaing a lower center of gravity, knees bent, and ready to attack below the shoulders of the Offensive lineman. When coaching young kids on the line, you want to make sure of two things.

1) Avoid the "bear pooping in the woods" stance. This is the most common for young kids, where they look like they are using the bathroom on the field. Squatting if you will.

2) Don't lean too far forward.

Assuming a "3 point stance", you want to make sure that you can knock the players "support" hand off the ground, and have him not fall down. And the opposite (for #1) is to make sure that if you give them a little push, they don't fall backwards. They should have a poised, but sturdy position, and be ready to explode.

What I was suggesting is this:

Have a Defensive lineman lined up in front of each of the gaps. As more Offensive linemen are added, add more guys on the line. Make sure the outside gaps are also filled. When the ball is snapped, the D linemen in the inside gaps (with an o-lineman on each side) should attempt to fire through the gap, staying lower than the offensive lineman. Disrupt the play in the backfield if they can. Make sure they keep their eyes up to see what is going on.

The Defensive lineman on the ouside gap (with only an O lineman on his inside) needs to do 2 things.

1) On his way across the line of scrimmage, he needs to give a shove to the outside offensive lineman.

Since this lineman is an eligible reciever, he needs to be slowed down. Once he goes out for a pass, the linebacker should adjust to him and cover if necessary.

2) If he stays in and blocks, the D lineman should continue to shove him inside, and maintain his "containment" position. The worst thing an outside lineman (called a Defensive End), can do is to run too deep in the backfield. If this happens, the offense will try to run between him and the next lineman. It is his job to prevent the sweep and any other run that tries to go out towards him.

I will adjust my "cover" statement based on 8-man. Assuming that the offense has 5 linemen, I would make the responsibility of one of the linebackers to cover any RB who decides to split out wide. The other one would stay home in the middle and watch for the Tight End (last offensive lineman) to go out for a pass, or to react to the running back trying to get into a hole. You linebacker need to be the best kids on the defense in this scenario. The smartest too.

If for some reason a defensive end finds himself unblocked, he should still fly in to the backfield (not too far back!) to chase down the play or QB, but needs to be watching for a reverse. Remember, he has "containment".

What I am attempting to do is to "stuff" the offensive line "holes", and make the running back either run into your guys, or dance around to trying to find someplace to run. Either way, with that many defensive lineman trying to bust into the backfield, he wont have much time. THis also will make it very hard for the QB get a pass off.

In 8-man flag, I assume there is a lot of sweeping. In this case, your defensive end will be taking on the leading blocker a lot, and the linebacker will make the majority of the tackles.

As a footnote: this sort of defense doesn't necessarily work as the kids get older, since there are ways to react to gap fillers, but at 6-8yrs, you will be plugging up all the holes the running back can run in, and making the QB throw quickly, which gives your linebackers the opportunity for lots of picks. Ive never coached 8-man, so i may be making assumptions about the way things play out in a game, but if I was in your shoes, given my past knowledge, this would be the first thing I tried.

I hope this helps.

-C

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Wow! This is more than I could've wished for! I especially liked the visual. Thanks for taking the time to clarify for me, Coach. I'll let you know how it goes. Take care.

Wood

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Coach, we didn't do very well last Saturday. We were out-maned and lost atleast 7 touchdowns to our 0. I will keep pluggin'. Take care.

Wood

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:( The only bright spot was that they don't keep score at that level- atleast not officially, so we really didn't know how bad we got beat up (I know they scored atleast 7 times).

Along with being out-manned (they had about 3 or 4 guys as big and as fast as our best player), they out-played and out-coached us. Surely, I am partly responsible for what happened. I didn't prepare them to cover a "trips" formation. Even if I had wanted to- I don't know how to cover that formation! Do we go man to man or stay in zone? We ended up scrambling at the last second with man to man (having our 3 Linebackers on them). The kids were obviously ill-prepared to handle such a formation. What exaserbated (I think thats how you spell it) the situation was the fact that we were many times walking to the ball! I don't remember the last time I was that embarrassed.

Wood

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Coach Wood,

Coach Caddell has offered you a lot of good advice.

First football comes down to three things and only two of them you can really control.

1) Athletic Ability (Jimmy and Joes) you have no real control over this at the youth level. I have instituted a Athletic Development Program (Speed/Agililty/Quicknees) for our franchise and it is beginning to pay off in big dividends but it has taken us three years. This is from my belief that you have to start developing talent and ability early. I honestly think we have more above average athletes on our teams then our opponent does at the 10-12 and 9-8 for this exact reason because we start developing it early at the 4-5 (flag), 6-7 (bantam).

2) Schemes - you have to have schemes that take advantage of your abilities (coaching staff) and your kids abilities. That is why the more flexible your systems are the easier it is to plug talent into holes you need to fill. You have to take advantage of your talent and not worry about what you don't have.

3) Coaching - good coaches that have a keen understanding of football, the rules, and how the game is played makes a big difference.

If you have only one of these you are not going to win a lot of games but you will get lucky. You are not going to do well against superior teams.

If you have two of these you are going to win the majority of your games and you are going to be competitive against superior teams.

If you have all three you are a superior team and more then likely you are going to dominent in your league.

Just food for thought.

Now on to defense.

What are your specific rules for Mandatory men on the LOS? How many if any lineman must you use? What type of blocking if any is used? Who is eligible as a runner/receiver? All flag leagues are not equal or the same.

Give me some feedback and I can help you out.

Coach Gregory

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Coach Gregory,

Thanks for sharing. Any offensive and defensive formation is allowed. So I guess any number of men on the line is also allowed. As for blocking, an offensive blocker may use only the standing block, with the forearms and hands folded to the body. Additionally, anyone is an eligible reciever, and the QB cannot run with the ball. Take care Coach.

Coach Wood

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:D

Guys, since I last wrote, its been nothing but positive! In our last 3 games, our opponents scored- get this- a total of 2 touchdowns! I don't think we could've finished the season any stronger! It all started when I was forced to coach both sides of the ball because our head coach could not make a game. I somehow got the confidence in that game (to coach our defense), after having some success being on my own.

Today, we played our final game, and boy was it a great one. Their Quarterback and Runningback were surely the most talented we had seen at their respective positions all season long! Although we were outsized again (we have a very young team), we shut them out until the final quarter!- which is when they scored the tying touchdown (game ended at 1 touchdown a piece). We played a great game on both sides, and although we deserved to win, It sure felt like a victory, as great as we played! Undoubtedly, everyone on the opposing side (including the parents) were shocked with the game that we gave them.

It was a great ending to my first season in which I never thought I had it in me to coach, let alone be Defensive Coordinator. I probably could not have done it without this great website and the support I got from Coach Caddell and Coach Gregory. Thanks Coaches, and thanks "Y-Coach" for making my first year of coaching such a memorable one.

Coach Wood

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