By Rick Streif, Head Coach
Cathedral High School (IN)
The next three positions are what make us different than most 3-3 teams. Our secondary plays a Cover 2 shell. The CBs alignment is based on formation. The CB will split the #1 and #2 receivers at a depth of 7 yards. They are not always exactly between each receiver, but can be determined by location on the field too. Our CBs are responsible for half of the field in pass (base coverage) like a Cover 2 safety. We look into the backfield after the first three steps to look for a 3 or 5 step drop by the QB. With a three-step drop, CB must be ready to break on the ball at the interception point. With a 5-step drop, CB should backpedal until his cushion is threatened and then he needs to open and play as deep as the deepest while ranging.
The CBs run responsibility is slow flow with run to him. By reading the #1 receiver, the CB is looking for his fit position. The CB is responsible for a fit inside the OLB. If
#1 cracks, the CB must replace the OLB. CB is always a late fit. If run goes away they are the TD saver. If #1 is an attached TE, we play a Bunch technique. We read the release of the TE. If he blocks down, the CB becomes an immediate run support and helps in the C gap. Our CBs are our fastest players. They do not have to be the most physical kids, but need to be good athletes who can range and play the ball in the air. These would be free safety/basketball athletes.
The Free Safety is the real difference in our defense. Our FS aligns 8-10 yards deep over the C/G gap to the two or three receiver side or the wide side of the field based on game plan. FS is reading the uncovered OL (sometimes we key the TE) for a high or low hat. If we get a low hat run read, we look for flow and chase the ball inside out to the D gap alley. We talk to our FS about chasing the heels of the ball carrier. If blocked, the FS takes on blocks with the outside arm and bounces the ball to the OLB. Our FS is our best football player. We funnel all runs to him to make the tackle. Multiple body types have occupied this position but the most prevalent has been the 195 lb. wrestler types. They seem to understand leverage and have a greater ability to use roll tackles, which are common here.
The FS’s pass responsibilities are based on formations. In our base coverage, our FS plays a robber technique versus a two back set. If the FS gets a high hat read, he will look to the #2 receiver. If #2 goes vertical, he gets in his hip pocket and chases. He has help over the top with the CB. If #2 goes to the flat, FS will look to #1 and rob the curl or skinny post. If #2 drags across, FS follows and covers the drag until the LB covers the receiver. The FS will then look for a receiver coming back and sinks to the low hole if not pressured. If the formation is any type of 3 x 1, the FS plays his robber technique off of the #3 receiver and robbing #2. Any 2 x 2 sets, the FS ranges the two inside receivers and plays the high hole.
This is our base defense and reads. The beauty of the defense is that it allows our players to play fast with few reads. We occasionally play other coverages, including man and use a zone blitz package, but many of the base rules will still apply. This allows teaching and fundamental work to stay consistent in all packages.
The following diagrams illustrate our fronts and coverages:
Pro Cover 4
About the Author:
Rick Streif has been the Head Coach at Cathedral High School (IN) for 21 years. They have won 10 State Championship and over 75% of their games. Streif has also been the Head Coach at Indianapolis North Central and Brebeuf Prep School. He has coached for over 31 years at the youth league, high school and college levels and has also coached in the USA Football World Championships and the Army All-American game.