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What are the differences in some 4-4 defenses?  

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Shamrocks
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February 10, 2017 6:02 am  

I know many here run or heard of various 4-4 defenses.  What are they and what makes them different?


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MHcoach
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February 10, 2017 6:50 am  

S

D Line techniques & responsibilities are where the most common differences are. Then it's keys & run fun fits. This all of course has to match up with the coverage's.

Under/ Over, G front, Full stack, Inside stack, Split, Outside Stack, & Tilts are the most common. The thing to realize is they have all evolved from 6 man fronts.

Joe

"Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners"Bill Walsh


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ZACH
 ZACH
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February 10, 2017 10:22 am  

The formation is one thing... i like 4-2-5  for the personel.... while we do run a 44 look we can morph and play anything else because of the personel

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


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MHcoach
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February 10, 2017 11:01 am  

Z

I really think the 4-2-5 is the next evolution. Especially with all the split field coverages. I too am a big fan, one decent difference is the abilities of the Field/Boundary Corners & Safeties. Traditionally, the weaker players played the boundary, but by design in 4-2-5 it's the other way. Great concepts.

Joe

"Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners"Bill Walsh


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Coach Smith
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February 10, 2017 4:30 pm  

I know many here run or heard of various 4-4 defenses.  What are they and what makes them different?

MH coach pretty much nailed the meat and potatoes of it. 

I was a hawk (weakside OLB) in a 4-4 in high school.  It can morph into alot as said previously.  It is a good defense as we won the state tournament with it but...  The biggest challenge I see is does someone have the personnel to run it, meaning do I have 4 linebackers that can play in it.  If I ran a 6-2 it's because I only have 2 guys that can play linebacker if I run 5-3 it is because I have 3 so in a 4-4 obviously I would need 4.  Like in dumcoaches defensive powerpoint it says how many guys can cover in space the more you have the more linebackers you can have the less you have the more linemen you have. 

If you are running a 4-4 (because you have enough linebackers) then you can do more as you have more athletes in general.  I like the hidden ability of the blitzing, run defense or pass coverage that can be had on any playwith the 4-4.  It can be awesome.  I think of this defense as one for people who like to tinker and run lots calls from the sideline.  JMHO

check out http://www.coaches-clinic.com/If any thing goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you. ~Paul Bear Bryant


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SmakAtak
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February 16, 2017 11:12 am  

The formation is one thing... i like 4-2-5  for the personel.... while we do run a 44 look we can morph and play anything else because of the personel

Agreed.  The most fundamental difference in types of 4-4 is split vs stack.

In Split, the Backers fill the gaps between the D-Linemen.  In stack, the backer line up directly behind the D-Linemen although this is only to confuse to the O-Line.  Post-snap their responsibility is the same.  Cover the gaps the D-Linemen are NOT attacking.


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February 17, 2017 10:18 am  

The formation is one thing... i like 4-2-5  for the personel.... while we do run a 44 look we can morph and play anything else because of the personel

Look at the forest, not the trees. they really are not all that different, and in fact, would argue they are one in the same.

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MHcoach
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February 17, 2017 11:50 am  

007

The difference is one gappers or 2 gappers.

I know several Youth coaches who play Stack inside & gap outside, so there are many different ways to teach & play 4-4. The real difference IMHO is C3 or M2M. All in all there are distinctly different schools on how to play a 4-4.

Joe

"Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners"Bill Walsh


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February 17, 2017 4:50 pm  

007

The difference is one gappers or 2 gappers.

I know several Youth coaches who play Stack inside & gap outside, so there are many different ways to teach & play 4-4. The real difference IMHO is C3 or M2M. All in all there are distinctly different schools on how to play a 4-4.

Joe

My point was not aimed at different ways you can play x, y, or z front.  42, 43,44, Its all the same spit. 33,34, 33, all the same f-ing spit. If you are looking at it correctly, its really not that difficult understand.

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blockandtackle
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February 18, 2017 6:44 pm  

I know many here run or heard of various 4-4 defenses.  What are they and what makes them different?

The big difference in most is simply the DTs and ILBs and how they play.  The old school ones contained with the DEs while the newer versions will usually spill with the DL and ILBs and force with the OLBs.  Base coverages were typically man and Cov. 3.

Well, the old school ones were things like:

Stack 4-4--DTs in 2s, ILBs in 20s stacked behind that.  Then the DT would slant into one gap or while the LB would fill the other one.  Some teams got really simple with this and just told their LBs to pat the DT's hip to send him in one gap while they took the other one.

2-Gapping Stack 4-4--same alignment, but the DTs would 2 gap the G.  Basically they'd mash the G back and keep eyes in A gap, then fight outside a reach block.

Split 4-4--the old school defense that Ara Parsegian and others ran a ton of in the 60s and 70s.  This used a pair of dual 3 tech DTs with the ILBs in the A gaps.  One or both ILBs would typically blitz or run through A gap on action away, kind of creating a 46 Bear on the move.  There is a huge bubble in the A gaps, but few offenses have the patience to jam the ball in A gap for 3-4 yards all night.  It's a great blitzing platform, but the Midline Option kind of killed it off in the 80s at the higher levels.

Wide Tackle Six--most 4-4s, as said earlier, evolved from old school 6-2 defenses by just renaming the positions.  The old Wide Tackle 6 was Bear Bryant's defense of choice: a 2 tech DTs playing the A gaps, 5 or 7 tech DEs in C gap, and 9 tech OLBs in D gap with a pair of ILBs in 30 techs.  He ran this thing for decades and a bunch of NCs.

Junkyard Dog--This was Vince Dooley's famous defensive unit of the early 80s.  It was basically a Split 4-4 on the weak side (the weak side of the Split 4 was pretty much bulletproof due to the numbers and angles) and an old Wide Tackle 6 defense on the strong side (easy to do...2i DT, 7 tech DE, and a 9 tech OLB with the ILB in a 30 tech).  In a lot of ways, it was like a forerunner to the modern Under front.

In all of these old defenses, the DEs would have to contain all outside runs and allow nothing to get outside of them.  Because of this, it was was normal for the DEs to play in a 2 point stance, meaning that sometimes you'd only have the 2 DTs in a 3 point stance when there was no TE in the game.  They would also often bring the OLB up into a 7 tech vs. a TE so the DE's technique and responsibility didn't change.  The coverages were simply Cov. 3 or man.  Most youth 4-4 defenses operate on very similar principals to this day.

Then came the 4-4 "G" Defense, which became THE most popular 4-4 of the 90s and beyond when the University of Washington used it to win a National Title in '92 and the Virginia Tech Hokies (who added their famous Robber Coverage to it) basically shut down 2 back offenses for the rest of the decade with it.

The 4-4 G was basically a Split 4 to the strong side with a Wide Tackle 6 on the weak side.  "G" was really an adjustment--the weak DT used to align in a 1 tech on the C in their base defense, but the "G" call would put him on the weak G.  The OLBs would align based off the #2 receiver.  What really set this defense apart from the old fashioned 4-4s was its use of spilling and basis of speed.  There was a lot of influence from the great Miami 4-3 defenses of the 80s incorporated into the 4-4 here.

The weakness in the old 4-4 defenses is that they were balanced up and that, by asking the DEs to contain and box everything with their outside arm free, they could be vulnerable off tackle to the strong side to kick outs and triple option.  The defense would make you work your way down the field and contain the sweeps, but patient offenses could chew it up 3-5 yards at a time by just pounding off tackle to the strong side over and over again.

The 4-4 G and its kin solved this problem by adapting a popular 4-3 idea of the 80s into the 4-4: wrong arming. Instead of boxing kick out blocks with the outside arm free, the DL would all wrong-arm the kick out by attacking the inside shoulder of the blocker, making a mess at the POA and forcing the runs sideways into the arms of the waiting OLBs in force.  They also upgraded the overall athletic ability of the players.  DEs became DTs, OLBs became DEs, S became LBs.  The defenses would clog up the middle by attacking the blocks from the inside out, forcing the ball sideways to the containing OLBs while the ILBs ran it down.  And it worked.

There were other wrinkles in there, too, like flip flopping the whole front so there was a specialized 3 tech (best run stopping DL), NT (quickest interior DL and penetrator), strong DE (good all around 7 tech kid), and rush DE (pass rushing specialist) as well as dedicated strong and weak LBs.

Virginia Tech built upon this foundation and added another new wrinkle: Robber coverage.  Robber, in VT terminology, is a kind of Invert Cov. 2 that they would run against 2 back sets.  The CBs would show Cov. 3, but take the deep 1/2 to their side while the FS would key the #2 receiver.  If #2 went vertical, the FS would match him and basically turn it into a Cov. 3, but if #2 broke at less than 12 yards, the LBs would take care of him.

This actually wasn't so great as far as pass coverage went... but it allowed that FS to have a very, very clear run/pass read and be involved in stopping the run game like a 9th box defender.  It turned the 4-4 into a 9 man front against the Pro I offenses that dominated football in the 90s and early 2000s.  It certainly didn't hurt that the FS was usually a head hunter and one heck of an athlete in his own right.

Nowadays, the other fronts you may hear about, like the Over/Under or whatever are just adaptations of these ideas.  Over/Under was originally an NFL idea from the 60s in the 4-3--the DL would "over shift" to the strong side.  For most teams, Over means the 3 tech is set strong while the NT is in A gap (either a 2i or a 1 tech) and "Under" simply flips that with the 3 tech to the weak side and NT in strong A (because "under" is the opposite of "over.").

The 4-2-5, if you really look at it, is really just an evolution of the 4-4 G to allow for Quarters coverage concepts to match up with spread offenses.  The weak OLB now plays back as a S most of the time and the FS cheats to the field, but the 4-4 idea of keeping 4 DL and 2 LBs in the six interior gaps while overhang players force everything inside is still there.  Virginia Tech now runs a "4-3" that's really a 4-2-5... and is still fundamentally very similar to what they've done for the past 20+ years.


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MHcoach
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February 19, 2017 7:36 am  

I loved the idea of Robber coverage, we had started using it in the late eighties & early nineties. It was great against 21 personnel & got that extra man in the box. The Buzz principles really developed from robber.

Joe

"Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners"Bill Walsh


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February 19, 2017 8:24 am  

I loved the idea of Robber coverage, we had started using it in the late eighties & early nineties. It was great against 21 personnel & got that extra man in the box. The Buzz principles really developed from robber.

Joe

Just out of curiosity, How do you differentiate between robber, quarters, and buzz?

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blockandtackle
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February 19, 2017 9:47 am  

MH coach pretty much nailed the meat and potatoes of it. 

I was a hawk (weakside OLB) in a 4-4 in high school.  It can morph into alot as said previously.  It is a good defense as we won the state tournament with it but...  The biggest challenge I see is does someone have the personnel to run it, meaning do I have 4 linebackers that can play in it.  If I ran a 6-2 it's because I only have 2 guys that can play linebacker if I run 5-3 it is because I have 3 so in a 4-4 obviously I would need 4.  Like in dumcoaches defensive powerpoint it says how many guys can cover in space the more you have the more linebackers you can have the less you have the more linemen you have. 

If you are running a 4-4 (because you have enough linebackers) then you can do more as you have more athletes in general.  I like the hidden ability of the blitzing, run defense or pass coverage that can be had on any playwith the 4-4.  It can be awesome.  I think of this defense as one for people who like to tinker and run lots calls from the sideline.  JMHO

IMO, this personnel thing can be overstated and can actually hold you back as a coach.  I understand that, especially in youth ball, sometimes your talent is limited or specialized... but the bottom line is that football players are football players: they aren't really DEs, or LBs, or DBs.  The key to good defense, IMO, is finding your best 11 meanest athletes and putting them on the field as a unit, then teaching them how to play.  Nobody, not even in the NFL, has 11 prototypical players at each position.  It's on us as coaches to coach 'em up and make due with what we had.

The thing is that the players who will be your OSS in a 4-2-5, your OLBs in a 4-4 or 4-3, etc. are all pretty much the same type of athlete in most cases.  You're better off learning one defense inside and out: how to coach it, how to adjust it, how to plug players in, etc. instead of trying to say "well, this year we have 4 good OLBs, so we're going to run 4-4, even though last year we had 5 good DL so we were a 5-2."  Every time you change defenses, it resets you, your returning assistants, and your returning players back to square one.

If you sit down and really look at what types  of skills and abilities you need for the different positions in different defenses, you'll see how interchangeable they can be in terms of personnel.  There are ways of making anything work if you know how to teach it, adjust it, and are creative about solving problems.


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MHcoach
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February 19, 2017 11:30 am  

Just out of curiosity, How do you differentiate between robber, quarters, and buzz?

007

Robber is inverted 2 with a read by the FS as he robs #2 strong from a 3 shell.

Buzz is from a 2 Shell as inverted 2 read.

Quarters is from a 2 shell & always simply Quarters.

That is from my simplistic view.

Joe

"Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners"Bill Walsh


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parone
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April 15, 2017 11:18 am  

without sounding like a total ass kisser, coach arnold, that short history on the 4-4 was perhaps the most enjoyable post i've read on here.

Dream Big.  Work Hard. Stay Humble.


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