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Defensive Line - Read on the Run

Submitted By:
Keith Emery
Defensive Line Coach
Johns Hopkins University

We employ a Stack 4-3 defense at Johns Hopkins University. As such, our defensive front plays an attacking, "read on the run" style. The D-Line reacts to schemes while making an up-the-field charge. We react to these schemes much like most teams that run a stack 4-3. How we react to a Veer Release scheme however, is somewhat unique.
We categorize blocking schemes into three areas: Single, Combination, and Release schemes.

SingleCombinationRelease Schemes
ReachScoop        Arc
CutoffCombo       Veer
Base  Double       Pull Influence
Hi-Wall     Down & FoldPass Influence
Pass Set   Down & Pull

We define a Veer scheme as anytime an offensive lineman takes an inside release versus and outside aligned (1,3,5,9) defensive lineman. This definition includes a backside offensive tackle’s release to the second level on play away.
As always, our defensive linemen take off with a 6-8 inch power step keying the gap side V of the neck with a hand landmark of the breast plate of the offensive lineman he is lined up on. As the O-Lineman takes an inside release, part of our landmark disappears. Because of our shoulder to shoulder outside alignment, we are only able to get a forceful blow with our inside hand on the outside breast plate of the O-Lineman. While taking our second step, we execute a REACH AROUND technique with our outside hand. We attempt to reach for the inside hip pad of the O-Lineman, but not quite reaching it. This technique forces us to get our shoulders turned perpendicular to the LOS. On our third step, we shove the releasing O-Lineman inside to let our LB get over top of the down block. At the same time, we eye up what is coming at us and react accordingly. If we are a 3 technique, we can expect trap or mid-line option (Figure 1). If we are a 5 or 9 technique, we can expect a kick out or log by a guard or fullback, a veer option, or play away.

Against Veer option, the End is responsible for dive. However, when we recognize option, we will throw our outside elbow out to square up to the LOS. We feel that our initial inside presence will give the QB a pull read. By squaring up to the LOS, the 5 technique becomes an extra player on the QB with the capability of running to the pitch. If he sees the ball given, he will tackle the fullback (Figure 3). Against good veer option teams that run few gap scheme plays, we can change up our defensive end technique to something we call ‘Heavy’. ‘Heavy’ tells the DE to tighten his alignment. The tighter alignment allows us to get better hands on the veer releasing tackle which gives our LB greater protection. We will squeeze the tackle’s release while keeping our shoulders square to the LOS. This gives us a more realistic chance to become an extra player on the QB. The End’s responsibility is now Dive-to-QB.

We will wrong arm and pry all kick out blocks in our base technique (Figure 2). If we see a log path by a guard, we will get outside of it (Figure 4). On play away, the 5 or 9 technique End will chase behind the LOS and become a factor on the play. On play away with wide flow, the End will check boot, then pursue.

I hope this REACH AROUND technique helps your reaction to the veer scheme. If you are interested in how we react to other blocking schemes, give us a call or e-mail me at Good Luck.