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Geoketc
(@geoketc)
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I need advice on finding a good defense for a small High School team.  Last year there was only 20 players on the roster and the players average around 5'9" 170 pounds. I don't think we will be able to just run many people over. I didn't help with the high school last year but I am hoping to change the climate in the school regarding the team so hopefully we will get more kids interested in playing. They have only won 1 game in the last 5 years. Last year they ran a 4 - 3 and got ran over.

What would be a good defense to use at a small school?

Thanks Coaches - George


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CoachCalande
(@www-coachcalande-com)
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I need advice on finding a good defense for a small High School team.  Last year there was only 20 players on the roster and the players average around 5'9" 170 pounds. I don't think we will be able to just run many people over. I didn't help with the high school last year but I am hoping to change the climate in the school regarding the team so hopefully we will get more kids interested in playing. They have only won 1 game in the last 5 years. Last year they ran a 4 - 3 and got ran over.

What would be a good defense to use at a small school?

Thanks Coaches - George

I typically have 15-18 β€œ varsity” guys and 25-30 JV types...we use 46 GUTS and some 353.

And we have played not only one class up, but two!

MOJO    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtcRmKnRcsA

Go to WWW.COACHCALANDE.COM  for Double Wing DVDs, Playbook, Drills Manuals, Practice footage and emagazines. Ask me about our new 38 special dvds!


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Spyder89
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I need advice on finding a good defense for a small High School team.  Last year there was only 20 players on the roster and the players average around 5'9" 170 pounds. I don't think we will be able to just run many people over. I didn't help with the high school last year but I am hoping to change the climate in the school regarding the team so hopefully we will get more kids interested in playing. They have only won 1 game in the last 5 years. Last year they ran a 4 - 3 and got ran over.

What would be a good defense to use at a small school?

Thanks Coaches - George

Honestly...whatever you, or your D-Coordinator, can teach best.  There is no "best defense" for undersized players and low numbers.  The most likely reason the 4-3 didn't work last year, is that the 4-3 is teaching intensive...not because the players are undersized and low numbers.  You have to know, and in turn, be able to properly teach a defense for it to work. 

So, my question to you is:  What defense do you know how to teach?

- Ray


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Spyder89
(@spyder89)
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Now...If you don't have a particular defense that you are familiar with, coupled with your other post saying you don't expect to have much hope in adding staff....I would go with a defense that is easy to learn, has tons of easily accessible material, and that you would have tons of people to bounce questions and ideas off of. 

A few that come to mind are the 3-3 Stack, 3-5-3, and the 4-2-5.

I believe both the 3-3 and 3-5-3 have extensive users on this site.  Not so positive on the 4-2-5.

- Ray


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CoachDP
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Honestly...whatever you, or your D-Coordinator, can teach best.  There is no "best defense" for undersized players and low numbers.

^ This, again and again.

And the better you can teach it, the better it will work.  My first, last and only season at EWHS, we ran a 4-3 and had the number 1 fewest points allowed defense in the conference.  And with only 2 coaches on our staff, our focus was on our DW offense.  There's nothing revolutionary about a 4-3 but Varsity dictated the scheme, though my pref is a Split 4-4.  However, we taught tackling, aggression, and turnover fundamentals well, in addition to using a defensive philosophy that's always worked for us: "Don't defend an offense.  Execute your defense."

--Dave

"The Greater the Teacher, the More Powerful the Player."

The Mission Statement: "I want to show any young man that he is far tougher than he thinks, that he can accomplish more than what he dreamed and that his work ethic will take him wherever he wants to go."

#BattleReady newhope


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blockandtackle
(@coacharnold)
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I need advice on finding a good defense for a small High School team.  Last year there was only 20 players on the roster and the players average around 5'9" 170 pounds. I don't think we will be able to just run many people over. I didn't help with the high school last year but I am hoping to change the climate in the school regarding the team so hopefully we will get more kids interested in playing. They have only won 1 game in the last 5 years. Last year they ran a 4 - 3 and got ran over.

What would be a good defense to use at a small school?

Thanks Coaches - George

The one you can teach best, as has been said.  The key is to KISS with that few kids on the roster and few decent coaches, because you're going to have at least one kid who plays DL, LB, and DB at various points during the season.

Size isn't the issue people make it out to be.  Speed can be, but the cardinal rule of defense is "Get your 11 meanest kids on the field and teach them how to play."  Defensive players have to want to mix it up and have that mindset.  If they don't have that, it doesn't matter how big or fast they are.

If you don't have one scheme you can teach best, my advice is to learn the SIMPLEST scheme.  To me, at the varsity level of a small school, that's either an all-man, all the time pressure defense (super simple and lets your kids be aggressive) or a 4-4 Cov. 3.

Of those two, I think the 4-4 Cov. 3 is probably easier to get sounder at without beating yourselves because it adjusts very, very easily to whatever you'll see:  CBs align on #1, OLBs align on #2 to each side.  Vs. Trips, FS will cheat over to cap that and you play 1/4, 1/4, 1/2 or straight up man.  The 6 man box (ILBs and 4 DL) take C gap to C gap on each side, while the OLBs and DBs take everything from D gap on out to each side.

If you want to teach the Cov. 3, spot dropping is the easiest way.  CBs drop to the top of the numbers.  FS in the MOF.  Flat players drop to the top of the numbers.  ILBs drop to the hash.  For 1/4, 1/4, 1/2 as a Trips check, you can put the boundary CB on the deep 1/2, FS to the field hash to zone his 1/4, and the field CB to the bottom of the numbers to zone his 1/4.  The zone drops would to to the same spots, but you may want to walk your boundary OLB out wide to press the WR and play flat--very doable due to the compressed space of the boundary.

An all-man coverage pressure defense.  You can run pretty much any front in front of this, but the man coverage NEEDS to be coached up.  It allows room for a lot of blitzing.  I'd be glad to work out what that looks like for you, depending on whatever front you want to base from.

The big thing is to focus on fundamentals: gap responsibility, DL technique, LBs filling or scraping, man coverage technique, LB keys, pursuit angles ("PRESS THE NEAR HIP!!!!"), who has run force, BCR on the backside, cutback, how do you handle a bootleg, how do you handle options, and basic tackling etc.  Build that stuff in--I'd be glad to help explain how, if you like.

If you're low on coaches, try to get a period to run the "front" with LBs and DL while DBs do some basic indy drills, then work with the "back" LBs and DBs in pass skelly and perimeter defense, then do a lot of the other stuff via tackle circuits, pursuit drills, and other team periods you can coach.

For me, I can teach that stuff out of a few different defenses and I could make just about any defense look like any other defense fairly easily... but when you're new, I feel like a 4-4 Cov. 3 makes it easier to learn those things and see the big picture with minimal coaches.

What you want to avoid is just becoming an unsound blitz-a-thon that's trying to run a defense of the week or run a bunch of fronts with crap DB play who just tells your LBs and DL to fly upfield every play.

Also... one other thing: when teams have bad tackling, it's usually because of crap pursuit angles or poorly defined defensive responsibilities.  Then they do a lot of form tackling drills and it still doesn't improve because they're working on the wrong thing.  Get 11 mean kids honoring their responsibilities while running to the ball under control with proper angles and leverage.  The rest will take care of itself.


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ZACH
 ZACH
(@bucksweep58)
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10-1  obvi haha

Any defensive scheme will work. The position technique of the undersized is what will help you most. Learn techniques for smaller players at every position.

I can explain it to you, I can't understand if for you.


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CoachDP
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Get 11 mean kids honoring their responsibilities while running to the ball under control with proper angles and leverage.  The rest will take care of itself.

^ This. 

As always, another great post.

--Dave

"The Greater the Teacher, the More Powerful the Player."

The Mission Statement: "I want to show any young man that he is far tougher than he thinks, that he can accomplish more than what he dreamed and that his work ethic will take him wherever he wants to go."

#BattleReady newhope


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Dusty Ol Fart
(@youth-coach)
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I have noticed there are a lot of Small D1 and D2 Schools using the 30 front Scheme.  They get the 3 Hosses (Their version) and let the LB's fly around. 

Most important answer has already been given.  Run what you can teach, and fix. 

πŸ˜‰

Not MPP... ONE TASK!  Teach them!  πŸ™‚


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Coach Correa
(@coach-correa)
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The 50 Shade (Old Jenk's defense).It's a proven winner because your shading front and playing wit 2 safeties it allows you to leverage any formation soundly. Your keeping assignments clear and concise because your basing out of C-1 and 3 many of the core principals and techniques required have much carry over.

Head Coach Tito Correa New Britain Raiders 14-U


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CoachCalande
(@www-coachcalande-com)
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Ct continues to take contact hours away from coaches. These rules favor teams that are loaded with experienced players and greatly hinder the development of newbies.  Great defense starts with tackling, shedding, pursuit....whatever you choose find a way to develop players within your state rules.

MOJO    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtcRmKnRcsA

Go to WWW.COACHCALANDE.COM  for Double Wing DVDs, Playbook, Drills Manuals, Practice footage and emagazines. Ask me about our new 38 special dvds!


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CHARLIEDONTSURF
(@charleydontsurf)
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I need advice on finding a good defense for a small High School team.  Last year there was only 20 players on the roster and the players average around 5'9" 170 pounds. I don't think we will be able to just run many people over. I didn't help with the high school last year but I am hoping to change the climate in the school regarding the team so hopefully we will get more kids interested in playing. They have only won 1 game in the last 5 years. Last year they ran a 4 - 3 and got ran over.

What would be a good defense to use at a small school?

You got some helpful info but also some non-answers in this thread.  A lot of folks conflate tactics and logistics with strategy.

Emphasizing focus, effort, attitude, discipline, pursuit, tackling, physicality, fundamentals, technique, etc. is common to all defenses.  If you maximize them, you'll maximize whatever defense you run.  But they are the implementation of your strategy.  They answer the question how you should run a defense, not what defenses you should run.

Football is a game of resource management - time, space, people, etc.  To say no one resource management strategy is better than another (for you) given the differences between you are your opponent(s) in size, strength, speed, depth, experience, athleticism, culture, offensive strategies, defensive strategies, etc., is silly.

"I did [X] and [X] was successful" isn't any evidence you should care about.  Your objective should be to maximize the resources at your disposal.  Just because someone had success doing [X] doesn't mean he wouldn't have had more success had he done something else.

I agree that "what's best for you" and "what's right for you" (given your limitations) may be two different things.  As Belichick says, there's what you want to do, there's what you can do, and there's what you can coach/practice.  I also agree with the emphasis on culture and fundamentals.

However, "the best strategy is the one you know best" is a bit of a copout.  I understand the sentiment, but are you really supposed to spend the rest of your life using one tool because, well, that's what you know best?  Suppose you spent your life defending pop warner offenses and now you have to defend 6A high school Air Raid? Or suppose you ran Man Free in the inner cities but now you're coaching in the Valley and your fastest DB runs a 5.2 and you have only 14 kids on the roster?  There are other tools. 

Scheme matters, and different schemes are designed to do different things in different ways, and each has its strengths and weaknesses (and requirements).  That said, I do agree there's a rush to judgment to blame a team's failure on the scheme they were running (e.g., "we got ran over playing a 4-3") when 90% of the time it's a failure of coaching/preparation.  Changing schemes won't fix bad fundamentals (although some schemes are better than others at hiding/massaging them).  But that's not the same as saying there's no such thing as a hierarchy of best strategies for you given the resources at your disposal.

Good luck.  πŸ™‚


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DumCoach
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I don't coach HS (I did assist one year).  I bow to Steve Calande's experience.  I do have 17 years of youth ball.  I think the most important thing Calande said was that he runs "some 3-5-3".  My interpretation of that in certain situations he'll get of out his 46 (Which, BTW, is not a 4-6.) and run a complimentary defense.  Being able to change to something else is very important.  Calande is probably the only 46 team in his league as well the only 3-5-3 team in his league.  Very smart of him.  His opponents have to prepare for two different defenses and not one.  I will come back and compliment him again but first, you have very few players and they seem to be MS size.  Add in that you have a team that has won one game in five years and you have good reason to be here asking.  You have a definite problem and running "just any defense well" is not likely to solve it.  What you need is what I call an "equalizer".  This is where you take away the advantages of the offense such as bigger, faster players (tall receivers are a bitch), pulling linemen, blocking angles, and their passing game.  You do this by giving them something unexpected.  On youth boards we call it "contrarian".  You're contrarian when you run something the other team hasn't seen before.  Steve Calande is probably the master of contrarian in his league as even his offense is contrarian.  And while I have no doubt DP did great with a 4-3, I also have no doubt the team you described got crushed running it.  A 4-3 is not contrarian.  Everybody runs it.  If the offense can line up on your defense and know what to do and do it with bigger, stronger, faster, better guess who is going to win?  You'd be better off, when their bigger, stronger, faster came to the line, if they ran the play wrong by giving them an unexpected look.  This can be done by shifting the front pre-snap and slanting.  This causes the OL assignments to change and they have a split second to rethink and then - SNAP!  And now comes hesitation, mistakes, or even offensive off sides (false starts) follows.  Now your 4-3 can work. There is also another way to get blockers to do wrong.  That's when their rules do not account for the situation.  They know who they're supposed to block by rule but he's the wrong guy.  You can actually make blockers block the wrong guy.  Also, some blocker is always angling on every run play.  What if he doesn't get there?  There are ways to make him miss that block.  You can also make pulling linemen miss their blocks, every down, the entire game.  I can give you all this info and I think you need it.

But there are two more points that need to be addressed.  You never told us what offenses you face.  Many defenses have become outdated by new offenses.  Generally speaking, there are five offensive characteristics:

1) Is QB under center or in shotgun?
2) Line spacing
3) TE's or no TE's?
4) Number of backs besides QB (can be 0 or up to 3)
5) The use of WB's.

All five of the above require a defensive response.  Failure to not respond to just one of all five can mean losing the game.  If the defense you pick addresses all five, you're good to go.  If not, you better hope the teams you face aren't running what you can't stop.

The third you didn't tell us is what you want to accomplish first year.  Setting goals is very important.  But you always want to set achievable goals.  The higher the goals you set the less likely you are to achieve them.  Failure to meet goals is failure to win.  From your post, I would say your goal is to get more kids to turn out your second year of coaching to get your numbers up.  What win-loss record do you think you need to do that?  If you won two games would more turn out?  Or must it be four or five?  Because the second is probably not very realistic.  But suppose you won two games next year and three or four the next, would you get the numbers you need third year?  Can you wait that long?

Offhand, I would recommend you PM Calande or me or even both. 

"Football is for the kids - But let's win anyway."


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Dusty Ol Fart
(@youth-coach)
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To Clark's point.  Being contrarian has value on Both Sides of the Ball.  πŸ˜‰

Not MPP... ONE TASK!  Teach them!  πŸ™‚


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CoachDP
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And while I have no doubt DP did great with a 4-3, I also have no doubt the team you described got crushed running it.  A 4-3 is not contrarian.  Everybody runs it.

^ Absolutely.  The 4-3 had nothing to do with our defensive success.  It was what we teach within the scheme and how we teach it.  It's our contrarian approach to fundamentals: the way we teach tackling, turnovers and aggression development.  That we don't teach a breakdown, a foot buzz, a read step or block destruction.  That we don't spread, if you spread.  I don't care about "getting low." It's a hit-to-hurt approach that has always paid dividends for us. Coaches can say that's crazy, but "crazy" is not the point.  "Crazy" doesn't matter.  The point is whether it works.

--Dave

"The Greater the Teacher, the More Powerful the Player."

The Mission Statement: "I want to show any young man that he is far tougher than he thinks, that he can accomplish more than what he dreamed and that his work ethic will take him wherever he wants to go."

#BattleReady newhope


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