Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More ways to defeat the 8 man front’s free safety in the alley

This is a continuation on the previous post on handling the free safety in the alley. We are adding 2 new methods and a play action pass off each.

(Note: in the first couple of drawings the DT to the play shows an outside shade, 3 technique. The player should be in a 2i or inside technique on the guard.)

Read Cracking the Free Safety



Another way to handle the free safety is to "read crack" him. The read part of the crack comes into play to make sure you don't get double support. (Both the corner and safety support the run on the play.)



When you perform this technique you are in essence leaving the corner one on one with your pitch man. You are making a cover player tackle. (see below) In addition to his tackling of the pitch in this style of defense the corner is usually responsible for the vacated post area. He can do that in two ways. The first is a zone or off technique that allows the him to read the release of the splitend and only man up on routes over 8 yards. The second places the corner in inside man and usually plays him in a bump or tight alignment in order to stop him from cracking.



Fig 1 shows the read crack in action. Since it only involves the wide receiver it is the easiest adjustment to teach and adapt.

Wide receiver's technique: (as I learned it from West Point and Air Force)

  1. Cut split 3 yards (we call that a minimum split)

  2. Push off the line with speed at the outside corner of the wide receiver.

  3. If the corner goes back or is in man (presnap read) as you push down the field eyeball the safety.

  4. If the safety starts to fill you will now crack him



    1. Vs. zone your push should be strong enough that you come back aiming at the upfield shoulder. You need to get this push (about 8 yards to allow the pitchman to turn his shoulders upfield and create a two-way go on the corner.) You should be coming back at a negative angle to the line of scrimmage.

    2. Vs man it will happen quicker. The key is to get the corner to open up and turn his feet. Swat him by with your inside hand to the shoulder nearest the line of scrimmage and come underneath with a swim or rip move. The corner should follow you inside, in essence, taking two defenders with one blocker.

  5. If the corner sits – you must forget the free safety and stalk him as usual


There are a couple of key points here that must be emphasized:




  • You must get a push upfield otherwise the corner reads the crack and is waiting on the line of scrimmage for the pitchman. I have seen people do this from right off the line and have mixed results depending how good the defense was in executing the call. (An example of this is army vs. ND when the corner replaced instantly and no gain was made. Also in Air force vs. Utah, the wide receivers flat path vs. bump was

  • The crack usually starts between 8 and 12 yards in zone or off man and between 4 and 6 yards in bump.

  • Aiming for the upfield shoulder allows the play to "circle the field." The only way for the defender is to slip under you. This precludes a "bad" angle to a footrace to the corner.


Although we "read crack" regularly, there are certain situations that we like it better than others.



If the defense is playing the free on the pitch, then we especially like it against a man concept on the perimeter. The corner should follow you inside (man responsible) which means that you are essentially blocking two people for one. (see fig. 2)








If the defense is playing the free on the quarterback, then we especially like this with a zone and a crack replace concept. Most DB's are taught to replace outside (second contain) on the pitch. In essence this gives the defense two players on one option assignment, allowing for a huge running seam for the quarterback. (see fig.3)



This does not mean they won't work in reverse situations. It just means these are ideal.



Play action pass off the read crack (fig.4)



As with everything else we do, we always go into a "read crack" game with the potential to throw the read crack pass for a touchdown. This is a simple pass to throw.

Read Crack: pass assignment


(Note: there are adjustments when we are in two high defenses. They will be mentioned in the rule but not explored here as the basis for this article is the eight man front with a single high.)


Playside wide receiver: cut split 5 yards so as to emphasize the fact you may crack (we tell the wide receiver to do anything he can to give away the fact he will be cracking the free – look at him, etc.) Release hard 4 steps then crack aiming for the upfield shoulder of the free. Anticipate the crack and break to near goalpost looking over your outside shoulder. (you have from pylon to goalpost to work.)


Playside Halfback. Vs. single high safety: Take a seal path off the handoff key and sprint to the opposite flat at a depth of 4 – 6 yards. (Width is more important than depth)


Vs. two high safeties: Run read wheel. With coverage over the top break it off at 14 back to 12. (We will not cover this in this section.)


Backside wide receiver: Run read takeoff. If even or by corner run takeoff. Coverage over the top, break it off at 16 back to 14.


Quarterback: single high safety. Go to the playside Wide receiver unless the safety stays over the top. If safety over the top, shuffle up and go backside WR (takeoff if corner beaten. If corner back – comeback to flat.)


Remember, you can go to the backside wide receiver because with a single high you are basically getting one-on-one coverage and running a man route.

Note: At times we will have theplayside hb in the protection and the backside halfback continue on his option path. Sometimes the free safety will read the motion and sprint to centerfield when he sees the hb block. This has a better pull on him.


Allowing two players on the quarterback and leverage pitching:

With our "safe" call we handle the free safety by taking one of our front blockers and allowing him to block the safety. (see fig. 5) It is important to note that the only time we do this is when we are getting a steady stream of the OLB / SS playing the quarterback and the free safety playing the pitch. If the reverse is true, you are sending your quarterback into an unblocked linebacker. Additionally, the quarterback must know that you are leverage pitching off the OLB and there is very limited (if not no chance) you to run.



Playside HB:
Start as if to seal the linebacker and take path to cut off free safety. Make sure you take angle to cut him off and keep him over the top.


Play action pass off the "safe" call (fig.6)


As we said above, we like to have a play-action pass off everything we run. Our "safe" call is no different. The pass we would run here is the "Divide" concept. Again, as it is explained we will give you the rule for one and two-high safeties. However, we will only discuss the single-high variant.


Divide: pass assignment

(Note: there are adjustments when we are in two high defenses. They will be mentioned in the rule but not explored here as the basis for this article is the eight man front with a single high.)


Playside wide receiver: read takeoff. If even or by corner run takeoff. Coverage over the top, break it off at 16 back to 14.


Playside Halfback.


Vs. single high safety: release as if sealing the backer. Run at safety. As he flows break deep for near goalpost looking over playside shoulder. You have from goalpost to pylon to work.


Vs. two high safeties: release as if arcing #3. Depth down the field is more important than width. Aim inside shoulder of safety. As safety passes, continue up field getting width but never wider then (high school) hash. Look over inside shoulder


Backside wide receiver: Run read takeoff. If even or by corner run takeoff. Coverage over the top, break it off at 16 back to 14.


Quarterback: single high safety. Read middle safety. If he fills, go to halfback. If the safety gains depth to cover the halfback, shuffle up and go to the playside wide receiver wide receiver.


Vs. two high: Read near deep safety. If he does anything but cover the halfback go to him. (do not lead him to backside safety.) If the near safety covers the halfback, shuffle up and go to the playside wide receiver.