Vertical Set

I want to give some insight into vertical set pass protection.

I used traditional kick slide technique for my first 4 years as a coach and discovered vertical pass sets about a year ago.  I began researching the technique and drills, began meeting with coaches, and watched some coaches teach it.  I learned most of what I know about vertical setting from Brian Hamilton, head Coach at Concord HS, in Concord, CA where I live.  I think he is one of the best OL coaches in northern CA and his team won the NCS D-2 Championship this season.

The vertical pass set is ridiculous simple… walk backwards as fast as you can.

Now to traditionalists they will say everything about vertical setting is wrong, the backward retreat will get you bullrushed, you have no leverage and power blah blah blah, the fact is if you coach it right it isn’t true, and it is in my mind the simplest form of pass protection and I think it is superior to kick slide

What is it basically?

Vertical setting is essentially the OL equivalent of a backpedal.
We retreat backwards away from the LOS , looking for all 5 OL to remain on the same vertical plane.

The OL steps should go
Inside – Out – Inside – Out

basically we always step with the inside foot first, and then the outside foot.  for all 90s protection we take 4 steps back before dropping we “Anchor”.  Many teams only use this protection but I still use a separate 60s protection, that is the same thing but for 2 steps.

The vertical portion isn’t that difficult to teach, you just need reps.  We just start working our kids to backpedal, but with big steps.  I try to get them to cover ground in those 4 steps, the whole purpose of vertical setting is to be as deep as possible when we make contact.  The kids will feel goofy, look like crap at first, and some might tumble, but keep working it, they will get better and better each day.  By the season some of my OL had better feet than our corners.

Vertical setting is about getting depth, and keeping the 5 OL on the same level until contact is made
It really is easy to teach the base idea, but the devil is in the details.  You have to really work what I call the Anchor

So traditionalists will tell you setting like that will leave you high and with no leverage, and this is semi true, the anchor is what remedies this and helps us regain leverage.  Once that 4th step hits, we DROP our butt right now, to resume that “perfect pass pro posture” that kick slide coaches think they and they alone possess.  The anchor is about when an OL will decide who he is taking.

Vertical sets are so wonderful to me, because the depth and timing of the steps allows you to see any twists or blitzes that might occur.  If any stunt is on, it is happening right in front of my OL while they are setting, they anchor right when they defense should be showing their hand, and then boom we are ready to punch and work our feet.

For those who think we have given up all leverage by backpedaling remember this… SO HAVE THE D Linemen!!!
some of you are thinking, a bull rush will kill them, DL will be right underneath them coming out of their 3 point

well take a look at this DE’s stance…

Look at his butt up in the air, all that power stored in those coiled hips… well guess what by the time he reaches us (because of our depth) he will be much more upright, and he will have lost a great deal of his power.

If we anchor after that 4th step, then WE will be the low man, and WE will have the leverage advantage.

Go ask anyone of your DL to do a 5 yard get off, I guarantee by yard #5 he has risen a ton and his body is pretty much upright

We want to be 4-5 yards deep when we make contact
-we start out 1 yard off the ball by alignment
-we try to get those extra yards off of our vertical set

We feel that if we have to make your DL sprint 5 yards before contact, that will take 1 full second.  So before contact we have already blocked you for 1 second.  Now all i do is ask my OL to stay in that man’s way for 2 more full seconds (this is whatever you normally teach for pass pro, punch footwork, countering moves, all of that doesn’t change from whatever you normally do)

That is 3 seconds, my QB should have it off by then

You would be amazed at how many times I saw opposing DL just stop rushing… they flat out quit because they got tired of chasing my OL just to get even with them, then having to work to get around them, then having to work to get my QB on the ground…
They would get off the ball, see it was a pass, and just stop their feet.

After this season I am a firm believer in what vertical setting can do for you.  My JV team for example, we had somewhere between 250-300 pass attempts on the year, we gave up 5 sacks total.  I think that is a pretty damn good job of pass protecting.

One game alone we threw the ball 42 times and only gave up 1 sack.
The vertical sets allowed my guys to see every blitz coming.  We never gave up a sack due to scheme, all 5 sacks were just a case of one kid beating another 1 on 1, that’s football you win some, you lose some… but I will definitely take somewhere near 300 pass attempts and give up only 5 sacks.

The worst part about traditional pass pro in my mind was the quick sacks… sometimes a kid lunges out and the DL swims over him right at the snap, and he is in the backfield instantly, blowing up the QB.  We never have that now, there is no chance for the instant play because that DL has to run 5 yards before he even gets into position to be able to work a move.

No BIG hits on the QB.  With this system, and the fact that everyone (even if they are HORRIBLE) is at least slowing the other guy down, I have found that the QB sacks we do see in our program are more pull down, grabbing type sacks, never the BIG collision.

All in All, vertical setting is more effective than traditional kick slide, and I think it is very easy to teach.  It isn’t fancy, not a whole lot of technique, you can get away with telling your kids, run backwards as fast as you can… and you’re half way through coaching it 😉

What should I write about?

If you are reading this, thank you for the continued support.  I want to get back to posting at least once a week.  I have been substitute teaching 2 days a week now, and I do not do much during my Prep periods when I teach, so I have decided they will become my BLOG periods. 

Now that I have penciled in some time to work on posts, I now need some fuel…

Please write me at

and let me know what you are interested in, I just need some inspiration to get going.

My plan for tomorrow, is to write some stuff up on vertical pass protection

Thanks, and I look forward to the responses

-B Dud

Running the 3-5 Defense

Sorry for the wait,

My personal defense of choice is an odd man front… I have used it in the past, and it is what I know best, to me a 3 man DL with 8 stand up players puts a lot of speed on the field, allows you to drop 8 in coverage easily, and lets you bring pressure from anywhere.

I am a big believer in a 3 man line because you can line them up and single gap them, you can 2 gap them, or you can do my favorite, and slant them.  I love slanting (especially when all you have is wrestler builds, no big strong 300 lb kids to plug gaps up) because you can really create problems for the OL by messing with their rules and confusing them.  As an OL coach I would much rather face a DL that plays the gap they line up in, compared to one who is constantly slanting on me.

3-4 vs 3-5

Now many people debate these 2 defenses, but I say stop looking at # – # and equating that to some master scheme and just look at what you are in, if a 3-4 or a 3-5 is your front, then that front is determined by the coverage you choose to run ( see my earlier post on coverage determining front).

I do not see myself as a 3-4 guy, or a 3-5 guy… I am both.  When I want to run a 2 high coverage, my front becomes a 3-4, when I walk my SS down to play 1 or 3, now I have made my front into a 3-5.
I have to admit that the more I learn about 2 high coverages the more I like it, but I have traditionally been  a 1 high coach, and based out of cover 1 and 3.  I still feel more comfortable teaching things this way so I will stick to discussing what I would be in most of the time which is (by walking my SS down ) a 3-5 front.

The best little nugget I got from going to a clinic last weekend was from a 3-5 coach from a HS in Illinois.  Schematically everything he had was already in my playbook (even though any of you who have seen me post on coachhuey can tell I prefer offense and want to OC, I have a defensive playbook ready at all times should I land a DC job somewhere)
But what I got from him was I loved how he called his blitzes.  It was ridiculously simple, so simple that I questioned how in the heck I hadn’t already thought of it.
His DL movement and style was the same as mine, a lot of slanting.  He paired his 3-3 stack and each DL was married to a stack LB, meaning M and NT always had both A gaps, DE and OLB always had B and C gaps, this was exactly how I had my defense set up.
What got me was how he called which of the 5 LBS (3 stack LBs + 2 SS types) would be blitzing

He simply numbered them from left to right 1-2-3-4-5…

So when he wanted to blitz, say he wanted the Left SS and MLB to blitz, he would call 13 attack.  This told the #1 and #3 LBs to blitz.

#1 and #5 (the SS’s) always rush off the edge
#3 would be the MLB, he knows he is blitzing, and he knows he and the NT have both A gaps.  So if he knows the NT is slanting to to let’s say the right A Gap, he blitzes the left A Gap.

Since Each LB is married to another player and can only blitz, at most 2 different gaps, once his # attack is called he just has to make sure he goes opposite of which way his DL is slanting.

This definitely beats my way, my playbook used the old school things I had learned, named blitzes for each Lb and Gap, now I just feel that way is old, dead, and inefficient.

So a typical play call might be something like Slant Strong -24 Attack -Cover 3
Simple way of informing your DL which way to slant, which LBs are blitzing and where, and your coverage

He used, just as I would, a wristband for his MLB, so he simply had to yell out which number to call, MLB would use the wristcoach and tell the defense the play.  I think this way is simple because you never get caught up making the wrong front/slant/blitz/coverage call and putting yourself in a bind.  I know a lot of guys still signal things in, but if you make a mistake in the heat of the moment you can kill yourself.  Making the wristband early in the week allows you to double triple quadruple check it out to make sure you have everything covered, and you can use it all week in practice to as another test, making sure everything you have called on a given play fits together properly.

This system of calling blitzers is easy, I can’t think of any thing simpler.  This can easily be translated when moving from 3-5 to a 3-4.  We drop one designated SS back giving us a 2 high shell.  Now we are in a true 3-4 front, the LBs will now unstack, and even up into a traditional 3-4 look, but they will retain their #s, so that there is no new learning.  So say our #1 LB is our better coverage SS, he is our adjuster, moving between 3-4 and 3-5 defense.  He is always our number 1,  and will always align on the defense’s left side when we walk him up into the 3-5.  Continuing from left to right each of the reaming backers are numbers 2-3-4-5.  So when we drop #1 back into a 2 high look , the other 4 LBs retain their LB blitz #.

Now even when we go 2 high, none of the front rules and blitzes have to change.

This gives us a multitude of looks we can possibly give an offense.

There is no perfect defense, their are justifications for every defense.  I believe this defense possesses a sound way of defending every gap, which has been and always will be the name of the game in high school defense.

I am not trying to sell everyone on running any specific defense, I really just wanted to share this simple, efficient system for conveying blitzes to your defense.  This system can be used in any defensive system, it is a matter of assigning possible gaps to defenders, and numbering your potential blitzers.  This can easily be done out of a 4 man front look, numbering your 3 or 4 LBs, and have them understanding what gap they are responsible for depending on DL alignment.

Hope this makes sense and wasn’t all incoherent rambling, I am typing this while currently in a bit of a food coma.

Please ask questions, leave comments for feedback, comment on anything you would like to see me post on, I really want to make this a better blog, and I need YOUR guys’ help!

Sorry for the Delay

Hey guys,

Just wanted to apologize for the lack of posts recently.  This is what I was afraid of when I started this blog, that I wouldn’t have time to adequately contribute to this blog.  I have been swamped with school work (21 units is kicking my @ss).
But I promise to get back to posting very shortly.  We are going to the Santa Clara Glazier Clinic this weekend, so I am sure I will write up some posts summarizing some of the concepts I see this weekend at the clinic.