DEFENSIVE PLAYBOOK

3×1 Coverage Checks Out of a 3-Man Front

By Matt McDonnell, Head Coach of Kettle Moraine High (Wisc.)

@MattMcDonnell14

For most coverages, coaches begin to draw them against a pro or a 2*2 open set. However, when offenses choose to put three threats on one side of the field, coverages must adapt due to an overload. Offenses can use these sets to gain a numbers advantage or a matchup advantage. Here, I will go over our methodology at Kettle Moraine for adjusting to 3*1 sets as well as diagramming a few of our favorites. 

Methodology: After deciding how many checks you will carry into the week, you must decide which checks to carry. We do not carry all of our checks every week. Here are the three most important aspects we look at:

  1. What type(s) of 3*1 set is the opponent in? Are they in spread sets, with 4 WR’s? Or 11 personal sets with the TE to the 3 man side? 3*1 with a nub TE? Do they get into 12 personal sets? The formations that we will see have a great influence over which checks will come in for the week, as some checks we only like vs certain looks. 
  2. What is the offense trying to do in these sets? What pass concepts are they using? Do they go attack the field, the boundary? Are they trying to gain vertical leverage or horizontal? Are they trying to run the ball or throw?  This information will further help determine which checks we like for the week. 
  3. What is their personnel like? Who is the best WR and where does he line up? Do they move him around? The biggest thing with this is if we feel we can cover the backside WR one on one or we need help. That determines which coverages we can play and what reductions we run. 

Lastly, you will need to determine how you want to call these checks in a game. Do you want to tell your players one check per series and change it as you see fit? Do you want to give them one check per formation or personnel grouping? Or do you want to signal in a check with every call so the players know if the opponent goes 3*1 to use that check? 

Below are a few of our favorite checks drawn up. 

There are a lot of details that go into this check. However, the basic premise is a cover 3 strong cloud spin, with man on man on the backside. We will typically send one of the linebackers as well. 

In this check, we are playing true zone quarters to the 3 man side and on the backside playing man to man. The backside safety is responsible for the vertical of #3. 


This check gives us another cover 3 look and we can use it vs open sets as well. We like this because it puts our safety over their TE and gives us extra run support to that side. 

We like this check because it gives us an answer if we feel the backside player is better than our CB, or the guy they want to get the ball to. We play cover 2 with all the all linebackers, minus the sam, as well as the backside corner and safety. We play our zone quarters to the 3 man side. 

For more information or specifics on these checks or any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at mcdonnellm@kmsd.edu or on twitter at @coach_mcdonnell