By Patrick Moynahan, Linebackers Coach
At Kenyon College we try to counteract our light, but quick front seven going against larger offensive linemen by overload blitzing to the side of the back. Our favorite concept the past few seasons has been what we call “Inferno” – an overload blitz that begins with a balanced front with all seven DL and LB’s on the line of scrimmage. We’ve struggled to defend the vertical passing game with 3-deep, 3-under coverages, and so we’ve modified the secondary to be a 4-deep, 2-under coverage to better match vertical routes down the field. In this article I will detail how we structure our front to defend the common runs we face, and our coverage rules to defend the most common RPO’s and passing concepts.
The Inferno Blitz
Our Inferno blitz is a choice pressure dictated on which side the tailback aligns. If the tailback is strong, we will run our “Smoke” blitz, whereas if he is weak we will run our “Burn” blitz. Smoke signifies the Sam and Mike will be the rushers, Burn the Dime and Will. The Mike LB will alert the DL their alignment and movement with a Gee/Haw call. Gee means pressure from the left, Haw pressure from the right.
The blitz, regardless of direction, begins with all 4 LB’s on the line of scrimmage so as to disguise our direction. In the direction of the blitz the DL will align 4i, shade, 5. The
coverage LB’s (D and W in Smoke) will drop when the QB begins his cadence, or if he has a particular pre-snap tell (squatting in his stance, lifting his leg, bringing his hands close to his face mask, etc). The inside backer will align over the ball at 5 yards, and the outside backer will align ½ way between the tackle and the nearest eligible receiver. Although the front is balanced a knowledgeable OL will know where the blitz is coming based on where the 4i and 5 aligns. We structure the front this way for two reasons: 1. So the long pinching 4i has less ground to cover and won’t get cutoff by the offensive guard. 2. So we have a 5 technique opposite the back to defend power read.
When the back is weak, and we transition to the “Burn” pressure that is mirrored, the corresponding players merely swap responsibilities.
When we teach any type of pressure we spend the bulk of our time emphasizing the proper reads and steps for the blitzing players so we can properly fit the runs we’ll see that week and have a balanced rush against the pass that harasses, but also contains the QB. In this next section I’ll outline the points of emphasis for the three players involved in the inferno pressure: the 4i (long pinch), C crash (M/D), and D crash (S/W).
4i: The most important objective for the 4i is to cross the guard’s face, and end up in the A gap. We teach a three step movement – a flat 12in. first step, a second step that restores balance in his stance, and a third vertical step to get up-field and penetrate the A-gap. The second step should be combined with a rip to carry him across the face of the guard. Simultaneous with his movements, the 4i will read the center. If the center zones away from him, he needs to ensure that he rips across the face of the guard and get to the inside hip of the center:
If the center zones to him, the 4i will shorten his second step and focus on getting vertical so the center cannot reach him:
Against the pass, the 4i will work opposite the slide. If the center slides to him he will cross his face, whereas if center slides away he will continue rushing up field.
C Crash: The inside linebacker to the side of the back is the C gap rusher. His primary responsibility is the tailback against zone read, and we emphasize having as tight a path off the offensive tackle as possible. Our main coaching point is making sure he points his inside toe at the inside knee of the tailback and rolls off his front foot at the snap. Similar to the 4i, the C-crash will read the tackle while on his blitz path. If the tackle zones away the ILB will bend and tackle the back:
If the tackle zones to him, the C crash will rip underneath and accelerate up field into the B gap.
Against the pass the C-crash will work opposite the slide, shortening the edge for the outside linebacker. If the tackle slides away, he will attack the inside shoulder of the back. If the tackle slides to, he will rip underneath and attack the guard:
D-Crash: The outside backer to the side of the tailback is the D gap rusher. He is the force player against the run, and must keep the QB in the pocket against the pass. We tell him he is a “train on the tracks” to emphasize that his path is direct and explosive. Point your toe and go! Against zone read the D-crash is responsible for the QB. His rush should ensure the ball if given. If the QB does keep the football, the D-crash needs to tackle him, or force him back inside should he miss the tackle.
Versus the run to him he attacks the upfield shoulder of the tailback and forces the ball back inside.
Against the pass, it’s imperative the D-Crash stays on the upfield shoulder of the QB. If the line slides away from the blitz, the back is left to block either the block C or D-crash. If the line slides to the blitz the D-Crash is left 1 on 1 with the offensive tackle.
The two primary runs we see against one-back offenses are the zone and power read. We think that the Inferno blitz is very effective in terms of fitting both runs, but also encouraging the offense to check to a quick throw/screen at the line of scrimmage.
Against zone read the C and D crash have clearly defined roles. The D-crash is responsible for the QB, the C-crash is responsible for the tailback. After the backers away from the back have bailed to their respective alignments the inside backer (in this illustration the Dime) works from A gap to B gap1. If the nose is reached or the 4i is cut off, then he exists as an insurance policy. The outside linebacker away from the blitz (in this illustration the Will) reads the tackle. When the tackle blocks out, the Will inserts into the B gap.
Against power read the 5-technique opposite the back is taught to “Fire” at the QB vs. an inside release from the tackle. His aiming point is the opposite shoulder of the QB, forcing a give read. The Will, when he sees the inside release, will replace the 5 technique as the force player, and handle the tailback sweep. Once the Dime reads the pull, he will pursue inside out from QB to sweep. To the side of the blitz, the Mike will look to get in the hip pocket of the guard when the tackle hinges to him. Then the 4i is free to cross the face of the center.